Monday, January 10, 2011

Life of Christ Devotional - John 19:1-15

“Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they struck him in the face. Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.” When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!” As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!” But Pilate answered, “You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.” The Jews insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.” When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, and he went back inside the palace. “Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. “Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?” Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jews kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.” When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). It was the day of Preparation of Passover Week, about the sixth hour. “Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews. But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!” “Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked. “We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered. ” (John 19:1–15, NIV)
The root of all sin is selfishness and everything about this scene drips with this disease. The religious leaders brought the charges against Jesus because they wanted Him eliminated. Jesus was disrupting their system and power and influence among the people. The more that followed Him, the less would follow them. And yet, they were dependent upon Roman rule to execute Jesus. It was a punishment they could not carry out on their own. They needed the help of their enemy in order to preserve their power among the people.
Pilate, on the other hand, saw no reason to enforce this punishment. Nothing Jesus did was deserving of death. And yet, the Jews manipulated the circumstances to force Pilate into the corner. If he did nothing to Jesus, he was not honoring Caesar since Jesus claimed to be a king. The Jews appeal to the rule of Caesar in order to prevent the rule of Jesus. Pilate was in a predicament and the best he could do was turn Jesus over to the Jews. He washed his hands of the situation and let the influence of the crowd take its course. His position of authority took priority over the protection of the innocent.
Both the Jews and the Romans were manipulating the circumstances under the false pretense that they were in control. Each sought to fulfill their selfish desires for the preservation of their perceived power and influence. But where are they now? What they considered to be of great gain has now become their greatest loss. Mercy held out His hands and pride drove nails through the offering.
But the reality behind the story was spoken by Jesus. Despite the perception of being in control by issuing decisions that would ultimately determine the outcome, nothing was happening that God did not first determine to take place. The ultimate authority came from heaven and the characters of these events were simply fulfilling what God had ordained to unfold. In mercy, God did not expect mankind to understand this in the moment. Instead, He spoke through the prophets long before the events ever occurred. Isaiah would proclaim:
“He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. ” (Isaiah 53:7–9, NIV)
In love, God always reveals what is necessary for us to have life in His name. Pride will always perceive His requirement of submission as a threat to the security we create by our own self protection. In other words, as long as we are in control, we feel we are secure. It is a lie of the enemy that continues to this day.
Jesus said, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? ” (Matthew 16:24–26, NIV)
The religious leaders accomplished their goal. Pilate preserved his power. They both relished in the glory of having succeeded in life only to face the reality, upon death, that they forfeited their soul for all eternity. Control is an illusion that disappears at death. Submission is the path to freedom in Christ and life eternal.

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