Celebrating 25 years online! 1996-2021
NOTE: This is a written version of the message I delivered on August 2, 2015.
Last month, I was wondering what my next sermon topic would be and a wise woman suggested going to scripture. That's always a good place to go to address our wondering and our questions. I had been reading last month in Luke 23 and noticed some things in the first 25 verses. The context is Jesus is taken before Pilate and then Herod just before being Crucified. Let's read and walk through the text:
1 Then the whole body of them got up and brought Him before Pilate. 2 And they began to accuse Him, saying, "We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, and saying that He Himself is Christ, a King."
The scene opens in verse 1 and the whole assembly from the Sanhedrin was against Him. Verse 2 has a false accusation. Those of the Sanhedrin referred to Jesus as a "man misleading our nation and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar," but that couldn't be further from the truth! What did Jesus say about paying taxes to Caesar? Just a couple of chapters before this one, Luke 20:19-25 (NASB) answers the question:
The scribes and the chief priests tried to lay hands on Him that very hour, and they feared the people; for they understood that He spoke this parable against them. So they watched Him, and sent spies who pretended to be righteous, in order that they might catch Him in some statement, so that they could deliver Him to the rule and the authority of the governor. They questioned Him, saying, "Teacher, we know that You speak and teach correctly, and You are not partial to any, but teach the way of God in truth. Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?" But He detected their trickery and said to them, "Show Me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?" They said, "Caesar's." And He said to them, "Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's."
Back to Jesus being before his accusers, we see clearly from the larger context of Scripture that the accusers were liars. It is interesting to note that Satan means adversary or accuser. Satan is also referred to as the "father of lies" in John 8:44 (NASB), the Greek literally saying he is the "father of it" (πατηρ αυτου → pater autou → "father" "of it")source referring to the aforementioned lie - the falsehood (ψευδος → pseudos → "falsehood")source he speaks. And Satan has been speaking lies ever since he spoke to Eve: "The serpent said to the woman, 'You surely will not die!'" (Genesis 3:4, NASB). Did Adam and Eve fall? Did they die? Yes and yes. Satan is the father of lies and even the word Satan means accuser. Jesus' accusers were also liars. They were truly satanic.
As we return to the text, we encounter the first words of Pilate:
3 So Pilate asked Him, saying, "Are You the King of the Jews?" And He answered him and said, "It is as you say."
Pilate asked a question and Jesus answered plainly. It is interesting to observe that Jesus didn't respond to the false accusations, the lies, but He did speak the truth plainly. Jesus was true. Jesus is true. Jesus was trustworthy. Jesus is trustworthy. He is the King of the Jews, the promised Messiah.
What happened next?
4 Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, "I find no guilt in this man." 5 But they kept on insisting, saying, "He stirs up the people, teaching all over Judea, starting from Galilee even as far as this place."
These verses (4-5) show the conflict between Pilate's gut feelings and the insistence of the accusers. Pilate was not at peace. He found no guilt in Jesus, but he felt pressure from the crowds - the chief priests and people. Pilate had an opportunity to make a decision. So do we. What are you lending yourself to that pressures you? To whom are you lending an ear? Should you be? Are you spending yourself foolishly or are you resting in truth and acting accordingly?
As the scene progresses, we all know that Pilate does not stand for truth and gives in to the crowd. It is interesting from the verses I just read that the chief priests mentioned Galilee. Was this just a mere tidbit or a distraction? The text shows Pilate's response:
6 When Pilate heard it, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. 7 And when he learned that He belonged to Herod's jurisdiction, he sent Him to Herod, who himself also was in Jerusalem at that time.
Even if not intended to be a distraction, Galilee became that for Pilate for this indecisive governor saw it as an escape, an attempt to not take responsibility for his actions and instead send Jesus to Herod. What are your distractions? What keeps you from focusing on the truth and acting on it as you need to? What responsibilities are you surrendering?
Now the scene changes with Jesus before Herod Agrippa:
8 Now Herod was very glad when he saw Jesus; for he had wanted to see Him for a long time, because he had been hearing about Him and was hoping to see some sign performed by Him.
Why was Herod glad? What was Herod's motive and why did he want to see Jesus for a long time? He wanted to see Jesus perform a miraculous sign. What did Jesus say earlier in His ministry about looking for a sign? He said in the Scriptures (Luke 11:29 and Matthew 16:4) that a "wicked" generation looks for a sign. The Greek literally says this generation is"ponera" (πονηρα)source meaning "an evil." Herod, too, was wicked and was "an evil." And Herod would die for his wickedness in Acts 12:21-23 (NASB):
On an appointed day Herod, having put on his royal apparel, took his seat on the rostrum and began delivering an address to them. The people kept crying out, "The voice of a god and not of a man!" And immediately an angel of the Lord struck him because he did not give God the glory, and he was eaten by worms and died.
This evil Herod questioned Jesus:
9 And he questioned Him at some length; but He answered him nothing.
Similar to His response to the false accusers, Jesus gave no reply to Herod's questioning. Were the questions even worth responding to? When you speak, it it worth listening to? When you ask, does it merit response? Are you questioning truth or proclaiming it?
