Monday, April 03, 2006

Jesus on Trial

[Thank you for your prayers. I got back safely and had enough energy to preach the three morning services yesterday. I'm even in the office today!]

When I was a kid I heard a lot of sermons about Jesus on trial. They would go over the injustices down to our Lord and, truth be told, there were a lot of them. Legal experts have crawled over the Misnah for centuries and been shocked at the number of violations that took place during that series of trials. I found books that listed from 12 to 27 different serious violations of Jewish law. That's impressive. Those sermons, however, didn't motivate me to live a better life; they just made me angry at those old Jewish guys and Pilate! I'm not sure how helpful that was.

To me, that was the failing of "The Passion of the Christ." I am glad Gibson made the movie. I think it needed to be made. However, it emphasized the injustice, pain, and gore without emphasizing the love, grace, and hope of the Christian message. I know, I know -- one movie can't do it all. I'm just saying...

I can remember wondering, when I was a kid and listening the Trial sermons, "Why did they think they could get away with this?" It wasn't until I was older and read Matthew 21:33-45. It has to be the most bizarre parable Jesus ever taught. Think about it: a group of tenants ambush and kill those sent to collect the rent. When a larger force is sent out, they kill those men, also. When the Lord of the harvest sends out his son, he assumes no one would dare touch him, but the tenants think -- and here's the weird bit -- that if they kill the son THEY will inherit the land! That's sick. Yet.... when the chief priests and Pharisees heard this, they knew he was speaking of them.

Even though the NIV strips the passage of its power, Luke 20:70,71 shows another important aspect of this matrix. When Jesus is asked if he is the Son of God, he reveals that those questioning him have said, privately, that he was! They KNEW he was the Messiah and they killed him anyway. Why? Refer back to Matthew 21. They were relying on their special relationship with God to get them through this. They were certain that if they rejected Jesus, as they had rejected so many of the prophets, God would -- perhaps after a suitable punishment -- restore them and send them someone else; maybe someone more after their liking.

As sick as this is, it is exactly what we do with Jesus. Jesus is on trial every day in our lives -- and so are we. He told us not to lay up treasures on earth, to give to the poor, to be people of prayer, to be faithful to God in our words and deeds... and we would rather have Caiaphas. Caiaphas' job as high priest was to maintain the temple, keep the worship going, and keep the people in line. That seems to be the goal of most churches today! Jesus' goal was to overhaul people, destroying anything in them that kept them from God. That's scary stuff.

Example: a man sat in my office. I was working with him, trying to get him to take his Christianity more seriously. He responded, angrily, "If I tried to run my business according to the Sermon on the Mount I'd be broke in a month!" I shrugged and said, "So? Go broke." Unfortunately, he -- and most of us -- agreed with Caiaphas in John 18:14 that it was better for Jesus to die than for the whole social framework to die.

So, we keep our power, position, and comfort zones at the cost of Jesus, all the while relying on our special relationship with Jesus to change God the Father into God the Grandfather; sweet, understanding, saying "Aw, shucks, it's okay." The people in Matthew 7:21-23 thought they had a special relationship with God that would let them get by the gates of heaven. And they were wrong.

Jesus is on trial. Every time we choose a phrase to use to speak to our spouse, everytime we write a check, everytime we choose an entertainment, everytime we choose to pass our neighbors by rather than reaching out to them... Jesus is on trial. We cannot let his teaching die in our lives and then expect our special relationship with God to save us. "No one comes to the Father, except through me" he said. I think he meant it. If you doubt that, ask Caiaphas.


At 4/03/2006 12:33:00 PM , Blogger That Girl said...

Well... I don't think it's very nice of you to be stepping on my toes like that!

At 4/03/2006 12:45:00 PM , Blogger Bill said...

Yes! I agree with your assessment: We cannot let his teaching die in our lives and then expect our special relationship with God to save us.

While the word is so easily written—Y.E.S., the sentiment is so much more difficult to “walk out” on a daily basis. Still, devotion to Christ’s teaching and abiding in Him as the True Vine (John 8:31, 32; 15:1-8) are, it seems, precisely what makes it possible for us to enjoy a special relationship with God.

