So with Easter coming up, we have been talking a lot about the arrest, trial, and crucifixion. Something that occurred to me for the first time is the way Jesus was watching out for them even while they were in the middle of their sin. Obviously both Pilate and Judas sinned. Jesus spoke directly to both of them, Judas at the last supper and Pilate during the trial. Judas ran off. Pilate asked questions.
Pilate tried to convince the people otherwise. He went back and asked more questions. Depending on how you read his words, he put his own neck on the line to admit that maybe Jesus was a king. Ultimately, he did sentence an innocent man to death. He did bow to the will of the crowd. He sinned. However Jesus didn't just leave him there. He answered his questions and comforted him in his time of need. Even as Jesus was in the last hours of his life and in pain from the beating, he is still trying to bring people to him. We don't know what happened to Pilate after his encounter with Jesus, but I think it is safe to say that he walked away changed. He had a very clear path back to forgiveness. Even though it was his word that put Jesus to death, Jesus showed him love. Pilate made the decision to react openly and honestly. He looked toward Jesus for the answers to his questions.
Judas had walked with Jesus for 3 years and heard his teachings. Numerous times Jesus has talked about the falseness of the religious leaders. However in the middle of his sin, he regrets his decision. Now what does he do? He returns to the priests and seems to become despondent when they don't respond to his regret. Obviously, Jesus wasn't really available right then, so he couldn't really go there. However, he doesn't go back to God either. Hasn't he seen Jesus go off and pray? Hasn't he seen Jesus' miracles and heard him thank God? Hasn't he been paying attention? I guess not. If he had been paying attention, then he would have known where to go.
I am amazed at these observations. Even in the middle of his trial after he had been tortured, Jesus is replying to Pilate's curiosity about him. Not Herod's curiosity, but a genuine 'who are you?' curiosity. Jesus is replying openly and honestly. Jesus is replying with love and concern for Pilate as a person. He knows this man will bow to the pressures of the crowd and of his position. He knows this man has sentenced him to be tortured and will put him to death. What is Jesus' response? To recognize his Father's role in all this and give Pilate words of comfort. To give Pilate a way back to him later.
He would have done this for Judas as well. All Judas had to do was turn back to him. However, Judas so determined to keep his life the way he knew it to be that he would rather kill himself than to change the order of things. He would rather hold on to the outdated religious structure of the time than to accept the love and forgiveness of Jesus. It was more important for him to be right than for him to be loved by Jesus.
It was not just these 2 men to whom Jesus offered himself. The 2 thieves on the cross received this opportunity. One of the two called the other out by announcing who Jesus was. This one also admitted his own guilt. Jesus' response, "Today you will be with me in paradise."
The soldiers were sinning. They were doing their job and that job was causing them to sin. However that is not an excuse. As he was dying, as he was being sacrificed, he pleaded with God, "Forgive them for they know not what they do." He was giving them a way back as he was doing the work of allowing forgiveness.
What can we take from this? A couple things. There is nothing beyond the realm of God's forgiveness. Don't say "He can't forgive me." Jesus will always give you a way back to him. However, you have to be willing to put yourself aside. Put aside your life, the way you live it, your pride, etc. It can't be you and Jesus. It has to be just Jesus.
Another thing is the reaction of people to Jesus and his offer. Some react violently to his purity (religious leaders). Some welcome it. (Theif, Pilate, sinners.) Some deny it (Judas). When you are met with these attitudes, don't be surprised. Jesus met with them too. Do what you can and move on. (It is really important to put Jesus first, so you know what it is you can do before you move on.)
This Easter season I have seen the story anew. Maybe I'm starting to understand a smidgen of the love and forgiveness that Jesus really has for ALL of us.