Sunday, March 27, 2016

Making a Messiah, Easter Sunday

Jesus was guilty!  That’s right on that Good Friday so many years ago Christ was declared guilty.  He had fought the good fight but he had lost.  In the eyes of the world, in the eyes of His followers and in the eyes of his enemies Jesus Christ the carpenter from Nazareth had been proven to be guilty.

Everything he said about being God, everything he had said about his Kingdom, everything He had said about His power.  Every statement He ever uttered, every promise He ever made, everything had been shown to be a lie because Jesus was guilty, guilty of claiming that he was God when apparently he wasn’t.

If Jesus had lived it would have been different, but he died and because he died everyone knew he was guilty, as guilty as sin.

The Jewish Leaders Testified to His Guilt.  It was Jesus who was marching out of step, not them.  He was a liberal, trouble making activist.  I mean, think about it, things had been happening the same way in Israel for thousands of years.  What right did this young upstart preacher have to come in and try to change things all around?

He wasn’t a Rabbi, he wasn’t a Levite, he wasn’t a scribe or a Pharisee.  He was just a carpenter, he was a newcomer to Jerusalem, he was only thirty three years old and he was wrong.

So why should they change?  After all it was the Sadducees who were the lawmakers, not Jesus.  He just didn’t understand how things were done.  What right did he have to tell them as he did in  Matthew 22:29 Jesus replied, “Your mistake is that you don’t know the Scriptures, and you don’t know the power of God.”  Well they had shown him, because they were right and he on the other hand was wrong.

How dare he call them vipers, how dare he call them fools, how dare he call them hypocrites.  Who did he think he was anyway?  And then he had the utter gall to claim to be the equal to Jehovah God.  In their Eyes he was guilty as guilty as sin.

Pilate Testified to His Guilt  And he was right because he was smart.  Pilate knew what he was doing, he was every inch a politician.  He saw trouble coming and he already had too much trouble in Jerusalem.  There Jews were on the brink of revolt.  Perhaps it had happened when he had put the images of Caesar on the flag standards in direct defiance of the Jewish law.  Maybe he was guilty that time, or perhaps it was when he financed the municipal water supply with money he had seized from the temple treasury, he may have been guilty that time too.

I mean Pilate had enough trouble; he didn’t need all the problems that this young Nazarene carpenter represented.  Pilate had the authority of the Roman Empire behind him; at the snap of his fingers he could have levelled Jerusalem.  And this young peasant had the nerve to stand in front of him and say  John 19:11 Then Jesus said, “You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above. So the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin.” Oh yeah, right, well Pilate proved him wrong.

Pilate feared the trouble that the Jews could raise with his superiors but then again there were his superstitions about this one who called himself God.

What should he do, please the Jews or set this harmless preacher free?  So he crucified him, but hey it worked out for the best. In Pilates eyes Jesus was guilty, as guilty as sin.

Barabbas Testified to His Guilt  According to custom each year at the Passover celebration the Roman Governor would set one prisoner free.  And so Pilate asked the crowd, “Should I release Jesus the Christ or Barabbas the murderer?”  It would have been so easy for Pilate to have released Christ if the Crowd had of asked him to.  But no, the crowd yelled, “Free Barabbas, crucify Jesus, free Barabbas, crucify Jesus.” And he so he did.

So you see Barabbas was declared innocent and Jesus was declared guilty.

But who was this Barabbas?  Well his name was probably Bar Rabbis which in the Greek means Son of the Rabbi. I’m sure some people are thinking; typical preacher’s kid right?  Maybe his dad was one of the leaders who called for the death of Jesus.  We do know that Barabbas was one of the Zealots, those who wanted to rid Israel of Rome.  And the Zealots didn’t care what it took, murder, robbery, terrorism.

Now tradition tells us that Barabbas was not this man’s first name.  Remember our old buddy Peter?  Sometimes in the gospels he is referred to  Simon Bar Jonah, or Simon the Son of Jonah.  Tradition has it that Barabbas had a very common first name, a name that he shared with many other Jews, one that he even shared with a young carpenter from Nazareth.  You see tradition tells us that the Zealot’s complete name was Jesus Bar Rabbis.

Two Jesus’, one who preached love, and one who preached hate, one who preached peace and one who preached war, one who preached forgiveness and one who preached vengeance.  Two Jesus, as different as day and night.  And one walked away a free man and one died on a cross.  And because Barabbas walked free in his eyes Jesus was guilty, as guilty as sin.

The Roman Guards Testified to His Guilt   These men represented the power of Rome; they were impartial and interested only in doing their job.  They had probably been brought in from Caesarea Philippi to help keep the peace in Jerusalem during the Passover celebration. They didn’t know who Jesus was and if they had of known they wouldn’t have cared.

If Pilate declared that he was a criminal and deserved to be crucified, than as far as they were concerned he was a criminal and deserved to be crucified.  And so they split his clothing amongst them and nailed Jesus to the cross.  Because as far as they were concerned Jesus was guilty, as guilty as sin.

