How Does He NOT Know?

Then the angel of the LORD came and sat under the oak that was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite as his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the wine press in order to save it from the Midianites.  The angel of the LORD appeared to him and said to him, “The LORD is with you, O valiant warrior.”  Then Gideon said to him, “O my lord, if the LORD is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not the LORD bring us up from Egypt?’ But now the LORD has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.” (Judges 6:11-13 NASB)

Then Gideon built an altar there to the LORD and named it The LORD is Peace. To this day it is still in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.  Now on the same night the LORD said to him, “Take your father’s bull and a second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Baal which belongs to your father, and cut down the Asherah that is beside it; and build an altar to the LORD your God on the top of this stronghold in an orderly manner, and take a second bull and offer a burnt offering with the wood of the Asherah which you shall cut down.” (Judges 6:24-26 NASB)

The Angel of the Lord is Yahweh, Himself, in visible form, dressed for a visit.  He goes to a guy threshing wheat where there is no wind, a wine press.  That’s a job that will take a while, and will seem pointless through much of it.  Gideon can’t be happy.  At the point of the visit, his life is pretty much at an all-time low.  Hence his reply to his Creator.

It’s Gideon’s reply that is so incredibly ironic though.  “Why…”  It’s a good question for someone suffering wrongfully.  It’s a good question for the righteous man to ask of God, like Job, for instance.  The impression received from the question is that Gideon asks from a standpoint of innocence.

At first I thought, perhaps, it was the prophet who reminded the people about Yahweh.  Perhaps the previous generation had forgotten to pass down the stories.  Yet Gideon replies to this Yahweh that the “…miracles which our fathers told us about…” were lacking at the moment.  It seems they hadn’t forgotten to pass down the stories.

So, then I figured that Gideon didn’t know that it was wrong to serve Yahweh and Baal…and Asherah, and so on.  That’s possible.  He at least knows that the people around him won’t like being exclusive.  He immediately builds an altar to Yahweh, there at the wine press.  And he tears down his father’s Baal altar… in the dark.

But think about it.  His first task given to him by Yahweh is to tear down his father’s altar to Baal, and the Asherah pole next to it.  There is an altar to Baal and an Asherah in the front yard.  And Gideon has the audacity to ask, “Where is Yahweh, and why has He abandoned us?”  Are you kidding me?  Seriously, he doesn’t get that?

The condition of the people of God at this point in their history is shocking, or should shock us.  We should be slapping our foreheads, going, “REALLY?”.  The thing is, we’re not.  Instead, we glibly read through, barely stopping to notice the incongruity before us.  Gideon is a hero, and heroes are great people.  Keep reading, we have a lot to get through.

But when we stop and look at what is happening, it should startle us.  It was supposed to startle the author’s audience when written.  It was supposed to shock them into realizing what they were doing, how they treated Yahweh.  They were supposed to see how boneheaded ignorant they were.  And that’s what is supposed to happen to us.

Is gathering together as believers something that only happens once a week?  Does it happen in a large crowded venue?  Are you able to hide there, choose not to interact?  Does your experience as a “church-going” follower of Jesus make a minimal impact on your time during the week?  People, there is probably an altar in your yard, and you don’t even realize it’s a problem.

Is your church constantly preaching about giving, and wanting you to give more, and harping on how much it doesn’t have…are you tithing?  Is all you have, God’s, and you’re simply the steward?  Would your neighbors say you’re weird because you clearly honor God with all your stuff, money, and time?  Or do you look and act a lot like them?  There could be an altar in your yard you have learned to pretend isn’t there.

You see where this going?  Do you need another example?  Okay, what would your kids say about your devotion to God?  Would they, one, say you’re truly devoted; and, two, want that for themselves?  Or does your attitude toward, and your treatment of, your family deviate widely from what you say you believe?  Do you have an altar to yourself in the yard, one you’ve been using regularly, but pretending is something else?

Are you sufficiently depressed? Has conviction angered or saddened you to near uselessness this morning?  As my dad would say, “Have I gotten your goat?”  I still don’t know what that means, by the way.  I mean, I do, from the way he used it, but why does it mean that?  So, if you take my goat, does that mean I mow my yard myself?  Maybe that’s a good thing.  Maybe I’ll get tired of mowing around the altar, and TEAR IT DOWN!

