Friendship with the World December 04, 2013Posted by preacherwin in Devotions, Devotions on the Gospels.
Tags: enmity, Friendship, Herod, James 4:4, Luke 23:12, Pilate, Pilate's Friendship with Herod
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“And there grew a brotherly love for each other between Pilate and Herod on that day. Prior to then, they had enmity toward one another.”
Friendship probably is not adequate here. History has shown that oftentimes politics makes for strange bedfellows, and indeed, there are few stranger than this. The Galileans, over whom Herod ruled, were known as a rambunctious and wild bunch not suited to civilized society. Herod himself was a kind of Roman “wannabe,” always courting his Roman friends and building great edifices in the Roman style, but he was yet of the Jewish people and not to be fully trusted. He was also known for his crass immorality, something not new to Rome, but on the other hand, immorality always seems worse when someone else is practicing it. Pilate was a Roman overseeing Judea — the heart of Jewish authority and culture. Here was the temple and the place of sacrifice for the people. The Sadducees also made their home here, though there was always a sense of contention between the Roman and the Temple authorities.
Some point to the “enmity” that Luke comments on as reflecting back to the gruesome way that Pilate had executed some Galileans, mingling their blood with their sacrifices (Luke 13:1), but this event was relatively minor in the grand scheme of politics and seems odd to cause “enmity” between these two men, especially in light of Herod’s willingness to execute his own (John the Baptist, for example). It is probably better understood in the context of the resentment that these men felt toward each other. Herod resenting the privilege of the Roman Pilate to rule Jerusalem while he got stuck ruling over people in the “back woods” of Galilee. And Pilate resenting the fact that Herod allowed his people to be such trouble-makers while also seeking to court Caesar’s favor.
Yet, here the enmity ceases and becomes a sort of brotherly affection, though affection also is probably not adequate. Here, there is a mutual enemy, and to quote a Russian proverb, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” The Rabbis have a similar proverb: “When the cat and the weasel marry together, misery becomes increased.” The real question is, “for whom will the misery be increased?” In other words, is the “mutual enemy” Christ or the Temple officials? Christ is certainly no threat to either man. Pilate recognizes Jesus to be innocent of the charges of the Priests and Herod is just disenchanted given that the great miracle worker will perform no signs for him.
While our Lord will suffer the actions of these earthly political powers, it seems almost as if the mutual enemy is the priestly class that rules the temple. One almost can picture Herod saying to Pilate, “How may we frustrate them further.” Evil here has no bounds.
One commentator argued that the wicked are unable to feel love or friendship. I would disagree, but would say that the kind of love and friendship that the wicked feel is wholly different than the love and friendship felt amongst genuine believers in Jesus Christ. The friendship of the wicked is self-serving and arrogant while the love of believers is holy, pure, and seeks the good of the other. The sad thing is that Christians often choose the love of the worldly wicked over the love of brotherhood in Christ. The former is easier and the latter can be costly, but the former is quite short-lived and is shallow in the end. The latter is eternal and is as deep as the oceans are wide. Which, beloved, will you choose? Which will you pursue? Friendship with this world is enmity with God (James 4:4). Something to think about…
Garments of True Splendor December 03, 2013Posted by preacherwin in Devotions, Devotions on the Gospels.
Tags: Acts 10:30, earth, earthly glory, garments, Glory, heaven, heavenly glory, lamp, lampros, Light, Luke 23:10-11, Revelation 15:6, Revelation 19:8, scintillate, sparkle, splendor
“And the chief priests and the scribes stood there and made impassioned accusations against him. And Herod, along with his soldiers, were showing him contempt and mockingly clothed him in shining garments and sent him back to Pilate.”
