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Washing Hands and Cross Scraping on Back
Matthew 27:26-30

Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Lent Service IV—March 10, 2010

“The Sounds of Lent: Washing Hands”

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

A scene that occurs on many episodes of television shows such as CSI is the criminal trying in vain to wash away the telltale blood, evidence of a murder.  They scrub and use bleach and think they’ve got it all cleaned up.  But, the ingenious forensic scientists, with their special chemicals and ultraviolet lights, always find traces of blood, evidence of murder.

It is a murder taking place in this evening’s episode of “The Sounds of Lent.”  For, at least three times, Pontius Pilate declares Jesus not guilty.  But, even though he was innocent, Jesus was mocked, tortured, and spit upon, and then sent carrying his cross out to Calvary to be crucified.  It was the greatest injustice of all time! 

Matthew records: “When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead a riot was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood,’ he said.” 

It is from this incident that we get the expression, to “wash your hands of the matter.”  That washing could not absolve Pilate of his guilt or remove from his hands the stain of innocent blood.  But, there is a spiritual washing, which does for you what Pilate’s futile washing could not. “The blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from every sin.” 

The cleansing of Jesus’ blood comes to you as you hear and read and study his Word, as Jesus said at the Last Supper, “You are clean through the word which I have spoken to you.”  The cleansing of Jesus’ blood is poured out upon you in Holy Baptism, as Acts says, “Be baptized and wash away your sins.”  The cleansing of Jesus’ blood is bestowed on you in Holy Communion, as you receive his body and blood, “shed for you, for the forgiveness of sins.” 

There is indeed a spiritual washing, which does for you what Pilate’s futile washing could not.  Trust in Jesus, your Savior, for your sins are all washed away by his blood.


[Hymn Interlude]

“The Sounds of Lent: Cross Scraping on Back”

There is a street in Jerusalem that since ancient times has been called the “Via Dolorosa,” Latin for “The Way of Sorrows.” It is commonly believed to be the route that Jesus walked from the judgment hall of Pontius Pilate to the place of crucifixion, the mount called Golgatha or Calvary.  I bought this stole in a little shop on the “Via Dolorosa” in 1980.  It is a narrow street with rough, cobblestone paving.  In length it is just a few city blocks.  But, for our Savior, this short journey truly was “The Way of Sorrows.”

Jesus must have been a sight to behold.  He was beaten and exhausted from the trial and torture that had lasted all night and into the morning.  His face was streaming blood from the crown of thorns pressed into his forehead.  The skin of his back was in tatters from the flailing of the Roman whip.

“Carrying his own cross . . . they led him out to crucify him.”  Jesus is exhausted. He hasn’t slept for perhaps 36 hours. He has already lost a lot of blood. And now he is forced to shoulder the massive weight of the rough-hewn cross. Step by painful step, he struggles down “The Way of Sorrows.” Leading the way is the Roman centurion in charge of the execution detail, holding a small sign that announces: “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” 

Why did the almighty Son of God allow himself to be led through the streets like a criminal?  Why did he meekly submit to the taunts of the soldiers and the jeers of the crowd?  Why did he go so peacefully? He went to his death peacefully in order to bring you peace! 

Hundreds of years before that day, the scene had been prophesied by Isaiah: “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.”  Jesus was, as John the Baptizer called him, the innocent “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”  He went peacefully to his own slaughter, willingly laying down his life as a sacrifice for you. He went peacefully on “The Way of Sorrows” to bring you peace!

As they thread their way through the crowds of gawkers, some mock, some weep, some laugh. And all the while, the weight of the heavy cross bites into his wounded shoulder, and strains his ability to go on. Again and again it drives him to his knees, until finally he goes down and can’t get up. Then the cross is placed on the back of a bystander, Simon of Cyrene, and the procession continues on toward Golgotha.

So, Jesus was eventually relieved of the weight of the cross. But, the heaviest weight our Savior was carrying that day wasn’t the physical burden of that piece of timber. It was the spiritual burden of guilt. The heaviest weight that our Savior carried down the “Via Dolorosa” that day was the weight of our sins.

Scripture says that our sins have a tremendous weight—a single one of them would be enough to drag you down to hell for all eternity. “For the wages of sin is death.” And each of us is guilty of so many sins every day. Imagine the burden that rested on the back of our Savior as he staggered down “The Way of Sorrows.” He was bearing not only our guilt, but the guilt of the whole world!

Still, he struggled forward, the sound of the cross scraping his back, as he carries his cross to Calvary.  But, he carried a much greater burden than the timber of the cross that day, the burden of your guilt, to make you guiltless!    By diverting the flood of God’s wrath on account of our sin directly onto himself, Jesus left us free from guilt. Jesus made the ultimate sacrifice to give you eternal life. He went peacefully on “The Way of Sorrows” to bring you peace!


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