Wednesday, November 13, 2013

It Should Be Dismissed : The Business of Christian Education LXIV

1Then the whole company of them arose and brought him before Pilate. And they began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king.” And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no guilt in this man.”
Luke 23:1-4

            With evil intent, the chief priests brought Jesus to Pilate for the purpose of getting rid of Jesus through the hands of foreigners with the best judicial system of the time.  Israel’s chief priests were supposed to serve God.  In the time of Moses, God himself gave vivid commands regarding the ordination and tasks of priests.  From Exodus 28 throughout God ordered Moses to prepare for priests so they would serve the Lord.  Ever since Aaron’s and his sons’ ordination as God’s priests, Israel always had priests who served the Lord.  Their main duty was to attend to the house of the Lord.  They were to mediate between Israel and God.  When people brought offerings to the Lord, priests were the ministers who would perform the religious duties and rituals to bring the offerings to God.  Priests were God’s servant as the Law ordained.  Sadly, Luke recorded the rebellion of the priests against
their own God.  In fact, all four gospels recorded the priests’ unauthorized use of their power and authority to accuse the very God they were supposed to serve.  In our passage above, the chief priests accused Jesus of subversive activity against the Romans Empire.  This accusation was devised by the chief priests so that they could make a case for the trial of Jesus by the governor of Judah.

            They brought before Pilate three accusations: 1) that Jesus misled their nation, 2) that Jesus forbade people paying tribute to Caesar, and 3) that Jesus claimed that he was the Christ, a king.  Pilate did not pay attention to the first two accusations.  He knew right away that those two accusations were without basis.  In his service as governor, he had experience with people leading rebellion and misleading the nation.  He knew a rebel’s profile and demeanor by taking a glance at him.  Jesus’ profile did not fit a rebel’s characteristics.  Jesus was humble and gentle.  He spoke with elegance and full of grace.  For sure, Jesus could never be a rebel or a person who would mislead a nation.  And, in any case, it would be absurd for such a gentle and humble person like Jesus to stir people up and forbade them to pay tribute to Caesar.  Even in that time, Pilate had spies all over Jerusalem.  He would know if anyone attempting to create problem, especially those who ordered people not to pay tribute to Caesar.  Pilate never heard of Jesus forbidding others to pay tribute to Caesar.  On contrary, it was possible for Pilate to have heard that Jesus actually told others to “give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s” (Luke 20:25) when the chief priests attempted to trap Jesus.

            So, only one accusation remained valid.  This third accusation was also the most important accusation for Pilate to consider.  Anyone who declared himself as king must be carefully investigated by the government officials in order to protect Caesar’s position as the ruler of the Romans Empire.  Any indication of subversion would require the government to use all means necessary to subdue the subversive act.  Pilate jumped right away to the third accusation, because this was the most reasonable, given Jesus’ profile, and the most dangerous at the same time.  In the conversation and also by hearing the rumors regarding Jesus, Pilate was impressed with Jesus.  Jesus spoke like a true king.  Only one interrogative question Pilate asked to Jesus: “Are you the King of the Jews? To that question Jesus answered: “You have said so.”  With that short interrogation, Pilate concluded that Jesus was innocent.  Jesus did not break any law.  He also did not attempt to launch a coup d’etat.  For Pilate, Jesus’ acknowledgment of his kingship posed no threat to Caesar’s sovereignty.  Certainly Jesus did not appear to be someone who would threaten Caesar’s political rule whatsoever.  Pilate was not mistaken when he declared Jesus’ innocence.

            The normal expectation after Pilate’s declaration was that the case was dismissed.  But the governor’s judgment was challenged by the chief priests.  They could not accept Pilate’s rule.  So they complained.  In verse 5 they said: But they were urgent, saying, “He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee even to this place.”   Their complaint could not even be considered appeal-worthy.  The case should have been dismissed right there and then.  But as we know the story did not end in the case being dismissed.  But following the chief priests’ appeal, Pilate then sent Jesus to Herod, who later returned Jesus to Pilate to be sentenced by crucifixion for no crime at all.  Clearly the judicial system was broken and corrupted, and that was the best system that human created which was available on the surface of the earth.  Jesus was sentenced to death even after he was found not guilty.  Just because of the demand of the people that Pilate gave the sentence.  Pilate satisfied the mob, but not justice.

