Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Wednesday in Laetare - The Fourth Week of Lent

The Passion History – Part 4: The Praetorium
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

By and large, the Romans permitted the Jewish people to live and worship according to their customs, culture, and laws. What the Romans wanted above all was order so they could collect the nation’s taxes and resources. If the Romans oppressed the Jews too much, then all of these would surely be compromised. So it was that the Romans were content to have the Jewish Sanhedrin rule in matters of religious law, Herod in terms of public law, and the Roman Governor Pontius Pilate to oversee them all.

The Romans didn’t give two hoots about the charge of blasphemy the Sanhedrin brought against Jesus. They were polytheists. They worshipped a pantheon of gods. One more couldn’t hurt. Thus, Pilate wanted to send Jesus back to the Sanhedrin or to Herod that He should be judged by Jewish laws. However, one thing the Romans prohibited the Jews from exercising was capital punishment – they couldn’t put anyone to death, only the Romans could do that. Conviction of blasphemy under Jewish law warranted death, but the Romans didn’t care about blasphemy against a Jewish god. If they were going to sentence Jesus with death, they were going to have to accuse Him of a crime that the Romans would agree warranted death. So, they accused Jesus of forbidding the paying of taxes to Caesar and of claiming to be the Christ, a king in opposition to Caesar.

This peaked Pilate’s attention a bit, after all, it was his neck that was on the line if there was a disruption in taxes, and he had recently been on the outs with Caesar in the first place. “Are you the King of the Jews?” Pilate questioned Jesus. “Your own nation and the chief priests have given you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered Pilate saying, “My kingdom is not of this world.” “I was born and I came into the world that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone that is of the truth hears my voice.” Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?” Then he went out and proclaimed to the people, “I find no fault in this man,” and he sought to release Him.

Nonetheless, the chief priests kept laying one charge after another against Him, but He remained silent so that Pilate was amazed and sought even more vehemently to release Him. Pilate thought that he had an out when he learned that Jesus was a Galilean. That was Herod’s jurisdiction, so Pilate sent Jesus to Herod hoping that would be the last he would see or hear of Him. Herod was a puppet-king: Idumean by birth (an Arab), religiously a Jew, culturally a Greek, and politically Roman. Herod was delighted to see Jesus for word of Him had spread throughout Galilee. He hoped that Jesus would perform a miracle for him. Once again, the chief priests and the scribes hurled their accusations upon Jesus, but He gave no answer. Disappointed that Jesus wouldn’t put on a show for him, Herod and his soldiers mocked Jesus, put a splendid robe upon Him and sent Him back to Pilate. Pilate and Herod became friends that day whereas before they had been at enmity with one another.

Again, Pilate proclaimed that he found no guilt in Jesus and that neither had Herod, and he sought to release Him. It was a custom at the Passover for the Governor to release for the people a prisoner. There was a man in prison for insurrection and murder by the name of Barabbas. When Pilate proclaimed that he would release Jesus for them after flogging Him they cried out, “Not Jesus! Release Barabbas!” “Then what shall I do with the King of the Jews?” Pilate asked. “Crucify Him!” they shouted, “Crucify Him!” “Shall I crucify your King?” Pilate asked. “We have no king but Caesar,” they answered, “His blood be on us and on our children.”

Several times throughout the Passion History Jesus’ enemies unwittingly prophesy the truth. The High Priest Caiaphas had said, “It is better that one man should die for the people than that the whole nation should perish.” This was, of course, true, in a way that Caiaphas could never have imagined. Jesus is God’s Passover Lamb who would be sacrificed on Calvary’s altar having drunk the cup of God’s wrath against the world’s sins to the bitter dregs. Then the crowd cried out, “His blood be on us and on our children. Once again, the people were prophetically speaking the truth, though they didn’t know it at the time. Jesus’ blood was shed for them and for all the world, that whoever is marked with His blood by faith and trust in Him, God’s wrath against sin passes over them and they are spared. For Jesus is the Passover Lamb of God’s offering who takes away the sins of the world. But then, on the negative side, the people also prophesied the truth when they answered Pilate, “We have no king but Caesar,” for they had rejected and handed over the Son of God, their Christ and Redeemer King, for a mortal man who did not worship the true God, but who claimed to be a god himself.

Though he believed Him to be innocent, and though he knew that the charges against Him were bogus, Pilate handed over Jesus to be crucified. Then, he released from the prisons Barabbas, an insurrectionist and a murderer. The name Barabbas means “son of a father,” thus the murderous, mortal son of a father (all men) goes free, while the sinless and innocent Son of God the heavenly Father goes to death – It is better that one man should die for the people than that the whole nation should perish.

It was the devil, of course, the father of lies, working through Caiaphas, the Sanhedrin, Herod, and Pilate, Judas, and the crowds. The charges were false, Jesus was not guilty, but innocent, they literally exchanged God’s truth for a lie and for lies. And the people were persuaded; they were like sheep without a shepherd. And so are we. If we do not know the Scriptures, the Word of God, and the power therein, then we are like “children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” Therefore, we must “put on the whole armor of God, that [we] may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.”

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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