Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Den Of Lions (part 10)

Moving on, again, to the Gospel of John, the picture here painted is even more fascinatingly interesting than that which is found in the synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke).  As was seen with Daniel, and as was able to be seen a bit more explicitly with Luke, an even more poignant reference to kingly power is found here in John.  After reading here about Pilate’s attempts to release Jesus, the voices of the Jewish leaders are heard shouting “If you release this man, you are no friend of Caesar!  Everyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar!” (19:12b)  This represents quite an interesting turn of events.  It is unlikely that Pilate has ever heard such words escape the lips of a leader of the Jews, and almost certainly not as a means to justify the putting to death of one of their own people. 

Surely, by this point Pilate had been able to gather more information about Jesus.  If this had been the case, he would have learned that Jesus had been hailed as a teacher and a healer and a worker of miracles.  He may have even now been made aware of the raising of Lazarus and the crowds that had gathered to see Jesus (and Lazarus---this story is recorded only in the Gospel of John) when He had entered Jerusalem riding the back of a donkey, to what had been the approving shouts of acclimation from the assembled masses.  Learning these things, Pilate would then be left to wonder to where those crowds had disappeared, as he now only hears the fellow countrymen of the accused---this one who had done such marvelous things for so many people---pressing theirs and Pilate’s loyalty to Caesar and to his rule as grounds for enacting the dishonorable death by crucifixion. 

It stands to reason that Pilate, with his experience of governing Judea and the constant subversive undercurrent that flowed among his subjects, would have to have been perplexed by this appeal to Rome’s rule, especially when the initial shouts of “Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!” (19:6) were accompanied by an appeal to a different basis for execution, when it was said that “We have a law, and according to our law He ought to die, because He claimed to be the Son of God!” (19:7)  When the appeal to their own law was ineffective in swaying Pilate, they changed course and appealed to Pilate’s desire to have security in his position (“friend of Caesar”), adding an appeal to Roman law and that which was required for those who attempt to usurp Caesar’s absolute power. 

This would not be lost on Pilate.  Seeing that he could do nothing to change the minds of these people and that he would be unable to secure Jesus’ release (which was odd to say the least---a Roman governor attempting to free a wonder-working Jewish holy man, but unable to do so because releasing Him to His own people would start a riot, thereby jeopardizing his own position within Rome’s power structure, as he would be seen as incapable of ruling this small province), Pilate seized on this opportunity to bring these leaders of the people in line and humiliate them because of what they were doing.  He would do this with their very own words, as after hearing them speak of being a friend of Caesar and about opposition to Caesar, Pilate set the prisoner before the people and said “Look, here is your king!” (19:14b)  To this assertion, the ultimate reply made by the Jewish leaders was “We have no king but Caesar!” (19:15b).  This would have been an amazing turn of events indeed. 

The cry of these people, for years on end as they looked for a king in the line of David who would usher in the glorious kingdom of their God, free Israel from its oppressors, and end the long night of subjection to one foreign ruler after another---had been “No king but God!”  Lives had been lain down for this claim.  Their history was replete with the stories of men and women and children that had been brutally and mercilessly tortured because of this claim.  Now, the very one that claimed to be their king and to be the one for which they had been waiting, as their God had finally entered into history, once again, to act on behalf of His people and to establish His kingdom and who embodied the claim of “No king but God!”, was going to be sent to a brutal torture and a merciless cross.  This would take place in the falling echoes of His people’s claim that they had “no king except Caesar!”    

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