Then the whole body of them got up and brought Him before Pilate. And they began to accuse Him, saying, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, and saying that He Himself is Christ, a King.” So Pilate asked Him, saying, “Are You the King of the Jews?” And He answered him and said, “It is as you say.” Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no guilt in this man.” (Luke 23:1-4 NASB)
Having concluded that Jesus claims to be God, and therefore, deity, the religious leaders take Him to Pilate for execution. The problem is that claiming to be a foreign god isn’t a “hanging offense” under Roman law. But rebels are punished pretty quickly, so they accuse Jesus of sedition (just to be able to use that word in a sentence).
Their initial accusations refer back to some of their confrontations during the week, like paying taxes. But others refer to Jesus as claiming to be a king, and that He claims to be an “anointed one”. Being anointed does have meaning in Roman and Greek culture, just not exactly the same meaning. Anointing for Greeks and Romans is what you did with medicine on a wounded person. But the Romans were very aware of the political ramifications of anointing to the Jews. So when the Jewish leaders say, “king”, Pilate begins his interrogation.
The Problem for Pilate is that when asked, Jesus doesn’t go frothing-at-the-mouth crazy. That would have made the job easier, and it’s what others did. But instead, Jesus is calmly saying yes in an oblique manner. So, Pilate returns and says he finds no guilt in Jesus.
In other Gospels, more detail is supplied about Pilate’s predicament. His wife warns him to stay out of it. Jesus has no problem with Pilate’s authority, and claims His kingdom is from another realm (does Pilate think He’s nuts?). Regardless which Gospel you read, Pilate does not have a rebel before Him, only rabid religious leaders. The ones frothing-at-the-mouth crazy, inciting a riot among the people, are the ones seeking to have Jesus crucified. It’s a tragic irony. And at some point, it really comes down to keeping the peace during the festival.
Still, Pilate will be trying other means to apply a modicum of justice to the event. Of course, it won’t work. Unbeknownst to everyone but Jesus, He has an appointment with a cross, at a particular hour on that that specific day. It’s an appointment set when the universe was created, to be heralded by signs in the sun and moon. How could Pilate know? How could the religious leaders have known? Jesus knew. Jesus sees this act unfold exactly as written by the Playwright of Heaven. But Jesus also knows this isn’t His final act.
When confronted with social and cultural pressure to disavow Jesus, what do we do? Far too often, we do the expedient thing. In order to not be offensive, we decide to prevent a riot, to keep the peace. Too many things go wrong with that behavior. The “reasonable” believers are stuck in the middle between rabid-frothing-at-the-mouth religious nuts wanting to kill everyone disagreeing with them, and the comfortable religious sanguine group who sell out the practice of their faith in Jesus to a bowl of mixed nuts. Many in the middle are caught between the desire to simply minister to the hurts of humanity, and the clamor for lies in the society at large.
Jesus neither held a sign saying “God hates everybody”, nor did He simply “go along to get along” with the religious leaders. He wandered the region healing, preaching the truth, raising the dead, and casting out demons. Jesus set a course, and everyone else could either get on board or watch from the dock as He left them behind. He invited some, some of those accepted His invitation, and others didn’t. But He didn’t deviate from His goal, His appointment with a cross.
I suspect our problem is more about not having that sense of divine goal or purpose. We don’t seek the definitions of our lives which only our Master provides. When we do, we don’t like the answers we get. The purpose is behind us, but we won’t turn around. The goal lies in a direction we’ve already rejected, so we don’t see it. We look without turning the head or lifting the clutter of our lives. What we want is for our Master to confirm our goals and purposes. What He wants is for us to follow Jesus to a cross. So, we check our calendars for the first opening we can find. But, finding no convenient time to be tortured to death, we ask for another goal or purpose. In a sense, we, once again, choose from the tree providing us the right and power to choose good and evil for ourselves.
Life lies at the end of a path through a method of humiliating death. Death is found on every other path. Discipleship, repentance, and faith are the ingredients resulting in love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, and self-control. We want those things, but balk at the price God charges. Will we be crucified with Christ, and no longer live? Will we live this life in the body by faith in the Son of God who has loved us and gave Himself for us? We can’t have one with out the other. That’s just how this play was written. We can try to write another, but the warning from Scripture is that such a play is always a tragedy.
What’s your view through your knothole this morning?