“But I found that he had done nothing deserving of death .” Acts 25:25a (NRSV)
In Luke 23:13-15 we find these words written about Jesus:
“Pilate then called the chief priests, the leaders and the people, and said to them, ‘You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and here I have examined him in your presence and have not found this man guilty of any of your charges against him. Neither has Herod for he sent him back to us. Indeed he has done nothing to deserve death.’”
In Acts 25:23-27 we find these words written about the Apostle Paul:
So on the next day Agrippa and Bernice came with great pomp, and they entered the audience hall with the military tribunes and the prominent men of the city. Then Festus gave the order and Paul was brought in. And Festus said, “King Agrippa and all here present with us you see this man about whom the whole Jewish community petitioned me, both in Jerusalem and here, shouting that he ought not to live any longer. But I found that he had done nothing deserving death; and when he appealed to his Imperial Majesty, I decided to send him. But I have nothing definite to write to our sovereign about him. Therefore I have brought him before all of you, and especially before you King Agrippa, so that after we have examined him, I may have something to write … for it seems to me unreasonable to send a prisoner without indicating the charges against him.”
Jesus appeared before Pilate and Herod. Jews were among those calling for His death. Pilate and Herod found that Jesus had done nothing deserving of death.
Paul appeared before Festus and King Agrippa. The Jewish community was among those calling for his death. Festus declared that Paul had done nothing deserving death. He even noted that he did not know what charges were to be written concerning him.
Technically it could be said that Saul had “blood on his hands” from the stoning of Stephen, but that charge and not anything else could be laid against God’s elect, Jesus. So who has done something deserving death? The answer is: “Us!” We have sinned against God in thought, word and deed. We have sinned against God by doing the things we ought not to have done and by failing to do the things we ought to have done. One way or another we have sinned and we deserve death.
In the Apostle Paul’s Letter to the Romans we read: “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (3:23) And then in the same letter Paul writes, “the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (6:23) We have sinned and are rightly deserving of death, but thanks be to God, we have the free gift of eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ!
Most Holy God, we acknowledge that You would have no trouble identifying charges against us deserving death. Against You, and You alone have we sinned. Forgive us! We give You thanks and praise for the free gift of eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died on the cross for our sins. Amen.