Daily Devotion for April 18, 2011
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.
What could be more appropriate than the final chorus from the oratorio Bach wrote for Good Friday, the Passion of St. John?
Den Leib in seim Schlafkammerlein
Alsdenn vom Tod erwecke mich,
Herr Jesu Christ, erhoere mich,
Music by Johann Sebastian Bach
Lyrics by Martin Schalling (1571)
Prayer for the Morning
I bless you for the day you have made, Mighty Lord God, and pray that I may spend this day rejoicing in your creation. I pray for your Holy Spirit to fill me with the joy of my salvation, so that your light may shine through me into the world, that your honor and glory may be known to all people.
Remind me of your blessings, I pray, with every tribulation I may face, so that I may act with energy, forgiveness and love, ever mindful of the grace You have shown to me. Through Christ I pray,
Penitential Prayer of St. Augustine
O Lord, The house of my soul is narrow; enlarge it that you may enter in. It is ruinous, O repair it! It displeases Your sight. I confess it, I know. But who shall cleanse it, to whom shall I cry but to you? Cleanse me from my secret faults, O Lord, and spare Your servant from strange sins.
Prayer for Peace
I thank you, Master and Lover of mankind, King of the ages and giver of all good things, for destroying the dividing wall of enmity and granting peace to those who seek your mercy. I appeal to you to awaken the longing for a peaceful life in all those who are filled with hatred for their neighbors, thinking especially of those at war or preparing for war.
Grant peace to your servants. Implant in them the fear of you and confirm in them love one for another. Extinguish every dispute and banish all temptations to disagreement. For you are our peace and to you we ascribe glory: to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and forever and unto ages of ages.
I pray, Lord our God, for all those who suffer from acts of war. I pray for your peace and your mercy in the midst of the great suffering that people are now inflicting on each other. Accept the prayers of your Church, so that by your goodness peace may return to all peoples. Hear us and have mercy on us.
I dedicate this day to you, mighty God. I pray that your Spirit will lift me up this day, and that your face may shine upon me all the day long, that I might do your will and lead a new life in Christ, reborn in the Spirit.
With my whole heart I have sought You;
Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments!
Your word I have hidden in my heart,
That I might not sin against You.
John 18:38-40; John 19:1-8 (ESV)
Jesus is Questioned by Pontius Pilate 
Jesus answered, . . . "Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to me."
Pilate said to him, "What is truth?"
After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, "I find no guilt in him. But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover. So do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?" They cried out again, "Not this man, but Barabbas!" Now Barabbas was a robber.
Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, "Hail, King of the Jews!" and struck him with their hands.
Pilate went out again and said to them, "See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him." So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, "Behold the man!"
When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, "Crucify him, crucify him!" Pilate said to them, "Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him." The Jews answered him, "We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God."
When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid.
Notes on the Scripture
John's account of Jesus' trial is full of ambiguities. But it seems that Pilate did not believe Jesus was guilty of any breach of Roman law. He was obliged, however, to cooperate with the Sanhedrin, of which the High Priest Caiaphas was the leader. Where Roman law was not involved, he would cooperate in enforcing local laws.
Give us Barrabas!
Pilate is a bit fascinated by Jesus. He appears to have been schooled in Greek philosophy and he wants to take the opportunity to engage Jesus in dialogue. When Jesus tells him that he has come to tell people the truth, Pilate responds with the cryptic question: "What is truth?" It's a very Greek question, the kind of subject that philsophers would spend hours and days at a time debating. But we do not have any record of a response from Jesus.
At any rate, practical considerations overwhelm Pilate's curiosity. John tells us in 19:8 that Pilate is afraid of something; at least in part, it is the crowd of Jews demanding Jesus' death, for it was his duty to prevent civil turmoil. Rome would not have been pleased with Pilate if a riot had broken out in Jerusalem. Also, however, he seems to fear condemning Christ. (In Matthew, we learn that Pilate's wife has had a bad dream about killing Jesus.)
Pilate tries to save Jesus' life by offering to release him under the custom, that one criminal should be set free at Passover. The crowd of urban Pharisees and Sadducees, however, is intent on seeing him killed, and demands the release of the thief Barabbas.
Also clear from John's account is that Jesus is depicted as an innocent sacrifice. At passover, the most innocent of animals, an unblemished lamb, was sacrificed. (Exodus 12:3) This commemorated the Hebrews in Egypt painting their doors with lambs' blood, so that the spirit sent to kill the eldest male child would pass over their houses. Exodus recounted freeing the Hebrews from slavery on earth; Christ became the sacrificial lamb, in order to free the Hebrews and the world from the slavery of sin.