Sunday, April 7, 2013

To Tell You the Truth......

One of my favorite projects Jude has brought home from church is her big palm leaf made out of green construction paper.  In the days leading up to Easter this year, they talked a lot about different stories that preceded Jesus' crucifixion. This one I love:  Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey and the crowd waving palm leaves, crying, "Hosanna!, Hosanna!" The chief priests ordered Him to silence His followers and He said, "I tell you....If they keep quiet now, the rocks would cry out."  I have to say I love that my 3 yr old knows that story and the word, "Hosanna". It proves she was listening in her class. It's an Easter miracle!! :)

As we get older, we typically gain a better understanding of what holidays are all about. Hopefully anyway. 
Christmas isn't just about presents.
Memorial Day isn't just a long weekend with the family.
The 4th of July isn't about the big firework show.
And Easter isn't just about egg hunts and a big family lunch.
Those are all fun parts that have made many a family memory. But, hopefully, each of us eventually realize the truths behind these celebrations:
Christmas has nothing to do with gifts except the gift given for all of us, wrapped in cloth long, long ago;
Memorial Day is a day to honor the fallen soldiers who gave their lives to a greater cause, securing freedom;
The 4th of July is the day a group of men strong in mind and heart came together and signed a document establishing our country as an independent nation, free from the rule of a select few;
Easter is about the power and love of God that He demonstrated through the life, death, and resurrection of His only Son.

Easter has quickly become one of  my favorite and most precious times of the year for me as I grow and grasp the magnitude of what we're celebrating.   One of the aspects, though,  that has really intrigued me the last couple of years was from the perspective of Pilate. The Saturday morning before Easter, I felt really impressed upon to look up the segment of scripture where Jesus is brought before him. So, I did and found it just as fascinating as ever and wondered why I hadn't heard much about Pilate over the years. (Though, I am a little...or a lot...ADD, and may have missed it). I mean, Pilate is a man, a pagan man, as most Romans believed in multiple gods, seemingly left to decide the fate of the Son of God
So, Pilate was fresh on my mind when Saturday night, I let the boys watch the Passion of the Christ for the first time. (That would be a blog all it's own!) I hadn't seen it since it first came out and had forgotten just how much Pilate is seen. But, at the end, I did share with them one of the things that I wanted to clarify for them. I use to think the inscription, "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews", written in 3 languages above Him on the cross, was meant to mock Him. When actually, Pilate did that intentionally and refused to change it when the Chief Priests told him to put, "this man SAYS he was king of the jews." I found that very interesting.  As a side note, I also found it interesting that the next Sunday morning, our pastor, Garrick Hanger, preached the Easter service mostly discussing Pilate and the issue of truth, and our issue of trust.  So, maybe Pilate's perspective was taught all these years and I just missed it! :)

John gives the most detailed account of Jesus and Pilate interacting.  Reading it,  I get the impression that maybe Pilate wasn't simply trying to be just with what could at worst be a crazy man. Now, the scripture never tells us Pilate became a believer and I'm not suggesting he turned his life over to the Lord, either. But, I think Pilate, a pagan man, had a better handle on the truth after coming face to face with THE Truth than God's own people.

This is a lengthy portion of scripture to include in a blog but I was really fascinated by the exchanges that took place and the turmoil of Pilate. So, I have to share it before I can finish up.

John 18:28 - 19:22

Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor's headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor's headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover. So Pilate went outside to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” They answered him, “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.” This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die.

So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world— to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”

After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him. But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover. So do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” They cried out again, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a robber.

(Would that be what the Chief Priests and Pharisees would call "the lesser of two evils? Really?? A man they'd seen perform great miracles vs a man who was in prison for murder, among other crimes against society?? Pilate was trying, I think.  But as he would soon see, you can't reason with fools.  Surely we'd never be so foolish......)

Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands. Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”

From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar's friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.  So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews. ’” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”

Now, let me just say, as I did when discussing Job a while back: They will not be asking me to write a commentary on Pilate or anyone else in scripture.  These have come from reading scripture myself and seeing it in a new light, as the Lord so amazingly allows and I simply want to share how it touched me.

What struck me as odd about Pilate's role is that he did not enjoy the position "God's people" had put him in. Especially after his wife advised him to steer clear of this holy man after a disturbing dream. At a quick glance, it would seem Pilate was wishy washy at best and at worst, quick to turn Jesus over, as if he didn't care. But, as I look at the wording here, I think the phrases, "after he heard this, he was even more afraid" and "from then on he sought to release Jesus", gives us a glimpse of a man torn.   We should note here, though, that like the man playing Pilate in the Passion movie was cast for the role, Jesus let Pilate know in a round about way that he had been cast in his role by God Himself and that those who brought Him to be put to death were the ones who "had the greater sin." Though Pilate didn't likely worship the One true God at that time, I think maybe he knew he was in God's presence. He even went back to Jesus again to ask where He was from.  He knew what he was seeing and what the Jews were saying didn't add up.
Well, we know how it ends.  Pilate eventually gives in to them and washes his hands of the whole thing.  He does make a point to repeatedly present Jesus to the Jewish people as "King of the Jews".  They hated that.  Maybe he was doing it for spite.  But, as I said before, I wonder if we aren't seeing the glimpses of real belief in the words he chose.   

