Pot(aye)toe is Not Pot(ah)toe

Have you ever been in one of those situations where two people are saying the same exact thing, just using different terminology (or accents) to get there? Take the word “potato.” Depending on where you’re from or how you grew up it will sound different. Same word, different pronunciation.

Take a look at this.

 Those who had seized Jesus led Him away to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were gathered together. But Peter was following Him at a distance as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and entered in, and sat down with the officers to see the outcome. Now the chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus, so that they might put Him to death. They did not find any, even though many false witnesses came forward. But later on two came forward, and said, “This man stated, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to rebuild it in three days.’ ” The high priest stood up and said to Him, “Do You not answer? What is it that these men are testifying against You?” But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest said to Him, “I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said* to him, “You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you will see The Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has blasphemed! What further need do we have of witnesses? Behold, you have now heard the blasphemy; what do you think?” They answered, “He deserves death!” Then they spat in His face and beat Him with their fists; and others slapped Him, and said, “Prophesy to us, You Christ ; who is the one who hit You?”

Matthew 26:57-67

Let me set up the situation that sets above. Jesus has been brought before the Sanhedrin, the top Jewish leaders in a trial like format. The catch is that this is taking place late at night or very early morning. Jewish law forbids that the Sanhedrin meet at night. There are many false witnesses, also illegal, and as a result many contradictions. It is not until the comment is made about an earlier comment about Jesus tearing down the Temple and rebuilding it in three days mixed with frustration that Jesus is not saying anything that problems begin to arise

Note that when Jesus made these comments he was talking about Himself  and the events that would unfold later and celebrated in about a week in the Christian faith, not the actual Temple which took decades to build and complete.

It is only after the Priest uses the name of the living God does Christ finally speak and then he does not deny what the other have said against him. Rather we get into what we today would see nothing wrong with. A statement that Yes I am the Son of God and from today on you will see me sitting at the right hand of God and coming on the clouds of Heaven. Potayto Potahto Right?

Wrong.

Brief History Lesson.

At this time the Sanhedrin is split into two groups of thinking Sadducee and Pharisees. You would think that the Pharisees would want to be fair you see, and give a proper trial in daylight and by the rules. However they are not the ones running the show. The word that Jesus spoke went directly against the thought of the Sadducee. They believed that there was no life after death making them very sad indeed. This is where the “blasphemy” charges come from. Which boils down to a charge of “We don’t like you for bruising our egos” charge which makes for a little more humorous interaction with Pilate later. (all puns intended, try reading this paragraph out loud if you missed them)

In this case there are two very different ways of living are colliding in what could be a massive debate, bringing in numerous scriptures and ways to interpret them. However Jesus remains silent after this statement. Allows the slaps, punches, spitting, mocking and everything else that comes his way. He knew this was coming and carries out his father’s will. Two ways God’s way and what the Laws had become after hundreds of years of human translation.

Potayeto is not always Potahto

A Reprioritizing Judge

For anyone who missed it. This is the sermon that I preached earlier today.

Jay Leno in his autobiography tells a story about how in his early years he went on a late night show to do a routine. He was asked what the queue would be for when he was done. He did so and walked out on stage. The crowd greeted him with a standing ovation to which he replied “thank you, thank you very much.” To Leno’s confusion, the band started playing and the show went to commercial, forcing him offstage. Leno had accidentally said the cue he had given for when he would be done. As shocking as this true story might be, it would have been better if it actually happened to Leno. It was discovered that Leno had paid someone to use their experience in his autobiography; leaving many wondering where his priorities lie in the book. Telling about his actual experiences, or telling a good story.

Every day we are faced with decisions that we must prioritize in order of relevance to us at the time. Breakfast, school assignments, what we will get done during the day. All of these must be sorted and examined and at times communicated to others, I can’t tell you how many times I wake up in the morning to find Mom has left a list of things she wants me to do. Things on her priority list that she can’t get done because she is at work that she wants me to consider on my priority list for the day. How we sort, examine and communicate these priorities says a lot about who we are and what we believe to others. Even our actions can play a factor in communicating our priorities to others.

If you would turn to John 18 starting in verse 28, I want to look at how these conversations shape the priorities of those involved.

28 Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. 29 So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?”

30 “If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.”

31 Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.”

“But we have no right to execute anyone,” they objected. 32 This took place to fulfill what Jesus had said about the kind of death he was going to die.

