139. Go ahead…doubt and ask.

[John 20]

The disciples were together in fear (20:19-23).

They listened to the sounds of the street, also at night. When would the soldiers come?

It was in this state of fearful waiting that they heard Mary knock.  Her familiar female voice prompted them to open for her, hear her incredible news and race to the tomb to confirm what she said.  They went back to the house where they stayed behind locked doors to hang around for events to unfold.  What else could they do?

Suddenly Jesus in their midst without knocking with a normal greeting: Peace be with you. (Hebrew: Shalom).  This greeting meant so much more than the absence of trouble.  It meant that God would give you every good thing. It is the pronouncement of a blessing in every greeting.  As casual as if He said: Hi guys!

John tells of their joy to see Him and then on to serious future planning.  I can easily imagine that the moments of wonder and awe lasted a while. Every one of His disciples most probably looked Him in the eye with an uncontrolled mix of emotions experiencing heaven and earth in the same moment. In am convinced that all fear and uncertainty evaporated in the powerful presence of Jesus.

The sending forth meant that the church is the body of Christ.  Jesus showed us the Father, now He was going back and the body must do His work. (Ephesians 1:23; 1 Corinthians 12:12).  The church is sent with the message, the mouth of God, the foot soldier and His hands. Jesus works in and through His church.

The church needs Jesus. It is where we live in the power, authority and miraculous outcome of God himself.  As Jesus came from God, so the church comes from Jesus.  The church can only exist in perfect love and obedience.  It is the message of Jesus, nothing else. Nothing man-made is sustainable. It must be God-ordained to be eternal and powerful.

He breathed on them.  The Holy Spirit is the breath of God for life. God breathed into Adam (Genesis 2:7).  He breathed on the dead bones by the wind (Ezekiel 37:9).  In John 3 Jesus compared the work of the Holy Spirit with the wind – mostly unexplainable and invisible.  The Holy Spirit is His breath – Hebrew = ruach.  The Holy Spirit is the very life of God in us to fully equip the church for the task.  Jesus himself said we shall receive power (Acts 1:8).  Our testimony is worthless without the breath of God.

The Church must convey the message of forgiveness.  We interpret the message of God.  It will be true and powerful only in as much as we dwell in the presence of God.  When the church proclaims forgiveness when a person is penitent, it is the message of forgiveness, not the act of forgiving. Preaching is grace and mercy, but also warning and exhortation.

THOMAS

Thomas knew death was coming.  He said so in Bethany (John 11:16).  He has been labeled the doubting Thomasby men, NOT Jesus.  Thomas loved Jesus.  There is no doubt about that.  He knew what was coming in Jerusalem and when it played out, he was devastated like the others.  He might have wanted some time alone, and therefore withdrew from fellowship. He missed the first appearance.  We need to be in fellowship with our sorrow and disappointment.  There they will carry us to the face of God Himself.

He hears the news from the others.  It sounded too good to be true.  He speaks his doubt: he will believe when he sees.  He wants to touch the wounds and make sure it is not an impostor.  (There is no mention of nails in Jesus’ feet.  The feet were usually not nailed, only bound.)

Thomas is very anxious to establish the truth. He cannot base his whole life and the profound impact of Jesus on his life on a lie.  He has to make a hundred percent sure that the resurrection is the truth.  He is not different from all the millions that came after him in the history of Christianity.

Another week passes and this time Thomas is present.  There in community with his brothers, he experiences his deepest desire.  Jesus knows his heart and treats him special.  He appears exactly as previously.

Jesus invites him to investigate.  He will always invite to investigate. He is the answer to every possible question and He is not stingy with answers.  Don’t be afraid.

Think and imagine the detail of this meeting.  Thomas falls down and says:  My Lord and my God. Do you think he touched the wounds?  I think the answer was in Jesus’ voice and face.

It is the same today.  All our answers are in His presence, His voice and His eye on us. (Psalms 32:8)

Thomas refuses to be dragged into something he does not understand.  He is strong and wants to come to his own conclusion.  Jesus respects this and invites him to investigate.  Thomas is honest to the bone.  He had to be sure.  His faith is based on truth, not on stories of others and things that doesn’t make sense.

When he received his confirmation, he surrendered in victorious worship.  His faith is based on full revelation and worship flows spontaneously.

