Alfred Place Baptist Church

15:1-5 Christ the silent King of the Jews

Mark 15:1-5 “Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, reached a decision. They bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate. ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ asked Pilate. ‘Yes, it is as you say,’ Jesus replied. The chief priests accused him of many things. So again Pilate asked him, ‘Aren’t you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.’ But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.”

We have come to that point in the history of the Jews when they officially and legally hand over their Messiah, the Son of God, to the Gentiles to be killed. We are almost at the end of about 2,000 years of human history during which period God has had exclusive dealings with Abraham and his physical descendants while the Gentiles have been living under the sway of the prince of darkness. From this time onwards God’s dealings will sweep out from Jerusalem to Judea and to Samaria and to the Gentile nations in every part of the world never to return to deal exclusively with this land again. So the scene before us describes the border crossing. Pilate, the Roman governor, came out of his residence to meet with the 71 members of the Sanhedrin because they refuse to enter a Gentile house during the Passover. The gospel writer John tells us what happened next, and we can fit in his words between verse one and verse two of our text in Mark 15. Pilate came out and looked at them and especially this beaten-up, handcuffed prisoner which they’d pushed through the door into his residence. The dialogue went like this; “‘What charges are you bringing against this man?’ ‘If he were not a criminal,’ they replied, ‘we would not have handed him over to you.’ Pilate said, ‘Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.’ ‘But we have no right to execute anyone,’ the Jews objected. This happened so that the words Jesus had spoken indicating the kind of death he was going to die would be fulfilled. Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?'” (Jn.18:29-33).

1. IT IS PILATE WHO MUST CONDEMN JESUS BY ROMAN LAW IN AN ATTEMPT TO SHIFT THE BLAME FROM THE SANHEDRIN.

“What charges are you bringing against Jesus?” Pilate wants to know. He disdains these Jews. They raise these theological issues which to him are utterly trivial matters, and they refuse to enter his house making him step down from his throne of judgment to walk out to them. Pilate wants them to deal with their own unacceptable Jewish preacher. “What’s it got to do with me? Deal with the issue yourselves. Why bring me into your interminable religious squabbles?” All that lies behind this question, “What charges are you bringing against this man?” He would be rid of this whole matter.

But the Jews are not going in that direction. They’ve been up early in the morning and held a meeting in which they have decided to have Jesus condemned as an enemy of the state, a traitor. They know of the folly of raising the theology of Judaism with a Roman Governor. “This has nothing to do with Rome. Next case!” he’d have cried bringing down his gavel; Pilate’s wagon was not going to be hitched to the scribes and Pharisees. But the Sanhedrin didn’t want to carry the sole responsibility of killing Christ. The people of Jerusalem were sleepy enough this early hour of the day but what would the situation be like in a week’s time? The thousands of people Jesus had healed and all their families, and the 500 people whose lives were savingly changed by Jesus, would all be complaining about the terrible thing the chief priests had done in killing him. “What horror! Why did you do that?” the people would ask. From the heartland of Jesus’ support in Galilee there might be a revolution brewing. How would the people turn? Who could know? “We’ll put the decision in Pilate’s hands. We’ll tell the people, ‘Pilate, this wretched governor of ours, sent here by Rome, the butcher of the people, he is the one who killed him.'” So they answer Pilate’s question very broadly, “If he weren’t a criminal we wouldn’t have handed him over to you.” They’re not going to say the word ‘blasphemer’; that’s a theological term. Pilate will quickly step back into his house and close the door with Jesus on the outside with them. So Jesus has to be charged with subverting the state. The Sanhedrin is not straight; sinners are never straight when they’re dealing with God. Caiaphas doesn’t present any document; there’s no legal paper summarising the charges, the evidence, the witnesses and the verdict. The Jews just evade Pilate’s question. “If he weren’t a criminal we wouldn’t have brought him here.” What are they telling Pilate to do? “Investigate this for yourself. Interrogate this man. You’ll find that he is a criminal and worthy of the full judgment of Roman law.”

