Matthew 27:15-31 (spring AD 30, Friday of Passion Week)
Sometimes a Scripture passage will have me reaching for a shovel and a pile of wooden planks so that I can tunnel under the text and mine it for the infinite treasures that lie under an apparently barren surface. Sometimes I walk around the mango orchard of God’s Word, grab and peel the ripe fruit and shove it in my face. And other times, reading the Bible is like walking through a field of sinkholes, well-marked by God so we can see the danger if we’re paying attention. Sometimes, the same passage has all those effects.
Today is a sinkhole day. Which is OK, because we need to know where those things are to avoid them, and whilst it might be hard to avoid them, it’s not complicated.
Sinkhole #1: self-interest will kill you (v.18)
As the Pharisees were getting busy killing the Son of God, even the idolatrous, self-absorbed Roman puppet of a ruler could see that Jesus hadn’t done anything wrong. He knew that the only reason the religious rulers wanted to kill Jesus was they were losing control of the people. If the most important thing in your life is your life, you have no life. When God-interest instead of self-interest defines you, THAT’S when you have your best life.
Sinkhole #2: your own sin makes you blind (v.22-23)
This was another ‘final chance’ for the religious leaders to say hang on a moment…Jesus has done NOTHING wrong. His life has been full of generous, kind and good things for the people, and wanting to kill him is unimaginably godless of us. But by this point, they thought they were doing God a favour by killing Jesus. Your sinfulness will do the same thing to you if you allow it: convince you, over time, that your sin is nothing to be ashamed of but simply you being you. Or maybe even that you are being more righteous even than God’s Word.
Sinkhole #3: doing nothing doesn’t make you right with God (v.24)
There are things we shouldn’t do and things we must do, and we are guilty for being on the wrong side of either. Pilate was, and is, guilty of Jesus’ blood (along with many others).
“For evil to succeed, all it needs is for good men to do nothing” (Martin Luther King). Doing nothing – for the poor, the fatherless and the widow – is a key reason God allowed their enemies to defeat the Israelites and take them into exile (e.g. Amos 2:6-7). Doing nothing for or exploiting the vulnerable puts people in opposition to God now, just as much. Don’t wait for a special calling from God – just do good for other people; epitomise God’s love and justice.
Sinkhole #4: be careful what you say to God – he takes your words seriously (v.25)
It makes me shudder to think of saying these words to God (“[Jesus’] blood is on us and on our children!”). To be clear, God would NOT hold the children responsible for the sins of the parents, but those parents were setting their children up with a terrible start in life. And those people were indeed held responsible by God for their role in killing his son. God brings amazing God through evil, but the evil will still be paid for. Thank God for well-marked sinkhole passages, helping to keep us on the road with God.