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Saturday, May 25, 2013

BIBLE: Gospel of Mark (The Trial of Jesus)

Jesus was in an impossible situation. Many folks thought he was being too religious. Others thought he wasn’t religious enough. Many people wanted him to get more involved in politics. Others wanted him to stay out. You can’t please all of the people all of the time. But it seems like Jesus wasn’t pleasing much of anyone. Even his closest disciples had trouble understanding what he was talking about. So it should come as no surprise that Jesus ends up getting into trouble with the authorities. John the Baptist was executed for doing far less than Jesus had done.

The religious authorities were the first ones to put Jesus on trial. Mark tells us that “the chief priests and all the council sought for witness against Jesus to put him to death; and found none.” The Jewish chief priests weren’t messing around. To them Jesus was a blasphemer. And that was a capital crime in ancient Jerusalem. Apparently at that time the accused weren’t represented by counsel. Jesus didn’t have a lawyer. He spoke for himself. A good defense lawyer might have advised him to take the Fifth Amendment (if there had been one back then). Because the crucial point in the trial came when “the high priest asked him, and said unto him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? And Jesus said, I am…” That was enough. The Jewish trial was over. “Then the high priest rent his clothes, and saith, What need we any further witnesses? Ye have heard the blasphemy: what think ye? And they all condemned him to be guilty of death.”

Jesus was guilty under Jewish law. But Romans were in charge. Only the Roman governor could approve the death penalty. The Jewish courts weren’t allowed to carry out capital punishment. So the chief priests had to take Jesus to the Roman governor, Pilate, for a second trial. They had to convince Pilate that Jesus was guilty of a crime worthy of death. So when Jesus came before Pilate, “Pilate asked him, Art thou the King of the Jews?” And he answering said unto him, Thou sayest it.” This trial didn’t get off to a good start for Jesus either. “And the chief priests accused him of many things: but he answered nothing. And Pilate asked him again, saying, Answerest thou nothing? behold how many things they witness against thee. But Jesus yet answered nothing; so that Pilate marvelled.”

Pilate “marvelled” but Jesus remained silent. Pilate doesn’t seem to be a cruel or vindictive governor. He just wants to keep the peace in Jerusalem for the emperor Octavius Caesar (Augustus) back in Rome. But in this particular case Pilate wants to release Jesus. He doesn’t think Jesus is guilty of any crime, much less blasphemy, which isn’t a crime under Roman law. He tells the Jewish crowd this. “And they cried out again, Crucify him. Then Pilate said unto them, Why, what evil hath he done? And they cried out the more exceedingly, Crucify him.” The rest of this story gets pretty ugly. Lies win out over truth. Mob rule wins out over justice. The bad guys win out over the good guys. They took Jesus “unto the place Golgotha, which is, being interpreted, The place of a skull.” And there they put him to an excruciating death on a wooden cross. What happened next changed the whole course of history. Three women came back after three days to take care of the body of Jesus, but it wasn’t there. What happened to his body is controversial. Some folks say he rose from the dead and lives in heaven and will come back to earth someday. Other folks say that’s just sheer nonsense. Jesus was extremely controversial in his own time. Why should our own age be any different? Mark tells a great story and lets the reader decide.


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