And the mocking continues as Jesus refuses to perform the feats that Herod had hoped to see. What is interesting is that Herod does not just have him sent home and put to death — certainly Herod had the blood of John the Baptist on his hands, why not Jesus also? With Pilate giving up jurisdiction, Herod could easily have sentenced the man to death, pleased the priests and perhaps even won him some favor amongst the Jerusalem elite. Herod opts not do to so, and returns Jesus to Herod. Of course, this is a fulfillment of prophesy that Jesus would be hanged on a tree, but from a human perspective, it is fascinating to me to see all of these puzzle pieces laid into place. Certainly Herod, by returning Jesus to Pilate, is no less guilty of Jesus’ death, but perhaps in his own mind he can wash his hands of the man just as Pilate would later do. Perhaps Herod has as much contempt for the priestly establishment as Pilate does and Herod sees this as a way to frustrate them even more as he sees them practically begging for this man’s death. This may be the reason that Luke makes the comment about Herod and Pilate’s friendship that develops over these things in the next verse. Politics often makes strange bed-fellows.
There is another aspect of these verses, that is often overlooked, and that is the garment that is placed on Jesus’ shoulders. Many of our translations will render this word as “an elegant robe” (NIV), “splendid clothing” (ESV), “a gorgeous robe” (KJV & NASB), etc… and perhaps brings to mind the remarkable garment that Joseph was given by his father in the Old Testament. The word that Luke uses here is lampro/ß (lampros), which is the root from which we get the English word, “lamp.” In Greek, we sometimes translate lampro/ß (lampros) as splendid or opulent, but most commonly the term reflects something that is full of light or sparkles. This is the term that is used of the angel that presented himself to Cornelius (Acts 10:30) as well as the angels that John describes in heaven (Revelation 15:6) and the heavenly garment given to the Church as the bride of Christ (Revelation 19:8).
It should be noted the radical difference between that which is glorious of heaven and that which is considered glorious on earth. There is simply no comparison. Once again, Jesus is made to bear the shame of fallen man — this time being arrayed in the best of human making when the best of heaven is that which he rightfully deserves. To take the analogy further, Jesus is clothed in the garments of men so that his bride may be brightly arrayed in the garments of heaven (as we see in Revelation 19:8). It is an exchange that Jesus was pleased to make, but it is an exchange that we do not deserve to receive. One more thought along those lines — the garments with which the bride is to be clothed are described as the “righteous deeds of the saints.” May we always remember that the origin of those deeds is not within us here on earth, but in heaven, for indeed, these works have been prepared for us from before the foundation of the earth (Ephesians 2:10) and done not in our strength, but in the strength of the Spirit (2 Corinthians 12:8-9). Jesus substitutes himself in our place to give us what we could never hope to give ourselves — why then do we so often pursue the splendor of this world when Christ himself offers us the splendor of heaven.
Faithful Obedience, Not Miracles November 26, 2013Posted by preacherwin in Devotions, Devotions on the Gospels.
Tags: belief, faithful, Luke 23:8-9, Miracles, Miraculous, Obedience, Obedient, regeneration
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“When Herod beheld Jesus, he was very pleased for he had wanted, for a long time, to see him because he had heard about him and he hoped that he might do some sign for him. So, he questioned him with many words, but he would not answer him.”
We all want a magic show, don’t we. We want the skies to part and God’s blessed voice to pronounce to us what by faith we ought to embrace. We want rumbles of thunder to accompany our preaching and miracles abounding to attest to our ministry. I had a friend who once told me, “It would be easier for me to believe that God is real if he would just come down from heaven and show me.” The sad thing is that God has done just that and it did not change the unbelief of wicked men. God spoke from heaven at Jesus’ baptism and people wrote it off. Jesus worked numerous miracles during his ministry and people were attracted to the performance. Everyone wanted to see the spectacle…even the jaded Herod…but unbelief is unbelief no matter how many miracles are worked in one’s presence. Judas witnessed many of Jesus’ miracles firsthand, yet still sold his master into the hands of the wicked.