Stay tuned.  It gets better.  God didn’t reject Gideon for being an ignorant moron.  So, we’re probably safe.  Be honest about it, though.  That’s the process of repentance, honesty about who and what we are before God.  Seeing ourselves for who we really are, and then appreciating what He does for us, is rearranging our mind to be like His.

That’s my view through the knothole this morning.  What do you see?

What’s the Problem?

So Israel was brought very low because of Midian, and the sons of Israel cried to the LORD.  Now it came about when the sons of Israel cried to the LORD on account of Midian, that the LORD sent a prophet to the sons of Israel, and he said to them, “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘It was I who brought you up from Egypt and brought you out from the house of slavery.  ‘I delivered you from the hands of the Egyptians and from the hands of all your oppressors, and dispossessed them before you and gave you their land, and I said to you, “I am the LORD your God; you shall not fear the gods of the Amorites in whose land you live. But you have not obeyed Me.”‘” (Judges 6:6-10 NASB)

Before we even get to the discussion between Yahweh and Gideon, we have this setup by the author of Judges.  It’s important to know, not only what God does for His people, but the condition they are in before He helps them.  It’s a big part of the author’s point to his audience.

So, what is the condition of God’s people?  They cry out to Yahweh because of the oppression of the nomads, and He sends a prophet with a scathing message.  The word from Yahweh to His people that He has kept His side of the covenant by bringing them out of Egypt and into the land, but they have not kept their part of the covenant by not fearing the local deities.  That wasn’t the only part of the covenant, but it was a key, repeated, element of it.

So, you would expect repentance.  You would think at this point, if they’re crying out to Yahweh, they would also put away the other gods, idols, altars, practices, and what not?  You would think they would change their minds and hearts to agree with God’s mind, search out His heart.  And yet, no.  In fact, they seem confused by the prophet.  Yahweh has done all this stuff, and told them to not fear the gods of the Amorites.  But they did.

See, you’d think the prophet would even wake them up, wouldn’t you?  Sure they cry out, but don’t get exactly what they’re doing wrong.  In that case they wouldn’t know how to repent.  But when the prophet delivers his message, they still seem baffled.  If you keep this part in your mind as you read the rest of the chapter, the heart condition of these people is nearly unfathomable.  It’s so wrong it’s baffling, it can’t possibly be that bad.

This setting for the rest of Gideon’s story is critical to the author’s point.  After all, if you’re going to make a point that God is, and has always been, gracious, wouldn’t a drastic contrast between His goodness and the people’s rebellion be a good illustration?  The author doesn’t use the term “grace”.  Instead, he shows Yahweh, the God of the Sons of Israel, being gracious.

This chapter especially, is the Creator of the universe rescuing this ridiculous people of His in spite of themselves.  They are so far gone, they don’t even know they’re gone.  They have no concept of their wayward, rebellious, and adulterous ways.  They are confused by why Yahweh would be upset with them in the first place.  They are blind to their sin, completely ignorant of the problem.

And, so are we.  We don’t really believe that the Bible should be taken seriously.  We don’t.  Don’t even try to act innocent.  I spend hours weekly sifting minutia in the original texts, and I don’t really take it seriously.  It’s not about how much we know or don’t know.  It’s not about what church we attend or translation of the Bible we use.

It’s about, when we read the Beatitudes, whether we truly put such attitudes ahead of our cultural attitudes Monday through Saturday.  It’s about whether, when we read about the cost of discipleship, whether we pay it or not.  It’s about whether we truly love God, the One having already sacrificed His only Son for us, with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength.  We don’t.  I know I don’t.  My behavior is evidence enough of that.

So, before we characterize these unfathomable clueless people as aberrant, perhaps we should stop, and see where we stand.  Let’s ask ourselves some tough questions, like, “Do I really believe the Bible?”, “Do I live like Jesus is first in my life?”, and perhaps ask our Master for that prophet to point out in us that blind spot in our relationship with Him.

Because here’s the thing, we will always have one more thing to work on in our relationship with Him.  But, His grace to us is evidenced in that, while we wander cluelessly, He preserves our relationship with Him.  This isn’t about being good enough for Him, it’s about clinging to the One having already loved us unfathomably.

How ridiculously obtuse is it of us to consider anything of the stuff of this earth to be of any value compared to our relationship with Him?  And yet we let our relationship with Him languish, while we pursue one more thing of this world.  Silly people, let’s put things back in proper order.  Let’s do it, not because He will punish us if we don’t, but because He has already rescued us from punishment.

That’s my view through this knothole this morning.  What do you see of our Master through yours?