The words of Jesus to Thomas have inspired generations of believerswho could not see Him in the flesh.

 Jesus said to him,  “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”(John 20:29)

We don’t know what happened to Thomas.  There are stories that the disciples divided to world to preach to all and India fell to Thomas.  There is a church in the south of India whose history traces back to him.

Faith came to him in a powerful and personal way.  Jesus revealed himself to him.  This is still true for today.  We can go to the ends of the earth in our spiritual journey when we have encountered Jesus face to face.

LAST WORDS (20:30-31)

It is clear that the Gospel concludes here.  John 21 was written as an appendix.

These words set out the aim of the Gospels as a whole.

It was never intended to be a full account of the life of Jesus.  It is not a day-by-day but a selective history to show what He was like and what He did.

The Gospels were not meant as biographies.  The aim of the words is not to give information, but to communicate life.  It is to give life to the image of Jesus so that the reader can meet Him personally to learn from Him directly and experience true life through Him.

We read to know God, not to learn history.

 

 

Advertisements

138. He does what He said He would do.

[John 20]

THE RESURRECTION

Christianity as a whole is based on the Resurrection.

It was customary to visit the tomb for three days after the burial.  They also believed that the spirit of the person hovered for three days and only then departed.  Thereafter the body would become unrecognizable through decay.

For Jesus they could not make the journey on the second day, the Sabbath.  It would mean they would break the law. On Sunday morning Mary came early. The Greek is proi, which means the last of the four watches between three and six am.  The sky was still dark grey but she couldn’t wait any longer.

Mary Magdalene loved Jesus.  She was liberated, healed, redeemed and whole and she will never forget the Man who made it all possible.

She was amazed and shocked.  Tombs in ancient times were hewn out of rock and closed by a huge circular rock running in a groove in the ground to close the opening.  The authorities sealed and guarded the tomb of Jesus (Matthew 27:66).

Mary might have thought the Jewish leaders took the body, but it is unlikely that they would touch a dead body or have anything to do with the dead over the Sabbath.

She had to share the fact that He is not there, so she ran to get Peter and the others.  In the other Gospels it tells of the man or men guarding the tomb who told the women (it was not only Mary) that Jesus is risen (Matthew 28, Mark 16 and Luke 24).  Mark tells of the young man by the grave specifically mentioning Peter’s name.

What follows is the description of a race – by John himself with, most probably, himself in the race.  It reads almost comical.  (John 20:3-8)

Peter was still acknowledged as the leader.   It was to him that Mary went.  Jesus mentioned Peter by name.  He was amongst his brothers.  Even in his failure, defeat and heartbroken state of bewilderment, he found his way back to them. Judas was alone in his suicide. Peter’s denial of Jesus probably spread like wildfire, but he could still, in his deepest brokenness, face his brothers and found solace in their company.  Even in his defeat he was still the leader.

John ran faster; he was younger.  John looked in but Peter ran right on and in, so typical of his nature.  Peter was amazed and still, but John’s mind started working.  If somebody stole the body why did they leave the grave clothes?

The clothes were not disarranged.  The clothes were where the body had been and exactly in the shape of the body – in their folds.  The grave clothes told a whole story of their own.  They looked as if the body has just evaporated from them.   The napkin for the head was folded neatly.  It was folded like the napkin of somebody with the intention to come back to the meal at the table.  The sight spoke to John and he believed.  He saw with his own eyes and believed.

Love is the foundation of faith.  Love brought Mary to the tomb, love made John believe.  Love opened his eyes and mind.

Love is the interpreter of life.  Love knows truth when the mind is still struggling and uncertain.

The scene in the garden where Mary recognizes Jesus is probably one of the most dramatic moments in literature.  Mary was the first to see the risen Christ.  Her love is the driving force of all her actions.

Mary brought the news to the disciples and was probably left behind in the race, but comes back to the garden.  They have already left again, running to the others with the news.  Mary stood weeping.  She didn’t know where to now or what to make of things.  She was confused and bewildered.  She could not recognize this man talking to her through her tears.  Her sorrow blinded her.

In loss we weep for ourselves.  The loved one is with God, no need for tears there.  But we feel the sharp pain of loss.  As long as our tears are lifted up to God so that we do not miss the glory.