So this is the beginning of the tension over Jesus between the Jews and the Gentiles, between the office of the chief priest and the Roman governor, between Caiaphas and Pilate, which conflict is going to go on for a few hours. Pilate doesn’t want to be caught by any of the snares the Sanhedrin have laid out to catch him. So he says, “Go ahead! You try him, and you punish him by your laws.” That’s what he tells them, and you understand that he’s not being ironical or sarcastic. He’s not suggesting that they ought to remember they can’t do a thing without him. He’s not making fun of the narrow limits within which Rome allowed the Sanhedrin to operate. Pilate is not being haughty; he simply wants them to deal with the Jesus problem. He is giving them authority to come to their own conclusion in this particular trial without his interference. Let them be the ones to judge Jesus, and then send him a transcript of the trial and their verdict. Let them also send him a petition for capital punishment asking for his signature. Let the Jews handle all these tedious proceedings. Pilate doesn’t want to be involved. He is giving them free rein.

However, free rein is not what the Jews want. If they are being asked to take the whole law into their own hands then the careful plans they’ve made and have been talking about since before dawn that Good Friday morning would fail. Weeks or even months earlier they had decided that Jesus must be condemned and killed by Roman law. That was their plan. We see that in the gospel of Luke chapter 20 and verses 19 through 22: “The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest him immediately, because they knew he had spoken this parable against them. But they were afraid of the people. Keeping a close watch on him, they sent spies, who pretended to be honest. They hoped to catch Jesus in something he said so that they might hand him over to the power and authority of the governor. So the spies questioned him: ‘Teacher, we know that you speak and teach what is right, and that you do not show partiality but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?’ . . .” I needn’t remind you of our Lord’s brilliant reply; my point is that the Jewish purpose even then was to gather some accusations against him before Pilate. “This man teaches that men shouldn’t pay taxes to Caesar.” There wasn’t a sermon Jesus preached where there wasn’t a spy in the congregation. There wasn’t a meal in someone’s house without information about his table talk being taken back to the chief priests. So when Pilate says, “Take him yourselves, and judge him by your own law,” then that is quite unacceptable to Caiaphas and his cronies. They don’t want to condemn and punish Jesus by their own authority. They want a formal, judicial, Roman review of Jesus of Nazareth ending in a guilty verdict. The goal of all their devices is to put Jesus to death under the Roman yoke.

So notice their reply to Pilate, “But we have no right to execute anyone.” So they are pleading for the strictest legal proceedings: “let’s do everything by the book,” they tell Pilate. You might think that this was an impeccably righteous court of law, with justice blind to everything but the evidence, but I want to assure you that it was not so. They used the law when it suited them and when it didn’t they lied and killed without compunction. Let’s go on about six months later to the case of the greatest of all the early church’s preachers, a man called Stephen who was winning hundreds of Jews to Christ. What did they do? We are told in Acts 6:11, “Then they secretly persuaded some men to say, ‘We have heard Stephen speak words of blasphemy against Moses and against God.’ So they stirred up the people and the elders and the teachers of the law. They seized Stephen and brought him before the Sanhedrin. They produced false witnesses, who testified, ‘This fellow never stops speaking against this holy place and against the law. For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs Moses handed down to us.'” Then Stephen makes a wonderful speech to the Sanhedrin at the close of which they’ve become mad with rage so that they gnash their teeth at him. When Stephen tells them he sees the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God this righteous law-keeping Sanhedrin “covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him” (Acts 7:57&58). It was mob rule and lynch law when it suited them. But they loved their own skins too much to risk murdering Jesus like that, but young Stephen the judged to be disposable. They were a bunch of cruel murderers who would quote legal practices when it served their purposes, and when it didn’t they’d strike and kill without mercy. So they insisted that Pilate must try Jesus to shift the blame from them to him.

