Friday, April 3, 2015

What About that Other Guy?

I'm reading this morning in Mark, chapter 15, of the Holy Bible. Mark is retelling the story of Jesus of Nazareth before Pontius Pilate, and the Pharisees, Chief Priests, Sanhedrin and other religious leaders are wanting Pilate to just kill.him.already! But Pilate is listening to this guy standing before him. He's asking questions of Him and wondering why He won't defend Himself. I can't help but think there must have been a peace that oozed from Jesus throughout His life. How can you be GOD sent to earth as MAN and not know tremendous peace (the kind that defies definition)?

So, imagine with me if you will....Palace court - lots of people because a) the Pharisees are delivering Jesus to Pilate,  and they want to see what's going to happen, but even moreso because b) this is the day that Pilate will release a prisoner from all charges. Really, it's a day of grace. Huh. How appropriate that the very One who offers grace to all would suffer the least amount of grace on this day......Selah (pause, let that sink in...)

The crowd is filled with people from all walks of life.

You have the Pharisees and religious leaders (those RELIGIOUS people we still grow frustrated with in their piety and self-righteous wisdom of what is "supposed" to be done according to the law.) These are men proud of their standing and the praises they receive simply because they are men of Scriptural Knowledge. (that should be said in your head with reverb and feedback to make it more dramatic) They pride themselves not on their humility before God, but on the wisdom people think they have and their superiority to all others.

Then you have those who are followers of those leaders. This guy who calls himself Jesus is actually starting to succeed at changing the world around them. The minions are starting to see the injustice and lack of equality stemming from the teachings of the Pharisees. The scriptures are held only by those who are "worthy" and saying they're open to everyone?! I can almost hear them saying, "We follow you, oh Pharisee! You have the knowledge this simple man can certainly not ever attain! He's one of us! He sucks just like we do! He needs don't need HIM!" So they follow and do whatever those sightless leaders say.

In another area you've got the family and friends (and fellow insurrectionists) of Barabbas, a prisoner, wondering if he will be set free. They're talking amongst themselves wondering if their family member has been behaving well enough to warrant Pilate's favor and release. They may or may not know this Jesus, but what they're all about is whether they'll be able to walk home with their felonous family intact. They're watching the crowd and seeing what's going on with this other guy, but they have one goal in mind.

Then you have Jesus's followers. Those who know and believe He truly is the Son of God come to earth as man. They believed in their hearts that He IS The Messiah Isaiah and the other prophets of old spoke of. Imagine being there...knowing Jesus and His beautiful, compassionate, loving of all people but refusing to tolerate sin heart...and wondering how it would ever be possible that Pontius Pilate would send Him to prison, let alone sentence Him to death!

And standing behind Pilate is the prisoner the people had requested the freedom of, Barabbas. Before him stands this simple carpenter with a peace about Him that makes no sense in the realm of what's going on and what He's being accused of. It is not one of defeat, but one of purpse and understanding. An acknowledgement in His Spirit that He is exactly where He needs to be to fulfill the plan of His Father. I believe Jesus had a tremendous sense of humor and laughed a lot in His 33 years, but I cannot fathom that He was joyful in this moment. Resolved is a word that comes to mind - in human terms it makes me think of a parent who resolves to do whatever needs to be done to save their child from a life of poor choices and ultimate ruin. There is a quiet strength that cannot be budged.

Pilate. It almost makes me laugh to think of what he must have been thinking. First of all..."WHO is this guy whose hands are obviously those of a common worker with callouses and blisters calling himself the KING??!!" Then, as he encounters Him more personally "defend yourself, MAN! I can see You're a true man of this God you speak of, and they're just jealous, but give me a reason to go against them!" He asks Jesus if He really is the King of the Jews and Jesus's response? "It is as you say." Pilate could not possibly have been expecting that answer! Maybe an "OF COURSE I AM YOU FOOL!" or maybe a "HOW CAN YOU NOT SEE IT?? DUH!"  But a humble and forthright, "It is as you say?" So then it's almost as if he tries again..."Do you not see all the charges against you? Why don't you answer?" (again "defend yourself, man!!! come ON!")

