Part 4 in a 7 part series. View series intro and index.
Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor’s headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover. So Pilate went outside to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” They answered him, “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.” This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die.
Just hours after Jesus had celebrated Passover with his disciples, washed their feet, and instituted the ordinance of communion, he was on trial before angry Pharisees and an oblivious Roman governor. What strikes me about our passage from John 18 is one line about the Pharisees. It’s in verse 28: “They themselves did not enter the governor’s headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover. So Pilate went outside to them.”
Though Passover was observed the night before (Thursday), it existed as part of a week long celebration that the Pharisees wanted to continue through the Sabbath (Saturday). Jesus’ accusers, in the midst of murdering an innocent man, were never more rigid in their observance of the law. All that mattered to them was their moral checklist.
In Matthew 23, Jesus condemned the legalism of these same Pharisees, saying, “You have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!” (vv. 23-24). The Pharisees were not just or merciful toward Jesus, and they were drastically unfaithful to God’s message and kingdom.
On the brink of murdering the Son of God, the Pharisees refused to enter a Gentile’s courthouse to discuss the case for fear of being “unclean.” How often do I find myself in this position? I care more about maintaining a pristine image than I do about a holy heart. We are like the Pharisees. In their neglect of mercy and love in favor of sacrifice and external religion, they were already as unclean as they could be. So are we apart from Jesus. They did not see that the Passover they celebrated was being fulfilled before them. Jesus, the ultimate Passover Lamb, was being sacrificed for them, and for us, so his blood might cover our sins and make us right with God.
Father, forgive me for me plastic, external religion. Help me see the big picture and know what is precious in your sight instead of simply trying to be ‘good’ and ‘moral.’ Wash me continually with your blood, Lord Jesus. Thank you for being my Passover Lamb.