Miracles do not generate faith. Faith is generated by the Holy Spirit as he gives new life to our sin-dead souls. Miracles are meant to confirm faith — to attest to the truth of who Jesus really is — not to set up a circus act. Thus Jesus did no miracles when he was in the midst of his unbelieving home-town and he will do no miracles here in the presence of Herod. Such is the judgment of God — the wicked left in their rejection and wickedness, the blind remaining so.
Pastors and churches, too, often fall into this trap in a different way. They call a new pastor and expect that in a year or so all of the problems of the church will be resolved, it will be growing and thriving, and they will be enjoying the good fruit that is characteristic of a long and enduring ministry. But that is the point, to see the fruit of a long and enduring ministry, the congregation must learn the patience to allow their pastor, barring any major sin, to have a long and enduring ministry while also submitting to his teaching and leadership. The miraculous is not the mark of the true church; faithful obedience to God’s word is.
The Path of Least Resistance November 22, 2013Posted by preacherwin in Devotions, Devotions on the Gospels.
Tags: Antipas, Antipater, Antipatros, Caesar, Herod Antipas, Jesus, Jordan River, Luke 23:7, Tetrarch
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“Finding out that he was under Herod’s authority, he sent him to Herod — who was himself in Jerusalem on that day.”
We have already alluded to this transition, but it should be noted that Luke, always interested in grounding his Gospel in historical events and names recognized by the Roman people, is the only Gospel writer to include the trial by Herod. This Herod, of course, was the Son of Herod the Great, not the same Herod found in Matthew’s birth account. After the death of Herod (around 4 BC), the Roman Caesar broke up the kingdom of Israel into four portions to better control these otherwise stubborn and rebellious people. This Herod, also known as Antipas, became the “Tetrarch” of Galilee and Perea (a region just east of the Jordan River). Antipas is a shortened form of the Greek, ÔAnti/patroß (Antipatros), meaning “like the father.” And while this Herod may not have been as paranoid as his father was, he certainly was as immoral and allied himself closely with Rome as that suited his political ambitions. Yet, because Jesus grew up in Nazareth in the region of Galilee, he was officially under Herod’s jurisdiction, and this provided Pilate a convenient excuse to shift the burden of Jesus’ sentence upon someone else. Conveniently, Herod was in Jerusalem as well — it was Passover, so anybody that was anybody was in town on that day.
The transfer would simply be a means by which Pilate bought time from having to deal with Jesus’ fate, but I wonder how often we fall into a similar pattern of passing the buck when there are things before us that we just don’t want to weigh in on. That is a practice that we never find Jesus engaging in, though, and that ought to cause us pause. Indeed, as Christians, we are called to act wisely and to pursue justice as well as taking the difficult path — the easy path will only ever lead to destruction — how different that worldview is than the dominant worldview today which advocates taking the road with the least resistance. Interesting…
Jeremiah or Zechariah? November 20, 2013Posted by preacherwin in Devotions, Devotions on the Gospels.
Tags: Diaspora, Gospel, Gospel to the World, Jeremiah 18-19, Jerusalem, Judas' Death, Matthew 27:9-10, Potter's Field, Potter's House, Potter's Jar, Pottery, Prophesy, Thirty Pieces of Silver, Vessel, Zechariah 11:12-13
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“Then was fulfilled the word of Jeremiah the prophet saying, ‘And they took the thirty silver pieces, the payment paid for the one on whom the Sons of Israel had set such a payment, and they gave it for the field of a potter just as the Lord instructed me.’”
Oceans of ink have been spilled in wrestling with these words…not so much because the words themselves are overly difficult nor because this being a fulfillment of prophesy should surprise us, but because it seems, at least on the surface, that Matthew is citing a prophesy made in Zechariah, not in Jeremiah. And that becomes troublesome if you are going to hold to an inerrant view of the scriptures. So, did Matthew just make an honest mistake? Likely not, he is being inspired by the Holy Spirit who is God — not one to make a mistake. Is there some passage in Jeremiah that is being overlooked — some textual variant perhaps — that would rectify this difficulty? Not so much. We must remember that Matthew’s original audience was intimately familiar with the writings of the prophets and would have balked were an erroneous rendering to have been made. Matthew clearly intends this, but the question we are then left with is, why?
