Friday, April 3, 2015

The Movements of a Mob


“No fault” is a kind of automobile insurance that provides that each driver must collect the allowable amount of money from his or her own insurance carrier subsequent to an accident regardless of who is at fault.  No-fault insurance is required by statute in a number of states.  The term “no fault” is also used colloquially in reference to a type of divorce in which a marriage can be dissolved on the basis of irretrievable breakdown or irreconcilable differences.  This can happen without a requirement that either party prove that the spouse was guilty of any misconduct causing the end of the marriage.  How convenient that we live in a society that can claim that we can get out of difficult circumstances without having to recognize whether any individual has any “fault” in a case?  There is a sad irony involved in this phrase…because we live in a society where many people do not have any accountability for their negative or destructive actions.  But…what our culture may deem as “a good possibility,” does not translate into the spiritual realm.  When we consider our lives as human beings, we all have “fault” as it relates to sin. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)  We cannot escape this designation by saying, “Hey, I went down to my insurance company as was able to get a no fault disclaimer for my personal behavior…what a great deal, huh?”  Fortunately, for you and for me, Jesus paid the price for our faults, as well as for all of our trespasses and sins.  He alone…the one who truly had no fault in Him…is able to cleanse us and make us as people who have “no fault.”   So, there is a spiritual solution for our wrongs…and it is found in Jesus.  We are going to continue to consider Jesus’ trial before Pilate.

As we saw in our previous message, Pilate could find no fault with Jesus, so he sent Jesus to Herod, who in turn could find no wrong, so he sends Jesus back to Pilate.  The fact that Herod finds nothing worthy of death in Jesus encourages Pilate to confront the Jewish leaders and seek to release the prisoner.  He summons the chief priests and the rulers and tells them that he finds no guilt in Jesus, and that Herod, likewise has found no guilt in Jesus.  The next step would be to punish Jesus and then release Him.  The Jews have already made it clear that they want Jesus to die (John 18:31)…and yet, Pilate is still feebly trying to do what would be the noble thing.  Hoping to strengthen this suggestion, Pilate offers to bargain with the Jewish leaders. At the Passover, it was custom for the governor to release a prisoner and please the Jews…so, why not release Jesus?  Or, he could release Barabbas…but, why would the Jews want Barabbas free?  He is a robber (John 18:40), a notorious prisoner (Matthew 27:16), an insurrectionist and a murderer (Luke 23:19).  Who in their right mind would want that kind of prisoner turned loose?  Incredible as it seems, the crowd…in a case of mob mentality…asks for Barabbas’ release. The people are persuaded by the chief priests and elders whose religious convictions have no interest in justice or mercy.  An ironic note to the story is that…the name Barabbas means “son of the father”, and he is released as the genuine Son of the Father takes his place!

Pilate tries to placate the mob by having Him beaten, but they cry out “Crucify Him!” Jesus is innocent, but He is treated as if He is guilty.  Pilate calls Him the “King of the Jews” (John 18:39), so the soldiers decide that the king should have a robe and a crown. In another irony, sin is what brought thorns and thistles into the world, and the Lord is now going to wear a crown made up of these items.  And the verbs in 19:3 indicate that the soldiers repeatedly come to Him, mock Him and beat Him with their hands.  Pilate comes out a third time and brings Jesus with him, thinking that a beaten, scourged Jesus might elicit some sympathy with the crown…but to no avail.  The religious leaders are not at a loss for a reply, as they say – “We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because He made Himself (to be) the Son of God” (19:7)  Pilate is impressed with the words and demeanor of Jesus…he has never met a prisoner like Him before. He certainly has a lot of questions running through his mind concerning who this guy really is(?)…and it frightens him.  In addition, Pilate’s wife sends him a curious, strange message saying that he should have nothing to do with Jesus. (Matthew 27:19)  Jesus’ silence before Pilate and Herod is a fulfillment of Isaiah 53:7.  Pilate’s words reflect fear giving way to worry and anger. When he says that he has authority over Jesus, it is, once again, ironic.  Pilate really is not bargaining from a position of strength, but weakness. If he has the authority to release Jesus, why does he not do it?  We have to remember that Pilate is not interested in spiritual truth, but his priority is to maintain peace in Jerusalem. 

Jesus does finally speak in 19:11…and His words reveal His faith in His Father and His surrender to His will.  All genuine authority comes from God, and Jesus reminds Pilate that the only reason he has so-called authority is because it is delegated to him by God.  So, in one final, mighty effort, Pilate tries to get Jesus released…but, the Jewish leaders pull their trump card by saying, “If you do this, you are no friend of Caesar’s.”  This accusation is too much for the governor, so he gives his official verdict and hands Jesus over to be crucified. Matthew tells us that Pilate washes his hands before the crowd. Yet, this action cannot cleanse his heart.  The final words of the crowd add further insult, “We have no king but Caesar.”

Douglas Twitchell shares this -- Life is like a roller coaster. You and I have heard this statement before, but I don’t believe it is accurate. When people say "Life is like a roller coaster", what they mean is, it has its "ups and downs". But really, this is not a good analogy, because when you're riding a roller coaster, it is all thrills and excitement...and the "ups" are actually less thrilling than the "downs".  No, life is not like a roller coaster. It is more like waiting in line for a roller coaster. While we are here on earth, for the few years that we have, we are simply waiting in line for the real excitement, which is our eternal life with God…and unlike a roller coaster, it is a thrill that will never end.  According to Jesus, most people believe this mortal existence is all that we have. But when we lose sight of what is waiting for us at the end of our mortal existence, we lose sight of purpose, and life becomes pointless.  Who would stand in line for three hours for a non-existent roller coaster? Without an eternal view, we have to convince ourselves that we are having fun right now, and life has to be about squeezing every bit of enjoyment out of the now. An eternal perspective of life is especially important when we face trials and difficulties. The individual who has no eternal perspective is bowed down and even broken by circumstances. But the person who understands the perishable nature of this life and the imperishable nature of the life to come, can find strength to suffer through difficult times, knowing that their trials and troubles will come to an end.

Dr. Stephen Felker from a sermon entitled, “Jesus before Pilate and the Mob,” says Pilate asks one of the great questions of life, “What shall I do then with Jesus who is called the Christ?” (Matt. 27:22). Asked 2,000 years ago by this man Pontius Pilate, it is the great, ultimate question of life. It is the question that every one of you will answer sooner or later.  It is the question of destiny. Answer this question correctly, and everything else will ultimately be right. Answer this question wrong, and ultimately everything else will be wrong.  Now, there are really only two things you can do with Jesus. You can accept Him or reject Him. You can confess Him or deny Him. There is no middle ground with this.  Jesus said in Luke 11:23, “He who is not with Me is against Me....”  What have you done with Jesus?

Blessings, Don

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