Pilate Views the Cross 5

Luke 9:59-62

In an episode of “The Andy Griffith Show,” Sheriff Andy Taylor tries to offer a job to a vagrant. The vagrant explains that he can’t do hard work because he has a bad leg. When offered a job at a desk he explains that sitting too long makes his leg stiffen up. When offered a night watchman job he explains that the night air aggravates his rheumatism. In the end it is clear that the man simply doesn’t want a job at all.

In his ministry Jesus called some people to follow him, to become one of his disciples, to do ministry with him. In this passage how does the first man respond? How does Jesus respond to the second?

At first blush Jesus may appear hard-hearted in these encounters. Has he no sympathy to the one who has lost his father? Has he no compassion for the one who would like to see his family one last time?

Jesus is sympathetic and compassionate, but what we have here is Jesus seeing through the excuses being made. He knows that the one who was called and the one who claims to want to follow are not dedicated enough to become true disciples.

The excuses seem valid to us, but the point of the whole encounter is that any excuse will do for the person who will not assume the responsibility of being a true disciple of Christ.

Each of us is summoned to do the work of the kingdom of God. Each of us is summoned to be our brother’s keeper. Each of us is called to be committed to doing the will of God, serving in whatever capacity we can.

But most are too eager to find any reason at all not to do the work. We allow our job responsibilities, our family obligations and our financial status to keep us from doing what we are called to do. All are valid excuses, and I am not encouraging anyone to abandon the responsibilities of their livelihood or their family. Nor am I encouraging anyone to put themselves into poverty.

But the question is, when will we accept the call of Christ? When will we accept the responsibility of doing God’s work? When will we stop making excuses and start serving the Lord?

DAILY CHALLENGE: How can you avoid making excuses to not do God’s work?

Pilate Views the Cross 4

Matthew 20:20-23

While working as a high school teacher I was present one day when a student saw a Porsche drive by. He made a fist and growled, “Why does he get that car and not me?” I am sure the student didn’t want to hear it, but I took a moment to explain that the owner of the car probably worked hard at a job and saved up enough money to buy it. Few people have the luxuries of life simply handed over to them.

In this passage the mother of two of Jesus’ disciples comes to him with a request. What does she want? What challenge does Jesus give in verse 22? What do you think Jesus means in verse 23?

The desire for praise and acclaim is strong in many people. Even the most humble of us would be pleased if others offered praise and appreciation for what we have done. It is nice to be rewarded, to be recognized, to be appreciated for our efforts.

But praise and being the center of attention is not something that comes easily, especially in living the Christian life. Accepting Christ as your Savior does not guarantee an easy life. Rather, it will likely involve a life of work and giving.

If we will follow Christ, even if we are not seeking great reward but simply being obedient disciples, we will need to be prepared to drink the cup of Jesus. What does that mean, drink the cup of Jesus?

It means going through the same struggles and enduring the same efforts that Jesus did. The cup that awaited Christ was the heartache of the betrayal of Judas, the agony of Peter’s denial, the pain and humiliation of the crucifixion. That was the cup of Jesus, the cup of sanctification, the cup of forgiveness, of Jesus’ blood poured out for the forgiveness of sin.

If we will imitate Christ, if we will be obedient to God and truly care for others, we will need to assume the responsibility of a true Christian. We will need to drink the cup of hardship, self-denial, and sacrifice. As Christians we must embrace the responsibilities of serving others and putting those in need ahead of ourselves.

DAILY CHALLENGE: What is the cup which awaits you?

Pilate View of Cross 3

Matthew 27:20-24

A few years ago on a very bitter cold winter evening, a church member and I left a meeting and I followed his vehicle out of the parking lot. On our way out we passed a car with its hood up and two people bent over the engine. I wanted so badly to keep on driving, to pretend I hadn’t noticed these people in distress in the cold, but the church member pulled over to help and I joined him.

It is so easy to turn our eyes away from problems. It is so easy to ignore the needs and troubles of others. But, in fact, we are called to help one another.

Pilate, in his attempt to avoid responsibility, presented a choice to those Jews who were trying to have Jesus crucified. What was the choice? What did the crowd want? What did Pilate do to show he had no responsibility in this decision?

The expression “I wash my hands of this” is fairly common. It is a statement to show that the person has no part in what is going on. They are not responsible.

Pilate instituted this concept by literally taking a bowl of water and washing his hands in front of everyone. He was symbolically washing the blood of Jesus off his hands. He was symbolically shedding any guilt or responsibility in the situation.

