Thursday, June 23, 2011

Lesson 26: “To This End Was I Born”, Matt 26, Mark 14, Luke 22, John 18

Lesson 26: “To This End Was I Born”,
Matt 26, Mark 14, Luke 22, John 18

The lesson discusses the betrayal, trial and crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Each event is a tragic comedy of errors as the ensuing events represent not only Jesus being betrayed, but all things good.

First, as Jesus prayed in Gethsemane in one of his most difficult times, he asked his disciples to pray with him. Yet they slept.

Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss, which is a key symbol of love, devotion and trust.

Trial by the Sanhedrin, the Jewish high court, was supposed to be done in the day time, as a public event. The importance of a fair trial was set in stone as part and parcel of the law set down by Moses. The accused was not to be mocked nor hit, nor was the high priest to rent or rip his clothing. No one asked Jesus if there were any witnesses for him. False witnesses were supposed to be rigorously questioned to ensure their charges were not drummed up.

Jesus, the literal Son of God, was found guilty of blasphemy. Since the Jews were not allowed by the Romans to pass the death sentence, they sent him to Pontius Pilate. In bringing Jesus to the Roman procurator, they changed the charge from blasphemy (not against Roman law) to treason. Yet Jesus had not been tried originally for treason.

Pilate ruled an unruly people. In normal times they were difficult to control with his small Roman contingency. This occurred in the middle of Passover, when perhaps a million or more people were in Jerusalem. His troops were already overwhelmed trying to keep the peace.

In questioning Jesus, he finds that Jesus is not seeking to topple Caesar, but calls himself the king of an other worldly realm: not a treasonous offense. To prevent the Jewish mobs from erupting, he chooses to send Jesus to his neighbor, King Herod Antipas.

Herod was not only Jewish, but also reigned over Galilee, where Jesus was from. Previously, Herod was responsible for John the Baptist’s death, even though Herod feared and believed John’s prophetic call. He had heard much concerning Jesus and his miracles, and now hoped to see a miracle performed. Rather than finding a bold and outspoken prophet like John, Herod found Jesus to be quiet, timid, and less than inspiring. Herod mocked him and returned him back to Pilate for trial.

Pilate tried to convince the mobs to release Jesus. Traditionally, the Roman procurator would release one prisoner to the people on Passover. He offered a choice between Jesus and Barabbas. Barabbas was on trial for treason. As a member of the Zealot sect, he sought to violently overthrow the Roman occupation using murder and mayhem as his weapons. It is possible he was viewed as a militant messiah, as many Jews believed the coming Messiah would free them from Roman bondage. Meanwhile, Jesus was the Prince of Peace, the true Messiah. Instead of leading uprisings and rebellions with murder, he healed the sick and preached love and repentance.

The name Barabbas can be read as Bar Abba, or Son of Father (God). So, Pilate offered the Jews a choice between the Son of God and the literal Son of God. The Jewish mobs chose the imitation Savior.

Jesus was led away to be brutally whipped, mocked and tortured by the Roman soldiers, prior to crucifixion. The soldiers beat him, placed a crown of skin-piercing thorns on Jesus’ head, and placed a purple robe of royalty upon him. They mockingly bowed before him, then slapped him many times. Little did they know that the day would come when every knee would bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is the Lord.

In being crucified, the perfectly harmless and innocent Son of God was given the capitol punishment reserved for the most wicked and evil. Crucifixion was not the only form of death given by the Romans. It was the most severe and public, so as to show the people what happened to those who committed heinous crimes.

While soldiers selfishly divided his clothes at his nailed feet, he focused his attentions elsewhere: “Mother, behold thy son”, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” The two thieves on either side of Jesus seemed to magnify the disparity between good and evil occurring on that fateful day. One thief mocking him and demanding to be saved, not understanding that Jesus was virtually saving him as he cursed. The other thief recognizing his own sins and that through faith he would be saved. Even as with the young Alma, this thief had experienced hell, but through repentance and faith would escape torment and hell, being saved in Jesus Christ (Alma 36).

