Friday, April 14, 2017

You Are a King?

As I write this, the clock is approaching noon on Good Friday.  I am reminded of the many Good Friday celebrations I participated in, even as a child and teenager.  I remember that the traditional time for the crucifixion is around noon and the traditional time for Jesus’ death is around 3pm.  He was arrested at night, taken through multiple “trials” throughout the night, and was convicted of a crime that the Roman Empire considered worthy of death: He claimed to be a king.

Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, "Are you the king of the Jews?" "Is that your own idea," Jesus asked, "or did others talk to you about me?" "Am I a Jew?" Pilate replied. "Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?" Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place." "You are a king, then!" said Pilate. 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." (John 18:33-37 NIV)

Jesus never backed down on the claim to be King.  Jesus was the fulfillment of the the prophecies about a King that would come from the line of Judah and then David.  Jesus was telling the truth when he claimed to be King.

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 and went up to him again and again, saying, "Hail, king of the Jews!" And they slapped him in the face. Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews gathered there, "Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him." When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, "Here is the man!" 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 Jewish leaders insisted, "We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God." (John 19:1-7 NIV)

The Israelite leaders who wanted Jesus dead didn’t really care about his claim to be King.  They were more concerned with his claim to be the Son of God.  This, were it not true, was blasphemy.  Even this statement, though, was true.  Jesus was, and is, the Son of God.  This statement made Pilate nervous.  It’s one thing to falsely accuse and put to death a crackpot who is telling people he is king.  It is something completely different to go up against the Son of God.  Even in the Roman Empire, sons of gods were highly revered and even feared.  So, Pilate tried to get Jesus off the hook.  He tried to get the crowd to release Jesus, their “king.”

It was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about noon. "Here is your king," Pilate said to the Jews. But they shouted, "Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!" "Shall I crucify your king?" Pilate asked. "We have no king but Caesar," the chief priests answered. (John 19:14-15 NIV)

Pilate’s plan failed.  The Israelite leaders wanted Jesus dead so much that they were willing to release a notorious murder, Barabbas, instead of Jesus.  Jesus would die.  Barabbas would be set free.

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: "Aren't you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!" But the other criminal rebuked him. "Don't you fear God," he said, "since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong." Then he said, "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom." Jesus answered him, "Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise." (Luke 23:39-43 NIV)

I had a professor/friend say recently that it was strange that we call this day “Good Friday.”  It doesn’t seem very good.  We’re celebrating the death of our friend, Savior, Lord, and King.  What was bad for him, though, is good for us.  Because Jesus died, we, like Barabbas, can be set free.  When Jesus died, he opened the path for us, like the criminal who repented, into his kingdom.  Bad news for Jesus offers good news to us.  That’s because his death paid the penalty that we deserve, which keeps us out of God’s Kingdom.  Now, because he paid the price, we can enter God’s Kingdom and have Jesus as our King.

There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it. When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. And sitting down, they kept watch over him there. Above his head they placed the written charge against him: THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS. (Matthew 27:32-37 NIV)

How about you?  Is Jesus your King?