Commentary

The Madness of Mobs

So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”

After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him. But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover. So do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” They cried out again, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a robber. John 18:33-40.

Pilate is just a Roman governor who is doing his job. He has been brought out to see what all this ruckus is about. He meets with Jesus, the unlikely insurrectionist, who hasn’t uttered a peep about overthrowing Rome, or Caesar, or “the man.” His supposed kingdom is not of this world, so it isn’t Pilate’s jurisdiction. He would just as soon cut Jesus loose, but the mob wants this king of Nowhere Land to be executed. Given the choice, the mob wants another man, who is actually guilty, set free.

It doesn’t make much sense that this mob is in such a rage to kill Jesus. But if Satan could enter into Judas to betray Jesus, a legion of demons could inhabit this crowd. Who else could be so wound up to kill the Son of God, who had cleansed lepers, made the lame walk, gave sight to the blind, raised the dead, and cast out many…devils? If demons could inhabit a herd of swine and drive them off a cliff (Matthew 8:31-32), how is this any different?

Cancel Culture

Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

“Lord, who has believed what he heard from us,
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”

Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said,

“He has blinded their eyes
and hardened their heart,
lest they see with their eyes,
and understand with their heart, and turn,
and I would heal them.”

Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him. Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God. John 12:37-43.

If you like your idols, you can keep your idols. That is the condition of people who fear man more than God. Your fear will keep you from believing, no matter what you have seen. Those who feared being put out of the synagogue knew that was the equivalent of being exiled from their culture, the source of their esteem and social connection.

Today we are threatened with exile from the culture because of wrongthink in an increasing number of subjects that have been overtaken by political ideology. These come down from “The Cathedral,” the academia-media partnership that crafts and disseminates the radical new ideas to which we must agree or be “cancelled.” This cancellation can get you hazed on social media, kicked off social media platforms, expelled from college, fired, shunned, and even denied financial services.

Every one of The Cathedral’s new ideas runs afoul of the word of God. You must discard your old ideas of absolute truth and the supremacy of the one true God. You must replace them with the ever evolving supremacy of “learned experience.” You must reject the spiritual and exalt the material. If you do, you will be blinded and find it impossible to believe. You will obey the rulers and reject your God.

“We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men.” (Acts 5:27-28).

God on Trial

Now the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking him as they beat him. They also blindfolded him and kept asking him, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?” And they said many other things against him, blaspheming him. 

When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people gathered together, both chief priests and scribes. And they led him away to their council, and they said, “If you are the Christ, tell us.” But he said to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I ask you, you will not answer. But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” So they all said, “Are you the Son of God, then?” And he said to them, “You say that I am.” Then they said, “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips.” Luke 22:63-71.

Neither the thugs who beat Him, nor the inquisitors in robes really want to know if Jesus was the Son of God. To them, the fact that He appeared to be under their control was proof enough. Surely, God would not let these things happen to His son. Right?

it is pretty hilarious that we, mere specks of dust living on a clump of dirt that spins through the vastness of outer space, think we can judge the creator of the universe. We are totally unaware that we are being tested and surveilled routinely, as the judge of all souls watches how we treat the lowly. That is why Jesus came as a baby, born to a scandalized couple, living in an occupied territory under the threat of cruel oppression. It is why He let Himself become a prisoner, judged by corrupt religious officials. And it’s why He allowed Himself to be crucified by pagan soldiers after being tortured and disfigured.

Mankind’s ego is bigger than ever. He’s written God out of history and literature and smugly declares that science, our tool for measuring the seen world, has disproved the unseen creator of all things. I mean, what could go wrong? I guess that when we all die, and enter the unseen world, God will take the measure of us.

The Hour of Darkness

While he was still speaking, there came a crowd, and the man called Judas, one of the twelve, was leading them. He drew near to Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” And when those who were around him saw what would follow, they said, “Lord, shall we strike with the sword?” And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear. But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him. Then Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders, who had come out against him, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs? When I was with you day after day in the temple, you did not lay hands on me. But this is your hour, and the power of darkness.” Luke 22:47-53.

The story of Jesus would be relegated to obscure history if He died in a violent clash between His disciples and the local authorities. Instead, He died as the most innocent man in history, fulfilling the scriptures by the numbers. He died as the Savior of the world. To stay on that course, He had to restrain His disciples, who were willing to blow the whole operation out of anger and fear.

Yesterday we celebrated the memory of a man who died a martyr for the civil rights movement. He insisted that his followers not take up arms, that they turn the other cheek, and that they insist on being treated with the same dignity that they demonstrated as peaceful citizens. This is the power that the wicked fear most. People who are willing to die for their cause possess an aura of righteousness that armed insurrections lack. Today, Martin Luther King is the undisputed patron saint of the civil rights movement because he kept his eye on the real prize: justice, not revenge.

Not everyone in MLK’s camp agreed with him. There were some who separated themselves from him and used violence, committed crimes and acts of terror in the name of justice. Their names are mostly forgotten, although that spirit still persists today. And it is a spirit that infects everyone who feels wronged, and who wants to be avenged.

Jesus told His disciples to stand down and let the power of darkness overplay its hand. Injustice will always be temporary because there is a God who gives the final adjudication. Let us act like we believe that.

Jesus’s Tax Policy

When the scribes and chief priests realized that Jesus had spoken this parable against them, they sought to arrest Him that very hour. But they were afraid of the people.

So they watched Him closely and sent spies who pretended to be sincere. They were hoping to catch Him in His words in order to hand Him over to the rule and authority of the governor. “Teacher,” they inquired, “we know that You speak and teach correctly. You show no partiality, but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it lawful for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

But Jesus saw through their duplicity and said to them, “Show Me a denarius. Whose image and inscription are on it?”

“Caesar’s,” they answered.

So Jesus told them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.”

And they were unable to trap Him in His words before the people; and amazed at His answer, they fell silent. Luke 20:19-26.

The Pharisees and the religious leaders could not just use their spiritual authority to shut Jesus up. They needed the government authorities to step in, and in order for that to happen, they needed to trick Jesus into taking political stands. Only then would the authorities care. On this particular day, taxes would be the issue.

Today in America, we are part of a system of self-government. Our opinions on taxes mean more when you have representation in the government. Our rulers do so with our consent, sort of. The Jews, under Roman rule, had taxation without representation. Instead of addressing that issue, Jesus just said to pay them. The important part was to give to God what belonged to Him: your heart, mind, and soul.

God still wants our hearts, minds, and souls. That should be our first concern. It gets tricky when the government wants more than taxes. When they want your heart, mind, and soul, that is a line we cannot let them cross. It’s the reason why being able to to speak your mind is sacred. And asking you to violate your conscience a tax too high.