Friday, July 31, 2020

John 18 - Part 3

Read John 18

Following the kangaroo court held by the Jewish religious leaders, Jesus was taken to Pilate, the Roman Governor of the region.  From the beginning, we see how out of sync with the norm this is.  The Hebrew people, especially the religious Jews don’t like the Romans. 

Nobody likes to be conquered and nobody likes the conqueror’s taxes laid upon them.  The religious leaders were only the top dogs to their own people because the Romans permitted it.  That had to be a thorn in the side that festered on and on; yet, Jesus was brought to Pilate.

I can visualize the scene.  The Jews won’t go in because they would be considered unclean for entering the estate of a pagan, and the Passover meal was drawing near.  I’m not sure of the actual scripture  that made entering the palace an act of uncleanliness, but the process for cleansing was usually a week-long affair.

For the Romans to enter the inner parts of the temple would also make it unclean, and at least to this point, the Romans had observed this practice.  For all the Romans put up with, it’s hard to understand why Pilate even entertained these men seeking him to leave his abode because it was an unclean place and they didn’t want to be unclean for their special meal.

If I was Pilate, I think I would have said, “Come back when that is not a factor.”

But Pilate went out to meet the Jewish leaders.  They wanted to hand Jesus over for execution but Pilate asked, “What’s he done?”

The response of those seeking the execution services of the governor was priceless.  “We wouldn’t bring him to you if he wasn’t guilty.”

In the business of leadership, many factors are considered before deciding.  Sometimes all factors are considered in an instant.  At other times, it’s a more protracted process.  What delays decision-making?  Red flags. 

What are red flags?  Joe Scmuckatelli volunteered to drive the church van and take the kids to the concert.  Joe has three DUIs and a suspended license.  That’s a red flag.  It says, let’s slow this whole decision-making process down, and the answer is surely going to be no way.

Here is another red flag.  We wouldn’t bring him to you if he were not guilty.

Pilate told the Jews, go judge him by your laws.  The Jews replied that they were not authorized to execute anyone. There’s a technical term for that answer.  It’s called horsehocky.  Think back to Chapter 8. The woman brought before Jesus was not there for counseling.

The Jews wanted Jesus to consent to her stoning as required by the Law of Moses.  Many brought stones for just that purpose.  It didn’t happen, but men came prepared to administer justice.  We remember the words of Jesus:  Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.  One by one stones hit the ground and the men left, but their intent was to execute this woman by stoning.

It's possible that the Romans withheld this authority from the Hebrew people, but probably at some later date, perhaps after the destruction of the temple a few decades later.

So, Pilate encounters his next red flag in the request of these religious leaders; yet he takes Jesus inside to talk with him.

Pilate asks:  “Are you the king of the Jews?”

Jesus was going to the cross.  It wouldn’t stop here so he gave Pilate no excuse to free him.  Instead, Jesus seemed in the mood to banter.

Did you come up with that on your own?

Did you hear than from somebody?

Pilate is surely thinking to himself, Am I not the one holding all the cards here?  Why is this man taunting me? 

I’m no Jew.  It was your people who handed you over to me!

Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
Now there was something Pilate could get some traction with, this man claiming to be a king.  He said, so you are a king then?

Jesus still bantered, You got that right.  Jesus was going to the cross.  He came to speak truth and be the atoning sacrifice for our sin and it had to be as prophesied in the scriptures.  He would not be stoned.  He would be lifted up.  Pilate was essential to this fulfillment.

Pilate didn’t really want to do this.  He even offered to release Jesus according to an annual custom afforded the conquered Jews.  The Jews declined and asked for Barabbas, one who stood condemned for revolt. 

Pilate was surely confounded by why these self-righteous Jews wanted a murderer set free and a man with whom he could find no fault condemned.

Jesus was not guilty, but he must be sacrificed as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  The kangaroo court and the illogical decision of Pilate to continue this charade were necessary to fulfill scripture.

Jesus could have called for help and a dozen legions of Angels would have come to his rescue, but Jesus did not call for evacuation.  He chose to continue to the cross so that we might be made right with God.  He would be with his Father soon enough, but not until everything was accomplished.

In our blessing of hindsight, we see that.  Jesus must go to the cross.  He who had no sin would be condemned for our sin.  The sins of the entire world would be upon him.  Scripture must be fulfilled.

We get that, but did you catch something else in the conversation between Pilate and Jesus?

Jesus said that his kingdom was not of this world.  We get that too.  The Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Heaven are not a part of this world. 

We get that.  We can live in the Kingdom of God now, but it’s not a part of this carnal world.

Sometimes we gloss over the next thing Jesus had to say.  But now my kingdom is from another place.”

But now—but for now—my kingdom is from another place.  The world and the authorities and powers within were a temporary state of being.  They are so temporal.  They are not eternal. 

There will come a time when the powers and forces of this world give way one way or another—surrender or eviction—to the Kingdom of God.  God’s kingdom will come to this world.

We have seen so much depravity in the hearts of the religious Jews, forsaking the very law by which they desired to convict Jesus.  This was necessary to get Jesus to the cross.  Think to the words of Joseph to his brothers after their father’s death.

What you intended for evil, God used for good.

There was nothing right, holy, good, or otherwise virtuous in the kangaroo court held for Jesus, but God used it for good.  It was necessary.

Likewise, the pagan governor seemed to be trying to do the right thing by his standards, but Jesus must be lifted up according to what was prophesied, and the Roman mode of execution was often the crosss.

The journey to the cross had to be fulfilled; yet on the way, Jesus promised that this temporary situation in the world would not last.  God’s kingdom would come.  His will would be done upon this earth.

But for now when we live in God’s kingdom we are strangers in this world.  We are swimming against the current.  We just don’t fit in.

We will have trouble in the word, but we take courage because we know that Christ overcame the world.  It was an interesting journey to the cross to conquer sin and death, but he did that for us. 

We can have peace in this troubled world and even prosper in many ways that the pagans have made into their gods, but we should know with certainty that this situation that we know in this godl
ess world is temporary. 

One day, things on earth will be as they are in heaven.

One day, the kingdom of this world will give way to the Kingdom of God.

But for now, we live amidst trouble and hatred and sometimes even persecution, but all of that is temporary.  Our perseverance will pay off and we will see what God has in store for us, even on this earth.

You will be just fine now but you also have something to look forward to.  Jesus has claimed you for eternity.  All your tears will be wiped away.  You will be with your Lord and you might just get a glimpse what it would be like to live on this earth without the presence of sin.

For now, that’s not the case, but we persevere now and know the Kingdom of God will one day come to this earth and things will be done here as they are in heaven.

Some days we see and feel all the blessings of our Lord.  Other days are tougher for us.  We endure and press on and the road is marked with suffering, but we know what God has in store for us.

We live in God’s kingdom here and now but one day it will be all around us for everyone to see.  It’s not there yet, but the building permit for it has been signed.

Some days we just have to realize what is happening is just for now.  It’s just for now.  It’s just for now.

His kingdom will come.  Press on through the present insanity.  It’s just for now.

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