Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Tuesday's with Jesus #136

#136 "What Will You Do With Him?"
February 26, 2008
"But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed. "Which of the two do you want me to release to you?" asked the governor. "Barabbas," they answered. "What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?" Pilate asked. They all answered, "Crucify him!"  (Matthew 27:20-22)
The date was Friday, April 3, AD 33. The time was somewhere between 5AM and 6AM. Pilate, the Roman governor was already awake and at work so that he could get his business done by ten or eleven that morning. The bound Jesus was brought to the praetorium, the palace of the governor, near the Jaffa gate. The Jews wouldn't enter the palace because the Bible says they wanted to eat the Passover meal and not become unclean. Ironically, they would be able to eat the Passover lamb with good conscience, while seeking the death of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!
Only Pilate could hand down a capital sentence. Jesus claimed to be a king. He refused to defend Himself, so by Roman law, he was assumed guilty. As was standard protocol, Pilate gave Jesus more than one chance to speak in His own defense but what amazement he must have had when this Man remained silent. Just another harmless wandering philosopher. One who a governor was not inclined to execute. Just a harmless fool. But the crowds would not give up. Warned by his wife's dream, Pilate would try to shift the responsibility for Jesus' fate on the crowds. Surely they would want Jesus, the so-called "Christ", and not Barabbas, a robber, a murderer and an inciter of rebellion. But his hopes were sorely disappointed.
Maybe Pilate asked the question out of frustration with these Jews. The divine warning in his wife's dream may have struck some fear into this otherwise brutal ruler. I can't presume to know his thoughts. But if I close my eyes I can hear Pilate's words echo off the walls of the palace and across the centuries of time. "What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?"
The other day I heard someone on television say that the most important question we can ask ourselves is "what is my purpose in life?" I believe the most important question that we can ask ourselves is the same question that Pilate asked. "What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?"
Because we have been given free will, we initially choose to believe in Jesus or to reject Him. Assuming that we believe in Him, what then shall we do with Him? Assuming that we have received His free gift of salvation and eternal life, given by Him to us as Savior, will we also accept Him as Lord? I always say that so many have enough Jesus to stay out of hell when they die, but not enough of Him to do much else. They are living with no victory in their lives. What will we do with Him when He says to give in order to receive? When He tells us to love our enemies and do good to them? When He says that we must lose our very lives to gain real life? And oh, no....when He says carry your cross and follow me, giving up all for Me! What shall we do with Him?
Will we shout with the crowds "Crucify Him!" The voices of the gathered multitudes that day were loud. You can imagine a crowded football stadium where the crowd is shouting "Defense!" This crowd shouted, "Crucify, crucify!" You may say, "I would never do that!" I submit to you that the crowds today are shouting and crying around us just as fiercely and just as deadly as they were in the praetorium that day so long ago. We are guilty of the same crimes today when we side with the world's views that are popular even when they clearly go against Christ and His Word. The people of that day let themselves be worked up by their leaders. They were blindly following their blind guides. Do we blindly follow the popular views of society and their rationalizations of why evil is good? Isaiah 5: 20 says, "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter."
Satan is still just as crafty as he was back in the garden of Eden. (Genesis 3:1) He is the master at perverting and disguising the truth of God's word by wrapping it up in pretty packages. He comes to us via television, news media, political parties and even well-meaning Christian people and asks "Did God really say...?" "Is that really what God means?" (see Genesis 3: 1-4) Well, if God said it, you can bet your sweet bippy that God meant what He said! We may not like it...we may not obey it...but God's Word is still truth. Beware... ever, even for a second, of putting down your sword of the Spirit, the word of God. It is your only defensive weapon against the cunning conniving of your enemy. 
What we need to do with this Jesus, called Christ is to believe Him and trust Him (see John 14: 1), believing His Word and that it means what it says. Making Him not just our Savior who keeps us out of hell, but making Him the Lord of our lives. The "Lord" means that He has the authority. He is the master and the owner of your life. What we should do with Him is give our whole self to Him. To direct us, to own us! In every way, whether we like what He says in certain situations or not. Whether His views go along with the world view or not.
What we need to do with this Jesus, called Christ is love Him. And His own words tell us that "whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me." (John 14: 21)
What we need to do with this Jesus, called Christ is to serve Him. To be great in His eyes is to be as He is. To be a servant to all, just as the Son of Man was when He served and gave His life as a ransom for many. (Matthew 20: 26-28)  
The Gospel of Mark says that Pilate wanted to satisfy the crowd, so he gave in to their demands and had Jesus flogged, and handed Him over to be crucified. (Mark 15: 15) Every day, all around us, in so many different ways, the crowds are shouting, "Crucify Him!" Don't follow those voices. Don't listen to the justifications and the subtle ideas that God really didn't say what we think He said. Every time we give in and leave "sound doctrine. And to suit our own desires, gather around us a great number of teachers to say what our itching ears want to hear, we turn away from truth and turn aside to myths." (my paraphrase of 2Timothy 4: 3-4) And we just as surely drive a nail into the hands of our Savior every time.
Pilate symbolically washed his hands of any responsibility for the death of Jesus but he was just as responsible as the Jews nevertheless. The responsibility is always our own. I can't choose for you and you can't choose for me. But we must each make the choice. The voices of compromise and complacency call out each day. The broad path is full of folk who think it's the best route. Will you follow the crowd or follow Jesus? And I mean truly follow Him. Believing what He says and obeying Him. Serving Him. Loving Him with all your heart and mind and soul and strength. Doing the hard sayings that He commands. These are the last days my friends and I believe God is calling forth a remnant of people who mean business. Who are commited and not compromising. Who are warriors, not wishy-washy weaklings. Those who are willing to stand up for Christ against every voice and deception that would say there's a better way to go. Christians who will no longer allow the devil to keep them down and out but who will rise up victorious with their shield of faith held high and the sword of the Spirit doing some real damage to the kingdom of darkness. For Christ's sake and for the Father's glory.
The date is February 26, 2008. It may be morning, afternoon or evening when you read this. The crowds are gathered. Their voices are loud. They might be speaking through your TV or radio. They may be sitting right next to you in your office. They may even be speaking to you in your own home, among your own family members. Pilate let the crowds answer the question for him that day. I would venture to guess if he could come back and talk to you right now, he would tell you that he picked the wrong answer. Will you?
What will you do, then, with Jesus who is called Christ?
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