Sunday, September 01, 2013

Exposure of the evil in our hearts (John 18:40 - 19:13)

This is my personal summary of Rev Dr Stephen Tong's sermons on 18 August 2013 in STEMI Expository Preaching at True Way Presbyterian Church Singapore. It was preached in Chinese with English translation.

Passage: John 18:40 - 19:13

As this closing of Chapter 18, Pastor Tong would like to emphasize on two important verses:
The first is the answer that Jesus gave to Pontius Pilate when He was questioned by him.
- "Are you the king of the Jews?" (18:33)
- 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." (18:37b)
- After Jesus' declaration, Pilate stood up and retorted "What is truth?" and then left (18:38a).
- This conversation is most dramatic and intriguing to us. It is the recording of the climax of human dialogue in history. These two persons are from two different sources: one, a Jew and the other, Roman. One, being ruled, and the other, a ruler. One, a judge, and the other, being judged. One, the Holy One; the other, a sinner. One, from heaven; the other, from the earth. One, God coming in the flesh; the other, a sinner who has been elevated, by the political environment, to the highest standing. In the conversation between Jesus and Pilate, we see God coming in the most humble form to be judged, and the sinner elevated to the highest status and being self-righteous. The one who was judged is the Truth and the Righteous One. The sinner is an unrighteous judge. Indeed, the incident exposed the darkest scene of humanity.
Before Pilate, Jesus was passive, being questioned and judged, thus He did not defend Himself, nor did He reply anything. But, Pilate was active and judging, and so asked Jesus an important question: "Are you the king of the Jews?" Pilate asked this because he wanted know if the things he did were just. If Pilate found out that Jesus was a king, he must put Jesus to death as it was forbidden that a second king should come forth under the Roman Empire. He asked the question as it concerned his life and death and the retention of his status. When such a situation occured, the Lord, who had remained quiet prior to that, then answered as per verse 37b. Pilate was unconfident when he posed his question, whereas Jesus answered with the Truth with absolute confidence, uncompromising, and with a firm conviction. This should be the attitude with which Christian faith ought to bear testimony to the world.
The failure of Christianity today:
- those who hear us are more courageous than we are,
- the preachers themselves have no confidence and doubt their own messages, and
- the hearers are more firm in their unbelief.
How can we lead them to Christ and to believe in Him?
Jesus spoke to Pilate with absolute conviction, but Pilate listened with doubtful attitude. This is the opposite of what Christianity is today: the hearers oppose Christianity with aboslute spirit, while the preachers is doubtful, on the one hand, and, on the other, thought that they can be leaders of the congregation based on their academic qualifications. This is very pathetic and horrifying reversal of right and wrong. May God have mercy on us.
If we do not preach the absolute Truth with an absolute spirit, the world has no hope.
When Pilate asked "what is truth?", he was not asking a question, seeking an answer, nor was he really looking for true confidence of truth in the midst of darkness. In fact, when he asked that question, he was actually proclaiming the suicide of the Greek culture, philosophy and the pagan civilization of seeking after the truth.
Furthermore, when the Jews declared that they did not want Jesus, but Barabbas, that was the Jews themselves declaring the suicide of the Jewish culture.