Great Commissions

“And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”  And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them.  While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven.  And they, after worshiping Him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple praising God.  (Luke 24:49-53 NASB)

When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some were doubtful.  And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:17-20 NASB)

Have you ever been bored?  When we consider that we’ve got all the people-groups of the world in whom to make disciples, how could we be bored.  And yet, I’m bored more often than I care to admit.  How can that be?

The “Great Commission” of Matthew 28 has a counterpart in Luke24.  While the one in Matthew is familiar, we often miss some important elements.  For instance, we’re supposed to go and make disciples.  If you would like some clarity on what that means, check out my blog entry on the topic of disciples here.  It’s not as nice and easy as it might sound.

In Luke 24, the commission sounds slightly different.  In verses 47 through 48, the commission is to proclaim repentance into forgiveness of sins to all nations in His name.  The concept of “disciples” isn’t mentioned.  That the proclamation goes into all nations is consistent.  In reality, though, repentance is what disciples do, and do for the rest of their time here on earth.  So, actually, the two commissions have more in common than appears on the surface.

All this to come back around to my original question.  Have you ever been bored?  As I mentioned, I am bored in a shameful frequency.  The sad truth is that those living close to me are probably not disciples, nor have they had “repentance into forgiveness” proclaimed to them.  At least they haven’t heard this from me.

I’m simply thinking that I can’t be bored while my neighbors haven’t heard.  If they’ve heard and reject, that’s one thing.  But if I haven’t even tried, then why would I be bored? If I really believe Jesus is all I teach in this blog, then I should be busier telling others about repentance into forgiveness.

What’s your view through your knothole this morning?

A Walk Through Scripture

One of them, named Cleopas, answered and said to Him, “Are You the only one visiting Jerusalem and unaware of the things which have happened here in these days?”  And He said to them, “What things?” And they said to Him, “The things about Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word in the sight of God and all the people, and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered Him to the sentence of death, and crucified Him.  But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel. Indeed, besides all this, it is the third day since these things happened.  But also some women among us amazed us. When they were at the tomb early in the morning, and did not find His body, they came, saying that they had also seen a vision of angels who said that He was alive.  Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just exactly as the women also had said; but Him they did not see.”  And He said to them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!  Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter into His glory?”  Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.  (Luke 24:18-27 NASB)

What if the worst of all possible outcomes, actually wasn’t all that bad?  What if what you thought was the end, wasn’t?  Do you still hope?  Can you?  Should you?  You could be disappointed again.  Do you really want to come crashing down again?  Hope is one of the more dangerous of emotional states.  And yet, for followers of Jesus, absolutely necessary to follow Him.

This challenge to have courage enough to hope once more is what Jesus addresses on the road to Emmaus.  It isn’t that they don’t get it, or weren’t told.  It’s not a problem solved by explaining.  They still didn’t get it after Jesus explained it.  They didn’t lack information, they lacked hope.  And without hope, there can be no faith.

Surely you’ve been there; that place where everything seems to have gone so wrong, here there is no possibility of restoration.  Perhaps in a marriage, a friendship, in another sort of relationship.  Maybe with your job, or church, or among fellow believers.  You look at it, and it’s hopeless.  There are no more good outcomes possible.  Those options have passed, and nothing more remains but to mourn what could have been.

It’s into that dark place this account of Jesus shines.  These guys had an opportunity to claim the hope back.  They opted not to.  It was too much, too expensive emotionally.  It was too crazy to hope in the face of such utter defeat, such crushing disappointment and disillusionment.  Ironically, it is their illusions that obscure the hope.

In your times of dark hopelessness, as you walk along in your life, a stranger walks up and asks, “What’s up?”  Your vision is obscured by hopelessness, and you’re prevented from recognizing the stranger.  And as you explain your hopeless situation, the stranger chuckles, and shakes his head.  And then, with gentleness, as you walk along together, he begins to re-frame your hopeless situation with the framework of your Creator.

Hope, illusive and dangerous, ignites in your soul.  You’re not sure, you’re not comfortable, and you hesitate to embrace it.  As you walk, as he speaks more about the power of God at work all around you.  As you nod, and things in your mind shift, memories rearrange, another picture emerges from the puzzle pieces.  You begin to grasp that you had them in the wrong place and intended picture was lost.

