Monday, October 21, 2013

Den Of Lions (part 9)

When one moves on to Luke, and as one considers that which clinched the argument for Daniel’s foes (“Recall, O king…), the chief priests and elders can be found making a more explicit reference to Jesus’ challenge to the power of the king.  Remember, Luke reports Jesus’ foes saying that Jesus was forbidding the people to pay the tribute tax to Caesar and claiming kingship for Himself (Luke 23:1-2), which carries an implicit claim that Caesar’s rule is irrelevant.  To this they added that “He incites the people by teaching throughout all Judea” (23:5a). 

This “inciting” of the people, in the ears of the Roman governor, would have caused him to make an inference in the area of “revolution”.  Knowing the history and expectations of these people over which he ruled, such words would have been quite troubling, as it was a charge that was taken seriously by Rome’s provincial rulers.  It was at this point that Pilate sends Jesus to Herod, who then returns Jesus to Pilate, which subsequently finds Pilate desirous of securing Jesus’ release after a flogging. 

The implications are that there was nothing to the charges being leveled against Jesus.  The people, however, who are actually being incited by those that sought to bring about the death of Jesus (asserting themselves in a way that was an ironic rejection of Caesar’s rule), reject Pilate’s proposal.  Pilate, undaunted, “addressed them once again because he wanted to release Jesus” (23:20).  Interestingly, it is the continued pursuit of Jesus’ execution as a state criminal, with this after neither Pilate nor Herod could find substantiation for such the claims being made against Him, serve to make Caesar’s rule irrelevant.   

At this, the Gospel author reports that the shouts of the crowd had begun to include an insistence to “Crucify, crucify Him!” (23:21b)  Pilate had already reasoned that crucifixion---that horrible and ignominious death that is reserved for recalcitrant slaves and openly rebellious subjects---was not something that was deserved by this Jesus, who, apart from affirming that He was the king of the Jews (with no obvious evidence to support this claim---no circumstantial evidence, nor any followers attempting to intervene on His behalf, whether through violent or non-violent means), had not entered into actions that would make it incumbent upon Pilate to pass such a sentence. 

So Pilate, in an exasperated plea that must be somewhat reminiscent of King Darius, says “Why?  What wrong has He done?  I have found Him guilty of no crime deserving death.  I will therefore flog Him and release Him” (23:22).  As it was for Jesus, so it had been for Daniel.  Darius clearly had no desire to see Daniel suffer the horrific punishment of a state criminal---being put to death in the den of lions, and Pilate had no desire to see this come upon Jesus either.  He wanted this to be clear to all, so returning briefly to Matthew (viewing the story through the lenses of the collected Gospel records, as it is likely that all of the authors had been heavily influenced by the Daniel story), as he saw that “a riot was starting, he took some water, washed his hands before the crowd and said, ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood.  You take care of it yourselves!’” (27:24b) 

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