The passage in Zechariah that is pointed to is this:
“And I said to them, ‘If it is good in your eyes, give me my wages, if not then refrain from doing so.’ And they weighed out my wages: thirty pieces of silver. And Yahweh said to me, ‘Throw it to the potter!‘ — the splendid price which I was prized by them. So, I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them to the potter in the House of Yahweh.’
Certainly it is easy to see the connections: there are 30 pieces of silver, a Potter, and the “throwing” of the money in the direction of the potter who is in the temple. One might be tempted to stop there and draw the conclusion that Zechariah is really who Matthew had in mind when he cited this text, but doing so would miss some of the importance of how this citation is made. Interestingly, in the context of Zechariah, one might argue that the parallel is not so much with Judas dying in a Potter’s Field as it is with Judas returning the money to the priests. In fact, in Zechariah’s account, nothing is purchased, the money is simply returned.
Further, in the context of Zechariah 11, Zechariah the prophet has been commanded for a season to shepherd a flock that is doomed for slaughter. Remember, Zechariah is writing after the return of the people to Jerusalem, so he is speaking (in an immediate sense) of the fall of Judah to the Macedonians and then to the Romans — that which will anticipate the eventual coming of Jesus. At the end of that passage (verse 16), God says that he is about to raise up another shepherd who will not care for the people — this condemnation is arguably directed toward the priests of the people. So, Zechariah guards the sheep for a season, there is an account with breaking staffs, and then he quits his job and asks for his payment. They pay him well and God then commands Zechariah to throw the money to the potter in the temple. Again, this is a condemnation of the shepherds over God’s people: the priests.
You should be starting to notice some differences, though, that should be highlighted. We have already mentioned that there is no mention of purchasing a field in the Zechariah account, furthermore, there is a different term employed to refer to this potter. In the Hebrew, the term Zechariah used is rEoØwy (yo’er). When this term was translated into the Greek Septuagint, the word cwneuth/rion (choneuterion) was chosen. These words can be used to refer to a potter, but are also used of those who smelt metals. In fact, in the other two spots in the Old Testament (as well as in the one use of this term in the Jewish Apocrypha) it is translated as having to do with a smelter’s fire.
In Matthew’s account, he uses the term kerameu/ß (kerameus), which is always used of a potter and his clay both in the New Testament (see also Romans 9:21) and the Greek translation of rEoØwy (yo’er) in the Hebrew Old Testament (see Isaiah 41:25 and Jeremiah 18:6). If we follow the use of the term kerameu/ß (kerameus) to Jeremiah, as Matthew suggests, we find ourselves closer to unraveling our mystery.
In Jeremiah 18-19 we have an account that also ties in very closely with what Matthew is recording. The prophet is sent to the house of a potter — kerameu/ß (kerameus) is used — and told to observe the potter making a clay vessel. Part of the way through the process, the potter is unhappy with the developing design, so smashes the vessel down and starts from scratch. God instructs Jeremiah that like this vessel, God is going to smash down Jerusalem and rebuild because of the wickedness of the people. Later, Jeremiah is commanded to buy a flask from the Potter and smash it by the Valley of the Sons of Hinnom — the source of the word, “Gehenna” in the New Testament — to be renamed as “The Valley of Slaughter.”