            Today, many people slip into the same mode.  As Jesus at that time standing on the truth and nobody could prove that he was guilty, similarly today, God was sentenced to be non-existence by the world even though God stands on the truth and nobody could prove his non-existence.  Jesus was not given a fair trial at all.  He was accused unfairly.  The state did not and could not produce any evidence pertaining to the accusation.  All Jesus said was just “You have said so.”  And by that answer, Pilate already ruled that he was innocent.  Yet, in the end he was sentenced with a death sentence.  In our modern world today, God is also not given a fair trial.  Some people bring a case against God and accuse God to be non-existent.  But they do not and could not produce any evidence to support their accusation whatsoever.  In fact, by their very inability to produce evidence and plausible reasoning of God’s non-existence, God cannot be found guilty in any term.  He is innocent.  Yet, many people have sentenced God with a death sentence.  They declare that “There is no God!”

            Their case should be dismissed already from the beginning.  When they are unable to produce any plausible reasoning and evidence of God’s non-existence, the case should have been dismissed.  Their accusation is as false as the chief priests’ accusation toward Jesus before Pilate.  When Pilate asked Jesus whether he was king, Jesus’ answer was enough for the dismissal of the case.  The world asks God to prove his existence, and he declares through his word that he does.  His answer is enough for the dismissal of the case.  But yet, the case is not dismissed, just like the case that the chief priests brought before Pilate.  The case continues to be entertained even though it has no ground.  The chief priests were determined to keep the case open and so they continued to pressure Pilate.  Their heart was hardened.  All they wanted was to get rid of Jesus.  Because Jesus was a threat to them.  In the same way, these people’s heart is hardened.  All they wanted is to get rid of God.  For God is a threat to them.  Without God, they could do whatever they want.  Fyodor Dostoevsky said: “If God doesn’t exist, then everything is permitted.”  This is exactly what they want.  They want the world without God policing the moral and ethical domain.  For Immanuel Kant, in order for the moral and ethical world to exist, a God is necessary.  Without God, there is no morality and ethics.  These people then proceed by killing God.  First they kill God in their hearts.  Then they kill God in other people’s belief, faith, and mind.  They cannot actually kill God.  But all they can do is to make people believe that God doesn’t exist.  For these people God doesn’t exist.  In their belief system, God’s non-existence is necessary.  For if God doesn’t exist, they can do whatever they want.  There is no moral system.  There is no ethical requirements.  All is permissible.  Their wildness cannot survive if God continues to exist.  So they have to kill God in their system.  But again, they cannot actually kill God.  All they do is deceive themselves of God’s non-existence.

            Intelligent atheists wouldn’t claim that “there is no God.”  For such claim one must bear the burden of proof to produce evidence of God’s non-existence.  Any attempt to produce that kind of evidence is futile.  The intelligent atheists simply say that they do not believe that God exists.  By saying that they do not believe in God’s existence, they shift the burden of proof to those who believe that God exists.  Now the believers of God’s existence bear the burden to produce evidence or plausible reasoning that God exists.  In any case, what the atheists are doing is ignoring the overwhelming evidence of God’s existence.  Similar to the chief priests denying the overwhelming evidence of Jesus’ divinity and Messianic signs just because they did not want to acknowledge that Jesus was God himself.  By ignoring the overwhelming and undeniable evidence, both the chief priests and the atheists pervert justice.  They did not give Jesus, God, a fair trial.  They proceeded with their agendas and pushed for the elimination of God from the memory of man.  They think that by eliminating God from their memory, they would wipe God out.  They are mistaken.  The chief priests were mistaken.  They thought that if Jesus was eliminated, then they would be safe.  The fact of the matter was they could not get rid of Jesus.  On the third day Jesus rose again.  And this time, no power on earth could bind Jesus.  In the same way, the atheists think that if God is eliminated from memory, then they would be safe.  One day they will be judged.  When that time comes, they are not the judge.  But God is.  And God will judge whether they may pass or be denied for eternity.

            The chief priests were supposed to minister before the Lord.  But instead, they tried to kill their own master.  They wanted to be their own master.  So when their true master came down to earth, they felt threatened.  Humans were created by God to serve him alone.  But many people love being the master of the world.  So when the true master of the world reveals his existence, they reject the revelation.  For acknowledging the revelation means that they are no master.  Since the revelation is undeniable, all they can do is lie to themselves.  They lie that they are not created by God.  They lie that they exist by themselves through the nature.  They lie that they are obligated only to themselves.  Perjury is a crime.  It is punishable by the Law.  The case should have been dismissed a long time ago.  But unfortunately, humans are prone to embrace lies.  Jesus came to the world bringing the truth, so that those who love the truth would embrace him.  He himself is the truth.  The chief priests denied Jesus, for they did not love the truth.  The world denies God, for they also do not love the truth.

37 Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” 38 Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”  (John 18:37-38)

The case would have been dismissed had Pilate was of the truth.  But Pilate was not of the truth.  As it was clearly reflected in his question, he did not know what truth is.

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