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Messy Questions

Updated: Apr 27, 2023

Dear Urban Life,

Take some time to read this - a bit longer than normal - but then again…. This is not a normal week - this is the week we get to remember Jesus’ death.

This week is from the “He Gets Us” Campaign - used with permission.

“We were looking at the story of Jesus’ arrest and death and were struck with a simple question: who was responsible? Who put him up on that cross?

What a messy question.

The circumstances leading up to Jesus’ death were chaotic. A week prior, He was drawing massive crowds. People pushed in close just to see Him and to hear what He had to say.

And then suddenly, everything changed.

Whether it was because He called out the corrupt money-making methods used in the temple or because He was getting too popular and upsetting the status quo, the people in power decided to take action to get rid of Him.

They took a mob with them in the middle of the night to arrest Him. They held a hasty trial to make Him look like a criminal. It worked, and the public’s perception of Him flipped. By morning, a whole mob led by religious leaders called for His death. But there was a problem: according to their laws, they could not kill Him. They judged him guilty and wanted the death penalty, but they couldn’t carry it out.

You see, the religious leaders had similar power to what news agencies and media groups have today. They had the ability to sway the court of public opinion — to present just the right information to get everyone on board with the guilty verdict, but they couldn’t deliver the punishment. They needed a third party with authority.

Pontius Pilate was that third party. He was the Roman governor of Judea, where all this chaos was taking place. The Romans had colonized Judea and were not held in high esteem for it, but they did hold all the power. So, the mob took Jesus to Pilate and demanded the death penalty. But Pilate wasn’t buying it. He questioned Jesus himself to try and determine what crimes He might be guilty of. What could He possibly have done that was deserving of death? Pilate found nothing. He declared to the crowds, “I find no guilt in this man.”

And this is the pivotal point in the story.

The religious leaders and the mob wanted Jesus dead, and Pilate was the only one who could legally have him killed, but Pilate was sure that Jesus was innocent. He had the power to save an innocent man’s life, but an angry mob was at his gates — a mob that would only get more heated and violent if their demands were not met.

Civil unrest reflects pretty poorly on him as a governor, so what did he do? He sentenced Jesus to death. But as he did it, he made one last effort to avoid the guilt of killing an innocent man. He publicly washed his hands in front of the crowd. With it, he signaled to them that Jesus’ blood would be on their hands — they were responsible, not him.

There’s that idea of responsibility again. Who is ultimately responsible? Was it the religious leaders who organized and orchestrated the arrest? The mob who called for Jesus’ death? The bystanders who knew Jesus was innocent but sat silently, trying to stay out of the eye of the mob’s violence? Was it Pilate who was given the authority to kill or save but decided it was easier to shirk that responsibility and let an innocent man die than to face the anger of the mob and the guilt of the decision? The Roman soldiers who carried out the sentence and nailed Jesus to the cross? Or maybe all of the above?

It’s a messy question with a lot of moving parts, and it’s just as messy outside the story of Jesus.

When someone is wrongly convicted, who is responsible? The real perpetrator of the crime? The officers who made the wrongful arrest? The prosecutor who used misleading evidence? The jury that determined a guilty verdict? The judge that swings the gavel? The countless others that felt in their heart something wrong was being done but stayed silent?

The way Jesus responded in the face of injustice suggests we’re asking the wrong question when we ask who to blame. When He was nailed up on a cross, He audibly forgave the people that put him there. He didn’t hold anyone responsible.

When Jesus was the object of injustice, He chose forgiveness. And He called others to look inward and do the same. In a world of finger-pointing and blame-placing, Jesus’ approach is radical. We think living by it would change everything.

Scripture References: Mark 14:53-65; Matthew 27:23-24; Luke 23:34; John 8:1-11”

Come and enjoy the Easter Experience that Urban Life Church is hosting, and rest!

Sunday is coming….#Heisrisen



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