One might be tempted to say, where does the Potter’s Field play into this account. Potters’ Fields historically were grounds that had such a high clay content that growing crops would be difficult, but as a source of clay for the potter, they were excellent. Furthermore, Jeremiah is told to relate that God is going to make the city of Jerusalem a place like a Valley of Slaughter — a place of death. And here, it seems, our connection with the potter’s field becoming a place for Judas’ death is made. While Jerusalem is thrown down in Jeremiah’s lifetime, it would be rebuilt. Judas’ death is a foreshadowing of another destruction of Israel that would take place during the lifetime of at least some of the Apostles…and this destruction in AD 70 would be permanent.
It is true that there is a modern city of Jerusalem that exists, but it is located just to the west of the original Jewish city, which now lies more or less in ruins and has a Muslim Mosque sitting on the temple mount (preventing another temple from being built — why? Jesus is the Greater temple, why settle for a lesser one?). Judas’ death and spilling of his blood is a fulfillment, then, of what Jeremiah promised. For Jerusalem’s apostasy in the death of Jesus Christ, they would be destroyed and the place would be left a horror for all to see. One need not read much of Josephus’ account of the fall of Jerusalem at the hands of the Romans in AD 70 to see elements of this fulfillment taking place — even to the point of the adults eating the flesh of their children. The testimony is heart-wrenching, but the potter’s vessel (representing the people of Israel) was broken on that day and its pieces scattered. Just as the Jews would flee and be sent into exile in Jeremiah’s day, so too, believers were scattered to the far ends of the earth, but this time with the hope of the Gospel to accompany them. How easily we get attached to a location; God says, “Go!”
The Field of Blood November 11, 2013Posted by preacherwin in Devotions, Devotions on the Gospels.
Tags: 30 pieces of silver, Acts 1:18-19, Akeldamach, Blood Money, Field of Blood, Judas' Betrayal, Judas' Death, Matthew 27:5-8, the Field of Blood
“So, throwing the silver pieces into the temple, he left and went and hung himself. The chief priests took up the silver pieces and said, ‘It is not authorized that we throw this into the temple treasury because this is a payment for blood.’ And making a plan, they bought with it a field of a potter to bury strangers. Therefore the field is called, “The Field of Blood,” even to this day.”
“Now this man acquired a piece of land from the wages of his wickedness and falling headlong he burst apart in the middle and all of his entrails poured out. And it became known to all the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the field was called in their own dialect, ‘Akeldamach,” that is the “Field of Blood.”
Usually, the first thing that people want to know when they put these two passages back to back is, “So how did Judas die? Did he hang himself or did he fall and burst himself open?” The answer to this question is, “yes,” but let us recount the events to put this into perspective.
First, we have already talked about how these events seem to be taking place at about the same time as Jesus is being questioned. Judas realizes that his betrayal is leading to Jesus’ death and he just cannot deal with the matter. His first response is to return the silver — the blood money — to the priests. They reject the return and so we find him throwing it into the temple. Some of our translations render this, “sanctuary,” but that seems unlikely given the structure of the temple courts. Likely he has met with the priests in the outer courts somewhere, perhaps even in one of the many covered porticos along this wall. If closer to the temple, perhaps this conversation took place in one of the many rooms that surrounded the walls of the inner courts. Either way, it seems that since the priests won’t take his money, it is reasonable to assume from the language here that Judas cast the money in the direction of the temple. Then he left.
The priests realized the problem they had on their hands. Judas did not want the money and they could not keep the money, so they decided on purchasing a plot of land that could be used for charity — a place where travelers, aliens in the land, and others who are otherwise unknown or without family to care for their remains, could be buried. Essentially, this was a form of pauper’s graveyard.
Yet, Matthew’s account seems to imply that it was the priests who bought the property while Luke’s account in Acts, implies that it was Judas. The simplest way to rectify this apparent conflict is to see the priests purchasing the field in Judas’ name, thus all public records would indicate that it had been given by Judas. The money belonged to Judas anyhow, so it would not be too much of a stretch to imagine the priests going down and indicating that a sum of money had been given for such a purchase. Their hands were then clean of the blood money and Judas’ name is thus attached to the plot — it was bought on his behalf just like a real estate agent might handle such a transaction today.
Since Judas chose to commit suicide on this plot of ground, it is clear that he was aware of this transaction. It is also very reasonable to assume, realizing what the priests had done with the blood money, that this would provide a good place for him to commit the act of suicide. It could be seen as an act of spite (the priests would find his body and have the guilt of another death on their hands), an act of cursing (as cursed are those who are hanged on a tree — Deuteronomy 21:23), and as a symbol of his own alienation from the people of God (it was aliens, not Jews, that were to be buried here).
But what about the whole bursting and entrails pouring out language? This event took place on the Friday of Passover. The Priests had their hands full with the various services and sacrifices to be made. The following day was the Sabbath where no work could be done. Thus, Judas’ body would reasonably have been left hanging on the tree for a minimum of 48 hours before anything would be done, probably longer. Shortly after death, the bacteria contained within the digestive tract begins the process of decaying the internal organs. This process causes gasses to build up within the body giving it a bloated look over time. Obviously, this process is speeded up the warmer the weather. Early spring in Jerusalem is not overly warm (around 50 during the day), but the process would take place nonetheless. If one presumes the body of Judas to remain unnoticed for several days or a week, it is likely that his body would have become bloated enough that were someone (in disgust) to cut him down from the tree, his torso might burst and his partially liquified entrails would “pour out” like water. It is a disgusting picture, but such is the path into which our sin brings us.
And thus, the field takes on the name, “Akeldamach” — in Aramaic, meaning “The Field of Blood.” How sin consumes when there is no redemption at hand.
Hope or Despair; Life or Death November 08, 2013Posted by preacherwin in Devotions, Devotions on the Gospels.
Tags: betrayal, Betrayer, Chief Priest, Contrast, Deliverer, faith, high priest, Intercessors, Judas, Matthew 27:3-4, repentance, Salvation, Two Deliverers
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“Then, when Judas, his betrayer, saw that he was condemned, he had second thoughts and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders saying, ‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.’ But they said, ‘What is that to us? Look to yourself.’”
In the flow of things, this is a little out of order (at least with Matthew’s chronology). The main thing to remember, in this case, is that this event is essentially taking place at the same time as some of the mob demands before Pilate — behind the scenes. Moving it down into this position in the harmonized account, allows for the full story around Pilate to be told and then the comments around Judas’ betrayal.
A contrast takes place here, though, that is very important to note. Here, Judas is called, “the betrayer,” a name that will stick with Judas through the rest of history. The term that is used is paradi/dwmi (paradidomi), which literally means “one who delivers.” In this case, context has clarified how the delivery takes place, for Judas has delivered Jesus into the hands of the wicked. The contrast that takes place, though, is that you have two deliverers at work in this passage — Judas the betrayer, the one who delivers Jesus into the hands of the wicked, and Jesus the deliverer of the elect of God. One a worker of unrighteousness the other the Lord of all righteousness. Indeed, what a sad contrast this is.
We are told that Judas had second thoughts. The term used here is metame/lomai (metamelomai) and it conveys the sense of being sorry for an action, regretting one’s decision, and wishing that it could be undone. We should not see this as repentance, though. Typically the word translated as “repent” is metanoe/w (metanoeo), and refers to a total change in one’s worldview or perspective. Judas felt bad because he realized his betrayal was that of condemning an innocent man to death, but his hard heart did not change (to be evidenced by his suicide to follow). Nevertheless, there is honest grief that is exhibited here.
Judas seeks to undo his actions rather than asking Christ for forgiveness, thinking that if he returns the blood money he won’t be as culpable. Again, this is a sign of a heart that is not regenerate, simply regrets his actions and fears his future condemnation. The priests are unable to accept blood money, but we are getting ahead of ourselves. Notice, though, their response to Judas. “It’s your problem, not ours” is essentially what they tell him. They have what they want and nothing can undo the events that will soon transpire.
The final phrase is translated in a variety of ways, often implying that Judas is responsible for fixing his own mess — “don’t involve us” is implied. I would suggest that is partially true, but misses the force of this statement. They say, “look to yourself” or even “look on yourself” (the verb there is a “middle” form, implying an action that one is doing upon or to oneself). Here’s the thing. Judas is sorry for his actions and is going to the priests. It was the priests whose role was to be the intercessor between God and man for sins. They are basically saying to him that there is nothing they can do, he needs to make atonement by his own works — they demonstrate their own impotence as priests do do what they have been called to do. Judas will not run to Christ, he recognizes he stands condemned, what will be left to do but to take his own life — indeed he will look to himself.
Oh, beloved, the despair that comes from looking upon oneself for your own deliverance. It simply cannot be done. No matter how high and lofty the Christ-less ideals of the unbeliever may sound to our ears, they cannot hope to live them out and will end up in despair…like Judas. There is hope in one name for in only one name is there forgiveness for sins and a promise of deliverance from this body of death. And that name is the name of Jesus Christ! Run to him! Cling to him! And call the world to do the same! For in Him and in Him alone there is life and hope and peace and joy! Oh the sorrows we inflict upon ourselves when we seek to take matters into our own hands; what life there is in the hands of Christ. Choose this day, loved ones, whom you will serve — and do it! Live out your faith in everything you say and do, growing in faith and grace yourself and pointing others to the only hope for this life and for the next. Amen.
Marvelling at Christ November 06, 2013Posted by preacherwin in Devotions, Devotions on the Gospels.
Tags: Amazed, Charles Gabriel, Jesus' Trial, Mark 15:4-5, Matthew 27:13-14, Passion of Christ, Pilate
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“Then Pilate said to him, ‘Don’t you hear all of the things of which they are accusing you?’ Yet, he gave no answer to him, not even to one word, to the point that the Governor was quite amazed.”
“And Pilate again asked him, saying, ‘Will you not answer? Look how many charges are against you!’ But Jesus gave no further reply to the point that Pilate was amazed.”
Here we see at least some depth to Pilate’s character. He knows that he has been cornered by the Jewish authorities, but at the same time he has no intention of being their puppet. He wants some sort of defense from Jesus so that he has something with which to work. We will see this move by Pilate several times in this trial and it should not be confused with care for Jesus, but simply seen as a way for Pilate to get this man’s blood off of his conscience and to keep the Jewish officials from running roughshod over him.
Yet, Pilate is amazed at Jesus’ silence. It is interesting to ponder the source of Pilate’s amazement. Often it is understood as Pilate just being astonished or confused that here is a man being accused of something that will possibly put him to death and he won’t answer the charges. Yet, the amazement can be understood in other ways as well. The term qauma/zw (thaumazo) is broad enough that it could refer to Pilate’s own frustration with the situation itself — essentially a sense of amazement that he has been dragged into this mess. At the same time, qauma/zw (thaumazo) is most commonly used to describe people’s reactions in the midst of God’s divine work, so the amazement could also be interpreted as a shudder at whose presence he happens to be in, though this is less likely given Pilate’s treatment of Jesus before him.
Yet, it raises the question for us as to how we respond to God himself. Are we amazed (in the divine sense) at the work of Jesus in our own midst? Do we enter into prayer and worship with reverence and when we do enter into prayer and worship, do we actually expect to find God there? Do we pray in confidence that we are speaking to a God who hears our prayers or do we just drop words into space out of habit? Loved ones, my prayer for you is that this idea of qauma/zw (thaumazo) would capture your spirit and your life as you approach God — not just in the big things, but also in the mundane things of life.
I stand amazed in the presence
Of Jesus the Nazarene,
And wonder how He could love me,
A sinner, condemned, unclean.
O how marvelous! O how wonderful!
And my song shall ever be:
O how marvelous! O how wonderful!
Is my Savior’s love for me!
— Charles Gabriel
Assumptions and Accusations November 04, 2013Posted by preacherwin in Devotions, Devotions on the Gospels.
Tags: accusations, Assumptions, capitol offense, Deuteronomy 17:6-7, First Impressions, Jesus' Trial, Mark 15:3, Matthew 27:12, Numbers 35:30, one witness, Two or three witnesses
“But when the charges were made against him by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer.”
“And the chief priests brought many charges against him.”
We have already seen Jesus’ using silence when he is confronted with these false charges. Note that the word here is kathgore/w (kategoreo), which is normally used in a legal context. These charges being lifted against Jesus are not meant as broad accusations, but they are given in a legal context — in this case, to try and have Jesus charged with a capitol offense. Much of Jesus’ silence, then should be seen as an appeal to Jewish law that no one may be put to death on the evidence of a single witness, but that two or three credible witnesses must be present to corroborate the accusations (Numbers 35:30; Deuteronomy 17:6-7; 19:5). And we have already seen that these false witnesses cannot seem to get their stories right. Jesus need not dignify their charges with a reply because there is no legal charge being brought.
As we see this, though, may we remember to look carefully at how we raise objections to those in our midst. How often, on the basis of one “gossipy” witness, we develop an opinion of someone else’s character — an impression that is often very difficult to undo. How often, on the basis of speculation, we jump to conclusions about who did this or that. How often, on the basis of a label, whether political, denominational, or otherwise, we make wrong assumptions about others. How often we are just as guilty of false accusations as these chief priests and officials are — and how often, when those first impressions are proven wrong, we fail to humble ourselves and apologize. May we seek to make amends with those who have remained silent at our false accusations.
Our God is an Awesome God October 30, 2013Posted by preacherwin in Devotions, Devotions on the Gospels.
Tags: God's sovereignty, Herod Antipas, Herod the Great, Jewish Politics, Luke 23:5-6, Malthace, Pilate, politics, Roman Politics
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“But they were persistent, saying, ‘He disturbs the people, teaching through the whole of Judea — starting in Galilee but even here.’ When Pilate heard this, he asked if the man was Galilean.”
Those Galileans were always stirring up trouble for the Roman leaders. This is something that the Priests knew and likely threw in to poison the well some against Jesus. At the same time, this created a bit of a loophole for Pilate to extract himself from the false trial. Galilee was not under his direct authority, but was ruled by Herod Antipas, the local king who ruled over Galilee and Peraea. Herod Antipas was the son of Herod the Great (the Herod who sought to kill the baby Jesus) and a Samaritan woman named Malthace. Needless to say that there was no love lost toward this king of Galilee, especially because he was a Roman collaborator, and the shift of authority, Pilate likely thought, would be a nice poke back at these pesky Jewish priests. And, since it was Passover, it so happened that Herod was in Jerusalem … how very convenient.
What I find interesting as I look over these events is how many people were trying to manipulate the outcome. The Jews wanted Jesus to be executed by the Romans. The Romans did not care either way about the man, Jesus, but did not want to become Jewish puppets, and now Herod will be brought into the picture. Yet, in the midst of all of these schemes of men, God is still sovereignly governing these events to a conclusion that he had so ordained from before the foundation of the earth.
We often sing in church that our God is an Awesome God, but I wonder whether we really live it out. We see from history how God has orchestrated even the smallest events and details to bring about his glory and then we worry about things we cannot control in our own lives. Jesus spoke a great deal about our not worrying, but we do anyway. The pagans, whose gods cannot answer them or affect events, have a right to worry. We do not. Trust God and when things seem to fall apart, instead of worrying or wondering “where God went…” ask yourself the question, “what is a sovereign God teaching me in the midst of this crisis?”
Our God is an awesome God
He reigns from heaven above
With wisdom, power, and love
Our God is an awesome God.