33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”

35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”

36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

38 “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him. 39 But it is your custom for me to release to you one prisoner at the time of the Passover. Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?”

40 They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising.

19:1 Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged. 2 The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head. They clothed him in a purple robe 3 and went up to him again and again, saying, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they slapped him in the face.

4 Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews gathered there, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.” 5 When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!”

6 As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!”

But Pilate answered, “You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.”

7 The Jewish leaders insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.”

8 When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, 9 and he went back inside the palace. “Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10 “Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?”

11 Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”

12 From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jewish leaders kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.”

13 When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). 14 It was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about noon.

“Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews.

15 But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!”

“Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked.

“We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered.

16 Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified. So the soldiers took charge of Jesus.

This chapter falls in a series of events that is known as Holy Week, celebrated each year the week before Easter. For Jesus and his disciples it was a roller-coaster of emotions and events. It starts with the Triumphant Entry, Jesus riding on the back of donkey into the city of Jerusalem. Crowds cheering and waving palm branches. The next few days Jesus is teaching in the Temple, meanwhile the leading priests are seeking an opportunity to kill Jesus. They find this opportunity in Judas Iscariot. Now John gives a slightly different timeline of events than the other gospels. John give an account of Jesus and his disciples celebrating the Passover meal a day early in secret, giving way to Jesus knowing that he will be dead by the time that the Passover meal is given the following evening. At this meal Jesus gives the new covenant with the bread and wine symbolizing his body and blood. After this, Jesus takes his disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane. Where he tells them to wait there while he goes off to pray, he returns to them sleeping, he wake them up and goes back to prayer only to return and find them asleep again. By this time Judas is approaching to betray Jesus. He does so, Peter chops off someone’s ear, Jesus heals it, Jesus is arrested and taken not to the Temple for a trial before the Sanhedrin, but to Annas the father of the High Priest Caiaphas, who sends him to Caiaphas himself. Now John gives no account of either of these trials, but we know from Matthew that the leaders find false evidence and take Jesus to Pilate’s headquarters.

Now these leaders won’t enter Pilate’s headquarters due to an unstated defilement for doing so. This is forcing Pilate to work on two different playing fields. Pilate had to come out to them.

“What is your charge against this man?”

“We wouldn’t have handed him over to you if he weren’t a criminal!” they retorted.

Notice there is no real accusation here. This is no more than a “We don’t like him please get rid of him for us”

 “Then take him away and judge him by your own law,” Pilate told them.

“Only the Romans are permitted to execute someone,”

This tells Pilate exactly what the Jewish leaders want.

Pilate goes in for his first encounter with Jesus.  “Are you the king of the Jews?”  This question is the same in all the gospels. However, at this point, in Matthew, Mark and Luke Jesus goes silent, but here Jesus asks a question.

 “Is this your own question, or did others tell you about me?”

Jesus is testing the waters. There are two scenarios that could have happen the first is that the leaders could have gotten to Pilate beforehand.  The second is that Pilate could truly be asking for the first time.

“Am I a Jew?” Pilate retorted. “Your own people and their leading priests brought you to me for trial. Why? What have you done?”

Basically, I am not them and they really don’t like you. What have you done?

 “My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.”

“So you are a king?”

“You say I am a king. Actually, I was born and came into the world to testify to the truth. All who love the truth recognize that what I say is true.”

“What is truth?” Pilate asked.

With that Pilate cuts off the conversation and heads back out to the leaders

“I find nothing wrong with him. But you have a custom of asking me to release one prisoner each year at Passover. If you want I can release him back to you.”

“No! Not this man. We want Barabbas!”

Now just a side note here. Barabbas depending on the translation that you use is says that Barabbas was a robber, a revolutionary, criminal, a terrorist. The Romans had him locked up for good reason. Yet the people had decided that since Jesus would not free them politically from Rome then surely Barabbas would. However we never find out from John if Pilate ever released Barabbas.

Pilate heads back inside. And gives orders to Have Jesus Flogged

Now I’m sure we have all been hit by a stick, belt, or wet towel, but this was no belt. Five pieces of leather tied together embedded with lead shards that ripped into the person. Now the max, according to Jewish law, that could be used on Jesus was 40. However, for Roman citizens there was no limit to the amount of strikes one could endure. Yet not only did the soldiers flog him but mocked him by putting a crown of thorns on his head and a purple robe and lead him back to Pilate who is back outside.

“I am going to bring him out to you now, but understand clearly that I find him not guilty.” “Look, here is the man!”