But his question in verse 23 shows that he is still responsible. He is not alone in the guilt of crucifying Jesus, but he is still part of it. He asks the crowd what crime Jesus had committed, and this demonstrates that he does not see any guilt in Jesus. Yet, he allows the crucifixion.

There are many times when we as Christians can wash our hands of a situation in an attempt to avoid the responsibility that rests with us. I am reminded of Cain’s question of God in Genesis 5:9 – “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Cain was trying to avoid his responsibility.

The question asked is never answered outright, but we all know the answer. Yes, you are your brother’s keeper. Each one of us is responsible for serving God, for loving our neighbor as ourselves, and through that love we are responsible for caring for others.

No matter how hard we try we cannot wash away the responsibility of doing good for others. We need to accept the responsibility and duty of caring for one another.

DAILY CHALLENGE: Have you washed your hands of service in any way? How can you change that?

Pilate View of the Cross 2

Matthew 19:16-22

Many years ago our two sons and I went to Tae Kwon Do classes each week to get in shape and work on our focus. It was the policy of the gym that anyone could come in and be part of an entire class for free, to see if it was something they would like to do. There were many classes where a guest would come in and take part, but there were very few who ever came back.

I think part of the problem was the difficulty of the classes. I am certain there are many who want to learn martial arts and be like Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan, but they quickly find out it takes a lot of work and effort.

Jesus is confronted by a person of wealth and asked about eternal life. What is Jesus’ advice in verses 17-19? What else is needed? How does the rich man respond?

A common reaction to this story is the thought that the rich young man is not a very good person. But in fact he is very obedient to the laws of Moses and the commandments of God. Setting aside the comment of Jesus in verse 17, he would be considered a “good” person in our society and our church.

What does he lack? He lacks the complete commitment that a true and faithful believer should have. He lacks the energy and drive to go all the way with his faith, to immerse himself in it, and truly be a blessing to the kingdom of God. Too much was required of him so he walked away.

Our faith journey is more than sitting in a pew on Sunday or bringing a covered dish to every church dinner. Our faith requires commitment from us, commitment to know God better, to be more obedient to the Lord, and more sacrificial in our living. And one key element is that it is our responsibility to build our own faith. No one can do it for us. We must be willing to commit to the discipline of living a good and holy life.

The rich young man knew what he was supposed to do but walked away from it. There are many “good” Christians who know what they are supposed to in their faith but they often walk away from it.

DAILY CHALLENGE: How would you rate your level of commitment to your faith? Can it go deeper?

Pilate Views the Cross 1

John 19:4-8

In one of the many “Pink Panther” movies there is a scene where Inspector Clouseau begins to pet a dog, but first asks the inn-keeper, “Does your dog bite?” “No, my dog does not bite.” Clouseau tries to pet the dog, but the dog bites his hand and the inn-keeper shrugs his shoulders. “That is not my dog.”

It’s a silly little scene for our amusement, but if we took it seriously I think most would agree that the inn-keeper knew full well what was going on and should have warned the hapless inspector before any harm came to him. The inn-keeper was side-stepping his responsibility.

In John 18 Jesus is taken before Pontius Pilate, the governor, the man with authority to allow the death sentence. Pilate has a conversation with Jesus, and in that encounter he tries to put the responsibility of the crucifixion back on the Jews. He even has Jesus beaten and humiliated, yet they persist.

What does Pilate say in verses 4 and 6? What do the Jews want? How does Pilate react in verse 8?

Throughout history Pilate has been blamed along with the chief priests with the death of Jesus. But, a person could make a strong argument that Pilate truly was not guilty in the execution. He said that he found no basis for a charge against him. In fact Pilate tries to avoid the decision six times between John 18:31 through John 19:15.

Although in appearance it may seem that Pilate was innocent, the fact is that Pilate had the authority to halt the crucifixion of Jesus but he was afraid to do so (verse 8). Instead, he played a clever game of claiming Jesus should go free, but still allowed the crucifixion to happen. Pilate side-stepped his responsibility, making himself appear innocent when in fact he was guilty of not intervening and doing what was right.

Many Christians are able to play the same clever game. “It is not my responsibility.” “I can’t do that; I have other things to do.” We are given opportunities every day to commit to Christ, to help others, to obey God, to do the right thing. But how often do we avoid our responsibility to serve God?

DAILY CHALLENGE: Can you identify a time in this past week when you have made an excuse to avoid doing God’s work? Can you change that now?