But Jesus.

But Jesus stood without defiance, without malice, without chagrine. Jesus stood firm in WHO. HE. IS.

...and Pilate was amazed.

Amazed. To stand in awe of. To lack comprehension of the magnitude of. To see and know this is bigger than one could imagine.

Oh, but don't forget that prisoner! Barabbas was his name. A murderer and insurrectionist. (I had to look this word up. I have a general understanding of someone standing up against government, but wanted to get the full story for the sake of understanding exactly who this guy was.) HE was an anarchist. He wanted no governmental authority ruling his life. He was a rebel and resisted the entirety of this man, Pontius Pilate, who held his future in his hand.

I have never thought about this before. Never thought about the enormity of what the choice going on here! Jesus wasn't up against some petty thief. He was up against a man who despised everything about Pontius Pilate and his court...his rule...his governing body. Do you really think Pilate is ready and willing to let this guy go? Do you really think Pilate was looking between Jesus and Barabbas and saying "yeah. this guy Jesus is obviously the most detrimental to my kingdom. Barabbas, ha! What's he gonna do if I let him go? Plot to kill me? Woop-de-doo! This guy Jesus is So. Much. Worse!" ???  I can't believe that. I would have to think Pontius Pilate is wanting like crazy to keep the crazy anarchist lunatic locked up where he can see him while he continues to rule the land.

Mark even points out that Pilate has seen through the smokescreen of the Pharisees and Sanhedrin. He sees Jesus is here only because they are jealous of him and are out for the purposes of their own selves.

Maybe the Chief Priests noticed the smirk on Pilate's face as he looked at them and asked, "Do you want me to release the King of the Jews?" and they freaked out a bit. So they did what they do best - they stirred the pot. They got the people stirred up and shouted "CRUCIFY HIM!"

Can you see Pilate's inner struggle? Sighing on the inside as he asks, "But WHY? What crime has He committed?"

The Pharisees could not care less. Literally. They have a care bucket where Jesus is concerned and it is E M P T Y....emmmmmm-p-teeeeee.

"CRUCIFY HIM! CRUCIFY HIM! CRUCIFY HIM!!!" They turn to the crowd and swing their arms up in a "louder! louder!" motion and yell "CRU-CI-FY HIM!"

Did Pilate look at Jesus then? Did he look to see if this King of the Jews was showing defeat and a willingness to fight for His life? I don't know and the Bible doesn't say anything more on that, but what it does say speaks volumes of the character of a person who is about themselves and their popularity more than justice and truth.

Mark says, speaking of Pilate, "Wanting to satisfy the crowd.................."

Doesn't that just make you sick to your stomach??? So many instances in today's world of the same injustices and we get all up in arms, rightly so, but this! THIS IS THE SON OF GOD!!!!! And JESUS CHRIST stood there......condemned to die because Pontius Pilate didn't want to be in the bad graces of the Sanhedrin, Pharisees, Chief Priests and other people like him.

Did you catch that? "...other people like him." Birds of a feather flock together. You scratch my back, I'll scratch yours, and all those other cheap cliche's that put my Savior to death.

So Barabbas went free.

And Jesus went to the blood-thirsty hounds called Pilate's henchmen.

And if this was all the story there was this would NOT be a Good Friday in the least.

The Pharisees and their cronies walked away self-satisfied and self-righteous.

The family of Barabbas cheered and hugged and went on their merry way.

The crowd of Jesus lovers wept and fell to their feet in disbelief.

THIS was NOT how it was supposed to happen!!

Just the Sunday before He experienced this:

Today, though. Today brings this:

"For My thoughts are not your thoughts. Neither are My ways your ways." declares the Lord." -Isaiah 55:8

In our minds THIS is NOT how it was supposed to happen. 

I have one final question for you....

Do you think Barabbas was amazed by grace that day?