The Passion Week is soon upon us and as I prepare my Passion Week set of sermons, here are some thoughts from John 18-19:
The Passion Week scene in that judgement hall with Caesar’s paper proxy, Pilate, and the Lamb of God silent before his shearers, puts us all on trial. Everything about that scene cries out, “There is no king but Jesus!” Yet, we are shocked to hear ourselves shout out of our own mouths, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him! We have no king but Caesar!”
Caiaphas, the crowd, the Jewish leaders, even Pilate thought they were each using Jesus as a pawn in their own political, religious, and power game of chess. None of them realize that their own plays of power and ambitions were being used by God to save humanity. As Jesus had tracked the priests, the crowd, and Pilate down to that very hour, He puts every reader, every listener of this story, us all, on trial. Don’t think or rationalize for a moment that we would have been any different. “Crucify Him!” is the shout of every heart that craves even the smallest token of power to save or to protect our own lives.
Can we really say, “We have no king but Jesus?” Hardly. Like the duplicitous priests who handed Jesus over to Pilate so he would do their dirty work and get rid of Him, yet they do not want to go into the judgement hall for fear of being defiled—they did’t want to spoil their religious appearance at holy Passover. What a joke, laughable behind all imagination. We, too, want to look holy, undefiled, yet everything about us is already unclean, for we, too, want rid of this Jesus where it counts and cling to every possible king or power other than Jesus. We show our allegiance every chance we get, while attempting to look pious and spiritual, to other kings—any other king but Jesus.
Do not think this is all of the powerful or the well-positioned. There is that crowd. They were the one’s shouting, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” Each one of us, each reader-hearer before this story, are quick to align ourselves with almost any relevant, expedient power to get what we need, what we desire, what protect ourselves, what maintains our spot, even our little, tiny spot. Yet, as Christians standing before this godawful scene (it's all backwards), we are not here so we can save Israel or to leverage any feigned appearance of allegiance to Caesar—no, not at all: we are not here to save America, save our party, save our stake of ground; we are not here to align ourselves with any party we may think we need to protect our way of life, to maintain our piddly sense of power. No. For we would no sooner cry out “crucify Him!” to protect our personal stake and space in this drama and would gladly feign allegiance to any king that will save our asses when are asses are on the line, when our lives depend on bits of our culture for protection, for status, for riches and for power, for our small plot of ground. Hail Caesar is quite easy. And the cry, “Crucify Him! Crucify!” is all but too natural.
Why we are all on trail in that judgment room where Jesus stands before Pilate.
There is no king but Jesus.
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Chip M. Anderson, advocate for biblical social action; pastor of an urban church plant in the Hill neighborhood of New Haven, CT; husband, father, author, former Greek & NT professor; and, 19 years involved with social action.