“And when dawn came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people deliberated regarding Jesus so that they might put him to death. They bound him and led him away, delivering him to Pilate the governor.”
“And at dawn, immediately the chief priests made deliberations with the elders and scribes and the whole of the Sanhedrin. They bound Jesus and took him away, delivering him to Pilate.”
“And the whole council of them arose and led him before Pilate.”
“Therefore they led Jesus away from Caiaphas to the Praetorium. But as it was dawn, they did not go inside the Praetorium in order that they not be defiled but could eat the passover.”
Do you see the irony of John’s account? Here are the priests and other leaders of the church conducting a secret and illegal trial designed to frame an innocent man being concerned about becoming ritually defiled by entering Pilate’s headquarters. It should not surprise us that Jesus called these men “whitewashed tombs” (Matthew 23:27). They are concerned with the outward forms but have no regard for the inward spirit that is supposed to be guided by the forms. How often in the Old Testament we find God telling the people how he hated all of their sacrifices — not because the sacrifice was bad, but because they were just going through the motions and performing a ritual, not living a life of devotion.
Though we don’t live lives marked by blood sacrifices and ritual cleanliness any longer, how often it is that we end up acting in the way that these Jewish leaders did. How often we fail to get involved in the lives of those who are hurting because of what others in the community might say about them (or us!). How often we fail to evangelize prostitutes, drug addicts, homeless, or convicts in our midst. Our churches often participate in jail Bible studies and ministries, but how often do we embrace those same people once they have been released from jail? We are often quick to invite new people to church if they are “like us,” but what of those from a different cultural background, skin tone, or socio-economic strata? What do we mean then when we say that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek when we exclude people because of their background? How often we have condemned the hypocrisy of these Jewish leaders and have missed seeing our own hypocrisy?
Thus, it is in the midst of this that the Jews determine that their only solution is to put Jesus to death, and that is exactly what they seek to do by taking Jesus to Pilate. If you were a territory under Roman rule, it was Romans who reserved the right to capital punishment except for the case of blasphemy — hence their striving to convict Jesus of anything remotely close to a blasphemous statement — so it is to Rome they must appeal and thus to Rome they go, in this case in the form of the Roman representative who governed Judea — Pilate.
“And the Sons of Heth answered Abraham, saying, ‘Hear us, my lord, you are a prince of God in our midst; in the choice of our graves bury your dead. Not one of us will withhold his grave from you for the burial of your dead.”
At the onset, the offer that is made sounds quite generous and Abraham’s insistence on purchasing the plot of land may seem a bit rude. Yet, as with other things in God’s design, there is a reason and a purpose behind Abraham’s refusal, but we are getting ahead of ourselves. It should be noted that some modern translations render “The Sons of Heth” as “The Hittites” in this passage. Simply that is a result of scholarly inquiry which has suggested that the nation we now refer to as the Hittites has their origin with this particular Canaanite tribe. Literally, their name means, “The Sons of Terror,” which is an appropriate name for any ancient pagan tribe, needless to say, it is with these that Abraham is now negotiating.
What we ought to take note of, though, is the attitude that these “Sons of Terror” have taken with Abraham. They refer to him as a “Prince of God” and generously offer to him any choice grave site that they have prepared and reserved for themselves. There is nothing left over to doubt that these pagans can see that God has given favor to Abraham and that they (even as pagans) have been blessed by Abraham’s presence.
Such an attitude in the life of unbelievers is a fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:2-3, that the nations of the world will find their blessing in the children of God. How far, it seems, that we have fallen from that mark. How rarely do the unbelieving neighbors of our churches speak of our presence in their community with thanksgiving. Biblically, our churches should be seen as a place of good blessing to all around us. How far so many of our churches have fallen. How easy it is to begin turning our focus on ourselves (building our programs, our membership, our buildings, and our resources) instead of being focused outwardly on the advancement of Christ’s kingdom. How often we fear taking a stand for the Truth for fear that people won’t like what it is that we have to say, where if we were to speak truth in love and grace we would instead be respected for holding with integrity to our views. When we compromise the gospel we also compromise the blessing we are to be to the non-believers in our midst.
Loved ones, may we live intentionally in such a way that the pagans in our midst would say, like the Sons of Heth, that we are “princes of God” and that they would sacrifice to preserve our presence in their midst. How differently our communities would look were we to live in such a way that it produced this response amongst unbelievers? How different the work of evangelism would look were this the case as well.
“And it came to pass when Abram was a son of ninety and nine years, Yahweh appeared to Abram and said to him, ‘I am Ed-Shaddai; walk before me and be whole.”
“Walk before me and be whole.” What an amazing statement that God makes to Abram. Being whole is what people want and yearn for in life. Some people try and find this “fulfillment” in climbing mountains and taking other risks and some try and find the fulfillment in gratifying the flesh. God is plainly stating to Abram that if he wants to find this kind of fulfillment, it comes through walking faithfully with God. There is no other way to be satisfied or to be made whole—everything else may thrill for a moment, but it will leave you wanting and craving for something that is real. Life is like being lost in the desert. What we need is water if we are not going to die. The things that this world offers are little better than a mirage and sand in one’s mouth cannot quench one’s thirst. Christ is an oasis of living water and a place to eternally rest your soul. There really is no comparison between the two.
When theologians speak of walking before God, they refer to this as the doctrine of living Coram Deo (before God). In other words, what this doctrine seeks to articulate is that as believers, everything we do, we do before the face of God; nothing is done in isolation. On one level, the concept is fairly easy to grasp, but on another level, it is extremely difficult to live out. All too often, Christians live and act one way in the presence of their pastor or in the presence of other Christians and then live an entirely different way when no one else is looking—or when no other Christians are looking. Yet, given that God is omnipresent and omniscient, God sees and knows all we do. If we are honestly living for His glory and honor, then we must be intentional living as ones convicted of that knowledge.
Sometimes we wonder as Christians why our society rejects what we believe as true. A large part of the reason that they reject what we believe to be true is because they don’t see us living it out. They see believers talking one way and living another and thus conclude that Christianity is bunk and irrelevant to live “in the real world.” Sadly, if Christianity really were what many professing Christians live out, then their observations are correct. Christianity is not a list of rules and going to Church on Sundays nor is it a cross that we wear around our neck or a point by which we can “tap into the truckload of blessings that God has waiting for us in heaven,” as if God were a senile old grandfather just waiting to dote on his ungrateful spawn.
God is the transcendent God of creation who has spoken all things that are into existence and who has chosen to come into relationship with his people through the sacrifice of his Son Jesus Christ. An encounter with the living God is not one that can be contained in a 60 minute or a 90 minute block of time scheduled on the calendar, but this encounter will not leave you unchanged. An encounter with the living God consumes you and consumes every inch of your life from church to the grave and it will leave you different than you started. It is this kind of change that the world is looking for in our lives and just does not see. Loved ones, they want to know that the walk we are on is real, and we are not doing a very good job of living that out. My prayer for you is that you ask the Holy Spirit to consume your life; make your Christianity real in your business ventures as well as in your Sunday School class. Show the world that Christianity is not only True, but that it is relevant as well, and then pray that through an encounter with Him that you will never be left unchanged. May people see something within your life that is Holy and true and is wholly unearthly in origin and then see what happens to your witness.
Thou art the King of mercy and of grace,
Reigning omnipotent in every place;
So come, O King, and our whole being sway;
Shine on us with the light of Thy pure day.