Finally, after hours of pain, thirst and suffering, Jesus would meet his most difficult moment. Throughout his ministry, Jesus had God’s strength and power with him. God pronounced his Son at Jesus’ baptism, and again on the Mount of Transfiguration. Even while praying in agony at Gethsemane, God sent Jesus an angel to strengthen him. While Jesus was always there for his apostles, and is always there for us, he would not be given the same in return.

His apostles having deserted him and his mother sent away, only the disbelieving Romans and the apostate Jews remained to watch him on the cross. Still, God remained with him up to the last moments.

But now, he would be absolutely alone. “Father, why hast thou forsaken me?” A necessary step in bringing to pass the atonement was for Jesus to face the pains and sins of this world all alone, and without the spiritual guidance or strength of Heavenly Father. God fully withdrew his presence.

No longer protected by his Father’s love and strength, the utter most depths of hell roared up to meet Jesus. But for a few moments he needed to endure this. To rise above all, he first had to descend below all things. In order to save any of us from the blackest of eternal nights, he first had to go there. Alone.
Moments of agony passed. He endured and triumphed. Reaching the climax of his mission, he simply said, “Father, it is finished. Thy will be done.”

And he died.


Joanne said...

Can you please give me a reference for your teaching that"since the Romans did not allow the Jews to issue a death sentence, they took him to Pilate."

I am not questioning the statement. I fact I passed this along to my Gospel Doctrine class. However, I was stymied 3 weeks later when I taught the lesson about Stephen being stoned to death after his appearance before the Sanhedrin. The point was also brought up that the adulterous woman was condemned to stoning by the Jewish authorities as well. One learned scriptorian graced us with the following pontification, "The Sanhedrin COULD in fact issue the death sentence for rabbinical offenses such as adultery or blasphemy. They just didn't want Jesus' blood on their hands, so they took him before Pilate." I was left quite speechless and of course am looking for redemption and the information to back up my position. However, I will eat humble pie if necessary.

rameumptom said...

Joanne, great question. There are some scholars who believe that the Sanhedrin could pass a death sentence. Most, however, do not.

The Sanhedrin could find someone worthy of death, but under Roman law were supposed to get approval by the Romans first. As we see in Jewish history, the Jews often ignored such a requirement, and ended up in two rebellions against Rome (70AD, 135AD).

Stephen was killed by a mob headed up by the Sanhedrin. We do not see in his case any official pronouncement of guilt by the Sanhedrin, only that when he looked up and saw Christ on God's right hand, the mob took him and stoned him. Roman law required a cross examination for any death sentence, for example. Obviously, as in other places in the Roman Empire with Paul, people took it upon themselves to lynch their enemies before the Romans could show up.
As for Jesus and the adulterous woman, the Savior knew they were trying to catch him in a conflict. If he declared the woman to be stoned, he went against Roman law that Jews could not condemn a person to death. If he declared some other judgment, he would abrogate the Law of Moses. The Jews who posed the question thought they had him in a no win situation: rebellion against the Law of Moses or the Law of Rome.

That the Sanhedrin condemned Jesus to death for blasphemy, but then took him to Pilate under the order of treason, along with the issue of the adulterous woman, strongly suggests to me that the Roman requirement was only they could approve the death penalty. Given that, it is possible that the Romans looked the other way, or allowed the death penalty under certain circumstances. For instance, several Roman Emperors hated Christians and didn't care if they were slaughtered in the streets. It may be that during Paul's period of intense Christian persecution (which included Stephen's death) that the Jews were given more Roman leeway towards ppunishing and killing Christians.

Here are some links to consider:
Women in the Bible

Here is one that argues that the Sanhedrin may have had some authority for the death penalty at least during some periods of time under the Romans:
Trial of Jesus

Joanne said...

Thank you for your response and the links for further enlightenment. Scripture study, like parenting,is not a black and white proposition is it?

rameumptom said...

Not black and white at all. But that's how it is supposed to be. If it were all black and white, we wouldn't need personal revelation or study to grow and develop ourselves. It is in the study of the "what ifs" that we often find God....

And that goes with parenting, also. Little children sometimes reveal God to us as we work with them.