Mary’s eyes were on the tomb.  She was looking in the wrong direction.  Our eye must be on heaven and God with us where we will know that our loved one is in His presence.  Tears are good, cry, grieve – but do not despair and keep your eyes on the tomb.

Her conversation reflects her love.  She asks to know where Jesus is.  She asks humbly and respectfully.  She does not mention His name.

She assumes that everyone will know of whom she is talking.  Her whole world begins and ends with the man she loves.

He calls her name.  She knew immediately.  The way He spoke her name was instant recognition.  Her answer was Rabboni (Aramaic for Rabbi or Master).

Jesus instructs Mary not to touch Him (20:11-18).  Just later on in the chapter he invites Thomas to touch Him (20:27).  He says He is flesh and bone (Luke 24:39).  Normally one would say: flesh and blood, but His blood was shed and He never took it back.

In Matthew (28:9) the disciples held His feet and worshipped Him.

The commentators give various reasons for this.  They suggest it might be a mistranslation and might have been intended to be: Do not fear, instead of do not touch.  They also think it might have been Jesus’ instruction to Mary not to hold on to Him too much, since He was on His way to heaven and will not be with her always.  She had to learn to communicate with Him without physical touch.

My own inclination is to accept the explanation that Jesus was on His way to enter heaven triumphantly as described in Revelation 5. He was the first fruit of the church (sheaf of wheat) to wave before the Father, just like at the Feast of the Firstfruits:

“Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, when you come into the land which I give unto you, and shall reap the harvest thereof, then you shall bring a sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest unto the priest.

And he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, to be accepted for you: on the morning after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it” (Leviticus 23:10-11)

The Feast of the Firstfruits is celebrated after the Sabbath in the week of the Passover and the first sheaf of wheat is waved before the priest. Jesus was the first fruit of the harvest of the church and was glorified before the Father.

 But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  (1 Corinthians 15:20)

We have to explain things in calculated time.  In a glorified state Jesus could enter time and leave it again as He wanted to.  He had full control over His glorification.  He was back in His heavenly realm and showed Himself on earth to whom He willed and when He wanted.  He entered the seen from the unseen as He conducted His appearances until the Ascension.

It could be that His words not to touch Him, reflects the heavenly Feast of the Firstfruits.   He entered heaven without human touch to be glorified before the Father in triumphant celebration of His victory.

 And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne and of the four living creatures, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain,having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth.  Then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. (Revelation 5:6,7)

Our earthly spiritual rituals as explained in the Word of God have heavenly counterparts.  The New Jerusalem is the perfect cube just like the Ark of the Covenenant, signifying the presence of God.

It is what the church should be – the place where the world enters into the presence of the Most High.

Jesus’ resurrection had actually occurred near or at sunset the previous day as the weekly Sabbath day was ending.  The Sunday is actually not the day of the resurrection, but the celebration of the first fruits.

Jesus ascended to the Father to be accepted formally as the first to be raised from the dead in God’s spiritual harvest of humanity.

 

*****************************************************************************

 

[A short explanation of Easter and the origins of eggs and bunnies:

Easter is associated with the Babylonian feast of first fruits, a spring festival when the pagans asked their fertility god Ishtar, where the name Easter comes from for new babies.  The egg hunt is to celebrate the attempts to conceive new life.  Fertile things in nature are worshipped like rabbits.  The people wore new clothes to celebrate the buds on the trees.]

 

 

137. The cross and the grave.

[John 19:17-42]

THE CROSS

There was no death more terrible than by way of crucifixion.  Even the Romans trembled by the thought and found it despicable.  No Roman citizen could be crucified.  For a Roman, execution was mostly beheading or forced suicide by drinking poison.  Crucifixion was for slaves and criminals.  The cross was originally a Persian method of execution.  They argued that a criminal could not defile the earth while dying and should be lifted up.  The Carthaginians in North Africa took it over from the Persians.  Through them it came to Rome.

Jesus died the death most dreaded in the ancient world.