2. PILATE MUST CONDEMN JESUS BY ROMAN LAW IN ORDER TO LIFT HIM ON A CROSS.

It is the apostle John who gives us the reason why the Jews insisted that Pilate tried Jesus and signs his death warrant. “This happened so that the words Jesus had spoken indicating the kind of death he was going to die would be fulfilled” (John 18:32). It was because of the cross that the Jews hand Christ over, and Pilate is forced to take him because of the cross. Jesus says nothing to dissuade Pilate from condemning him because of the cross. The determinate foreknowledge and counsel of God is that his Son must die on a cross. For God the heart of the issue is how Jesus is going to die. Not by the knives of assassins; not being pushed off a precipice; not being stoned to death; not being beheaded nor poisoned by hemlock, and he’s not going to die in bed of old age, but the lingering death on a cross, and the only way to a cross is by Roman law and order. Jesus is not going to be stoned by the sons of Moses but by the nails of the beasts of Rome. Jesus is breaking out of the narrow confines of Judaism; his death is going to move the whole heathen world until the end of time. Jesus is going to leave the narrow little house of Moses and be crucified under the whole sweep of heaven. He’s not going to be remembered in type as a brass serpent lifted up in the wilderness, he’s going to be remembered in reality as the Son of Man lifted high on a cross before the whole world. His death was not the result of some Jewish sect who had taken hold of the religion and the temple and the law court annihilating an opponent who got in their way. His death is going to be the international sentence of the whole world. Both Jews and barbarians are going to put my Saviour to death. God must use the barbarians; God cannot do without the barbarians; all flesh must put the Son to death. You’d think reading the gospels and the growing hatred of Jesus by the Jews and our Lord’s denunciation of the priests and Pharisees that they must end up killing him. It’s bound to happen. The Jews are going to murder him. Then God intervenes; clicks his fingers and along comes Pilate and he puts Jesus on a cross.

God has sent his Son to die, but it’s not any old death. It is one particular death. It is not going to be murder in a dark alley or in a lonely spot in the wilderness. Jesus is going to be lifted up so that all may see him. He’s not going to die like the lambs in the gloom of the Jewish temple but under the sky near a road outside the city wall with people coming and going, watching and hearing all that goes on. We don’t know how Moses died. We don’t know how Jonah died. We don’t know how Peter died. We don’t know how Paul died. But we know only too well how Jesus died. One third of the Gospels tell us about the last week of his life, and four long chapters describe his dying on the cross, and everything he said and did of significance while he hung there. Under the full view of the world Jesus died. With a superscription in Hebrew and Latin and Greek announcing to the world who this was hanging there Jesus died. If you were the shortest woman in Jerusalem you could still see Jesus because he was lifted high.

Pilate has to take him in and judge him and condemn him because it’s on a cross Jesus is going to die. Pilate has to take him in and judge him and condemn him because Jesus himself has predicted it. Listen; “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life” (Jn. 3:14&15). Or again he says this, “‘Now is the time for judgment on this world; now the prince of this world will be driven out. But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.’ He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die” (John 12:31-33). Or think what Jesus has said already said to his disciples, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will rise again” (Matthew:20:18&19).

What does all that tell us? That the manner of Jesus’ death wasn’t an accident. It was not that the form which capital punishment took in Israel 2000 years ago just happened to be crucifixion – some barbaric chronological cruelty utterly incidental to the noble life of Jesus. No. The logic of God determined it would be after the long dying of the cross Jesus would cry “It is finished.” It was not to be a painless death; that would not have effected our deliverance from hell. Golgotha was all arranged and governed by God and predicted by Jesus. When the Father gave him the cup to drink in the garden then his crucifixion was in the cup. Not stoning, but being lifted up! So the Jews must hand him over to the Romans.

Lifted up was he to die! In other words he is going to be placarded. He must be advertised. He is going have world wide publicity, better than anything Nike or Cocoa Cola can ever achieve; he is going to become a universal sign. The record of his death is not merely going to be in some tattered old history read by a few – like those brave Jewish deaths recorded in the works of Josephus. That’s all too trivial for him. The annals of the world are going to announce the death of our Saviour. Men from all over the world, and in every age of human history, are going to see from all sides King Jesus die. He is going to be lifted up from the earth; he must be raised on a cross. He is going to be put on display above the heads of the crowds watching. He will be a spectacle for every nation to behold.

The lifting up firstly means physical elevation. The cross on which he was laid and to which he was nailed would be lifted up and dropped into a socket and secured with wedges. The phrase has some reference to that lifting, an action of men elevating the cross of one special man, but it means more. God is exalting his Son, the God of the whole world. It is God who is exhibiting his Son to the world. “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” There was never a more incredible exhibition of a Father’s love for his Son. Moses lifted up a brazen serpent so that so that thousands of dying people might look at it and live. The serpent had to be raised high so that those even then putting on their shrouds in black despair might take one look and be saved from death. So the lifting up of the cross of Christ is to a great height above the whole world. I suppose it is captured in Dali’s disturbing painting of the crucifixion. You cannot confine our Lord to a temple made with hands. He is not going to die in solitary confinement, in a prison cell like John the Baptist. He is not going to die at the decision of some decadent sons of Moses. The light of the world cannot be limited to that circle of geriatrics. This light bursts out of the shadow lands of dying Israel; there before the whole world, high and lifted up is King Jesus in his royal death.

