So the band of soldiers, the tribune, and the Jewish guards seized Jesus, bound him, and brought him to Annas first. He was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. John 18:12-13
When Jesus was arrested, He was bound and led before Annas the high priest. Annas then sent Him to Caiaphas, who questioned Him, mocked Him and then sent Him to Pilate. Pilate then sent Jesus to Herod who questioned Him, ridiculed Him and then returned Him to Pilate. Jesus endured one interrogation after another.
After questioning Jesus, Pilate stated to the chief priests and to the crowds, “I find this man not guilty” (Luke 23:4). Herod also questioned Jesus and found Him “not guilty,” sending Jesus back to Pilate. For a second time, Pilate addressed the chief priest and crowds saying, “You brought this man to me and accused him of inciting the people to revolt. I have conducted my investigation in your presence and have not found this man guilty of the charges you have brought against him, nor did Herod, for he sent him back to us. So no capital crime has been committed by him. Therefore I shall have him flogged and then release him” (Luke 23:14-16).
Jesus was innocent. That was the double verdict of both Herod and Pilate, even though Pilate eventually consented to Jesus’ death. But the most important spiritual point is that Jesus was innocent. And it was precisely His innocence that made His death a sacrifice. If He had been guilty then His punishment would have been justified. But His innocence transformed His punishment into an atoning sacrifice for the salvation of the world.
As Our Blessed Mother listened to Pilate speak, proclaiming the innocence of her Son, she would have agreed with her whole heart. But she would have also understood that His innocence would not end in His earthly release. Rather, she would have understood well, as she listened to Pilate, that her Son was soon to become the innocent Lamb sacrificed for the sins of many. She would not have held on to an earthly hope for His release from these evil men. She would have held on to the hope that Jesus’ innocent suffering and death would instead release all men from sin.
Reflect, today, upon the innocence of Jesus. “Though He was sinless, He suffered willingly for sinners. Though innocent, He accepted death to save the guilty” (Preface for Palm Sunday). It was our Lord’s innocence that made His death the perfect sacrifice. Our Blessed Mother understood this well. As you ponder this truth, see the innocence of Jesus through the eyes of His Blessed Mother. Ponder her knowledge of His pure and perfect Heart. Reflect upon the gratitude and hope Mother Mary had as she stood before the Cross watching her innocent Son die for the salvation of the world. As she united her innocent heart with His, so you must unite your sinful heart to theirs, trusting that the sacrifice of the Lamb of God will take away all your sins.
My dear Mother, with the affection of your Immaculate Heart, you gazed at your Son in His innocence. You did not need to hear the words of Pilate to convince you of this truth. You knew His innocence better than anyone. But you also knew that His innocent suffering would become the source of salvation for all who would choose to accept this gift.
My dear Mother, I am guilty and deserve the death that your Son unjustly received. I am also eternally grateful for the freedom I have been given from my sins on account of Jesus’ perfect sacrifice.
My innocent Lord, Your sacrifice was perfect and Your willing acceptance of the Cross is the source of salvation for all who will accept it. Give me the grace to open my soul to the gift of Your love and, in turn, to imitate Your innocent suffering by embracing the crosses and injustices that arise in my life’s journey with faith and hope.
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