(Based on John 18:28-40)
Jesus is brought before Pilate by the religious leaders. These devout men “did not enter the palace” so that they might remain ‘ritually pure’. They brought Jesus to Pilate, believing they were upholding their laws, and defending the Jewish religion from a dangerous heretic, someone who disturbed and challenged them. According to the passage, they had “no right to execute anyone” so they handed Jesus over to Pilate so that they could have him killed, all the while themselves, remaining “ceremonially clean.”
Often I think we feel as though we can’t really relate to the religious leaders. After all they kind of seem like the ‘bad guys’ in the story! If we were in the story, we would be like Jesus’ disciples, right? We’d be one of the group travelling with him from town to town, witnessing miracles, eating with him at the last supper….
Or would we?
I mean, Jesus was not exactly hanging out with the ‘elite’, educated crowd of the day!
Recently on social media a friend posted something that really irked me. When I read it, I felt angry, indignant and …defensive. I wanted to let her know that she was in the wrong by leaving a comment … but… in the end I decided that what I had planned to say was not exactly an encouraging or loving word from a fellow believer.
As God seemed to draw my attention to the religious leaders in the story, I was reminded of this situation. I had judged my friend. I wanted to ‘defend’ my side and reveal the hypocrisy that I thought I was witnessing. And I felt that I was definitely in the right. (I think that all of you would have agreed with me ; ) ) Yet, here I felt as though God was putting his finger on my hypocrisy. I am not innocent of those moments too. Just look at this one! I love and follow Jesus… and yet I was more intent on proving my ‘rightness’ and her “wrongness” than on maintaining the love and unity of the Body.
Aren’t there times that we act like those religious leaders, feeling offended, believing that ‘we’ are in the right and others are in the ‘wrong’? Are there times that we judge and condemn others who may look different, speak with an accent, smell different or think differently than us? What about fellow believers with whom we have differences of opinion? Is it possible that we believe that we are defending ‘righteousness’, yet standing up for something that might not be a priority for Jesus?
In a world that worships power, popularity, celebrity, and money, what does Jesus value? Are we, like the religious leaders, actually missing Jesus’ true message and the message of his kingdom that he tells Pilate “is not of this world”?
This is why Jesus chose to go to the cross for us. No matter how loving or kind or Christ-like we try to be, this is not something that we can do in our own strength. Our efforts matter, but… there are times when we look like the religious leaders, ‘white-washed tombs’ Jesus called them, when we present a moral, upright exterior, while inside there is a feeling of superiority, judgement and …. a lack of love.
Jesus said to Pilate, “In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth.” And Pilate retorts “What is truth?”
Jesus had told his disciples the night before that he was “the way, the Truth and the Life… and that when they had seen him, they had seen the Father”.
And the religious people missed it.
In their haughty, ‘offended’ state they missed the Messiah. They were so blinded by their laws, their traditions, their ritual ‘purity’ and their arrogance that they missed who he truly was. Immanuel – God with us! Love … with skin on.
Let us be so careful not to miss Jesus too.
Our suffering servant-king, Jesus, “who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross! “