Jesus Was Innocent

Why Jesus Is My Hero #45 of 52

We don’t often think about it like this, but at the end of the day, Christians follow a condemned criminal. Jesus of Nazareth was executed on a Roman cross on charges of treason against the Emperor, amidst additional accusations of blasphemy. If there’s any truth to these claims – if Jesus was rightly condemned as a criminal – then the whole Christian faith is a complete sham and holds out no hope of salvation whatsoever.

It’s no wonder, then, that in his gospel – designed to bolster the confidence of doubting Christians – Luke should be at such pains to stress the complete innocence of Jesus. His account of the accusation states it again and again, designed to show us that Jesus is utterly above reproach in the matters under examination. Pilate’s initial investigations prompt him to decree “I find no guilt in this man.” After trying to abdicate responsibility to a thoroughly ambivalent Herod, he is forced to respond like so:

“After examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him. Neither did Herod, for he sent him back to us. Look, nothing deserving death has been done by him.” (Luke 23:15-16)

Even the criminal on the cross next to Jesus is presented as a witness by Luke, stating “this man has done nothing wrong”, and then to wrap up the passage, we have the Roman centurion declaring “Certainly this man was innocent!”

It’s hard to miss the point that Luke is making: yes Jesus was executed on a cross, but it wasn’t because there was the least shred of evidence against Jesus. He was completely innocent of wrongdoing. If Jesus died on the cross, it’s only because he allowed it to happen – only because he chose to die. That’s clear from way back in chapter 9 of Luke, where after Jesus has predicted his death, we read that “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem. ” (Luke 9:51). Jesus died for a purpose, freely of his own choosing.

What was that purpose? Simply put, innocent Jesus died so that the guilty might go free. What better visual aid could there be than that of Barabbus, who Luke twice describes as “a man who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection started in the city and for murder”. This clearly guilty man is released from prison as Jesus is put to death despite his obvious innocence. This is the glory of the cross – that Jesus died as a substitute in the place of guilty men and women so that they might live. The just punishment that our sins deserve was poured out on Jesus in our place instead of on us, so that God can accept us as though we were completely innocent of any wrongdoing.

That’s why Jesus is my hero – because he’s the only reason that I can stand before a holy God with any shred of confidence. He has paid the price for my sin, because he had no sin of his own.