When Pilate saw that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” Then the people as a whole answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” – Matthew 27:24-25 (NRSV)
When I was a seminary student at Andover Newton, the school rented space to Hebrew College. Upon entry, Jewish students were greeted by a ten-foot painting of a Jewish man nailed to a cross. I asked the Andover Newton dean if we could possibly find a less terrorizing, more
Crucifixion was a not only a brutal method of capital punishment favored by the Roman Empire in the first century. Crucifixion was an act of terror. It said, “Stay in line or you will be next.”
Christians forget that … and much more.
When Christians look at a crucifix, we might see the sacrificial love of God. We are less likely to see a lynched Jew. Most of us don’t live in the shadow of the anti-Semitic slur, “Christ-killer,” used to incite violence and terror against Jews from medieval pogroms to the Holocaust to neo-Nazis today.
What is the genesis of these hate-filled horrors? The blood curse of Matthew 27:25.
If we acknowledge this hateful speech in Scripture along with all the horrors of this day, pledging to confront and uproot anti-Semitism wherever it is found, perhaps we will have reason to call this Friday “good.”
Thankfully, that painting at Andover Newton was quickly removed and replaced. It was a small thing, but so is an offhand slur, a nail, a thorn.
Jesus, forgive our ignorance and the silence that has allowed hatred to thrive against your family. Your blood is not on them. But their blood is on us.
Matt Laney is the Senior Pastor of Virginia Highland Church UCC in Atlanta, GA and the author of Pride Wars, a fantasy series published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for Young Readers. The first two books, The Spinner Prince and The Four Guardians are available now.