Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Day 12 of Lent :: Unwavering Trust

 They…handed Him (Jesus) over to Pilate the governor.
(Matthew 27:2)
During the time of Jesus, Israel was under the control of her enemy, Rome, with an occupying force that the Jews despised. These were difficult times for the Jews.  Rome not only levied heavy taxes on the people, but also forced the Roman language and culture on them, bringing into Jewish society the influence of Rome’s pagan ways of worshipping false gods.  Because of the political turmoil in Israel, Rome established local governors to handle judicial matters and to ensure civil peace. Roman governors, including Pilate, would spare no cost to safeguard their control.  First-century Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, noted that Pilate was ruthless and unsympathetic toward the Jews.  Yet, he walked a thin line between pushing his agenda and playing politics with the Jewish leaders and legal officials at the supreme council of ancient Jerusalem, known as the Sanhedrin. 

 The Sanhedrin knew exactly how to manipulate Pilate as their pawn, while allowing him to be in charge.  Ultimate legal power remained in the hands of Pilate; however, his unkind mannerisms and ruthless style of ruling had caused an unusually high number of complaints against him to be filed in Rome.  The Sanhedrin knew that at just the right time, the threat of additional complaints could serve to manipulate Pilate into doing their bidding.  Regardless of the deceptive political intricacies of the moment, one thing was true—Jesus was being set up.  Each side was trying to pit the other against Jesus.  It is amazing how enemies can become friends in such situations.  Luke’s Gospel tells us “that day Herod and Pilate became friends – before this they had been enemies.” (Luke 23:12)  It seems that every oppressive and evil force of the day united for one purpose – to end the life of Christ.  In history, no court has ever seen a more unfair trial.  

Read: Matthew 27:11-14

How did Jesus respond to Pilate’s interrogations?  Luke says, “He gave no answer” or “made no reply, not even to a single charge.”  Matthew’s Gospel records that Pilate stood in “great amazement” that Jesus refrained from offering a personal defense.

The ruthless Pontius Pilate had the earthly power to spare one’s life or bring immediate death.  Who wouldn’t beg for mercy, or, at the very least, offer some rationale for the apparent misunderstanding?  Jesus did not. Pilate was dumbfounded by Jesus’ silence.  Roman law permitted prisoners three opportunities to defend themselves.  If a prisoner didn’t take advantage of the opportunity to speak in his own defense, he was automatically charged as guilty.[i]  In Matthew 27:11, Jesus passed up His first opportunity.  In verse 12, He passed on His second.  Then, in verse 14, He passed on His final chance to defend Himself.

Why do you think Jesus chose not to respond? 
Why did He not defend Himself?

On the surface, it seems the corrupted powers of the day were getting what they wanted – Jesus crucified.  To the natural eye, Jesus did not have a chance.  Jesus stood before them silent, but He was not helpless.  He offered no defense, but He was still in control.  He was sentenced to suffer a brutal death, but He was not powerless in the matter.

Love restrained Him from speaking because the roar of judgment for sin had to be silenced.  He offered no defense for His own actions; He was taking on Himself the guilt of all humanity.  Jesus knew that regardless of the injustices of the moment, He was fulfilling the perfect will of God. Against all human reasoning, Jesus simply leaned on the strong arm of His loving Father and demonstrated unwavering trust.

Reflection: As you go about your day, think about the silent strength of Jesus as He stood before Pilate.  Allow God to remind you that Jesus did this for you…  

[i] Rick Renner, Sparkling Gems from the Greek, 244.

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