Appeal to Rome

Matthew 27:1-2. “When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put Him to death: And when they had bound Him, they led Him away, and delivered Him to Pontius Pilate the governor.”

Under the governance of Rome, Israel was forbidden from executing anyone.  If they wanted a legal death sentence, it was up to Rome to proclaim it and carry it out.  So, after deliberating until the morning dawned, the chief priests and elders now bound Jesus securely and paraded Him through the streets of Jerusalem to the palace of Pilate, the Roman governor.

It is very likely that a crowd gathered along the way. The Man that had been  lauded and praised as He entered Jerusalem a week earlier was now being mocked and jeered by the very same people who had spread their garments along His path and honored Him with palm branches.  Also, they were completing  that which was necessary to fulfill scripture by turning Him over to the Gentiles for the final death sentence.

We ought not to be too quick to condemn them for their fickle behavior. Have we not also turned our backs on God in America today?  The only time we call on Him is when we’ve been attacked in some horrific way, but it isn’t long until we go comfortably back to our normal patterns of living aside from His Word.

Don’t we stand by while thousands of unborn babies are killed every single day? Don’t we lift our hands in horror while people across the world are beheaded for refusing to deny Christ, but then go blithely on our way as we trust the politicians we’ve elected to protect us from an evil we’ve never had to deal with here?  Don’t we accept behaviors in our society that God clearly prohibits in His Word, fearing that we’ll be seen as homophobic or politically incorrect?

Don’t we compromise the standards that used to unify believers in this country, but are now dividing us?  Alcohol, questionable movies and TV programs, books and other entertainment that believers ought never to even consider have all become  acceptable under the pretext of “there’s really nothing wrong with it.”

Before we stand in self-righteous judgment against those who gave Jesus up to the cross, we need to clean out our own private closets.

Peter’s Denial

Matthew 26: 69-75. “Now Peter sat without in the palace; and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee. But he denied before them all, saying I know not what thou sayest. And when he was gone out into the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth. And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the Man. And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them: for thy speech betrayeth thee. Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the Man. And immediately the cock crew. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shall deny Me thrice. And  he went out, and wept bitterly.”

There’s really not much to be said here. Poor Peter, frightened and alone, watching the hatred and ugliness poured all over Jesus,  suddenly finds himself accused of being a follower of Christ. Deny, deny, deny.  Even his accent worked against him. The people there knew he was from the same area of Galiliee from which Jesus came.

The most poignant moment here is when the rooster crows, and realization floods Peter’s mind and heart. Not only had he denied knowing Jesus, but he had cursed in great fear and anger.

And he went aside and wept bitterly.

What Think Ye?

Matthew 26:65-68. Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses?  behold, now ye have heard His blasphemy. What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death. Then did they spit in His face, and buffeted Him; and others smote Him with the palms of their hands, saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ. Who is he that smote Thee?”

The only problem I have with the painting above is that as far as we are told in scripture, there were no Roman soldiers involved yet. At this point, it was strictly a Jewish affair, and the Romans weren’t terribly concerned until it became clear that there could be insurrection  over this  “prophet” from Galilee.

In any case, the trek toward Calvary had now begun in earnest. Finally, Caiaphas and his cohorts had it from Jesus’ own lips that He was the Christ; furthermore, that He prophesied His own return with great power.

Enough!   As the Law dictated, Caiaphas tore both his outer and inner garments in a sign of grief and rejection over the “blasphemy” that Jesus had spoken,  as if he, Caiaphas, was a holy, godly man who had no ulterior motives in this kangaroo court but to get rid of a heretic.  He then turned to the Sanhedrin, asking them what they thought.

“He is guilty of death!”  was the unanimous decision of this  biased jury, and their decision led to the beginning of the horrible abuse Jesus would suffer over the next several hours.

To spit in one’s face is still the deepest insult, showing an utter disregard for the value of the person who was so treated.

To buffet was to strike heavily with their fists; others slapped His face with open palms, another deep insult. As they ganged up on Him, slapping, beating, spitting, they also mocked Him. It would seem the blows were coming from all directions, because they jeered at Him, say, “Tell us who hit You, Oh Christ!”

I imagine these men gleefully shoving Jesus from one person to another while He was attacked from every side. There was no gentleness in the treatment He received.  Today, it would be considered akin to police brutality, and a dozen lawyers would be johnny-on-the-spot to  defend Him.  Not then, not there.  Those who hated him were finally seeing an end to His power with the people.

I suppose there were also those involved who were just there to be a part of events, so they’d have a story to tell.  Just as we always have looky-loos today, filming horrendous events with their celll phones without lending any aid to the victim, there were certainly those at Jesus’ trial who cared nothing for the proceedings except to claim they’d been there.

Human nature doesn’t change much.

Thou hast Said

Matthew 26:64. Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.”

Caiaphas had put the question to Jesus, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the living God?”

Jesus knew that no false witness could put Him on the cross.  He knew that it would be by the words of His own mouth that He would be condemned, and this was the one question that He would choose to answer, because it was the one that would take Him the rest of the way to Calvary.  His statement, “Thou has said,” is confirmation of Caiaphas’   question.

But He went one step farther. Not only did He confirm His claim to be the Son of God; He also went on to prophesy of His future glory at the right hand of God, and of His visible appearance at the time of His Coming again in the clouds of heaven.

He confirmed that He was the willing sacrifice of God, Who would drink that bitter cup and fulfill the scriptures.

He may as well have said, in our modern language, “Yes, I am He. Now let’s just be done with this foolishness and get on with it. We’re wasting time here.”

Friday Counseling Issues: Say the Truth!

