Christians commemorate the resurrection of Christ from the grave this week. Every Lord’s Day is a celebration of our Lord’s victory over death, but we especially have the death and resurrection of Christ in view this week. Someone once said that the fact of the resurrection is the “center of the center, the real heart of Christianity.” The truth of it stands or falls with the resurrection.  The principles we find in this passage about Jesus on trial before his death are weighty because the resurrection proves their verity.

The first principle is the innocence of Christ. In the trial of Jesus before Pilate, the gospels point out the reluctance of Pilate to prosecute Jesus. He knows it is out of envy the Jews have handed him over (verse 18). His wife warns Pilate about having anything to do with that “innocent man.” The word innocent means righteous or just. It is obvious that Jesus is not guilty, yet, he does not protest the charges against him. This amazes Pilate, and we build a theology of Christ’s death from these facts.

Jesus did not protest the charges because this was the will and plan of God. He was being submissive to death out of love for his Father’s will. Jesus death was inevitable not because he was under the power of men, but rather because he was sinless in his obedience to God. His silence also reflects his complete and unequivocal commitment to die for us out of love. When you juxtapose the resurrection next to this love, you arrive at assured salvation of the souls of all in Christ.

These truths also vindicate God of man’s charges against him. Men challenge God in many ways with respect to his goodness in a world so full of pain and death. Here God challenges men. He points to Christ and says if any of you want to live, you will be forgiven all in you and all in your past if you come to him. You will have eternal life, the promise of eternal happiness by this wonderful salvation I freely provide in the Holy Son of God’s willingness to die in your stead.

That is the second principle in our passage: the needed substitution of Christ. We see in our passage the custom of the Roman governor to release at prisoner at the Passover feast. Pilate attempts to liberate Jesus by comparing him to a noted criminal, Barabbas. The crowd, stirred by the Jewish leaders, chose Barabbas to be released and clamor for Jesus to be crucified. It was also the custom to offer the Passover lamb for the released prisoner.

When Jesus is handed over to be crucified, he is providing the means for prisoners of sin and death to be released. We speak of the vicarious suffering and death of Christ. This means he suffered for us. He suffered on behalf of us. He suffered in our place. Remember the prophet Isaiah speaking of the Christ to come: “He was wounded for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities. Upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace.” He is our Passover Lamb.

In this truth we see both the inestimable love of God and the impartial justice of God. Jesus did not open his mouth because he was taking the sins of others upon himself. There is no defense for sin in God’s court. All mouths will be closed on the Day of Judgment because God is impartial in judgment. All guilt will be exposed. It is utterly unanswerable before God. To still be in your sins before God is to face the impartial justice of God. It is a discomforting thought.

Yet we also see the inestimable love of God. The Jewish people demand that Jesus’  blood be on them and their children. This means they reject him totally before God and are willing to be guilty of his death. It is a demand for condemnation from a people who were the most privileged people on earth.

Nevertheless, in Acts 2 at Pentecost (a festival of first fruits of the harvest) Peter explains the death of Christ to the Jewish people guilty of putting him to death and offers forgiveness of all sins in the name of Jesus. Peter says the promise is “for you and your children.” It is a reversal of the curse they invoked on themselves.  Many believed and were the first fruits of the harvest of God.

The resurrection says loudly, “O what a Savior.” A needed Savior. Put your faith in Him, and leave behind the power and guilt of sin and death.