Thursday, July 9, 2015

Needing Authority to Act (John 18:28-32)

“Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor’s headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover. So Pilate went outside to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” They answered him, “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.” This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die.” (John 18:28–32, ESV)

These verses begin Jesus’ hearing before Pilate and Herod, but neither Pilate nor Herod really desired to be placed in this position. As we read from these verses Pilate initially asked the men who had brought Jesus to him just what He had done—“What accusation do you bring against this man?” Amazingly enough his captors did not give Pilate a solid answer, but rather told him that he should trust their judgment and grant their request after all if he had not been doing evil they would have never brought Jesus to them. It was the ultimate, “Trust us and do what we ask.” Pilate did not take their bait, but turned their lack of a solid charge around on them and told them to take Him and judge Him according to their own law. This is when what they really wanted came to the surface. They were interested in judgment. Hey weren’t even interested in Pilate agreeing with them. What they wanted was Pilate to use his power as a Roman governor to order Jesus put to death. As we read in the passage this was something they had no legal authority to do on their own.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke record that Jesus had said in advance that this was something that the religious leaders of the Jews were going to have to do in order for Him to be crucified. He knew in advance that it was not just going to be the Jews who put Him to death, but in fact the leaders of the world at that time—the Gentile Roman leaders.  Matthew wrote, “And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.”” (Matthew 20:17–19, ESV; see also Mark 10:33-34; Luke 18:31-33)

As much as they hated Jesus and the message that He proclaimed given to Him by the Father there was really nothing significant that they could do without the support of the government. They could ostracize. They could judge Him. They could make His life difficult. They could even break the law and take things into their own hands. But there was no legal act that they could take until such time that they got the law on their side.

I thought about going on and looking at more verses, but in light of what is going on in our country at this very time I thought it more appropriate to stop and focus on how social pressure has been used in much the same way to attack the message of Christ and His ambassadors of light seem out of step, narrow, phobic, haters, and so much more. But as much as they could do to make things uncomfortable there really was nothing they could do until the law joined with them. And for the greatest part when this has happened in this country it has not been by changing the law first, but by getting a judge or judges to gain their ear and rule in their favor. Bible reading and prayer was removed from schools. In 1962 and 1963 it was the Supreme Court of this land that ruled and established the current prohibitions against prayer and Bible readings in public schools. Then on January 22, 1973 the same Court ruled in favor of abortion and the taking of innocent pre-born lives. One source I read suggested that as of January of this year, the 42nd anniversary of this horrific ruling that 57,496,011 abortions have destroyed the lives of unborn children ( And most recently the Supreme Court has now ruled against the God ordained institution of marriage saying that same sex couples have the same rights as the one man—one woman relationship established by God. Prior to the Court ruling several states had already legalized same sex marriage, and there are growing accounts of the power of the state now being used to attack, silence, punish and who knows when arrest might happen to those who live their biblical values in the entirety of their lives including their privately held businesses. All of this has been made possible because the forces of evil have enlisted the support of the government to accomplish their efforts to silence the voice of Christ and His followers.

Satan will not give up. He will continue to fight these battles until the day that he is finally put down once and for all by Jesus Christ Himself, and those who listen to his lies and deceptions as well as their own selfish pleasures will continue to fight for his cause.

Paul wrote in Romans, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” (Romans 1:16–32, ESV)

“But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:21–26, ESV)

“but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Romans 5:8–11, ESV)

I love the words, “but God.” They represent the greatest hope we could ever know. It doesn’t matter how bad things might get, God is bigger and more powerful. It doesn’t matter how dark things might seem, Jesus Christ is the light of the world who will never fade. It doesn’t matter how powerful the force that comes against us, God is the One from whom my help comes. Jesus stood there before Pilate as His accusers asked that He be put to death, and knowing that He was there according to the will of the Father He stood firm.

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