Passing the buck

Twice in Matthew 27 we hear the same release of responsibility; “That’s your responsibility” (27:4) and, “It is your responsibility!” (27:24). The first is a response from the chief priests and elders to Judas Iscariot’s confession of remorse for betraying the innocent blood of Jesus by leading them to Him for thirty silver coins (27:3-4) and the second is the words of Pilate when he washed his hands, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” preceding his decision to release Jesus to the crowd to be crucified (27:24).

Although these are two very distinct links to how assigning responsibility can play out, the similarities are eery. Both parties that passed the buck of responsibility onto others are guilty. Both parties, although their words and deeds are clearly not willing to claim responsibility for the coming crucifixion of Christ, are still accountable and responsible for their part in participating. That these two comments are recorded in Matthew’s gospel, both within the same chapter and within 20 verses of eachother, is striking. Even though the roles of Judas, the chief priests and elders, and Pilate, in relation to the crucifixion of Christ, may differ greatly, the role of responsibility screams out in this passage.

How often do we pass the buck when addressing the responsibility that always lays on us? If we’re even aware enough of our own depravity when mitigating scenarios of sin, do we attempt to assign guilt to another party in hopes that we’ll be released from our own responsibility? If so, do we actually believe that because we pass the baton of responsibility that God doesn’t still hold us accountable? As relieving as that could be, relegating all responsibility off of ourselves and on to someone else, it is not so.

The chief priests and elders that did this with Judas were in error, as was Pilate in doing this with the crowd that had been persuaded by those same chief priests and elders to execute the innocent Christ (27:20). They comforted their own consciences by laying responsibility on others and, perhaps, wholeheartedly believed that their passing of the buck was effective.

This happens still today. We are privy to play a part in a fallen world, where sin governs at all levels. The danger of being unaware of our own responsibility towards these interactions is high, if we’re not being constantly reminded of our weaknesses. This is where self righteousness and complacency when witnessing sin enters in, both growing out from the root sin of pride. It’s pride, too, that confuses us as we hardheartedly believe that we can relinquish responsibility, remain innocent, and rest in a false peace that God is not blaming us for our buck passing. We are not, never, ever, innocent when we decide we are. We are only justified before God because of the shedding of the innocent man’s blood two millennia ago. We cannot claim our innocence or release our responsibility independent of Him.

So the next instance that we’re involved in by witnessing, or taking part in, by the providence of God, may we accept the responsibility we have and not shirk it. May we address the injustices and sinful behaviors we see, instead of passing the buck or ignoring them. And when the blame isn’t assigned to someone other than ourselves as we attempt to categorize the role of our responsibility, may we always trust and believe that whatever happens resulting from our confrontation of sin is ordained by God. Our refusal to ignore the sin that we’re made aware of by the Spirit is our responsibility. Because when He opens our eyes to the rampant sins in us and all around us, He’s giving us the opportunity to act upon them and see them the way He does. With the chief elders and priests, and Pilate, God intended for them to reassign their responsibility so the crucifixion of Christ would occur as He planned. Today, we may not be actors in the play of putting Christ on the cross, but we can still soak up the blood of crucifying an innocent and act appropriately by taking our responsibility seriously in the face of gross injustices. When we know of it, we must own it.

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