And then you’re at your destination, and the stranger continues, but you must hear more.  The picture still isn’t complete enough to calm your fears.  And he stays!  Hope flares more brightly!  He comes in and eats with you, and you suddenly realize Who has walked with you is He in Whom you lost hope.  The hope wakens fully to fill your soul with the warmth of light and life.  He disappears from your sight, but remains burned into your mind.  You must share, for others have lost hope as well.  So, you rise up, and run home.

Have you been on the Road to Emmaus, thinking you were headed into an episode of the Twilight Zone?  That sign post up ahead probably doesn’t say what you think it does.  As you go your way, remember to talk to strangers.  They often have something hopeful to share.

What’s your view through your knothole this morning?

Passion Week XXXII

One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!”  But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?  And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.”  And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!”  And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43 NASB)

One of the most poignant accounts of the crucifixion is the repentant thief on the cross.  But the thief is also one of the strangest characters in the Gospel account as well.  Keep in mind that we no nothing of why either criminal is being crucified, nor any other information about them.  Only Luke has this account of the repentant criminal.

The crucifixion crowd seems to be focusing their abuse on Jesus.  The chief priests are in attendance challenging Him to come down since He’s the “chosen one”.  The people claim He’s saved others but cannot save Himself.  The soldiers mock Him, now that they’ve finished divvying up His clothes.  And now one of the criminals joins in the mocking, “save Yourself, and us.”  Matthew and Mark mention the abuse Jesus receives from the criminals as well (Matt. 27:44, Mark 15:32), but they say both criminals abused Jesus.

In Luke only we have this lone criminal who, apart from everyone else, seems to actually understand what Jesus is doing.  Imagine the scene, crowds watching the tortuous death of three men, hear the shouted insults, taunts, the soldiers mocking, and the mocking criminal.  Then, the other criminal calls to the other, “Do you not even fear God?”  He continues by confessing that they belong there but Jesus does not.  This is a sharp deviation from the rest of the scene.

The criminal calling out his fellow and confessing his sin, then turns his attention to Jesus, and he says one of the most startling things in Scripture, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your Kingdom.”  To really get how strange this is, keep imagining the scene.  The painful death, the jeering crowds and soldiers all point to the immanent death of this same Jesus.  And the criminal says, “…when You come into Your Kingdom.”  How does this guy know the Kingdom follows after the cross?  Not even Jesus’ disciples seemed to know that.

The theological genius hanging on his own cross next to Jesus knows that there is more to follow this horrific death.  But He also knows to ask to be a part of it.  No one else asked for that.  The crowds, the soldiers, the priests, they all jeer the Savior.  But this guy wants in Jesus’ Kingdom.  This guy, probably as beaten and shredded as Jesus, doesn’t see the death of hope or of a problematic teacher.  He sees one in Whom he hopes anyway, regardless of the impending death, in spite of the jeers and derision he hears.  Who does that?

And Jesus replies even here, to this confession of faith, with a promise of paradise.  Up to this point, that term hasn’t been used by Jesus.  He’s used other terms for heaven, including “heaven”.  And there are various teachings or understandings about this term, both from rabbinic teaching and early church fathers.  Whatever it means technically, this criminal will be there with Jesus before the day is out.  That much is certain.

I learn some really important lessons here.  This criminal repented from his mindset to Jesus’ mindset at some point along the way.  Defending Jesus, confessing his own just death sentence, he then seeks to be accepted by Jesus Himself.  And, of course, he is accepted.  Can I, at the darkest point of my life, when the horrible end is obvious, and hope is really gone; can I, then, believe in Jesus’ Kingdom?  Let’s say it’s not actually that bad.  Can I, then, believe in Jesus’ Kingdom?

These are fairly meaningless contingencies for me.  I’m already in the Kingdom.  The real lesson for me is how I behave toward those seeking entrance.  Because people in those contingencies aren’t pretty, they aren’t typically “nice”, and they don’t “behave”.  Life, for them, is scarce and hard.  So, if they seek entrance, “Jesus, remember me…” then the plan is how to respond.

It doesn’t seem very wise, but Jesus makes His disciples “gatekeepers” of His Kingdom.  If it weren’t for the fact we’re kind of stupid, we’d be a fine choice.  Yet, in spite of our foolishness, Jesus uses us in this way.  And those outside seeking to enter see the fools at the gate.  And the challenge is to seek to be included among the fools, or seek another kingdom.  The criminal sees the impossibility of what was happening, and sought to be included in the foolishness.  Why not, he’s about to die anyway.  What does he have to lose?  Those closest to Jesus left Him.  The ones you would expect to be there seeking entrance to the Kingdom are hiding or looking on from a distance.  It’s the guy being tortured to death with Jesus who fearlessly asks for entrance.

