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Thursday, 24 March 2016

Were you there? - Part 2.

In the previous post, we looked at the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and Judas Iscariot. In this one, I want to consider some other characters involved in the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth.

One prominent figure was, of course, Pontius Pilate.  He was the Roman Procurator - a relatively minor official, answerable to the governor who was responsible for all of the region and, ultimately, to the Caesar himself.  As a Roman, he belonged to a people who had conquered most of the then-known world and, for this reason alone, had an over-bearing arrogance, accompanied by a deep contempt and dismissiveness for the people he governed.  In the midst of the trials of Jesus, he found himself on the horns of a dilemma.  Outside there were Jews who, under their leaders, were clamouring for the death of this Jesus of Nazareth.  Inside, in front of him, the silent Prisoner.  Pilate was all too aware that the charges brought against this Man were false: "... he knew that it was out of envy that [the Jewish hierarchy] had delivered Him up." (Matt 27:18; inter al).  He was further troubled when he received a message from his wife: "Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much over him today in a dream." (Matt 27:19).  Eventually, however, the self-centred element in him won.  He was not prepared to risk complications with his superiors.  Deliberately, and knowingly, he condemned an innocent Man to death.  Moral values clashed with self-preservation - and he chose the latter. 

That crowd to whom we have already made reference, are also worthy of examination.  What part did they play in the grim drama of that first Good Friday? There can be little doubt that, amongst that baying mob, were some of those who had, just those few days earlier, followed Him into Jerusalem, excited by the idea that, at last, Messiah had come.  However, when nothing dramatic occurred, and the prophet from Nazareth made no move to overthrow the Roman oppressors, they turned their backs on Him to the extent that, when Pilate asked them: "Then what shall I do with Jesus Who is called Christ?" They all said, "Let Him be crucified." (Matt 27:22).  Even when the Procurator went on to ask: "Why, what evil has He done?" ... they shouted all the more, "Let Him be crucified." (Matt 27:23).  The record continues: "So when Pilate saw that he was gaining nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, "I am innocent of this Man's blood; see to it yourselves."  And all the people answered, "His blood be on us and on our children!" (Matt 27:24-25).

How responsible were the crowd for the crucifixion of Jesus?  There are those who would claim that they were no more than pawns, moved by their leaders, and that they did not realise what it was they were doing.  The one thing of which we may be certain, because we know it from personal experience, is that fallen human nature is so fickle that, especially in a crowd, it can vote for itself even against all that is true and just.  "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately corrupt; who can understand it?" (Jer. 17:9).  The crowd that demanded the crucifixion of Jesus was giving full expression to the inner rebellion against our Creator that lives in each of our hearts.  "We do not want this man to reign over us." (Luke 19:14).

Once again, we are faced with demanding questions.  Who is to be first - me, or Jesus?  It is an inevitable choice.  When moral choices clash with earthly choices, which will we choose?  It may be eternity itself that reveals the answer to that question, but revealed it will be.  Are we permitting the enemy of our souls to easily move us in opposition to the One Who came that we "... might have life, life in all its fulness."? (John 10:10).  Important questions; personal questions; questions that must be answered!

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