Execution took place immediately after a verdict was pronounced. The convicted had to carry his own cross.  After scourging it was a bloody procession of lashing and mocking to get the staggering prisoner to the place of execution.  In front of him was a soldier with a placard stating his crime.  He was led through as many streets as possible to serve as a warning to all watching, but also possible leniency.  If there were any person who could bear witness in the prisoner’s favour, he was allowed to come forward. If so, the procession stopped and the trial was repeated.  Nobody came when Jesus walked the Via Dolorosa.

In Jerusalem the place of execution was called the Place of the Skull (Hebrew = Golgotha). Calvary is Latin.  A criminal could not die in the city so it was outside the city walls.

The name could have come from the shape of the hill as a skull, but others suggest that the Romans never buried the body of the criminal.  They simply let it lie on a “rubbish” heap of bodies until it rotted away.  Death by crucifixion could last for days.  The Jews, however, buried a body by nightfall.  They would never have a place for dead bodies just outside the city walls.

Bleeding, in shock of the cruel beating, Jesus carried His cross to Calvary.

The placard for the cross was written in Hebrew, Latin and Greek. They were the three great nations of the ancient world at the time. The culmination of their talents could have been great.  The Romans taught law and good government, the Greeks taught philosophy and art and the Hebrews had access to the one true God.

Jesus was the supreme beauty and highest thought of God.  In him was the law of God and the kingdom of God. In him was the very image of God.  All the world’s seekings and strivings found their consummation in him.  It was symbolic that the three great languages of the world should call him king. [William Barclay]

The inscription on the cross was to irritate the Jews.  Pilate did it on purpose. The Jewish leaders asked him to remove it and he refused saying: What I have written, I have written.  Stubborn about his words, he yielded to them condemning an innocent man to death.

The soldiers received the clothes of the victim.  Crucifixion needed four soldiers. There were probably five items – shoes, turban, belt, tunic and outer robe.  They threw a dice to divide the items and the outer tunic was left.  It was seamless, woven in one piece and they could not cut it in a way that each one would have something of value.  They probably carried dice with them to while away the hours below a cross waiting for death.  They had to guard the body lest any of the friends would cut Him down.  The soldiers could have been intoxicated. Usually they had alcohol with them to dull their senses in carrying out such cruelty.

Their indifference to the agony of the dying man is shocking.

Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?
Behold and see
If there is any sorrow like my sorrow,
Which has been brought on me,
Which the Lord has inflicted
In the day of His fierce anger.(Lamentations 1:12)

The tunic woven in one piece was described exactly as the one the High Priest wore. The function of the High Priest was to be the connection of the people to God.  The Latin for priest is Pontifex, which means bridge-builder.  This is exactly what the cross did.  Jesus was the perfect High Priest, the bridge-builder to the presence of God.

The dividing of His clothes is foretold in Psalms 22:18.

There were four women at the cross.  Jesus’ mother Mary, her sister, Salome, Mary, the wife of Clopas and Mary of Magdala.  It was always dangerous to be associated to anybody on the wrong side of Roman authority.  Their love overcame their fear.  They had to be with Him, in His presence until He died.

His mother’s presence was natural and expected, although risky.  There was Mary’s sister, Salome, the mother of James and John (Mark 15:40; Matthew 27:56).  She is the one who asked about her son’s positions in the Kingdom and received a correction from Jesus.   Even after being reprimanded by Jesus, she is here at the cross, which demonstrates His perfect love in correction.

Mary of Magdala is the woman mentioned in Mark 16:9 and Luke 8:2. Jesus cast out seven devils from her.  He rescued her life.  The third Mary, wife of Clopas, is unknown and only mentioned in John.

In a beautiful concern for the immediate future Jesus committed the care of His mother to John, his cousin and trusted disciple.  As her eldest son He cared for her and He never failed in His duty as a son.

John’s presence also speaks of love that overcomes fear.  He took a great risk to join the woman and be present at a time when most other criminals would be completely alone.  Jesus was no ordinary criminal.

Jesus expressed His thirst.  It emphasizes the agony of the cross. Many people believed Jesus to be a phantom-like godly figure.  Here John underlines His humanness.  He felt the pain of the cross.  Jesus became fully man to redeem man.

In Psalms 69:21 the thirst of Jesus and the vinegar drink were foretold: They also gave me gall for my food,and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.