So here’s to the fellow fools at the gate.  Doff the funny hat as the riffraff enter our Master’s Kingdom.  Smile and welcome them into the life of misfits where the fools are wise, and the wise foolish.  Welcome to the happy village of idiots.

What’s your view through your knothole this morning?

Passion Week XXX

And following Him was a large crowd of the people, and of women who were mourning and lamenting Him.  But Jesus turning to them said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, stop weeping for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.  For behold, the days are coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’  Then they will begin TO SAY TO THE MOUNTAINS, ‘FALL ON US,’ AND TO THE HILLS, ‘COVER US.’  For if they do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?” (Luke 23:27-31 NASB)

My dad had a saying, probably shared by thousands of other followers of Jesus, “It’s not the things I don’t understand in the Bible that bother me, it’s the things I do understand.”  This passage really fits into one of those “don’t understand” categories, but it does bother me.

Mourner was an actually profession in first century Judea.  So, as someone approaches their death, people mourning them was not unusual, some were even paid for it.  It was not necessarily typical for those going to their execution.  Considering that the crowds of Jerusalem have more or less turned against Jesus, this isn’t expected.  And Luke is the only Gospel writer who preserves this detail.

Even more surprising than the mourners is the response of Jesus.  By all accounts (except for Luke) He has been scourged, and even in Luke, He can’t carry His own cross.  In this weakened state, He still takes a moment to have this lengthy discourse with these women?  It just seems out of place.  Although it wouldn’t fit somewhere else either.

The mourners are surprising.  That Jesus takes the time for this discourse is surprising.  And then what He says is, well it’s at least confusing, if not surprising.  Jesus tells the mourners to wail for themselves and their children.  The days are coming when those with children will be considered cursed, rather than the barren women considered cursed.  The barren won’t have to see the end of their own children.

If you look at a reference Bible, you may be sent to Isaiah 2, or Hosea 10, or both.  In Isaiah, Jerusalem (daughters of Jerusalem are the ones mourning) is prophesied against.  But the rocks and hills aren’t falling on them.  In Hosea, the Northern 10 Tribes of Israel (Samaria) are being prophesied against, and here the people want the rocks and hills to fall on them to hide them from God.

Jesus’ reference could simply be a commonly phrased prophecy which He is pronouncing on Jerusalem.  Or He could be using a phrase understood as pertaining to Samaria on Jerusalem to make clear He means the whole country, not just the city of Jerusalem.  Because He refers to the women as “daughters of Jerusalem”, it’s most likely the first option.  Either way, a bad day is approaching.  So, once again, we have a prediction of Jerusalem’s destruction in Luke.  That makes three (19:41-44; 21:5,6,20-24; 23:28-31).  For some commentators, this indicates to them that Luke was written after AD 70, and he is partially explaining why it happened to the Jews.  I’m not convinced, even with the detail Luke includes.

Jesus then completes His discourse with the cryptic, “For if they do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it’s dry?”  Who is “they”? The “things” are probably His crucifixion, or at least His rejection by the religious leaders.  When is the “tree green”, and when is the “tree dry”?  The time of the “green tree” is while Jesus is among them, available as a tangible object of faith.  After His resurrection and ascension, would then be the “dry” time.  But that’s not necessarily the best option.  If the ‘things’ are what’s happening then, then the tree is green right then.  So, if it has to do with Jesus’ presence, what about His presence makes the tree green?

Green trees are alive, or at least not dormant for winter.  Dry trees could be either dead or dormant.  Green trees will produce fruit, while dry trees won’t.  Perhaps the timing is defined by the availability of fruit?  In any case, whichever option is used to define the “green” versus “dry” time, Jesus says the time is coming on them.  If He is referring to the destruction in AD 70, then the “green” time is when He is physically among them, and the “dry” time is after He ascends to the Father.

Having said all that, notice that the blame for what comes is left on the “they”.  “If they do this when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?”  What will happen logically follows what they are doing now.  Luke is saying that the destruction of Jerusalem is judgement for Jerusalem’s rejection of Jesus.  He is crucified for the sins of the world, and the city responsible for carrying that out is judged by God and destroyed.