He is going to be exalted in heavenly glory. The cross will be the way of defeating principalities and making a show of them openly. The cross is the door to resurrection, and ascension, and being seated at God’s right hand, and coming again, and setting up the throne of final judgment. It all begins with the cross. There was this little country, and a little city with a little temple, and people from all over the world had to make a journey there to the altar and the priests who worked there slaughtering lambs, but now God has lifted up the Lamb of God, and all men can see him. The Ethiopian Eunuch was in a desert on the way to Gaza when he saw Christ lifted up. Saul was on the Damascus road. A jailer was in Philippi in Greece when he saw Christ exalted saving him from his sin. We have seen him exalted in Wales and others in Asia and Africa and the Americas.

3. PILATE MUST CONDEMN JESUS OF REBELLION BY ROMAN LAW IN ORDER TO CRUCIFY HIM.

Pilate thought of himself as a ruler not by the grace of Jehovah the God of the Jews but by his own grace, by his initiative in marrying the granddaughter of Emperor Augustine, by the grace and favour of Rome, and its Caesar. That is why he reigned, and if Jesus of Nazareth is going to rock Pilate’s throne then he will bring upon himself speedy judgment when he is found guilty of leading an uprising against the sovereignty of Rome and all her subjects.

Now between verses one and two of our text we can turn to Luke for further information. He tells us of the specific charges that the Jews made there in the porch outside Pilate’s residence. We are told in Luke chapter 23 and verse 2, “They began to accuse him, saying, ‘We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Christ, a king'” Then you can understand better from our text in Mark’s gospel why Pilate begins by asking Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” (v.2). The Jews have shifted their accusation of Jesus from sins against God in the first table of the law – blasphemy – to crimes against men – insurrection. The Jews now make Jesus an enemy of the state. They bring him out of the mists of theological dispute into the clear light of law and order in the land. This is a man who opposes the payment of taxes to Caesar and he claims to be the Messiah, in other words (they explain to Pilate), a king! “Draw your own conclusions as the representative of Rome, the grandson-in-law of Emperor Augustine, and the friend of Caesar. Do your duty to your patron in Rome.”

The chief priests are appealing to the sense of authority and accountability to Rome which a proconsul had. How perverted they had become. You see how they twist the whole concept of the blessed Messiahship. This is the great hope of the Jewish people that one day the promised Christ would come. He would be their redeemer and sin-bearer, the one who could crush Satan’s head. He would be God’s servant, and he would fill the earth with the glory of God. None of that is mentioned here. All Israel’s innocence and expectations are gone. They sell their Messiah to Rome with this tag – “here’s a man who wants to be the king, the top dog, whose message is ‘Stop paying taxes.’ He’s a threat to the state, Pilate. Away with him! Away with him!”

Listen to how formal was their language, “We have found . . .” (Lk. 23:2); this is what they are saying. “We have been investigating this man and these are our considered findings . . . we are bound to come to the conclusion that he is a traitor.” That is how they get Pilate’s attention with the language of the bureaucrat. It is thus they force his hand to put Jesus on trial under Roman law and condemn him. They accuse him of making a tumult among the people, subverting the nation, and encouraging people not to pay their taxes. Jesus is an obstacle to the work of Roman revenue men. They were serious charges and constrained Pilate to prick up his ears and take this prisoner seriously.

Listen to the perversity of their language, “we have found this man subverting our nation.” What do they call the kingdom of God? What do they call their worshipping community? “Our nation.” The term was used in the Empire of any political entity, indistinguishable from all the other political units in the vast Roman Empire over which Caesar’s scepter swayed. The people whose God was Jehovah were accepting their place as another mere colonial outpost of Rome. They were selling themselves and their inheritance and they were buying into the Roman attitude to conquered peoples.