The other Gospels tell of Jesus dying with a great shout on His lips. They do not say the words (Matthew 27:50; Mark 15:37; Luke 23:46).  John tells us what He said.  He said these words not in weary defeat, but in a voice one does not expect from a dying man.

The words: it is finished is one word in Greek = tetelestai. It also means great shout.  He died when the price was paid and God said enough.  He leaned back His head and gave up His spirit as if He rested after the work is done.

THE GRAVE

The Romans left a body on a cross for days.  After they have taken the body down, it would be left to the crows and dogs get rid of it.  The Jews buried by nightfall (Deuteronomy 21:22-23).

In this case the next day was the Sabbath.  The burial had to take place before sunset.  Every so often the Roman soldiers finished a criminal off by smashing their limbs.  It was done to the two criminals crucified with Jesus, but Jesus was already dead.  In Numbers 9:12 it is said that not one bone of body of the Passover lamb shall be broken.

To make sure that Jesus was dead, a soldier drove a spear into His side and out flowed water and blood.  It was a sure sign of death but also the sign of a very sick man.  He literally took our sickness on Him.  Another prophecy was fulfilled: They look on him whom they have pierced. (Zechariah 12:10)

It is said by some commentators that Jesus died of a broken heart.  When the heart ruptures the blood mingles with the fluid of the membrane around the heart.  The spear was thrusted towards the heart.   Blood and water flowed.

John was the eyewitness to all this. It is a symbol of water-baptism and the blood that saves.

The disciples were poor and a proper burial was expensive.  Two men came forward.

Joseph of Arimathaea was a member of the Sanhedrin and a disciple of Jesus.   He kept his discipleship secret but now came forward.  Nicodemus was the nightly visitor of Jesus (John 3), a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin.

It is said that both of them were left out of the meeting with the High Priest when the nightly trial was conducted.    The Sanhedrin never met at night.  The High Priest could therefore say it was out of the ordinary and for some members only.  He probably realized he would face opposition from Nicodemus and Joseph.  The dark workings of the Jewish council had to take place under the cover of darkness.

Joseph and Nicodemus stepped out boldly.  Joseph fearlessly approached the Romans for the body of Jesus.  In His death he drew men unto Him just as He prophesied (John 12:32).

Two prominent leaders cast their hesitation and reputation aside and honoured Jesus with their leadership and wealth.

How often does death confront with the deep issues of life?  People get caught up in everyday life with little regard to the profound questions of truth, humanity and life after death.  Death itself compels the mind to focus on more than the superficial.

Death is an intimate experience into the unseen.  Jesus stepped into the unseen from where He came.  Three days…

 

136. The trial of Jesus – Pilate and Herod

[John 18:28-40 and 19:1-16 – Part 2]

Pilate has always been a tragic figure in the events around the death of Jesus. I should probably not feel sorry for him, as he was cruel and hardened, with little regard for life. Even so, he was a product of the powerful, arrogant pagan empire he was born into and chose to serve. His questions to Jesus suggested a whispered longing for something more and an impatient realization that this man Jesus was more than the Jews and the mob made Him out to be.

Pilate wanted to defer responsibility. No one can do that with Jesus. You have to deal with Jesus by yourself. Every person makes a decision about Jesus. It is not possible to ignore Him. His very existence demands a choice to accept or reject.

Pilate tried to escape the situation and release a prisoner to defer a verdict on Jesus. He could not do that. He was not successful.

Pilate tried compromise. He ordered the scourging to avoid the verdict. No one can ever compromise the unavoidable.

Pilate tried an appeal to the mercy of the people. No one can serve Jesus and do the right thing and please the people at the same time.

He capitulated and abandoned Jesus to the mob. He had no courage to deliver a just verdict.

Pilate looked down on the Jews. It is difficult to govern with so much arrogance and pride. He did not want to get involved. He asked Jesus about His claim to be king. Jesus asked his source for this rumour. He wanted to engage Pilate and get to his heart. Pilate did not allow that.

Pilate was curious in a superstitious way. He was afraid to come to a decision. He suspected that God may be involved and his ignorance brought fear. Which god? Where did this man fit into the supernatural world, which he probably reluctantly believed in?