His Disciples Testified to His Guilt  Was there any real reason for all of them to die?  Self preservation is nothing to be trifled with.  God himself put that survival instinct in each one of us.  I mean think about it, if Jesus was wrong now, then he must have been wrong all along.  Maybe he really didn’t know what he was talking about. Turn the other cheek indeed and look where it had gotten Jesus.

Perhaps Barabbas needed some followers, now there was a winner.  They’d have to talk to him on Tuesday after everything had settled down over the holidays.  The meek will inherit the earth.  Sure, all it had gotten Jesus was a cross and a borrowed grave.

The disciples were right when they choose to lay low for awhile.  What would they have accomplished by taking a stand?  Whey should they all have to die.  If Jesus had of shown them he was innocent by calling down an army of angels, well that would have been a horse of a different colour. 

But it was all in vain, Jesus wasn’t God and they were just fishermen.  The disciples were right and because they hadn’t stood up to defend the one they called Lord and friend they were proclaiming for all to hear that they thought Jesus was guilty, as guilty as sin.

Popular Opinion Testified to His Guilt  On Palm Sunday the crowd had sang hosanna and waved palm branches and if a Roman or a Jew had of laid a hand on Jesus, there would have been a riot.  Oh they were right about Jesus on Sunday, but then on Friday they shouted “Crucify Him, Crucify Jesus.”

Just like today, how many people praise his name and sing Hosanna on Sunday but on Monday they live for themselves and take his name in vain?  Popular opinion had proclaimed Christ a king and now it was proclaiming him a Criminal.  And popular opinion was right and Jesus was wrong.  He was crucified because popular opinion decided that Jesus was guilty, as guilty as sin.

Good Friday ends on a very final note.  Jesus was gone, dead, buried and silenced forever.  Everything that Jesus had said, everything that Jesus had taught, everything that Jesus had done was gone and would be forgotten, because Jesus was wrong.

For two days Jesus was wrong.  By every measure that is used by the world Jesus was wrong. Dead wrong because on Friday Jesus had died.  Jesus clashed with all the selfish distorted values and morals of a fallen society and he died because nobody can fight a monster that big and win.

He took on the sins of the world, the collective evil from creation onward and from all outward appearances he had failed.

And that was the plan. 

On Palm Sunday we looked at how the day Jesus rode triumphantly into Jerusalem had a dark side.  It was that day during the celebration that the Jewish leaders decided that Jesus had to die.  They were afraid of what it would mean if the people were to embrace this radical young leader.

Afraid of what it would mean to their authority and afraid of how the Romans would react.  For them there was only one solution.  And they were willing to do whatever had to be done to make it happen.

For Judas it was the day he decided that things with Jesus weren’t going the way he wanted them to go.  And we’ll never know for sure if Judas was looking for Jesus’ death or if he was just trying to give him a push to force his hand.  But the results were the same.  They led to the cross.

And on Good Friday a flawed arrest led to several flawed trials.  Trials where the rules and regulations set in place to ensure justice were flaunted, ignored and broken all for one end, so Jesus would be found guilty and to guarantee that Jesus would die.

And while the verdict on Friday was guilty, was that the reality?

If we go back to the story we read in Matthew 27:3-4  When Judas, who had betrayed him, realized that Jesus had been condemned to die, he was filled with remorse. So he took the thirty pieces of silver back to the leading priests and the elders.  “I have sinned,” he declared, “for I have betrayed an innocent man.” “What do we care?” they retorted. “That’s your problem.”

Judas Testified to His Innocence   Judas had spent three years with Jesus, he had seen the miracles, he had eaten the fish and loaves by shore of galilee.  He had heard Jesus preach on love and grace and forgiveness. 

And regardless of what he had done in the garden, Judas knew that Jesus was innocent.

On Friday we discovered that while the religious leaders were the one who demanded that Jesus must die they didn’t have the authority to have him executed, so they turned to Rome.  Jesus was sent to the Roman governor, Pilate for sentencing, and while the result was that Jesus was crucified, it was a flawed verdict delivered under pressure because Pilate wasn’t really convinced of Jesus’ guilt.  We read in  Luke 23:14  (Pilate) announced his verdict. “You brought this man to me, accusing him of leading a revolt. I have examined him thoroughly on this point in your presence and find him innocent.

Pilate Testified to His Innocence  

Pilate may have given in to the pressure of Caiaphas and his cohorts but he knew in his heart that Jesus was innocent.  And we read this little act of defiance in John 19:19-22  And Pilate posted a sign over him that read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”  The place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek, so that many people could read it.  Then the leading priests objected and said to Pilate, “Change it from ‘The King of the Jews’ to ‘He said, I am King of the Jews.’”  Pilate replied, “No, what I have written, I have written.”   

But it wasn’t just Pilate, you’ll remember from the story of Good Friday that Pilate had sent Jesus to the puppet king Herod so that he wouldn’t have to deal with the religious leaders and their demands.  And Herod examined Jesus and sent him back to Pilate with his findings.  We read in Luke 23:15  Pilate said “Herod came to the same conclusion and sent him back to us. Nothing this man has done calls for the death penalty.”