“Crucify him! Crucify him!”

“Take him yourselves and crucify him. I find him not guilty.”

“By our law he ought to die because he called himself the Son of God.”

And out it comes, the real reason that the Jewish leaders are here and the first accusation. A religious one. With this Pilate heads back inside taking Jesus with him.

 “Where are you from?”

Here Jesus becomes silent as he does in the other gospels. He doesn’t need to answer because he answered the question earlier.

“Why don’t you talk to me? Don’t you realize that I have the authority to release you or crucify you?”

Wrong move Pilate, What you don’t realize is that only a few chapters earlier in chapter 10 that Jesus states that he has the authority over life and the authority to regain it. There’s potential for a battle of authority to erupt, but Jesus goes another route.

“You would have no authority over me at all unless it was given to you from above.”

Now here is one of those times where scripture meaning splits. For Jesus and us the meaning is that God gave Pilate the authority and thus the “from above” would be from heaven. Pilate would not get this but would see “from above” as from higher ranks than he, in this case Caesar and Rome.

These words fresh on his mind he goes back out to address the crowd and tries to give Jesus to them to deal with.

“ I still find him not Guilty“

“If you release this man, you are no ‘friend of Caesar.’ Anyone who declares himself a king is a rebel against Caesar.”

Notice that the accusation has changed from religious to political. If Pilate does not give them what they want they will go to Caesar. If this happens, Pilate gets called back to Rome and most likely will never return. Pilate brings Jesus back out.

 “Look, here is your king!”

“Away with him! Crucify him!”

“What? Crucify your king?” Pilate asked.

Pilate for the first time has brought two words together here for the first time, King and crucifixion.

“We have no king but Caesar,” the leading priests shouted back.

The leading Priests have pulled the last straw and by doing so have denied their very existence. They have just rejected and reprioritized their God that they worship and pledged it to Caesar as Pilate hands Jesus over to them to be crucified.

Some have gone as far as to say that this was Pilate’s defining moment. He was forced to make a definite decision. Even though he found nothing wrong with Jesus and repeated this several times to the Jewish leaders. In the end, it was not enough. Pilate chose to rearrange his priorities to please the people instead of keeping his priorities to Roman justice on top.

Likewise each of us will face many defining moments in our lives. Every decision that we make defines who we are, what we believe and where our priorities lie. How we align our priorities says a lot about where we stand especially when it comes to Jesus Christ. Eventually, like Pilate, every single one of us will have to face this decision of where Christ stands with us. Is he on the top of our priority list, guiding our every move? Is he in the middle, someone we go to when we absolutely need Him? Or worse is he on the bottom having almost nothing to do with our daily lives?

What Pilate didn’t know on that day was that this was far from over. Three days after Pilate made this decision he would have to investigate the disappearance of Jesus’ body. Sending a trusted centurion to discover what had happened. No doubt this centurion would confront many of the same people that we read about in the New Testament. One author’s depiction of how such a conversation between a Roman centurion and Joseph of Arimathea goes like this.

“Tell me Centurion. What will you do if you find the rabbi’s body—“

“When I find him—“

The Pharisee’s smile was otherworldly. “If you find him, what if the finding causes your entire world to be shaken to its very core? What if you find the answers you seek, and everything you held as important, everything that shaped your world all comes crashing down?”

“I don’t understand your –“

What if you do discover the truth and the truth shatters you life? Joseph leaned closer until all the centurion could see was the fire at the center of the Judean’s dark eyes, “And what if it forces you to leave behind all your ambitions and your desires? What then centurion? What will you do then?”

All of us have or will face the question about how Christ will fit into our lives. For some maybe this is the first time, others it may be a daily struggle, yet others have made the decision a long time ago and have allowed Christ to be the top of the priority list. When you are faced with this decision of where Christ will set in your list, will you allow Christ to rearrange your priorities so he can be at the top or will you keep him where he is and continue on with your life.

I leave you with one question. When you discover the truth about Jesus and it forces you to reevaluate your priorities and it forces you to leave behind everything, your ambitions, desires, everything, What then? What will you do then?

A Kangaroo Court of Biblical Porportions

Journey to the Cross part 8

Kangaroo courts are often described as hastily put together trials that often times extremely biased that often times end in a harsh or cruel punishment. Often they are preformed by citizens who have taken the law into their own hands. Take a look at one such instance.