If Jesus is referring to Hosea earlier, then also tucked away in that chapter is this statement “Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is time to seek the Yahweh, that He may come and rain righteousness upon you.” (Hos. 10:12)  Even in the midst of a judgement prophecy, there is a call to repent, there is another option than being destroyed.

That’s my “partial” view through the knothole this morning.  What’s yours?

 

Passion Week XXVII

But they kept on insisting, saying, “He stirs up the people, teaching all over Judea, starting from Galilee even as far as this place.”  When Pilate heard it, he asked whether the man was a Galilean.  And when he learned that He belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent Him to Herod, who himself also was in Jerusalem at that time. (Luke 23:5-7 NASB)

Pilate is still caught between the people he doesn’t want to help, and the silent guy in front of him he wants to help.  In the end, he’s really just a person in a country of people.  It’s just that, for Pilate, this Person really does seem different.  Of all the characters involved, only Jesus is at peace.  That’s very backward from the usual drama of Jerusalem.

But among the virulent accusations flying from the gaping gnashing holes of lies before him, Pilate hears, “…from Galilee” to describe Jesus.  This is what Pilate’s been looking for, a back door off this stage, and out of this tragic comedy.  So, he sends Jesus to the “Herod” who had already killed John the Baptist out of embarrassment.  Easy-peasy, Jesus is as good as dead already.

Conveniently, Herod is actually in Jerusalem for the feast (so we think).  It doesn’t say why Herod is in Jerusalem, only that he is.  The Passover is going on, so perhaps that’s why.  In the case of Herod, it could only be a political or social excuse.  He’s the “Chief of a Fourth” so anything to get the other three-fourths is worth the effort.  And it’s unlikely this king will be a part of a traditional Passover meal.  He’s even less Jewish than his father, and never tried as hard to be accepted by the people he governed.

That being said, Pilate has found “Door Number 3”, and he’s taking it.  We already know it won’t work, but let’s stop and look at ourselves in light of Pilate’s approach to Jesus.  Pilate isn’t Jewish.  He hasn’t been steeped in their traditions and teachings.  He’s not even close to being a “believer”.  He has centurions under him who are God-fearing gentiles, respectful of the Jewish people, and many of them well-liked.  He is nothing like that.  So his approach to Jesus is as a “political animal” rather than a “believing Gentile”.

If you’re reading this, presumably you already believe, at least to a degree, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, and Savior of the World.  From the outset, our approaches to Jesus differ from Pilate’s in this passage.  While that initially gives us a great advantage, the similarities in our decisions about what to do with Jesus should be extremely telling.  Think about a time, especially as a believer, you let Jesus be somebody else’s problem; you passed on the opportunity to stand for Him, you sought any other option than to endanger your position or comfort to stand for Him.

Now, that shame your feeling, (because who hasn’t done this) hold that emotion in your left hand (work with me here).  Now, think back to Jesus in the upper room with His disciples. He’s just said they will eventually sit on thrones judging the tribes of Israel.  And then He leans over and says to Peter, “Simon, Simon, Satan has demanded to sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith will be strengthened.”  Do you remember that?  Do you also remember that Jesus, immediately after, predicts Peter’s denial of Him?  Take that shame in your left hand and hold it up to Jesus.  It’s not like He didn’t know it was coming on you.  But also hear from Him His prayer for your faith, because it’s at times like this that we need to return and strengthen others.

The thing about Pilate is that he does what Peter does, in a sense.  And in that same sense, hasn’t surprised Jesus.  So, Pilate has the same option to “return”, but in a different sense.  To our shock, so do the religious leaders.  Even Judas had the option.  It’s not about the failure, it is, once again, about the response to the failure.  Our relationship with Jesus is different than Pilate’s.  And we have the chance, the calling, to return to that relationship rather than live in the shame of the failure.

So, yes, we’ve pulled a “Pilate”, and sought convenient options other than declaring Jesus as our King.  But we also have the calling of our King to return to Him.  Think that through.  He knows we’re going to deny Him, but He calls us back anyway.  We’re stuck in mediocrity between what we know and what we do.  No shock to our Master.  We’re not what we imagine we should have been by now.  Didn’t surprise Jesus.  We missed the bar we set for ourselves among our peers.  Jesus, leaning on the fallen bar, holds out His hand to pull us to our feet.  Is it possible that we’ve been looking at this relationship all wrong?  Perhaps we should take that hand, be pulled to our feet, and listen to His explanation.  There’s something we’re missing we desperately need to know.

What do you see through your knothole this morning?