And so Herod Testified to His Innocence  Herod, who had killed John the Baptist at the insistence of his wife, Herod who’s father had had the infants of Bethlehem slaughtered in an attempt to kill the new born Jesus.  Even Herod knew that Jesus had done nothing to deserve to die.  

But despite the fact that Pilate and Herod knew that Jesus was innocent of the charges, they allowed him to be mocked and beaten and ultimately crucified.  Pilate may have declared himself innocent of Jesus death, but without Pilate’s consent Jesus would not have been killed that day. 

And as Jesus hung on the cross, between two thieves we read this account.  Luke 23:39-41  One of the criminals hanging beside him scoffed, “So you’re the Messiah, are you? Prove it by saving yourself—and us, too, while you’re at it!”  But the other criminal protested, “Don’t you fear God even when you have been sentenced to die?  We deserve to die for our crimes, but this man hasn’t done anything wrong.”

The Thief Testified to His Innocence Legend has named the thief Dismas. 

Maybe Dismas had been in the crowd and heard Jesus preach, or maybe a loved one had been healed by Jesus.  We’ll never know.  We don’t know what brought Dimas to his conclusion, but the one thing he was sure of was that Jesus was innocent and Dismas wasn’t.   

And when Jesus did die, and his body was being removed from the cross, we see this closing scene from Luke’s account:   Luke 23:47  When the Roman officer overseeing the execution saw what had happened, he worshiped God and said, “Surely this man was innocent.”   

His Executioner Testified to His Innocence I’m sure this man had seen plenty of people declare their innocence or the innocence of loved ones.  He had a job to do and he had simply done his job, but at the end of the day he realized that some of the blood that he had shed that day had been innocent blood. 

And so the trial and death of Jesus was a travesty and a crime.  But that is the biggest failing of capital punishment, it is so hard to undo.

And so it really didn’t matter if Jesus was a guilty man or an innocent man, at the end of the day on Friday his enemies had won, because he was a dead man.  They had been right and he had been wrong. 

But the story doesn’t end with the crucifixion, that was Friday but this is Sunday. Stand with me for the reading from God’s word.  Scripture Reading

Matthew 28:1-10

The Miracle of Easter is that The Empty Tomb Testified to His Innocence

On the third day when Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to the tomb to prepare their master with the spices donated by Nicodemus instead of finding Jesus they found Angels. 

But wait if Jesus was guilty and dead then how come he wasn’t still in the grave?  If Jesus was wrong if he wasn’t the messiah he claimed to be, then where was he? 

For two days the world proclaimed itself right.  For two days they had declared that Jesus was guilty of falsely claiming to be God, but on the third day and for eternity Jesus Christ was proclaimed to be innocent, and proven to be God.  Jesus was right and the rest of them were wrong.

If Jesus had of remained in the ground he would have been just as wrong as Mohammed, Confucius and Buddha.  If Jesus had of remained dead he would have remained dead wrong.  Just another misguided prophet who thought he was right. 

And because Jesus of Nazareth was right on Easter day, fifty days later on the day of Pentecost those first 120 Christians were filled with the Holy Spirit and Christianity was proven right.

On Good Friday, Christianity heard the bells of Hell peal out the death toll of Jesus Christ and the movement he founded.  On Good Friday Simon Peter cowered under the gaze of a little servant girl.  On Good Friday the believers were of many accord, each one interested only in their own welfare, each Christian concerned only with their own salvation.

But Christianity didn’t lose because Jesus Christ didn’t lose.  And because Christianity didn’t lose good won’t lose.  There are times that it looks like Christianity is beaten but time and time again we struggle back to the surface and emerge victorious.  Oh our doctrine may fail us and our leaders may disappoint us but Christianity will not be kept down.  And as we look around at the evil in this old world sometimes it appears that Satan has the upper hand, sometimes it would appear that Satan is victorious.  We see abortion, hunger, war and deceitfulness.  We see illness, pain and suffering.  We see scandals from inside and outside the church.

And as the world looks on it chants; “Jesus was guilty, Jesus lost, Jesus was guilty and Jesus lost.” 

But we have only to look beyond Friday when it appeared that Jesus was guilty, to Sunday when Jesus Christ rose triumphantly from the grave throwing off the shackles of death and proclaiming himself right for eternity.

Jesus was innocent, he was innocent on Palm Sunday, he was innocent on Good Friday, He was innocent on Easter Sunday.  Because he not only claimed to be God, he was God.  And because of that He will remain right as will his church. 

Because Jesus Christ did not lose we will not lose.  In winning the victory over death on Calvary’s mount so many years ago Jesus won the victory for us.  When Jesus won over death, he offered us the power to win over death.

Now Jesus did not win on the cross so we could have the Easter Bunny, and Jesus did not win on the cross so we could have chocolate eggs, and Jesus did not win on the cross so we could have a long weekend in the spring. 

Jesus Christ won on Calvary for one reason and one reason only, and that was to give you and I the opportunity to have eternal life.  I would suspect that if you gave Jesus a list of things he would like to have been doing over the Easter weekend that dying on a cross would have been somewhere near the bottom of the list.

But Christ died on the cross so you wouldn’t have to and he rose again to demonstrate that he was even in control of death.   

No comments: