Friday in the Thirty-First Week of Ordinary Time

Matthew 27:15-26a; Mark 15:6-15a; Luke 23:13-25; John 18:38b-40

Politics Can Be Ugly Business

By the title of this devotion, I do not mean to trivialize what was actually happening.  What was happening was the fulfillment of prophecy, from Isaiah 53 to Psalm 2 which we noted yesterday, and many, many more.  Acts 4:23-31 tells us that this was God’s will – that the love of the Father for His people should be manifest through His Son’s atoning work, which would soon be applied by the Holy Spirit to that people in the days ahead.  Genesis 3:15 is the earliest prophecy we have of this very event – the seed of the woman, our Savior, crushing the serpent’s head.  But none of this excuses the actions of the people in the account.  God’s foreordination cancels not man’s freedom of will.  These men acted as they desired, and did so intentionally.  We live in a fallen and broken world of which we are a part, and to which brokenness we have contributed with our own sins.  In its fallenness, the world is an ugly place – and we have that on full display here.

First, there are the chief priests who are vehement that Jesus must be crucified; they will have matters no other way.  Their intentions are now so obvious that even Pilate perceives their envy.  Jesus is a threat to their status in their role as guides for the people; he is no threat to Rome.  They’ve convinced themselves that Jesus is an arch-heretic who deceives the people and so are justified in having him removed.  Then there is Pilate.  He is a pagan but as one created in the image of God, he knows the right thing to do.  Even his wife sends him a message to let Jesus go.  But Pilate has real-world problems on his hands: the chief priests have successfully stirred up the people into a riot and he must keep order.  He can’t afford for Rome to doubt his ability to manage Judea.  Making things even worse is that he will have to release Barabbas.  We are often led to believe that Pilate put Barabbas (murderer, thief, and just plain thug) up against Jesus thinking the people would choose Jesus, but Scripture doesn’t say that.  Anyway, he will have to release an enemy of Rome into the population.  And the irony is Jesus will be crucified for being just that.  In the end, Pilate will release Barabbas and wash his hands of Jesus to ameliorate the crisis.

The whole thing is just plain wicked.  Christians must be careful in politics.  It is easy to justify sinful actions for political ends, even noble ends.  It is easy to fool ourselves while we are saturated with hate; it is easy to cave to worldly pressure.  I appreciate those Christians in political life who can still behave like Christians.  May we always check our hearts, and see that our intentions and ways are godly in a broken and ugly world.

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