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“Questions at the Cross: What Crime Has He Committed?”
Matthew 27:23


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Good Friday—March 29, 2013

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

For our Lent services this year we have been asking “Questions at the Cross,” questions asked by Jesus and others during the first Holy Week.  We will conclude this sermon series on Easter Sunday, as the resurrected Lord appears in the garden to Mary Magdalene and asks, “Why Are You Crying?”

This evening, for Good Friday, we consider the question Pontius Pilate asks the murderous mob as they cry out, “Crucify him!  Crucify him!”  “Why?” Pontius Pilate asks. “What crime has he committed?”

If that same question—“What crime has he committed?”—is asked about you or me, the answer is endless. For, even judging by the inferior laws of men, most all of us are criminals in one way or another, worthy of some punishment.  And, according to the superior, divine law of God, we are all wicked, evil sinners, vile spiritual criminals, worthy of the worst punishment: death, hell, damnation.  As Paul says in Romans, “There is no one righteous, not even one . . .  All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  

“What crime has he committed?”  Even according to the inferior laws of men, Jesus is judged to be not guilty.  Pontius Pilate repeatedly declares, “I find no basis for a charge against this man.  . .  I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty.”  Upon his death, the centurion in charge of crucifying him proclaims, “Surely this was a righteous man. . .  Surely he was the Son of God!”  Even Pontius Pilate’s wife has a dream about Jesus and sends Pilate a message, “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man.”

Jesus is innocent not only according to the laws of men.  He is also completely innocent according to the divine law of God.  As John says, “He appeared to take away our sins, and in him is no sin.”  And Hebrews says, “He has been tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sin.”

“What crime has he committed?”  Pilate perhaps did not realize the cosmic significance of the question he was asking.  Because, Jesus is in fact the only person in the whole history of the universe who is not guilty of any crime.  Isaiah explains why this one truly innocent man in all of history suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried:

“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.  Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows.  We observed him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.  We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

“What crime has he committed?”  It was for us men and for our salvation that he suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.  As the book of Hebrews says, “He appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. . .  we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”

Amen.

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