So, those two sentences were extraordinary, with special meaning. The appearing of Jesus was a judgment upon the entire world, with Himself, at that same time, receiving judgment from a sinner of the world. How paradoxical is that! Horrifying and completely contrary. Not easy to recognize simply from the surface.
Pilate was victorious: Jesus was killed. The Jews were victorious: Jesus was crucified. The Jews, not Pilate, were the ones who wanted Jesus dead. They wanted to crucify Him since John chapters 5, 9, 11, 14 and 18, step by step, they had set their mind to have Him dead. It was because in their eyes, not only had Jesus broken the Sabbath (the 4th Commandment), He was even arrogant to blaspheme God by calling Him His own Father, making himself equal with God (5:17-18). In Chpt 9, once again, Jesus deliberately broke the Law by healing on a Sabbath. Then, in Chpt 11, Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. The Jews saw that their culture would perish if they allowed Jesus to go on like that. Hence, they decided that Jesus had to perish in order to save their own culture.
That was the most important day in history:
- the path of death for the Son of God was decided,
- the victory between good and evil was decided, and
- the day of battle between God and satan
This is the day that the Lord had made. We should rejoice in it. But for Jesus, it was the most terrifying, unjust day, a day of judgment by a human, a day when He was taking on our sin, day when He was cursed. On that day, two cultures declared suicide. The first, the Greek culture, for 400 years, they sought after the meaning of life and to achieve the truth of life. Some people said that human should seek after happiness, while followers of Stoic said that they should seek after goodness, and some have no way to go: they do not believe there is truth in both happiness and goodness, especially when they see the good suffer. Many of the evil people prosper.
Thus, Pilate belonged to the last category: he did not believe in truth and that it exists, because...
- Even the sinless Jesus, who healed the sick and raised the dead, was judged like that.
- The Jews who possessed the Law and yet brought Jesus to him, who was a Roman.
The most important word in the Jewish cultre is "true". Thus, the Jews truthfully come before God, worship the true God, receive the Truth, obey the will of God with true courage. But, Jesus said to them, "Woe to you, hypocrites!" The people who sought after the Truth the most happened to be hypocrites, much like today, where there is the irony that most Supreme Courts are usually the most unjust.
Both the Greeks and the Romans, same culture, do not know God, no revelation. When these cultures disappear, the other way is God's revelation, the Law of Moses, the Old Testament, given to the Jews. Pilate said to the Jews that it was their custom for him to release to them one prisoner at the time of the Passover, and if they wanted him to release Jesus. But they shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising (18:39-40). This means that the Jews did not want God but a robber. They thought that they obey the Law and Moses and serve/worship the True and living God, but when the true God gave them His Son, their hearts were exposed. Many churchgoers look pious but when given a choice, they prefer a robber to Jesus. Deacons and elders in the church seem to love the Lord, but in their business, they may betray Jesus for financial gains to be with robbers. Many preachers look most holy in the church but are robbers, dressed in Christian's outfits, in the business world.

John 18:40b
Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising.
The bible recorded that Barabbas was a robber, but according to history, he was a anti-Roman revolutionary hero, a rebel. Thus, we can understand the Jews wanted Barabbas, because as long as he could go against the Roman Empire, irregardless whether he was a robber or not. As for Jesus, He was always under the Roman Empire and did not have the heart to go against it. The kind of person the Jews hoped for would be a rebel who dared to rebel and bring about a revolution. Therefore, they shouted, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” (18:40a)
The last verse of chapter 12 was the final opportunity for conversation between Jesus and the Jews. Not that the Jews did not want to look for Him, but that Jesus would not permit them to have the worth to hear another statement from Him. He seemed to say, "Your time and opportunity is over." And that last statement is that the Son of Man would come to judge the whole world. God had given His Son the authority to judge the whole world. Jesus had already told the Jews so often, but they had never accepted what He said. He had told them so much Truth, but they always despised Him. In their eyes, Jesus was an unclean son, surely born only from one possibility: Mary committed adultery with Joseph. To the Jews, Jesus was also demon-possessed, insane, from Galilee which could never produce any prophet (John 7:52), someone who defied the Law and trampled the Word of God and went against the Sabbath Day, someone who deserved to die. A hundred years later, Gnosticism added that Jesus secretly married Mary of Magdelene and had sexual relations.
The people of God did not want Jesus but a robber. As long as someone dared to go against the Roman Empire, he was their friend. Just like Pilate and Herod in Luke 23:12 "
That day Herod and Pilate became friends—before this they had been enemies." In the past, they were enemies, and then, since both of them went against Jesus, so enemies became friends. So, the two were in cahoots together.
The purpose of their lives was not for the Truth, and they wanted to just gang up against the Truth. Thanks be to God that such great profound truths are implicitly found within the narratives. 

John 18:38-40
With this, he (Pilate) went out again to the Jews ..and said, "..Do you want me to release ‘the king of the Jews’?”
They shouted back, “No, not him! Give us Barabbas!” Now Barabbas had taken part in an uprising.

Barabbas was the kind who would dare to go against the Romans and was a hero to the Jews. Just like in the case of Christopher Columbus, the Spanish hold him as a great hero, a great explorer, but the South Americans regard him as a robber. Because in their eyes, Columbus had taken the gold, weighing thousands of kilogram, from them. The so-called explorers are invaders and marauders. There is a church in Spain, named Santiago de Compostela Cathedral, which can testify to this. In the cathedral, the back of the pulpit is built of gold, were robbed by explorers, such as Columbus, from South America. To the Spanish, he was a national hero and great explorer, and he discovered new continents and made a name for themselves. However, the people of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, where the gold had been robbed from, would consider the explorers as robbers.