Another prompt from Kathleen Duncan:

If you could force all of your clients to do one thing, what would it be?
Any counselor who has been in the business for a while develops a sense of when the client is fudging the truth. There are some reasons why people do this, and not all of those reasons are about making other people look bad.
One reason people lie is that the truth is just too painful.  They have spent years blocking it, stuffing it down, denying it. That’s a hard habit to break.  It shows up the most often in those who have been sexually abused as children.   Telling the truth about what happened to them is very hard, partly because they have been conditioned for years to cover it up.
Well-meaning but uninformed people have told these victims a lot of lies.  They have told them, “Just put it behind you now.  Quit feeling sorry for yourself.  Don’t talk about it and  eventually you’ll forget it.”
The victim reaches a point of not really knowing what was truth and what is false. He doubts his own memories, believing he is making things up because he has been told he’s doing so just to get attention.
The truth is, very few children are making it up.  It does happen, but it’s rare.  There are other behaviors that go along with sexual abuse symptoms that don’t show up if the child is just making up the story.
Other reasons people lie?  Well, some folks, by nature or nurture or both, really believe they have to be right every single time. By hook or by crook, they will win. If they have to lie to do so, it’s not their fault. if other people woud only see that they are wrong, always, then the counselee wouldn’t have to lie.  This kind of thinking can be part of a sociopathic person’s make-up. It also can be indicative of an abuser, who always blames his behavior on the person he’s just beaten into submission.
Some people are just so mortified by what they’ve done that they can’t bear to own up to it. They want me to fix them without really understanding what I’m dealing with.
Some people  want me to fix everyone else in their lives so they can stop lying.
Some want me to tell them their lies are justified.  Sometimes, maybe they are.
WHAT?? HOW CAN YOU SAY THA???  LYING IS NEVER OKAY!
Remember that the next time a lie slides out of your mouth, and quit being so quick to judge.
I will never condemn a mother, for instance, for lying to an abusive husband to protect her child.  What I will do is encourage her to remove herself and her child from the situation so that she doesn’t have to lie any more.  I cannot condemn her for saving her child from a terrible beating.
I will never condemn anyone for lying to protect his family from a murderous intruder. You do whatever you have to do, and worry later about the ethics of not telling the whole truth.
I will never condemn anyone in a war or terroristic situation for lying to protect himself or others.  I will take you to the story of Rahab in the Bible, who lied to protect the two Israeli men who were hidden in her dwelling.  She did the right thing.  She was never condemned by God for her lie, and she was also a part of the lineage of Jesus Christ.
I realize these are extreme examples that most of us will not face.  Some of the people I’ve worked with have been in such extreme dangers, and they struggle with lies they may have told  to protect themselves and others. You may not agree with me, and that’s fine, but I always try to encourage these people that they did what they had to do and they are not to be blamed.
Getting back to the counseling office, the importance of telling the whole truth is simply this: I cannot help you if you are not telling me the whole truth. It will eventually come out anyway, and then you will feel embarrassed for not having told me sooner. Sometimes we lie by omission, you know.  We simply leave out what we don’t want to put words to, hoping that by not saying those words, the truth will disappear.  That never works.
You can’t give a seamstress all your measurements except one and then expect her to hand you a perfect result. There’s going to be someplace that doesn’t fit quite right, and you’ll never be satisfied with the garment. Same goes in counseling.  I’ll do the best I can with what you give me, but if you leave anything out, the fix will never be completely satisfactory.
Believe me!

Jesus Held His Peace

Matthew 26:62-63. “And the high priest arose, and said unto Him, Answerest Thou nothing?  what is it which these wintess against Thee? But Jesus held His peace. And the high priest answered and said unto Him, I adjure Thee by the living God, that Thou tell us whether Thou be the Christ, the Son of God.”

*****************************

They were at their wit’s end.  They hadn’t been able to find two witnesses who could agree with each other about anything Jesus had said or done that rose to the level of blasphemy.  He wouldn’t speak to defend Himself, so they couldn’t try to trip Him up with arguments that would trap Him into making a false statement. There was only one thing left to do.

They would have to put the BIG question to Him; they would have to ask Him outright if He were theChrist, the Son of God.

I think it is ironic that Caiaphas adjured (required, ordered, demanded)  Jesus, in the Name of the living God, to say whether He was indeed the Christ that the prophets had foretold.

And Jesus knew that His answer would seal His death warrant.  It was the only question He would answer.

Stay tuned for His amazing statement.  We’ll look at it on Monday, March 2.

False Witnesses

Matthew 26:59-61. “Now the chief priests and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put Him to death: But found none: yea, though many fals witnesses came, yet foundthey none. At the last came two false witness, and said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days.”

The only way the Sanhedrin (the council) could condemn Jesus to death was to accuse Him, and prove Him guilty of, blasphemy.  Of course that was impossible.  In one of His discourses, Jesus had asked the crowds, “Which of you convinces Me of sin?”  And no one could. He was not guilty of anything, and there was no evidence, no proof, of His guilt. 

How frustrated the leaders must have been.  Here they had Jesus, finally, bound and brought before them as a criminal, and though many false witnesses came before them with stories against Jesus, they could prove nothing.  It was going to be a long night.

Then, two men came forward.  They accused Jesus of saying that He could destroy the Temple of God and build it again in three days.  Aha!  Finally, they had something they could work with!

The trouble, of course, was that it was a wrong quotation of His words, and a wrong application.  And we can read in Mark’s gospel that the witnesses couldn’t even agree with each other.  It would be impossible to convict Him of such a charge. The chief priests and scribes were so angry by now that they taunted Him, trying to get Him to respond.

There was one thing left to try, one way they could trap Him into saying something they could use against Him. At this point, He had said not one single word.  His silence drove them crazy.  He MUST be made to speak!