Friday, October 23, 2009
As God's timetable for redemption came to the point of crisis in Passion Week, it was as if the people were constrained to speak truthful words on the plight of Jesus of Nazareth.
The High Priest was threatened by news of the raising of Lazarus from the dead. He suggested to his associates that Jesus be eliminated. He stated that 'it was expedient that one man die for the people so that the nation not perish'. Of course he was attempting to avoid repurcussions from Rome should the people rise up in support of the miracle-working Nazarene.
The crowds on Palm Sunday welcomed the donkey-riding teacher with words from Psalm 118, 'Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.' There was a messianic connotation to their song. Perhaps 430 years of waiting since Malachi's promise would now come to a close. But the people failed to continue with the next verse of that Psalm: " 27 God is the LORD, which hath shewed us light: bind the sacrifice with cords, even unto the horns of the altar."
Judas approached Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and 'straightaway went to him and said Master, Master and kissed him'. Oh, that the man of Kerioth might have been pledging sincere allegiance and love to that greatest of rabbis. Instead the gestures were meant as acts of identification and betrayal to the temple henchmen.
Much perplexed by the crowd's ferocity, Pilate had our Lord savagely whipped and torn. On the judgment porch he presented the disfigured prisoner, hoping that bloodlust in the mob might have been satisfied. He asserted, "Behold the man". Yes, this is God's definitive man - obedient, gentle, truthful, resolute, meek, merciful, clean-living and full of light. But Pilate had no such attributes in mind.
The setting was Golgotha and three crosses were set against the darkened sky. One of the thieves beside Jesus blurted out, 'if you are the Christ save yourself and us'. Yes, this is the very focal point of salvation, but the rescue would be an atoning blood-letting and not a last-minute escape.
Above the head of Jesus on the cross, a poster had been affixed by Pilate's order, stating "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews". It asserted the long awaited truth, but it was meant only as a gesture of contempt for the lamb-like holy man, and as a mockery of God's elect who looked for their Golden Age under a benevolent King. The assertion was thrice-given, perfectly given, once in Hebrew the language of faith, once in Greek the language of wisdom and art, once in Latin the language of power and commerce. Not a single sector of the metropolis would de missed.
In all of the above, right words were spoken, but in the wrong spirit.
There was a seventh assertion. Was it also in error? The Roman centurion stood beneath the cross and witnessed the last words of the thorn-crowned prisoner. His assessment, "Truly this man was the Son of God."How could he have expected that soon the bruised corpse would be raised glorified to live evermore; that the individual who relinquished his life was not simply a son of God (holy man) but the eternal Son of Glory?