The Truth of the Matter:

So, here's the thing....I'm not singing Pilate's praises as a saint.  I'm just thinking that it's ridiculous that a pagan man had the gumption to seek the truth about Jesus when the supposed spiritual leaders were determined to destroy it.  This whole scene brought the question to mind, How often do we really WANT the truth?"
You hear it sometimes asked or stated, "You wanna know the truth??", "Truth?", or "To tell you the truth....".
But, like many of the Jews and the chief priests and elders, we can come face to face with truth, but because it's not what we want....we can sometimes rationalize, dismiss it, and ultimately lie to ourselves. Depending on the evidence, often we have to go to great lengths to do so....just like the chief priests.  Do we not deny evidence to the obvious? We have done that so much in our politically correct society that people don't seem to believe in truth anymore. "Each person determines their own truth". When, simple logic tells us there is, in fact, truth.

A couple of questions I had about the Jewish elders and priests was:
1) After Jesus died and the earthquake came, the sky turned gray, the rocks split and the temple was torn in two, did it not occur to them that maybe this was more than coincidence and they'd been wrong? Some "simpletons" came to that conclusion. Did they even entertain the thought?
As Beth Moore speculated in her study, "Jesus, the One and Only", "Could it be that as Jesus told the chief priests when entering Jerusalem that the rocks would cry out if his people were silent, that it proved true that day when during His greatest victory, when He had accomplished what He was sent to accomplish and His people fell silent in mourning instead of praise....could it be that the rocks cried out??"
2) Prior to delivering Jesus over, did any of them ever secretly think they were wrong and maybe just got caught up in the "group think" mentality, too afraid to speak up? I mean after all the miracles they'd heard of, did they not ever consider this kind of power to be similar to the kind of power God showed His people when bringing them out of Egypt, in the wilderness, and into the promise land? That is, until they chose their own way so many times over His that He quit speaking to them at all.
Well, I guess I could derive an answer to that question in this passage in Matthew's account of the resurrection:

Matthew 28:1-4; 11-15

Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men.;  While they were going, behold, some of the guard went into the city and told the chief priests all that had taken place. And when they had assembled with the elders and taken counsel, they gave a sufficient sum of money to the soldiers and said, “Tell people, ‘His disciples came by night and stole him away while we were asleep. ’ And if this comes to the governor's ears, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So they took the money and did as they were directed. And this story has been spread among the Jews to this day.

See, the truth of what happened wasn't pleasing to them. So, they made up their own truth. So, no, I don't think they had doubts. Because you see, they had no real interest in the truth. It wouldn't have mattered how much evidence, if Jesus appeared to them again Himself, they still would have gone their own way because He wasn't what they wanted. This I know, no point in trying to reason with someone who is determined to be a fool. Pilate knew it. I know it. You know it.

In rereading these passages, there were some really good reminders for me from this whole scene:
1) When it comes to sharing Christ or our own testimonies with others, we should take courage that many people are open to truth, even searching for truth.....they just aren't hearing it. We have become very sensitive to the prospect of offending someone and of them rejecting us and we keep silent a large portion of the time. We forget that there are many people who would welcome the truth if they heard it. Plus, we also forget it's not up to us whether or not they believe it. The Holy Spirit holds that key.
2) There are some who simply don't want to hear it and no matter what you say or how you say it, they may never really hear and believe. Scripture assures us of that but tells us to press on and reach who we can. Though many will refuse to hear it, it doesn't mean we should shy away from sharing the Truth because some will hear and believe and we may never know what kind of seeds we might have planted that God will grow later.
3) It's definitely a healthy thing to take a good hard look at our own lives and make sure we're not deceiving ourselves. There are many issues that don't seem spiritual on the surface, but they very much are: friendships, careers, family, romantic relationships, finances, plans, etc etc. If we aren't intentional, before we know it, we may have been deceived or even deceived ourselves. We all have that potential, no matter how spiritually strong we believe we are. None of us want to be a foolish Pharisee. So, we should ask ourselves if we are ignoring the obvious and choosing only to see what we want to see in any given situation.
One thing I've learned is the Holy Spirit can and will guide us in ALL areas of our lives, provided we want to get real and know the truth. There IS truth. There are some things that ARE right. There are some things that ARE wrong. There are some directions He WANTS us to go and some directions He does NOT.  Some things seem scary but are good for us in the long run and some things seem wonderful but are harmful to us in the long run.  We will find ourselves at many crossroads in this life.  Before we go barrelling along full force in either direction, before we take one step even, we need to muster up some patience and persistence as we seek direction from the Lord and as the Holy Spirit teaches us His truths in the matter. 
You see, truth is not as much of a matter of interpretation (as many like to say today) as it is a matter of revelation. Divine revelation. 

John 14:15-17

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you."

I don't know about you, but to tell you the our rapidly, and ever changing world, those are some super encouraging words for me these days!

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