There was one thing though. He desired truth. He recognized the absence of significance in his life. He was aware of his own limitations in knowing what to do. He was probably very conscious of his own lack of wisdom and searched for truth. Pilate felt he was a successful Roman soldier. He was at the top of his ranks and he knew there was something missing. Just for a moment he might have thought that this tortured Galilean was his answer to the longing in his soul.What a pity he did not wait for the answer.

The role of  JESUS in this drama is calm and in full control in spite of immense physical pain and a body in shock.

He is the majestic conductor of His own trial. Pilate recognized that Jesus is actually in control. He is not a pathetic victim of cruelty. Pilate treated Him with respect. He knew Jesus was different and special.

Jesus speaks directly about His kingdom. He does not try to explain. He states the truth. He knows He is about to die and gets the message out straight and undiluted. At Passover the atmosphere tended to get explosive. There was always extra Roman troops in Jerusalem over Passover. Pilate had about 3 000 men under his command. If Jesus wanted to fight, it would have been a bloodbath.

He makes it clear that His kingdom is in the hearts of men, not of this earth and that the conquest would be love.

He came to earth as a witness to the truth – about God, himself and man. Christ is the truth. All else is half measure and groping for parts of it.

Jesus was physically strong. Scourging was horrific  – details are too sickening to account. One commentary explains it this way:

When a man was scourged he was tied to a whipping-post in such a way that his back was fully exposed. The lash was a long leather thong, studded at intervals with pellets of lead and sharpened pieces of bone. It literally tore a man’s back into strips. Few remained conscious throughout the ordeal; some died and many went raving mad. Jesus endured.

Pilate wanted to appeal to the humane and sympathetic side of the people and showed them Jesus in a state of shock, bleeding and exhausted. He still wanted to get out of the decision to execute.

Pilate says: See the man. The word Pilate uses is ho, the normal Greek word for human being, but the Greek thinkers often used it for the ideal man, the heavenly man. Pilate is surprised that the torture has not finished Jesus off.

Pilate says he has the power to release Him or execute Him. Jesus is clear that Pilate has no power at all except what is given to execute God’s plan. Jesus is triumphant all the way to the cross.

Jesus is silent before the High Priest (Matthew 26:63; Mark 14:61). He is silent before Herod (Luke 23:9). He is silent when the Jews laid the charges (Matthew 27:14; Mark 15:5). He speaks to Pilate, however, and answers all his questions. It seems that all the arrogance and authority that the power of Rome gave Pilate, disappeared in the presence of Jesus. Pilate verbalizes the cry of his heart for truth. His uncertainty is eating away his soul and career.

There was no common ground for the argument to go forward. It is truly a dark day when the Prince of Heaven falls silent. He is known for the God who speaks (Isaiah 52:6)

When a man’s mind is so locked up in his own goals, pride and blindness of understanding – God is silent.

Pilate brought Jesus out onto of the Pavement of Lithostrotos(Gabbatha in Aramaic) – a marbled mosaic where the judgment seat stood, in front the governor’s praetorium and sat upon the bemaon which the magistrate sat to make his decisions.

Some commentators says that the use of the word for sit might suggest that Pilate in mockery made Jesus sit upon the judgment seat and ask the people: Should I crucify you king? He mocked Jesus to judge the people. What dramatic irony in this scene!

THE SOLDIERS

The soldiers were carrying out orders, probably with some speculation and mockery amongst themselves. In most cases the soldiers in command of a crucifixion was half drunk, just to stomach the cruelty of what they needed to do.

They played a game of treating a helpless prisoner like a king with a robe and a crown that causes pain.

How could they know that they crowned and mocked a true king – the king of their lives?

BARABBAS

John talks briefly about him. It is only the Gospels who tell of the custom to free a prisoner at Passover. It could have been a custom to free one of the many political prisoners accused of insurrection. Barabbas was infamous, a well-known murderer and insurrectionist – truly somebody to fear. (Matthew 27:15-26; Mark 15:6-15; Luke 23:17-25; Acts 3:14)

His name means: Bar Abba – son of the father or Bar Rabban – son of the rabbi. He could have been the black sheep of a religious family. He was more than a common criminal. He made murder, robbery and other crimes his lifestyle. He was a man of violence.

The choice of the people stayed with them forever. They chose the man of bloody force and violence and rejected the man of love and gentleness.

 Throughout the centuries this choice was made again and again.

