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  • Writer's picturePastor Hans Fiene

Matins Devotion: November 17, 2023

When Pilate realizes he’s not able to reason with the Chief Priests and that they’re going to riot if he doesn’t hand Jesus over to death, he washes his hands and tells them, “I am innocent of this man’s blood.” Well, sorry, Pontius, but it doesn’t work that way. You don’t get to absolve yourself of guilt by denying your guilt. You don’t get to shed innocent blood and then call yourself innocent. You can’t wash yourself with water and take away your sins. You can’t. Only Jesus can.

Pilate’s attempt to justify himself is one that sinners have employed long before him and long after him. “The woman you gave to me, she gave me the tree of the fruit,” Adam told God in defense of his disobedience, trying to wash his hands clean by blaming his Creator. “The people were begging for an idol and wouldn’t leave me alone so I threw gold into the fire, and strangest thing, this calf just came out,” Aaron said to deny his guilt in Israel’s idolatry. So it is with us. 

“I was young, I didn’t know what I was doing.” “I was in a bad place at the time.” “People I trusted misled me.” “My intentions were good.” “I did the best I could with the information I had.” So we say to justify ourselves when we freely pierced our sins into Christ, when we chose the glory of this world, the glory of our flesh, the glory of our pride over the name of Jesus. 

But no matter how hard we try to justify ourselves, all we’re accomplishing is coating our hands in Pontius Pilate’s worthless water. All we’re doing is dipping our hands in bowls of corruption and wickedness and increasing the trespass. You can’t wash yourself with water and take away your sins. Only Jesus can.

And Jesus has. In the waters of your baptism, He gave you the salvation He won when Pilate’s men led him to Calvary and stripped Him of His life. In the waters of your baptism, Jesus clothed you in the forgiveness, the mercy, the eternal pardon of His Father, just as He used those waters to give you the new birth, to bring you forth from the womb of the church and to welcome you into the family of God. Once you were not innocent of Christ’s blood and could not make yourself innocent of it. But then Christ washed your hands, your head, your feet, every cell of your flesh. And now you are clothed in His innocence and you always will be.

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