“This is an upstart king,” they tell Pilate, and immediately in his mind’s eye he can see warrior Jesus at the head of an army leading thousands of soldiers into battle. Pilate can envisage legions of Roman soldiers having to be gathered from other parts of the Empire sailing in an armada to the eastern Mediterranean and marching on Jesus’ army in a long and costly campaign. He sees contagious rebellions being stirred up to the south in Egypt, and west in Babylon, and north in Assyria. Pilate thinks he had better nip all this in the bud now, and deal with this ‘king’ now before Rome sends an ambassador asking for his immediate return to the capital to give some explanation of how he’d let a situation get far out of hand. Pilate can no long divest himself of the responsibility of dealing with the accused man. He has to attend to this trial. Jesus is being accused of subverting the people and of standing in the way of paying taxes to Caesar. Pilate cannot be nonchalant about these matters. The political structure of Rome is being endangered. The Roman peace is being threatened. Pilate cannot ignore a man who is encouraging people not to pay their dues to the Empire.

So from what Luke and John tell us we can begin to approach our text, as Pilate turns and looks at this battered handcuffed man and he engages with him: “‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ asked Pilate (v.2), but immediately we must slot in here the full answer that Jesus gives to that question which we find in John chapter 18 and verse 34; “‘Is that your own idea,’ Jesus asked, ‘or did others talk to you about me?'” That is the core of the issue. Jesus puts his finger on it. “How do you understand this ‘kingship’ issue? If I’d really been a king in the sense that Caiaphas has described wouldn’t you have heard about it long ago, Pilate? I’ve been preaching the kingdom of God for three years, and if I’d been a threat to the state, a revolutionary urging people not to pay their taxes, don’t you know that one or two of your spies would have come to you months ago with the information? Wouldn’t the publicans or tax-collectors have sent urgent messages to you that taxes were down; the people ‘were refusing to pay because of the influence of a certain Jesus of Nazareth.’ But you haven’t heard a peep about such things.” When the Jews handed over Jesus of Nazareth firmly bound up to Pilate, far from being interested in this one – of whom he might have received many reports if Rome had considered him a threat – Pilate promptly handed him back to the Jews. “He is your problem not mine,” he had said.

Pilate is aware that what he knows of ‘King’ Jesus he has picked up by hearsay, what these men have been telling him on the porch of his residence in the last ten minutes. So you’d better deal honestly with Jesus, Pilate, in finding out what is Jesus’ kingship. Is it a dangerous kingship or not? So Pilate wriggles a little as he replies to Jesus, “Am I a Jew? . . . It was your people and your chief priests who handed you over to me. What is it you have done?” (Jn. 18:35). Then our Lord answers so plainly, “Jesus said, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.’ ‘You are a king, then!’ said Pilate. Jesus answered, ‘You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me'” (Jn. 18:36&37). That is John’s amplification of Jesus’ words as recorded by Mark in our text in verse 2 of chapter 15, “Yes, it is as you say.”

Jesus gives to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, but he also gives to God the things that are God’s. Before Pilate Jesus made a good confession; he professes the truth. “Yes, I am a king,” he says, “but all that my enemies have said about me is beside the point. My kingdom is not of this world.” It doesn’t have an army and geographical borders and a currency and taxation. It is not a political world empire. It never promotes itself by holy war or armed revolution. It is not like the kingdom the Zealots were seeking to establish. It is not Zionistic; you can’t establish it by the ballot box and through elections. “Are you the king of the Jews?” asks Pilate. In other words, “You are nonetheless in some sense or other a king?” Jesus says, “‘You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me'” (Jn. 18:37). Jesus’ kingdom is a fellowship of truth. It doesn’t depend on the majority of those who support it, nor on the rights of the strongest. It despises every kind of bomb, suicide bombs, nuclear bombs, dirty bombs. The only people who join it are those who have been conquered by the truth, love the truth, and want their whole lives to reflect the truth. Pilate had never dreamed of such a kingdom. Pilate had no idea that anyone could know the truth. Pilate was post modern in his understanding of such an entity. For him there were just opinions.

When Jesus stands before the world of relativism, a world lacking in any absolute values, he makes as good an impression as when he stands before the religious court of the Jews with their belief in the ten commandments. When he is forbidden to speak he is silent. He is confident in God’s control of everything. Jesus makes no attempt to overwhelm this man with a flood of eloquence. He doesn’t try to coerce him with a glance. He doesn’t try to mesmerise Pilate or charm him. He doesn’t ignore him; he doesn’t consign Pilate to Satan. He doesn’t think, “This is a Gentile dog and I’m not going to cast my pearls before swine.” He doesn’t speak to Pilate in riddles or parables. Jesus explains to Pilate carefully and winsomely what is the nature of his kingdom, and what sort of king he is. There is no silence about that.

