The soldiers were hardened to inflicting pain and misery. All compassion had left them. They had a casualness regarding the value of life. For them torture was sport. They had lost an inner guiding sense of morality if it had ever existed. Those who live in such an environment have divorced themselves from personal accountability. They were not displaying some form of primeval lack of ethics that we have left behind in history. The same behaviour is repeated across the world today. In similar extreme terms it is seen in the life of gangs, in prisons in many countries and in the persecution of minority groups particularly when those in power are despotic dictators. Christians are often, but not exclusively, that minority group and in that way share in the sufferings of Christ. If challenged the soldiers might have used the age old excuse of only following orders as did the SS guards in concentration camps following the second world war. The soldiers’ truth was they could do anything to anybody as long as they had the power to do so. Ridicule, cruelty and ultimately the casual disposal of life was their day to day currency and brought them satisfaction.
Have you experienced people who have become desensitised to the impact of their own cruelty?
How should the Christian or Christian church react when such cruelty occurs?
Jesus’ truth as expressed at this time was rooted totally in the Sovereignty of God. He knowingly and obediently placed himself in this position. He was not fearful of the secular power over life and death held by the Roman Governor.He was not intimidated by the Jewish leaders. In response to Pilate’s exasperation that Jesus refused to answer him, ‘Jesus replied, “You would have no power over me if it were not given from above. Therefore, the one who handed me over to you is guilty of the greater sin.” (John 19:11) He was not cowed by excruciating torture. His truth was centred on knowing God’s character, love, and plan for the salvation of multitudes over the generations. He conveyed God’s truth to the world and does so now through the gospels. That is why we should so highly value the apostolic record found in the gospels. Jesus openly spoke of his kingdom to Pilate. “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” (John 18.36)
Jesus came to be the truth, to speak the truth and to gather those who are seeking the truth. When Jesus is speaking of truth he is referring to the truth about God, and God’s plan to restore his relationship with humankind. This he achieved without compromising his holiness, justice or love. “Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” (John 18:37)
When experiencing the most testing times are you able to trust in the Sovereignty of God?
How does knowing Jesus experienced such unjust suffering help you in your own suffering?
Are you able to trust in the character of God the Father?
The High Priest and Jewish leaders’ truthJohn 18.28-19.16
The Jewish leaders based in the temple were blinded by their own religious traditions and understanding of the law as well as their personal pride. It was a tragically awful situation where those entrusted with the spiritual care of the nation were not able to recognize the fulfilment of their own law and prophesies. The two dominant groups within the Jewish leaders held profoundly different beliefs related to resurrection and the spiritual world but were unified in vitriolic hatred of the Messiah, who they believed they longed for. When Jesus arrived all they could see was a threat and an enemy who exposed their own sin. Pride blinded them to their sin. Black had become white and white black. Despite themselves they were intimately involved in bringing about the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy and God’s plan for salvation. They did not understand their role because their hearts were hardened. Their truth was rooted in power and pride. Although they believed they were the leading figures in the kingdom of God their desire was to crucify the king. ‘But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!” (John 19.15) They rejected the rule of the God they claimed to worship and said their only king was Caesar. (John 19:15)
What are the risks to the modern church that desire for power and people’s pride will cause Jesus to be rejected?
Why is it that so many governments and people of prestige actively oppose and persecute the Christian faith?
Although Pilate asked the question, what is truth? In the end truth was not important to him. Political convenience was his guiding light. One can understand it. He had a very difficult job. Palestine was a political powder keg which eventually exploded in AD70. Failure to maintain control would cost him more than his job, it would cost him his life. He understood fairness and justice in very harsh terms. He knew nothing of the sensibilities of universal human rights. He had Jesus flogged even though he couldn’t find anything to hold against him and he had satisfied himself he did not represent a threat to Roman control. Truth for Pilate was something open to being ignored, compromised and negotiated over. The only fixed point was political convenience. He knew very well Jesus was innocent but to keep the peace in a packed city, hyped by thousands of pilgrims, he was prepared to swap him for a known “terrorist and insurgent”. For the Christian, Jesus’ crucifixion is a fixed unchanging reference point. Pilate’s truth blew in the winds of the times.
What experience do you have of people making decisions based upon expediency even when they know it denies the truth?
Pilate asked Jesus, “What is truth?” (John 18:38) The question came during Pilate’s first interrogation of Jesus, held in his Jerusalem palace, whilst the Jewish leaders waited outside so they would not contaminate themselves during the Passover festival. The question has a very modern ring in contemporary society where absolute truths are frequently considered naïve, unless what one holds most dear is challenged. For the Christian Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection are central to the gospel. Jesus’ crucifixion is the pivotal point of the Christian faith. It is the unavoidable heart of the Christian message. “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2.2) was Paul’s message to the Corinthian church. At the time of the Passover, Jesus became the lamb of God. John the Baptist called out when he saw Jesus, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1.29) For the gospel writers, the emphasis of their writing was not Jesus’ miracles, his ethical teaching, his sinless life or his many interactions with people. They all devote their principle focus upon his crucifixion and resurrection. It is in his sacrificial, substitutionary death they find truth. It is how we relate to Jesus in his crucifixion that the Christian finds truth in terms of meaning, purpose, identity and hope. Jesus’ crucifixion conveys ultimate and eternal truth for the whole world whether or not it is recognized by the world. The various stances of the parties involved in the travesty of Jesus’ trial still reflects peoples’ “truths” today.
How does knowing Jesus change your understanding of truth?
What difference does it make viewing truth through the lens of Jesus’ crucifixion?