 Those who had seized Jesus led Him away to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were gathered together. But Peter was following Him at a distance as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and entered in, and sat down with the officers to see the outcome. Now the chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus, so that they might put Him to death. They did not find any, even though many false witnesses came forward. But later on two came forward, and said, “This man stated, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to rebuild it in three days.’ ” The high priest stood up and said to Him, “Do You not answer? What is it that these men are testifying against You?” But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest said to Him, “I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said* to him, “You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you will see The Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has blasphemed! What further need do we have of witnesses? Behold, you have now heard the blasphemy; what do you think?” They answered, “He deserves death!” Then they spat in His face and beat Him with their fists; and others slapped Him, and said, “Prophesy to us, You Christ ; who is the one who hit You?”

Matthew 26:57-67

The High priests have been looking for a way to get rid of this Jesus figure. An insider of Jesus’ own inner group of disciples made this possible by betraying Jesus into the hands of the Chief Priests, of which Caiaphas was the head. It has been said that the full Sanhedrin, the Jewish court of law, was not completely present that night and that this “court case” was held early in the morning.

The words that Jesus spoke, to us do not seem like blasphemy, but to this court who were mainly made of Sadducees, these words of “Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming on the clouds of heaven” went against everything this sect of Judaism believed in. The Sadducees did not believe in an after life, the soul died with the body, so anything that spoke of an after life was indeed blasphemy. I guess that made them a little sad you see, not believing in anything after death. Those words were the very thing needed to send them off on the next step of sending him off to Pilate, since the Romans had taken away the Sanhedrin’s ability to sentence death to an individual.

So Jesus is taken off to see Pilate the Roman governor of the region who after much debate and against Pilate’s will sentenced Jesus to death by way of crucifixion. For more of this story go here,

How often do we find ourselves faced by rumors and accusations that aren’t true or know of someone who is facing these kinds of situations. Either way we can take the position of either Jesus or Peter.

Peter is on the outside looking down on the kangaroo court that is taking place below, while Jesus is on the floor under siege and trial by the religious authorities.

When we are in Peter’s position, we need to support and stand by our friend that is in Jesus’ position. Unfortunately, this was the time where Peter is denying any connection to Christ.

When we are in Jesus’ position we need to know that we have someone that will stand with us not matter if these accusations are true or not.

Whose position are you in?

Is God calling you to stand up for a friend that is going through a rough time?

 

Trouble in the Garden

Journey to the Cross part 7

When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was an olive grove, and he and his disciples went into it.

Now Judas, who betrayed him, knew the place, because Jesus had often met there with his disciples. So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons.

Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?”

“Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.

“I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.

Again he asked them, “Who is it you want?”

And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.”

“I told you that I am he,” Jesus answered. “If you are looking for me, then let these men go.” This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: “I have not lost one of those you gave me.”

Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear.

(The servant’s name was Malchus.)

Jesus commanded Peter, “Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?”

—John 18:1-11

Finally the moment the disciples have been waiting for!! Jesus is finally going to overthrow the Romans and establish His kingdom here on Earth. Peter draws his sword and begins the attack. Wait, Jesus what are you doing? We will not let you fall into their hands. What put my sword away? You mean to say you are going to let them win? You are just going to hand yourself in? You are bargaining with the them to let us go? Okay, Guys let’s get out of here.

Jesus stands alone, allows himself to be bound and led to the high priests home. Jesus goes peacefully and shows no sign of rebellion. It is almost as if he sees this as an answer to the prayer asking if there was any other way for this to happen. He is willing to drink of the cup he has been given.

How often do we take the cup that the Father has been given us?

How often do we turn the cup down or spit out the contents when it tastes bad?

Many of us want a life free of pain and when we see that our  cup contains pain we turn it down or take a sip and spit it out, looking for a way out.

It reminds me of a scene in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, where Harry and Dumbledore are going after the locket in the middle of the lake. In order to retrieve the locket, Dumbledore must drink a potion that makes him go temporarily out of his mind. Harry then must continue to give the potion to Dumbledore.

Dumbledore knew he must drink, but needed Harry to continue giving him more in order to reach the goal of getting at the locket. However unlike Christ, Dumbledore had no clue what the potion was about to do to him. He could have spit out the potion, given up and left, but continued to drink. I wonder how the Harry Potter series would have been different had Dumbledore given up, left, and never returned.

Christ took the cup he was given and even though He knew what it entailed, he was willing to go the full distance. Ultimately ending in His Death.