Tag Archives: Pontius Pilate

Unafraid

Meditations on the Psalms

I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around.(Psalm 3:6 ESV)

Jesus faced both great acclaim and heated opposition throughout His earthly ministry. Those who hated Him included the Deceiver, who did everything possible to frustrate, obstruct and stop His ministry, and the religious leaders of the nation. These religious leaders hated Jesus because He challenged their authority and position of leadership over the people. In addition, the Roman’s hated anyone, not particularly Jesus, who might incite the people under their dominion to rebel against Rome and the emperor.

Those who opposed Jesus were not just politically or religiously motivated. There were many who simply did not care about Him. Or, they cared about His words and ideas for a moment but when He confronted their covetous attitude toward what they considered their stuff, they would turn their backs upon Him and walk away. They cared more for their place in the world than their place in eternity.

God tells us to not be afraidof those who oppose Him because Jesus was not afraid of them. Afraid means to dread, fear, stand in awe, as well as to have reverence and to honor. To setthemselves against means to station, to take a stand, to lay waste, fix their mind in opposition to whatever Jesus represents or commands be done. Those who are hostile toward the authority of the King of kings, either actively fight against Him or passively ignore Him. In either case, their actions, or inactions, destroy the foundation of the relationship they have with God.

We have already seen those who mutiny against God will come to a physical and spiritual end. Their defiant words and works are judged and they are sentenced, then separated from God, the Giver of life. His judgment is a completed action from eternity, yet still works out in space-time history. For God it is done. For those living in the world it will be done but is not yet completed. Jesus was not afraid to stand before the religious leaders, Herod and Pilate, because He foreknew the outcome. He willingly endured the torture of crucifixion because He knew the final and absolute results brought the greatest glory to God.

During Jesus’ ministry, He chose and trained twelve disciples. These disciples, whom He also called apostles, were given responsibility to exercise authority in His name. “And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction” (Matthew 10:1 ESV; see also Mark 3:13-15, Luke 6:12-16). As Jesus trained them He was forthright in telling them what they would face and endure. Their and our temptations and trials are myriad and used to test. God does not test anyone to discover what they know. He tests so we can discover what we do not know, especially about Him. Throughout our training we are His and there is no reason to fear.

So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. (Matthew 10:26-31 ESV; see Luke 12:4-7)

Jesus’ disciples, throughout history, whomever they are and whenever they live, stand before those in worldly authority and give testimony about Him. Instead of removing us from the world He leaves us to declare, through words and actions, the evidence of His grace in the gospel. He also leaves us in the world to train and fit us for eternity. Being a Christian in the world brings trails and persecutions. The thinking of our hearts is on full display before the world and before God as we face the same opposition Jesus endured.

Fear is both debilitating and freeing. When we fear we can see that which is in the thinking of our heart. Fearing the world tells us we do not trust God and want that which the world offers more than what God gives. When we fear God, by honoring Him as Creator, placing Him first, then nothing we encounter in this world can potentially or actually remove us from His presence.

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To Sleep and Awake

Meditations on the Psalms

I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me. (Psalm 3:5 ESV)

In the midst of a battle, a life and death struggle, the Psalmist knows of rest in the One He trust. He is under attack, facing death. His enemies taunt Him, saying God will not save Him, or cannot save Him. In His agony He cries out to God, who answers Him with rest.

When the Psalmist, who is Jesus speaking through King David, says “I lay down and slept”what does He mean? To lay down means just that, to be placed in a physically prone position. Sleptmay just be to sleep, as in taking a rest at night, to store up for the next day. Yet, the word is also a euphemism for death (see Psalm 13:3). When Moses was told he would die, God said “behold, you are about to lie down with your fathers” (Deuteronomy 31:16 ESV). Both Jesus and Paul refer to sleep as death (see John 11:11-14). “That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died (sleep)” (1 Corinthians 11:30 ESV).

Jesus did not swoon while on the cross. When He was laid in the tomb, He was not unconscious or resting in a coma. The physical trauma inflicted upon Him by the Roman soldiers ended His life. He died. Too many people who knew death saw Him dead and handled His dead body.

Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the corpse to Joseph. And Joseph bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock. And he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. (Mark 15:43-46 ESV)

Jesus did not stay dead. He spoke to His disciples beforehand about His death and about His resurrection. “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised”(Luke 9:22 ESV; see also Luke 18:34, see Mark 8:31, 9:32, 10:33-34, 16:21, Luke 24:7). Jesus’ death and resurrection did not surprise Him and should not have surprised His disciples.

After laying down to sleep, after dying, the Psalmist says I woke again, which means to rouse from sleep, to abruptly awaken, but is also a euphemism for the resurrection. Job uses the word woke, or awake, to show once death has taken hold there is no rousing from it. “As waters fail from a lake and a river wastes away and dries up, so a man lies down and rises not again; till the heavens are no more he will not awake or be roused out of his sleep”(Job 14:11-12 ESV). Daniel prophecies that those who sleep will awake (woke)to judgment. “And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt”(Daniel 12:2 ESV).

Jesus’ resurrection is foundational to faith for the Christian. It is reasonable, intellectually stimulating and sound, supported by substantial evidence, and shows the love of God for His people. For Jesus, the resurrection was accomplished from eternity. Nothing could hinder the Son of God from completing that which He decided from before the sin of Adam and before the creation of the world.

We need to understand God sustained Him throughout His earthly ministry and passion. The word sustained means to support, put, uphold, lean upon, brace oneself, refresh, revive. God kept Him for Himself and nothing the Deceiver would do, nothing the world could do, no temptation or torture would remove Him from God. Jesus knew intimately throughout His physical life, during the process of dying and in the tomb, that God sustained Him.

Here is the rub. That which God has done for His Son He will do for those who are in His Son, who are identified with Him because of His work. Faith is the conduit though which God delivers to the Christian that which the Christian needs to live for God in an ungodly world. The object of faith must be God and His Son. We rest in Him.

Persecution

Meditations on the Psalms

how many are my foes! Many are rising against me; many are saying of my soul,there is no salvation for him in God. (Psalm 3:1-2 ESV)

Even when surrounded by His enemies, Jesus never complains but looks to God for His deliverance. Foes means narrow and tight, an adversary, enemy or oppressor who is in close quarters. His enemies are rising or standing against Him with murderous hostility. Many is two different words. First, many means to increase, as in a mob of people that grows the longer it exists. Secondly, many means abounding, numerous, strong and great. Both words convey the thought everyone is against the One who is praying. Peoples and nations thunder in anger against the Lord, led and taught to do so by the kings and rulers of nations. “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD and against his Anointed” (Psalm 2:1-2).

Just as there is a tri-level, parallel statement describing the ungodly in Psalm 1, so there is a tri-level, parallel statement of those who seek to kill the Lord’s Anointed in this Psalm. Jesus’ first exclamation is to identify those who are seeking to murder Him, His many foes, followed by the truth of their rising up against Him followed by their mocking and ridiculing Him.

Jesus faced these three worldly reactions to His divine presence while nailed to a cross. Great crowds of people, including the religious leaders who condemned Him, came to watch the spectacle of a crucifixion. Plus, the place where the Romans crucified their victims was on a major road into Jerusalem. Travel wasn’t convenient at that time. This was the road many people had to use to enter and leave their capital city for commerce or religious reason.

While hanging helplessly on the cross, Jesus endured verbal abuse from the religion leaders instrumental in having Him murdered by the Romans. They mocked Him throughout His ministry and during His trial before the High Priest. They brought false testimony against Him to justify their actions. They knew His words and works and still mocked Him as He hung, tortured and dying, on the cross. “And the people stood by, watching, but the rulers scoffed at him, saying, ‘He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!’” (Luke 23:35 ESV; see Matthew 27:28-43, Mark 15:29-32).

There was a second group of mockers at the foot of the cross. Pilate wrote and placed a placard and instructed the guards to hang it  over Jesus’ head while on the cross. “This is the King of the Jews” (Luke 23:38 ESV; see Matthew 27:37, Mark 15:26, John 19:19-22). Pilate specifically asked if Jesus thought He was the king of the Jews during His part of the kangaroo trial. The placard was an insult to the Jewish people. It suggested a crazy man was hanging below it on the cross. In addition, those directed by Pilate to crucify people had no political acumen or understanding of what they were doing. Trained to view people as objects, the soldiers heaped abuse on the Man. “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” (Luke 23:37 ESV).

Jesus hung on a cross between two men found guilty of crimes against the people and empire of Rome. We do not know their crimes. “Two others, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left” (Luke 23:32-33 ESV; see Matthew 27:38, Mark 15: 27-28, John 19:18). One of the condemned criminals took up the chant of the religious leaders and Roman soldiers, chiding and mocking Jesus as He died with them. “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” (Luke 23:39 ESV).

What is the taunt hurled at Jesus while on the Cross. It is what He prayed as revealed in the Psalm. “Many are saying of my soul, there is no salvation for him in God.”

The other criminal did not taunt Jesus but saw Him as innocent and undeserving of torture and death. “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” (Luke 23:40-41 ESV). He then spoke to Jesus, believing the Man dying on a cross next to him, dying as he would die, was the King of kings. “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” (Luke 23:42 ESV).

Jesus did not come to save Himself from the cross but to save everyone from the wrath of God and eternal separation from the absolute source of life. Jesus promised the man dying next to Him “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43 ESV). Only God can deliver on such a promise.

Sinless One

Meditations on the Psalms

Blessed is the man … nor stands in the way of sinners (Psalm 1:1 ESV)

Secondly, the person who is righteous before God is not a sinner. He is sinless. Sinners are those with the predisposition and internal bent to rebel. There whole being is built to fight against God. They can do nothing but defy God. They are on a road leading them away from God. To stand in the way of the sinner is to be on the road which leads away from God.

Nor does this blessed Man stand with the attitude of, or being the servant of, those who move purposefully away from God. The way is that which defines them, not just their lifestyle, whose journey and manner of living is as a sinner. To stand is to steadfastly take an unmovable position where, no matter the assault, the person will not budge. They are intractable. Whatever it is that sinners do, the blessed man does the opposite.

When Jesus was tried by the world, the second of the three juries was the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate. He was a leader of convenience, caring nothing for anyone but himself. Pilate is mentioned only a few times in the Gospels and then mostly during the trial of Jesus. Luke tells us Pilate was the Governor of Judea (see Luke 3:1). Jesus was told Pilate slaughtered a group of Galileans and mingled their blood with a sacrifice yet Jesus did not focus on the outrage of the Governor but on the reality of sin and the need for repentance.

There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:1-3 ESV)

All four Gospels record the interaction between Pilate and Jesus. Perhaps the most revealing exchange is when Pilate asked Jesus a sarcastic and disingenuous question. Jesus told the Governor those who love and embrace truth would follow Him. Pilate contemptuously asked “what is truth?” (John 18:38 ESV). Jesus did not answer him, nor does Scripture suggest Pilate waited for an answer. He cared nothing for truth, deciding to do what he wanted without being encumbered by moral obligation.

Pilate declared Jesus innocent yet, at the insistence of the Jewish leaders, had Him scourged and crucified. Turning Jesus over to the Roman guard, who equally cared nothing of a man’s guilt or innocence, Jesus was cruelly mocked before they tortured Him to death.

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!” Then he released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, delivered him to be crucified.

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole battalion before him. And they stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on his head and put a reed in his right hand. And kneeling before him, they mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they spit on him and took the reed and struck him on the head. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him and led him away to crucify him. (Matthew 27:24-31 ESV)

Pontius Pilate shows the depths of the hold of sin on human nature. Pilate stood in judgment against the Son of God, found Him innocent and then put Him to death. Pilate obstinately stood on his sin, on the path moving away from God, even when confronted with absolute truth and the Son of God in the flesh.