John 19:1-2
Then Pilate took Jesus and had Him flogged. The soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on His head. They clothed Him in a purple robe..
Our Lord fully suffered humiliation, filth and assault. So, when you read about these, you are to do so clearly: When they hurled their insults at Him (Jesus), He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him (God) who judges justly. (1 Peter 2:23) When Jesus was accused, Pilate had Him flogged, even though He was not in the wrong. Pilate was abusing his power, placed his own authority and face value above the Truth and someone else's destiny. He knew Jesus was innocent and yet he had Him flogged. He put a crown of thorns on His head and clothed Him in a purple robe (19:2). What a terrifying thing. The purple robe was a clothing meant for the emperor and the royalty. Since Jesus said He was the King of the Jews, Pilate gave Him the purple robe to wear. Pilate was not respecting Jesus by making Him wear that, but to add on the humiliation upon Him, to demonstrate that he could pronounce a sentence on the King of Jews. Can a politician be honest? Will he be genuine towards respect? Even though he knows that you have no sin, he still want to ridicule you, flog you and give you a purple robe and crown of thorns to wear. The branch, used to make the crown, is taken from trees that can be found in the wilderness of the Holy Land. The thorns on the branches of the trees are so complicated and criss-crossing with one another that one would tear to see the trees. The crown of thorns that the Lord had worn was so horrifying. Every thorn was about seven to eight centimetres long, hundreds of thorns, made into a crown and forced upon His head. The thorns will pierce through the skin, causing bleeding from the thousands or hundreds of wounds.

John 19:3
and (the soldiers) went up to Him again and again, saying, "Hail, king of the Jews!" And they struck Him in the face.

There is nothing more humiliating and cruel than these. When they hurled their insults at Him (Jesus), He did not retaliate; when He suffered, He made no threats. Instead, He entrusted Himself to Him (God) who judges justly. (1 Peter 2:23)

John 19:4-5
4 Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews, "Look, I am bringing Him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against Him."
5 When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, "Here is the man!"

Verse 5 contains the most important statement Pilate has ever uttered in his life. When he said this, he did not know what he was talking about. He wanted the Jews to see the state that Jesus was in, to ask if Jesus could be a sinner, that if He was a sinner, he could not find a basis for a charge against Him; and if He was not a sinner, He had already worn the crown of thorns, whole body covered in blood by the flogging (whipping). The whip used in those days had seven branches, and on every branch, there were tens of hooks made of very sharp iron. So, on the first flog, the numerous hooks would be driven into the body of a man, and as the whip was being retracted to get ready for the second flog, there would be hundreds of wounds, causing bleeding. And this is how by wounds of the Lord Jesus Christ we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5b) If a person does not understand how the suffering of the Christ is, he can never be able to truly love the Lord. The extent to which we love the Lord is proportional to how much we understand His suffering. May we not think that we really love the Lord, and let Him lead us to Golgotha, into the pain of His suffering.

There were a total of six trials Jesus went through. He had not taken any food or water that whole night, and must have been hungry and thirsty. He was made to walk here and there, to king Herod, Caiaphas, Pilate, the crowds, back to Pilate, six trials in all, suffered all forms of pain.

John 19:6-7
As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw Him, they shouted, "Crucify! Crucify!" But Pilate answered, "You take Him and crucify Him. As for me,I find no basis for a charge against Him."
The Jews insisted, "We have a law, and according to that law He must die, because He claimed to be the Son of God."

This was the only "sin" of Jesus, that He proclaimed Himself to be the Son of God. Is this sin of God?! The deceit in religion, the decadence in human nature and the injustice in the law have their horrifying self-manifestation right there. Pilate already said he could not find any basis for a charge against Jesus and told the Jews to crucify Him themselves. But, how could Pilate have handed Him over to them for crucifixion when he could not find any basis for a charge against Him?! But the chief priests said He should die because He had defied their laws, namely the Sabbath and the self-proclamation to be the Son of God. The Jews wanted to kill Jesus, but would not want to do so themselves. They wanted Pilate to do it for them. Such a horrifying religion, politics and court, manifested in the bible. God said that the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work (1John 3:8). God also told us that He let His Son to appear in history to reveal what is in our hearts. Jesus, the Son of God, appearing in history and God exposed the evil persons all at the same time: those who are jealous, those who hate, those who are happy. Judas was exposed for his greed. The fear of Peter was exposed. The hypocrisy of the Jews were exposed. The unrighteousness of Pilate was exposed. The Jews was exposed that they wanted a robber instead of the Lord. Yet, the Jews were not thinking that way; they thought they were worshiping God and following the Law and honoring the constitution of the Roman Empire. They thought they were friends of Caesar, normal civilians. Only God can search our hearts, all exposed through the touch of Jesus Christ. 


Post a Comment

<< Home