And so, because of your prompting, my earnest prayer this day is: “O Heavenly Father, please help my life to be a reflection of your love. Help me choose your Son’s way for my life over my way of life so that I will not crucify Him all over again, thus subjecting Him, once again, to public disgrace.”

At 4/03/2006 12:57:00 PM , Blogger jamie riley said...

Thank you for a very encouraging and convicting post. It’s really good to be reminded in an honest and loving way that we need to choose to honor Jesus in/with our lives in everything everyday.
Why is dying to self so hard??!!

At 4/03/2006 06:56:00 PM , Blogger KentF said...

Glad you made it back safe and sound Patrick. Interesting story about the man that felt the Sermon on the Mount was another set of rules he couldn't keep. That thought process needs to be tuned on it's ear. Show me someone that makes the committment every day to operate their business ethically and morally, and they do something, however small it may be, to pursue Jesus everyday -- and I'll show you someone that will gladly run their business just like Jesus would - to the best of their ability of course.

At 4/03/2006 07:29:00 PM , Blogger salguod said...

Wow, very thought provoking, and convicting. Thanks for making me think (I mean that).

At 4/04/2006 10:24:00 AM , Blogger Joel Maners said...

Great lesson Patrick. I never heard those thoughts about the parable of the tennants before. Thanks for challenging me. I've got lots to think about!

At 4/04/2006 12:04:00 PM , Anonymous renee cutts said...

I had to chew on your post for a few days. There was a lot in there!

I have only been able to watch the Passion of Christ once, it was so painful to visualize his death so graphically. Like you, I felt cheated that the movie didn't tell the whole of the story. I am thankful I wasn't dependent on Hollywood to show it to me. What is sad is that there were probably many who watched that movie that think that was all there was to the story.

The reason I know the whole story is not just in what I have read in the Bible but because others have shown it to me. They showed me Christ's story by the way they live and how they die to themselves.

Thanks for the reminder that in order for me to follow the cross, for me to explain the whole story to others, I have to do the same thing, too, even in what we might call the little things. If we neglect all the little weeds others might not see the beauty of what we are tending and pass by.

In my gardens outside, I've been overwelmed pulling bunches of little weeds. It feels good to pull out a great big root and shake off the dirt but those little weeds are just plain tedious. They are hard to grab hold of, they break off at the root and come back up. They seem inconsequenial when they are so small.

Sometimes I've waited until they get bigger thinking they will be eaiser to pull later. But the abundance of lots of little weeds get away from me until before I know it they have grown into lots of big weeds and choked out the harvest. No matter how tedious, I've learned the hard way, to pick at those little weeds even if I need to use a tweaser to do it. With your reminder, I'm thinking life is very much like that. I've got to go pull some little weeds.

Luke doesn't have a verse 70,71. Were you seeing if we were paying attention?

At 4/04/2006 12:18:00 PM , Blogger PatrickMead said...

Renee, I meant Luke 22:70,71. Thanks for the correction and comment.

At 4/04/2006 03:15:00 PM , Blogger Niki said...

Wow! I guess I never thought of that parable that way either. Thanks for revealing something new to me.

I didn't see The Passion of the Christ movie, and I don't plan to. (Too much for my eyes and heart at this point) One of my friends joked that he didn't need to see the movie because he read the book. In my opinion, the book is always better.

I'd rather have Jesus than Caiaphas, as hard as that is sometimes.

At 4/04/2006 06:11:00 PM , Blogger David U said...

Patrick, I am on the road and needed a boost......and I knew I would get it at your blog. WOW! Keeping with the theme of the baseball season getting kicked off, that was a walk-off grand slam post! That'll preach, brother. Keep bringing em. That was a high-inside fastball, and we needs those from time to time.

God bless you!


At 4/05/2006 02:07:00 PM , Blogger Lovell's Lookout said...

LOve it man.. you are so refreshing. When the pendelum swung from Works to GRace... somewhere along the way.. Grace that works and is responsible got lost. Keep it up...


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home