So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather 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.” And all the people answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified. (Matthew 27:27-26 ESV)
Tensions were running high in Jerusalem during this particular Passover. Not only was their land occupied by a forgeign army, but a small group of radicals was poised to bring Rome down on everyone’s head.
The crowd, in such a fervor over the perceived blasphemy of Jesus, could not wait to have the man executed. In fact, some were willing to pass his blood onto their own children. They did not care about the consequences, they just wanted him dead.
A few months later, after things had settled down and the radicals had no doubt come to their end, the full import of what they had done was shown to them. Peter, being filled with the Spirit, told them the truth of the one who had been crucified.
Perhaps many of the same people who were calling for Jesus’ death now listened to Peter. Maybe they came to the sad conclusion that they, God’s own chosen people, had killed their very Lord.
Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” (Acts 2:37-39)
This is the mercy of Pentecost. With man there is bloodlust and murder; with God, grace and forgiveness. The blood the crowd was so willing to place upon their children was transformed from hate into love.
Isn’t it the same with us? Without a question, I have stood in that crowd and yelled “Crucify him!” I have railed against the Creator, shaking my fist into the air with many acts of defiance. And the whole time, Jesus looks to the Father and says “Forgive him, for he knows not what he does.”