No one knows what happened to Barabbas. Certainly he was one of the sinners for whom Jesus died. I have no doubt that the love of God who chose him to go free would pursue him until he investigated the surprising turn of events so that he could testify of the Man who so dramatically took his place on that cruel cross which afforded him freedom, salvation and a second chance in life.

In the Gospel of Luke (23.2), after the trial of Jesus by the Sanhedrin, the Jewish elders ask Pontius Pilate to judge and condemn Jesus accusing Jesus of making false claims of being a king. While questioning Jesus about the claim of being the King of the Jews Pilate realizes that Jesus is a Galilean and therefore under Herod’s jurisdiction.

The Herod that tried Jesus happened to be in Jerusalem at that time. He ruled over Galilee. Pilate decides to send Jesus to Herod to be tried. Herod Antipas, the same man who had previously ordered the death of John the Baptist, had wanted to see Jesus for a long time, hoping to observe one of the miracles of Jesus.

Antipas divorced his first wife Phasaelis, in favour of Hernias, who had formerly been married to his half-brother Herod 2.  According to the New Testament Gospels, it was John the Baptist’s condemnation of this arrangement that led Antipas to have him arrested. John was subsequently put to death. Besides provoking his conflict with the Baptiser, the tetrarch’s (ruler over a quarter) divorce added a personal grievance to previous disputes with Aretas (father of the daughter Antipas divorced) over territory on the border of Perea and Nabatea. The result was a war that proved disastrous for Antipas. A Roman counter-offensive was ordered by Tiberius, but abandoned upon that emperor’s death in 37 AD. In 39 AD Antipas was accused by his nephew Agrippa 1 of conspiracy against the new Roman emperor Caligula, who sent him into exile in Gaul. Accompanied there by Herodias, he died at an unknown date.

Jesus is quiet in the presence of Herod, recognizing his shallow arrogance and many hidden weaknesses. He is a character of compromise and will do anything to ensure his comfort and wealth.

Herod does not relieve Pilate of any decision on Jesus. He sends him back to Pilate. Pilate has the power to execute and Herod probably came to the conclusion that Jesus’ death would make no difference to him and his precious lifestyle under Roman rule.

135. The trial of Jesus.

[John 18:28-40 and 19:1-16]  Part 1.

In the literature of the world many books have been written on the trail of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels and sources outside the Bible. There is no doubt about the historical Jesus and the impact of His life and death on the history of Palestine in the first century. The trial was such a flagrant and brazen distortion of justice that many Jewish scholars are mystified as to how such a hasty, nightly trial by an old and respected institution like the Sanhedrin and its executives, could blot the Jewish judicial procedure in such a lasting way.

In the course of the night Jesus was tried six times: three times by the Jewish religious authority, mainly the high priest and three times by Roman civil authority, Pilate and Herod. Pilate sent Jesus to Herod because of He was known as a Galilean. Herod asked many questions none of which Jesus answered and after Herod mocked and humiliated Jesus, he sent Him back to Pilate who found Him innocent in a dramatic public display with a symbolic washing of hands to proclaim his final verdict over Jesus.

The Jews had no authority to execute a person. They had to convince the Romans to apply the death penalty. In the case of Stephen the first martyr (Acts 7) they took matters into their own hands and stoned him outside the city. Jewish execution was always stoning. (Leviticus 24:16; Deuteronomy 17:7)

In John 12:32 Jesus predicted his death by being lifted up. Crucifixion was a Roman execution, not Jewish. The Jews used Pilate for their own purposes.

They gave in to their own hatred that turned into insane and senseless mob hysteria with no place for mercy or fair judgment.

They lost their sense of respect for their own rituals. To eat the Passover, the participants had to be ceremonially clean. To enter into Pilate’s headquarters they were defiled (the dwelling of a Gentile). The house of a Gentile probably had leaven in a time where they were upholding the ban on the leaven during the Feast of the Unleavened Bread. While they were in the middle of the most important feasting of the year, they were seeking to crucify the Son of God.

What is our religious thinking? Could we be busy with trivial church administration while forgetting love, kindness and forgiveness? What aspects of church demonstrate love and forgiveness as an attractive haven for sinners?

