Sunday, May 6, 2012

Afar Off–Part 6

We mentioned, last time, that scourging and crucifixion were never a one-two punch in sentencing under Roman law.  Except for Jesus.  We could have discussed some things about the sentencing, then.  But that would have split the discussion of the sentencing between posts, so we decided to wait and put all the parts together.

A little bit of history.  The Roman empire was known for its Pax Romana – peace throughout the empire.  But that peace came at a price.  Being conquest of the Roman army, if you were not Roman.  The Roman army was the biggest and strongest in existence at the time.  And, having created crucifixion and the way prisoners were scourged if not crucified, the nastiest.  So, the price of peace was being in subjection.  Subjection was something the Jewish people at the time were not very good at.  So, we have an undercurrent of conflict leading into the sentencing of Jesus.

Add to that history something we don’t often think about.  We pointed out last time that Pilate really found no reason to sentence Jesus to death and really didn’t want to.  Or he wouldn’t have sent Jesus to Herod for disposition.  It appears that Pilate, despite being a governor for a very oppressive and cruel conqueror, had a conscience.  He was “a good man”.  Obviously, not good in the Biblical sense.  But the final decision must have weighed heavily on him.

With all of that in place, Jesus was taken to Pilate, who sent him to Herod.  Herod also found no reason for executing Jesus and sent Him back to Pilate.  That looked like Herod was honoring Pilate.  But was he?  From what we know of Herod, I’d suspect that he’s passing the buck back to Pilate,  And, at the same time, creating a situation where there might come something more against Pilate to move him out of the way, fueling Herod’s political climb.  But that gets away from our focus.

Jesus and Pilate are together, again.  Pilate still misses the spiritual opportunity before him.  And we come to the holiday, where as the conquerors, the Romans show their “mercy” by freeing a prisoner.  And the crowd chooses Barabbas, instead of Jesus.  And some interesting highlights come to the fore.
  1. Even if Pilate freed Barabbas, Jesus should have been let go, anyway.  He’d already had His punishment as prescribed by law.
  2. The fact that Pilate succumbed to putting Jesus on the cross points out the volatility of the Jewish population.  And how tenuous the Roman reign was in Israel.
  3. Even though the governors were supposed to follow Roman law and Caesar’s rule, news of issues in Israel being reported to Caesar apparently seemed a less pleasant possibility than reports of their deviating from procedure.  The situation was engineered so that it at least looked to Pilate like he had no other option than crucifying Jesus and freeing Barabbas.
  4. It was unlikely that the crowd calling for Jesus crucifixion was the same as those cheering Him on Palm Sunday.  But there may have been some who were in both places.  When there’s a lack of relationship with God, there are always some who outwardly seem to have it, but are really just there because that’s where the excitement is for the moment.  Much like some sports fans.
And, so, Jesus was condemned to the cross.  It could be very easy to fix blame in any or all of several directions.  Herod, Pilate, the Jews, the Pharisees and Scribes, Judas, Satan, etc.  But we have to remember something.  God planned it and God allowed it.  For our benefit.  And there lies the difference between being in relationship with God or not.  As we’ve seen, without God, all the maneuvers were made for some apparent self gain.  Jesus and the Father, on the other hand, went forward on the basis of removing man from his self inflicted dilemma.  No matter what the cost to them.  That’s a comparison worth meditating on for a very long time.  More, next time.

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