5th Midweek Lent Service
Grace, mercy, and peace are yours from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, “I can’t believe I’m hearing you say that!” Perhaps you’ve said that to someone before. Maybe your parents who’ve always been very frugal and careful with their money tell you they are going to go on some lavish vacation. Or maybe your teenage daughter at one moment said she hated all boys and the next is telling you about a boy she likes. “I can’t believe I’m hearing you say that!” But it’s even worse when someone completely undermines everything that they’ve stood for because it’s advantageous to them. If you’re not already tired of the political ads you better get used them. Politicians can be known for this. All of a sudden a politician totally changes their position based on the political climate because it’s more advantageous for them to do so. And you better believe their opponents aren’t going to be shy in pointing out their flip-flop positions. Well, tonight, in our Lenten series the Ironies of the passion, we’re looking at such a flip flop. Pontius Pilate could have easily said, “I can’t believe I’m hearing you say that!” at what the Jewish leaders told him.
It didn’t take Pilate long to figure out that the only thing that Jesus was guilty of was making the Jewish leaders jealous. They had brought Jesus to Pilate early in the morning to try and persuade him to execute Jesus. Pilate was, of course, the Roman governor. He didn’t really care about the Jews. His allegiance was to Rome. He wasn’t about to let these Jewish leaders dictate to him what he should do. So the Jews are trying to argue and manipulate Pilate to do what they wanted. So, here we have two totally different sides and they’re both arguing about Jesus.
Pilate was a Roman, a Gentile, he probably knew a little bit about the Jewish religion, but really couldn’t care much less. He was loyal to Rome, his job was simply to enforce Roman law, collect Roman taxes, protect Roman borders. All he cared about was what the rulers in Rome thought of him. The Jewish leaders were different in about every way. They considered all Gentiles to be unclean and not worth their time, they could’ve cared less about Roman law or the survival of the Roman empire, given the chance they would have split from the Roman government and set up their own kingdom in a heartbeat.
Pilate knew that Jesus was perfectly innocent, so he tried in a number of ways to set him free. He tried releasing one prisoner- either Jesus or a notorious criminal, he had Jesus flogged in hopes they would feel sorry for him, he sent him to Herod – like we heard last week, he argued with the Jewish leaders. But he couldn’t escape this point that they made about Jesus: He claimed to be a king. That meant that he was in rebellion against Caesar. Never mind that they didn’t consider Jesus to be a spiritual and eternal king, not political and earthly. So, if Pilate set him free, that would mean Pilate was taking the enemy’s side. Jesus had to be crucified- that’s what the Romans said, that forced a public trial and then when Pilate said, “Shall I crucify your king?” They answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” That sealed the deal, Pilate had to send Jesus to die.
You see, the only way that Pilate could’ve resisted this drive to murder Jesus would’ve been if he himself was willing to risk everything for Jesus. His reputation, his career, even his very life. But in the end, Pilate would not risk it to save an innocent man. That’s human nature isn’t it? You take care of yourself first. You look out for number one first. What would you have done? We like to think that if we were there with all this going on, we would have stuck up for Jesus. Really? That would mean our lives would be on the line too. What about everyday life? What are you willing to risk for Jesus? What are you willing to sacrifice for him? Are you willing to sacrifice your time with other things so you can spend some time with Him and His Word? Are you willing to sacrifice a friendship in order to remain faithful to God’s Word and command? What are you willing to sacrifice for Jesus? Or, what are you willing to sacrifice for the good of others? Pilate wasn’t going to sacrifice his well-being for someone else. The core of Christian love is sacrificing ourselves for others. Are you willing to sacrifice your wants, desires, hopes and dreams for your spouse’s good? Are you willing to sacrifice money, effort, energy to listen to someone who is hurting, to help someone who is in trouble? What are you willing sacrifice for Jesus? For others?
I guess it all comes down to exactly what the chief priests said here, doesn’t it? “We have no king but Caesar.” They hated the Romans, despised the Romans, they never would have dreamed this thought would pass through their lips. What they were really saying is that they were rejecting their real king, Jesus is the true King, not just of Israel, but of the world.
In every person’s heart there is a king. There is a Caesar that rules our hopes and our dreams. There is a king for whom we steer our lives and work for. Who is that king? It ought to be Jesus, His love and His Word, but is it? Our king is our true allegiance in life and for our king –whatever it may be – we’re willing to sacrifice. Pilate’s king was his position, his reputation, his career. The chief priests, though they said it was Caesar, was really their own power and influence. Who is your king? Pleasure, convenience, an easy life, money, wealth, success, reputation?
It isn’t any of those. Your real King is Jesus, your Savior. You know what He did? He could have stopped this whole mock trial, this whole injustice at any point. HE could have saved HIS own skin, very easily. But here’s the irony of it all, He didn’t. He endure it all, he remained silent when this greatest injustice ever was taking place, he submitted to death – even death on a cross. Why so? So that His perfect, self-sacrificing love is counted as yours, God looks at Jesus and says that you and I have always loved God and always loved one-another because Jesus did. God counts Jesus death as your death – your sins wiped away forever, your guilt gone forever. Jesus is your real king.
In every person’s heart there is a king. What’s your king? By God’s grace God has put a new king in your heart. Yes, there are rivals, there are temptations, but Jesus is your real King- He rules with His message of love and grace. Keep Him king in your heart. Amen.