The Jewish leaders twisted their charge against Jesus. To them He was blasphemous (Matthew 26:65). Pilate would not act on a charge like that and would dismiss it as a religious quarrel. They made it political with a hint of rebellion in. They accused Jesus of claiming to be a king.

They denied every principle they had in order to get the death penalty. They suddenly confessed they have no king but the Caesar.  Samuel said to the people God is their king (Samuel 12:12).  At the time when the people nagged him to crown an earthly king for them, Samuel warned them that they would suffer bitterly under earthly kings. History has proved his prophecy true – again and again.

When the Romans first instituted taxes in Palestine, there was almost a bloody revolt. The declared God to be their king and only to Him they would pay tribute. Now they claimed Caesar as king – a shameful about-face. Pilate must have gasped in astonishment.

Pilate: His behaviour is very strange to say the least. He most certainly realized that the trump up charges of the Jews were a series of lies. He was deeply impressed with Jesus. He did not want to condemn Him to death – yet he did.

He tried every possible compromise. He flatly refused to deal with it, he wanted to release a prisoner for them over the Passover, and he scourged Jesus. Still he did not put his foot down to tell the Jews he wants nothing to do with their internal theological struggles.

We know he was ordained by God to follow through with God’s plan, although he was so sadly unaware of his role in history. From a historical point of view let us note a few facts.

In 4BC king Herod the Great died. He was a Jewish king, ruling with Roman consent over all Palestine. He had many faults, but was considered a good king, reigning in relative peace while he completed very ambitious architectural projects. He divided his empire between his three sons also with Roman approval. Two ruled quietly and well – Antipas and Philip. Archelaus, who was only 18 when he became king over Idumaea, Judaea and Samaria, ruled with such extortion and tyranny that the Jews requested the Romans to remove him and appoint a governor.

In the Roman Empire there were territories that required stationed troops and others, when peaceful and untroubled, that were ruled by the senate with a great deal of independence.

Palestine needed troops under the direct control of the Emperor. Bigger provinces like Syria, were ruled by a proconsul, but smaller ones were ruled by a procurator or governor in charge of judicial administration and the military. This leader supervised the taxes but had no authority to increase them. He heard cases and complaints and visited the outposts of the territory once a year. He was paid a salary and was strictly forbidden to accept bribes of gifts. The people could report him to the Emperor.

Pilate took over this role in 26 AD and ruled till 35AD. He was expected to rule with a strong hand to keep the trade routes between Egypt and Syria going.

Pilate did not like the Jews. All Roman soldiers carried a standard with a metal bust of the Caesar who was regarded as a god. Previous governors removed the bust when they entered Jerusalem, but Pilate refused. He was adamant not to give in to the “superstitions” of the Jews.

A group of Jews followed him back to Caesarea to beg him to comply. He refused but agreed to meet them in the amphitheatre. He surrounded them with soldiers and threatened death if they did not stop nagging. The Jews knelt down and bared their necks. Even Pilate could not follow through with his threat against these defenseless men. He conceded. It was a bad start in Palestine.

Jerusalem had water problems. Pilate wanted to build a new aqueduct. He had no money for it, so he raided the Temple treasury, which contained millions. He did not take the money for sacrifices and Temple service. There was a treasury with “unsuitable” money coming from sources, which the priests deemed unholy. It was called Korban. The people rioted and took to the streets. Pilate put his soldiers in plain clothes to mingle with the crowd and at a given signal they attacked. Many Jews were clubbed to death. The incident could put Pilate in a position that he could be reported to the Emperor.

When Pilate visited Jerusalem he stayed at Herod’s palace. He made shields for the palace with the name of Tiberius the Emperor. They were devoted to the honour and memory of the Emperor, but because the Emperor was regarded as a god, the Jews insisted that Pilate takes them down. He refused. They reported him to the Emperor and Tiberius himself ordered him to take the shields down.

All this serve to illustrate that Pilate was concerned about his reputation and knew that the Jews would report him. The Jews blackmailed him with his own reputation in Rome. He was weak and did not have the courage to defy the Jews. He was used for their purposes.

He executed Jesus to save his job.

Do we realize that the events of a normal day will echo in eternity?

May God institute His eternal purposes in our hearts so that we always make decisions, in the wisdom of the Holy Spirit that would reflect the heart of our Lord Jesus.