Although Jesus was silent, as we return to the scene, the chief priests and scribes continued to throw accusations at Him:
10 And the chief priests and the scribes were standing there, accusing Him vehemently. 11 And Herod with his soldiers, after treating Him with contempt and mocking Him, dressed Him in a gorgeous robe and sent Him back to Pilate.
These verses show contempt and mockery. The accusers were not only there, but they were with Him when He was before Pilate and have followed Him! Jesus does not react. If we were followed - plagued - by mean-hearted false accusations, would we respond likewise? Meanwhile, Herod, a wicked man looking for a sign, allowed his soldiers to mock Jesus. The aforementioned wickedness of Herod preceding his death was that Herod denied God's glory. And here was Jesus, the very Personification of God's glory before him and Herod denies Him. The scene continues as Herod returns Jesus to Pilate:
12 Now Herod and Pilate became friends with one another that very day; for before they had been enemies with each other.
Interesting! Two former enemies became friends. Why? They both opposed Jesus. It is clearly seen with the contempt and mockery Herod showed Jesus. And how did Pilate show opposition? His inaction and indecision despite his conscience placed him against Jesus. Whether through action like contempt or through inaction through indecision, these men opposed Jesus. Are any of your actions or inactions opposing Jesus? Did you know that not making a decision is making a decision? Through your actions, what are you deciding? Through your inactions, what are you deciding? I remember young in my Christian walk when I realized that the mark of a believer wasn't just saying, "No" to sin, but also saying, "Yes" to righteousness - to good and to action. May the Holy Spirit work that out in us. Also, be careful with whom you associate. Are they for Christ or against Him? This demands decision, not indecision. Who are your friends? Whom are your for? Jesus Himself said in Luke 11:23 (NASB), "He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me, scatters."
As the scene in Luke 23 continues, There is a crossroads for Pilate, an uncomfortable place for this man of indecision. Pilate looked for an easy way out:
13 Pilate summoned the chief priests and the rulers and the people, 14 and said to them, "You brought this man to me as one who incites the people to rebellion, and behold, having examined Him before you, I have found no guilt in this man regarding the charges which you make against Him. 15 No, nor has Herod, for he sent Him back to us; and behold, nothing deserving death has been done by Him. 16 Therefore I will punish Him and release Him." 17 [Now he was obliged to release to them at the feast one prisoner.]
Repeated indecisiveness and failure to take responsibility. And this is rampant in our culture even today. However, there were some who would make a decision, a wicked one. The crowd decided. Listen to the crowd's response to Pilate:
18 But they cried out all together, saying, "Away with this man, and release for us Barabbas!" 19 (He was one who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection made in the city, and for murder.) 20 Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again, 21 but they kept on calling out, saying, "Crucify, crucify Him!" 22 And he said to them the third time, "Why, what evil has this man done? I have found in Him no guilt demanding death; therefore I will punish Him and release Him." 23 But they were insistent, with loud voices asking that He be crucified. And their voices began to prevail. 24 And Pilate pronounced sentence that their demand be granted. 25 And he released the man they were asking for who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, but he delivered Jesus to their will.
This is a showdown between wicked decisiveness and wicked indecisiveness - a face-off between the voice of the crowd and Pilate's continued lack of decisiveness. Are you standing up for God or giving in to the crowd? Pilate chose to go with the crowd. Going with the world is going the way of death (After all, the crowd wanted Barabbas, a murderer). Twice in the book of Proverbs (14:12 and 16:25), within a couple chapters of one another, the Scripture (my paraphrase) says, "There is a way that seems right unto a man, but in the end it leads to death." Are your decisions rooted in the Bible and how He wants to work through you via the Holy Spirit? Or are you giving into the world either in making decisions or not making them? In the end, we see again what verse 25b of Luke 23 (NASB) says: "...but he " - that is Pilate - " delivered Jesus to their will." What is your will for Jesus? Do you mock Him or stand up for Him? Do you make decisions based on His Word or based on the world? What is your will for Jesus?
God's will for Jesus was for Him to be subjected to the Sanhedrin, Pilate, Herod and the crowd. Though these people did evil, what man meant for evil, God redeemed for good. God did this with a trickster brother who stole from his older brother. That was Jacob, who would become Israel, God's chosen people. God did this with a group of brothers throwing their younger brother in a pit and selling him as a slave. That was Joseph who would save many from death due to famine. God did this with a baby threatened to be murdered and therefore placed in a basket. That was Moses who would lead God's people out from the slavery of the Egyptians. And the list goes on and on. And God did this with His Son who stood before Pilate, Herod, false accusers and an angry crowd subsequently facing brutal execution on a cross. What did God redeem from that wickedness? After dying and being buried, what happened to Jesus? He rose! When Jesus rose from the dead, the sin debt was paid in full once for all time that those who believe in Him by His grace through faith are purchased by His blood, that is redeemed by Him. Jesus faced these scenarios before the Sanhedrin, Pilate, Herod, the crowd and much more, and He did it for you! Do you trust what He has done for you? This is not a time for indecision? What is He pressing on your heart today? Today is the day of salvation.
(Maybe it's time for you to go to scripture as I was encouraged to do. I've found that's always a good place to go to address our wondering and our questions.)
Ichthus Library: Personal Works