Friday, April 3, 2015

The Full Extent of His Love

Posted by Lisa Laree to Beer Lahai Roi

Between writing yesterday's post and this one, I slept.  As did most of the inhabitants of Jerusalem between Jesus' arrest and dawn the next day.  Oblivious.

But there were many who did not sleep that night.  Clandestine meetings, discussions, crowds in the courtyard...and at dawn, Jesus, who had now been beaten, slapped and spit upon, was pulled out of Caiaphas's palace, tied and fettered, at the moment a rooster crowed to greet the day.  Peter,  who had just denied knowing Him for the third time,  heard the rooster and remembered Jesus telling him he'd do that just as Jesus came out ...and looked straight at him for just a moment (Luke 22:61). 

It's interesting that the leaders took him to Pilate for judgment.    Their statement 'we have no right to execute anyone' (John 18:31) was not strictly true...they could, and did, stone people who were in violation of the Law.  Jesus Himself had narrowly escaped being stoned on more than one occasion; He prevented the stoning of the woman in John 8, and Stephen was stoned several years later.  None of those events involved the Romans in any way.

Which goes a long way towards explaining Pilate's irritation with them and his reluctance to get involved.

So why did the Jewish leadership insist that Jesus be executed by the Romans?

It was Passover week.  There were rules in place about being ceremonially clean for the feast; had the Jews stoned Jesus,  there would have been issues with that point.  They would not even come in to Pilate's palace to avoid contamination.  They would have to have waited until after the feast to stone Him...and then they would have had to deal with the public.  Jesus had been apprehended at night and tried in secret; the general public was still unaware of what had happened.   But if the Romans executed Him, the soldiers could and would deal brutally with any uprising.  The Jewish leaders would not have to be concerned about losing their place due to a riot.  Furthermore, the Romans would do it that very day, before the news spread and the people had time to respond.

They totally missed the fact that by turning Him over to be crucified, rather than stoning Him, they were fulfilling even more prophecies proving Him to be the Messiah.  Remember, Jesus started the events in motion when He sent Judas out to do quickly what he would do. This was HIS timing.

But Pilate was reluctant to cooperate; he sent Jesus off to Herod, to let Herod deal with Him under the weak argument that Jesus was from Galilee and therefore one of Herod's subjects.  But Herod really didn't want to deal with it, and, frustrated that Jesus would not so much as answer him, he and his soldiers ridiculed Him and beat Him and sent Him back to Pilate.

Meantime, word had begun to spread and people were gathering.   But just who these people were is something of a mystery.  Were they the same people who had sung Hosanna to Jesus just a few days earlier? The ones who came to the temple every day to hear Him teach?  Or were they people known to be suspicious of Jesus, who were friends and allies of the leaders who had brought Jesus to Pilate?

John only mentions the chief priests 'and their officials' as being the people that Pilate is bargaining with, there is a number of them, to be sure, but he does not mention a crowd of people. The synoptics do imply a crowd of people had assembled, but state that the leaders had already influenced them to shout for Jesus' death.  Either way, the fix was in.

Pilate still tried to get the Jewish leaders to agree to releasing Jesus.  He offered them a deal he thought they couldn't refuse...he would release either Jesus or Barabbas, who was a violent criminal scheduled for crucifixion that day. But to his surprise and disgust, the people...whoever they were...insisted that Barabbas should be released. Fail.

Pilate tried one more time, thinking perhaps that if Jesus were shown to be weak and ineffectual, those so opposed to Him would relent, and had Jesus scourged.

But Pilate failed there, also.  When Jesus was brought before them for the last time,  after being beaten several times throughout the night and scourged by the Romans, in the mock king's robe,  bloody and battered and virtually unrecognizable, there may very well have been people in the crowd who had sung Hosanna but now felt cheated and deceived...this was the one they believed would throw off the Roman oppression? 

But the majority of the people were following the script provided for them by the leadership. 'Crucify Him!'

Pilate still held back, until the Jewish leaders played the Caesar card, essentially threatening that he would be held a traitor by Rome if he didn't crucify this upstart king...and Pilate washed his hands and handed Jesus over for crucifixion.

There are people who try to explain later events by saying that Jesus passed out on the cross and was mistakenly determined to be dead...and recovered in the tomb.  Because, they say, death from crucifixion takes days, not hours.  But they are overlooking the fact that Jesus was grievously wounded before He was even put on the cross.  He already had injuries that could possibly be fatal. He had already lost a good deal of blood.  The wonder is not that He died so quickly...but that He survived, and kept his wits, long enough to recognize the point at which everything had been accomplished...He had done everything that had been prophesied about Him...and declare 'It is finished!'

He had nothing whatever to do with fulfilling the prophecy that He would be laid in a new tomb.  But it was fulfilled...and the Jewish leaders managed to get Pilate to seal the tomb and set a guard to prevent a false resurrection.  It's ironic that they understood Jesus to say He would be resurrected, while His own disciples were not expecting it.

The first time I read, and comprehended, Luke's account of the eye contact between Jesus and Peter as the rooster crowed, I was undone.  Jesus knew exactly where Peter was and looked at him.  Peter had just done the thing he swore he would never do...he had failed.  But Jesus knew, and in spite of what was happening to Him, he looked at Peter.  When have I failed Jesus?  Did I know He was looking at me?  That He wanted to remind me that He knows?  That He intercedes for me, that I will strengthen others when I have turned back from the failure?

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