Friday, March 30, 2012

An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday April 1, 2012

(The truth must never be compromised)
(John 18:28-40)

JESUS’ second religious trial, the trial before Caiaphas, ended in the early morning hours of the day of JESUS’ crucifixion. HE was then taken to the headquarters of the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate. JESUS’ accusers, the Jewish religious leaders, did not enter into the governor’s headquarters, because they were self-forbidden to enter into the house of a Gentile, especially during Passover. So apparently they must have sent JESUS in alone, while they sat outside and awaited Pilate’s decision.
Pilate’s apparent wavering, during JESUS’ first civil trial, should not be mistaken for virtue. For a quick look at his personal history with the Jews will show us how he used the path of least resistance, in order to save himself from his own, self-imposed troubled career. When Pilate first entered into Jerusalem as Procurator, he got off to a very bad start with the Jews and their religious hierarchy by entering into the city wearing standards of the Roman Emperor on their helmets. The Jews considered these standards to be idolatrous, because the Romans worshiped the Caesars as Gods. Every Roman governor, before Pilate, had respected their wishes and removed these emblems from their headgear while they were in Jerusalem. Pilate, on the other hand, steadfastly refused to do so, despite being constantly dogged by the Jews.
Finally, in a showdown at the amphitheater, Pilate surrounded the Jews with armed soldiers and told them that if they didn’t put an end to their requests, they would be killed right there, on the spot. The Jews, however, called Pilate’s bluff, forcing him to reconsider. They knew that Pilate would come under fire from the Emperor, Caesar Tiberius, if he found out what Pilate was trying to do. And so Pilate, to his own dismay, had to buckle under and admit defeat.
A second incident involved Pilate’s taking of money from the temple treasury, in order to help finance a new aqueduct system for Jerusalem. When some of the angry Jews protested, Pilate planted some of his soldiers into the crowd, and upon his signal, they attacked the Jews, injuring, and even killing some innocent bystanders. It was these two incidents that the Jews used to blackmail Pilate into doing their desired will, of giving JESUS the death sentence. They knew, and Pilate knew, that if Tiberius found out about either one of these incidences, Pilate would be driven from office, or possibly, even killed.
One might ask himself, “Why didn’t the Jews just take JESUS out and kill HIM, themselves?” Well, the truth is, that, about forty years before the destruction of the temple by the Romans, Emperor Julius Caesar took away the right of the Jews to make decisions of judgment, involving the life and death of its citizens. At that time, only the Roman government could give a person a death sentence (John 18:31).
In addition, it was important to the Jewish religious hierarchy that JESUS, die, by Roman method, hanging from a cross, and here’s why. According to Deuteronomy 21:22-23, anyone who has committed a crime worthy of death, and is executed and hung on a tree, it is an indication that that person was cursed of GOD. Not only did the religious leaders want to show the people that JESUS was not the SON of GOD, as HE had claimed, they also wanted to send a message that HE was even cursed of GOD. In addition, from a GODly perspective, this manner of death would be in line with the prophetic statement of JESUS, where HE says, “When HE is raised up, HE will draw all men to HIMSELF”.
After Pilate’s questioning of JESUS had ended, he once again went out to the people and declared that he could find no fault in JESUS. He even tried to compromise the truth of his finding, by offering to release JESUS as a result of their customary rule, where they would release one prisoner from custody each year at the Passover. But instead of using that opportunity to free JESUS from custody, they chose instead, to release a convicted robber named Barabbas.
To compromise the truth means to not stand behind the truth at all. We either hold fast to the things of GOD, or, we allow ourselves to be deceived by satan. The Jews delivered JESUS into the hands of Pilate, and, in spite of his finding JESUS innocent, Pilate went on to try and compromise the truth of his findings. He convinced himself in the end, that he had done all he could, but actually, he knew deep in his heart that he had long ago, through his problems with the Jews, tossed away the option to do the right thing.
The “permissive will” of GOD, allows for man to do many things, and ultimately, through JESUS’ death, we also receive GOD’s wonderful and abounding grace. However, GOD, through HIS infinite wisdom, will never allow “grace” to trump “truth”. The “TRUTH” presented itself to Pilate that day, in the person of JESUS CHRIST, and he decided to put TRUTH to death. And as for the Jews, in order to carry out the death of JESUS, they abandoned every principle that they ever had. Especially on this day, when they uttered these infamous words to Pilate, as they are recorded in John 19:15, where they state, “We have no king but Caesar”.
That put the final brush strokes on a tragic painting, of a maddened mob, that had been driven by anger. Driven by their hatred for JESUS, the Jews lost all sense of proportion, and they totally forgot about the mercy, they themselves, had so often preached about in the temple. They forgot all justice, and in the end, they denounced GOD, and professed Caesar. Never before, in the history of man, has hatred’s insanity presented itself before us this vividly, and hopefully, it never will again. There can never be a “right time” to do the “wrong thing”, as Pilate and the Jews ultimately did. They took the most beautiful LIFE, that ever did live, and then, they snuffed it out, on a cross.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander


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