Who is to blame?
How did the "Hosanna!"'s of Sunday turn to the "Crucify Him!"'s of Friday? Five days is all, and the crowd turned from shouting "Hosanna!" to shouting "Crucify him!" How does that happen?The full text of the sermon is online here: Brief Reflections on the Passion
Typically, one finds explanations that focus on Jesus and on people's mistaken views about Jesus. One often hears the line of argument, for instance, that Zealots were hoping for a Messiah to lead them into victorious battle over their enemies and simply mistook Jesus to be that kind of Messiah, turning on him by Good Friday. One often sees that kind of portrayal in today's movie versions.
Or the focus is put on the Jewish leaders and their ability to somehow turn the crowd. In the made-for-TV movie of three years ago, one that I like a lot overall, it takes the most modern approach of blaming Pilate and the Romans. Jesus died by a Roman form of execution. They were the overlords in charge of the politics. So this movie portrays Pilate as manipulating everything behind the scenes. Sensitive to the terrible deeds of Christians killing Jews through the ages, we don't want to blame the Jews, so we blame the Romans.
I'd like to submit to you this morning that blaming anyone—Jews, Romans, the Jewish Sanhedrin, Pilate—that blaming anyone is completely beside the point of this whole story. In fact, when we try to blame anyone, we are exactly missing the point. For the Christian Gospel isn't about this group or that group needing forgiveness. It's not about this person or that person needing forgiveness. It's about all of us needing forgiveness...
In the archives are the religion column Who killed Jesus? and the sermon What Language does God speak?