14 But you disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, 15 but put to death the Prince of life, the one whom God raised from the dead, a fact to which we are witnesses. 16 And on the basis of faith in His name, it is the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man whom you see and know; and the faith which comes through Him has given him this perfect health in the presence of you all.
17 “And now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, just as your rulers did also. 18 But the things which God announced beforehand by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. 19 Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; NASB
If I read this with my mind, I see what happened. If I read this with my heart, I see how old clemency is. More than 2000 years ago Pilate asked the crowd if he should let out of the prison someone named Barabbas or someone named Jesus. He really did not want to make a decision on clemency, which by the way, means mercy. Imagine that? Could not decide who should receive mercy because of the body politic. The crowds. The masses of people whom he was leading. Leadership? A foul kind of leadership that cannot decide which people have been corrected, who is innocent and to whom an offer of mercy should be made. No idea who had truly turned around from their “life of crime.” Or perhaps afraid of the answer.
What makes sense here? What if you were the president and could offer clemency? What if you were the governor and could offer clemency? Would you even know it was a call of mercy? Probably not. You may have grown up in these United States and known what was on TV or in the movies. Everyone that is convicted is guilty. Everyone who is in prison is basically a sociopath waiting for a chance to enact dire crimes on the public. But it is people who are in prison–some bad, some good.
In your position of power, if you knew you should be letting out people who have served a lot of time, you still would avoid the issue. Most states have clemency, at the prerogative of the governor, to let someone go home because they are so changed. But there is this unruly crowd in your country or state who have been likewise “educated” as to the people who are in prison. They won’t like you if you decide a person within the Department of Correction’s care for twenty five years is corrected and can go home. They might shout, “Don’t reelect him,” meaning you instead of “Crucify him,” meaning the prisoner.
Now in this account in Acts, we see that Peter was talking generally to the crowd who was there shouting “Crucify Him,” meaning Jesus. He was not talking to Pilate.
How often have we heard within the walls of the church, “Lock them up and throw away the key.” That is advocating for no mercy, ever. Do you think that perhaps our magnificent God said mercy just to us, only people outside the walls of a prison? Mercy just to our cleaned up friends in the church? Mercy to those who have only done marijuana? I certainly am guilty of not offering mercy many times in my life, but am asking each of you to ponder this. What if someone has truly changed after doing a good deal of time in prison?
Yes, there is a reason why we as a society should be locking up someone who has committed a violent crime. My husband, Charlie, was the first to admit he should have been in prison. And he repented and changed while he was there. I met the new man.
And there are indeed those who will never repent of their “crimes” and sins. They have not truly changed. Many outside the walls have never changed. Still, we are certain that God changes people, and He may use a Department of Corrections to do so. Somewhere, someone decided to call the work inside the walls Corrections.
I do know that we have to rethink what we have been taught about people who have committed a terrible crime. God used Paul. God also used Moses after he killed a man. God also used David after he had a man set up to be killed.