4. JESUS WAS SILENT IN ORDER THAT PILATE MIGHT CONDEMN HIM TO DEATH.

The chief priests were agitated by Jesus’ masterful answer and so they burst out again with their accusations. Pilate listened and then looked at Jesus for his reply, but there was none. Our Lord didn’t open his mouth. “The chief priests accused him of many things. So again Pilate asked him, ‘Aren’t you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.’ But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.” (vv.3-5). Pilate says to them that he finds no fault in Jesus, and very agitated Caiaphas and his friends submit a long list of formidable charges against Jesus: “There’s this, and that; he claims this; he did that.” They bring in the details. They give particulars. “What do you mean ‘you find no fault in him.’ You think he is a holy fool . . . a religious dreamer. He is not; he is a dangerous man; he’s a threat to us all.”

When they’d finished Pilate gave the opportunity to Jesus to answer the charges, but he made no reply. Pilate urged him to answer; “See how many things they are accusing you of” (v.4), but still Jesus was silent. Pilate was amazed. Why? Why didn’t Jesus speak to them as coolly and wisely as he had just spoken to Pilate? Surely there were answers to these allegations. Speak up! But Jesus held his peace. Why?

It was not because it wouldn’t have achieved anything. All his life Jesus had corrected the errors of religious men, in all sorts of circumstances. He stood against mainstream error consistently. He was not silent here because speaking up wouldn’t have been profitable to him. He didn’t speak up because his hour had come. The hour of his death was at hand and he didn’t want to be kept from crucifixion by argument and eloquence. His face was set on Golgotha. Suppose for a moment he had won a retrial, let us say that Pilate had ordered another more searching investigation, some appeal to a higher tribunal or whatever, then this pagan worshipper of the gods of Rome would have saved the Son of God from redeeming us on the cross. Jesus would have been a beggar for the rest of his life, depending on handouts from Rome. Why was Christ silent? In sheer obedience to his Father, drinking the cup that the Father had given him to drink he accepts the will of God. He takes up the burden of the sacrifice he alone can make.

There was no other good enough
To pay the price of sin.
He only could unlock the gate
Of heaven and let us in. (Cecil F. Alexander, 1823-95)

How could Christ agree with Pilate’s thinking that this accused preacher offered no threat to the Roman Empire? Christ was a stick of dynamite under the Roman Empire. He was going to blow to pieces the Beast of Rome. Wasn’t Jesus a terrible threat to Judaism? Of course. Is Christ a threat to Islam, and to western materialism, and to worldly wisdom, and to our pleasure seeking democracy, and to communism, and to Hinduism, and existentialism, and postmodernism, and evolutionism? Of course he is. He is not a pussy cat; he is the lion of the tribe of Judah. He is the King of Kings. He demands absolute obedience because he alone is God the Son. He begins to work secretly and sovereignly within the very hearts and minds of men and women. When Jesus begins a work in someone’s life he never gives up until the job is finished. Isn’t that a threat to anyone who loves his sin more than he loves God? He will say to you, “Depart from me I never you,” if you reject him. Jesus declares war on this world system. If you love the world more than him you cannot be his disciple, he says.

So Jesus makes no plea for acquittal. If he had made such a plea he would have lied. Could he have been our Saviour and the King of truth if he had sought to escape from this great truth, that we deserve eternal death because we are sinners, but Jesus Christ, because he loved us, chose to die in our place? For the King to be victorious the king must die his great royal death. How pleased was God with his beloved Son’s silence – well pleased! God wrote in his book that he would grant to Jesus to have a name that is above every name, to set him at his right hand, to give him all authority in heaven and earth, to highly exalt him, because he humbled himself so low, God exalted him so very high.

Only through this Christ can salvation come. Look to him. Set all your hopes on him. Make him your plea. Acknowledge him as your God and Saviour. Bow before him. Repent of your sin in his presence. Cry mightily to him for forgiveness. Ask him to give you a new heart and a new spirit, and cease not to pray for him to answer you until you know that he has heard your plea.

21st August 2005 GEOFF THOMAS