Daily Devotion – April 6, 2022 – Dr. Pat Taylor Ellison

Luke 23:1-49
23:1 Then the assembly rose as a body and brought Jesus before Pilate.
23:2 They began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man perverting our nation, forbidding us to pay taxes to the emperor, and saying that he himself is the Messiah, a king.”
23:3 Then Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” He answered, “You say so.”
23:4 Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no basis for an accusation against this man.”
23:5 But they were insistent and said, “He stirs up the people by teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to this place.”
23:6 When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean.
23:7 And when he learned that he was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him off to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time.
23:8 When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had been wanting to see him for a long time, because he had heard about him and was hoping to see him perform some sign.
23:9 He questioned him at some length, but Jesus gave him no answer.
23:10 The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him.
23:11 Even Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him; then he put an elegant robe on him, and sent him back to Pilate.
23:12 That same day Herod and Pilate became friends with each other; before this they had been enemies.

When people want to punish someone, they’ll pretty much stop at nothing to get their heart’s desire.

The gospel text for this week is often called the Passion Story, as it recounts Jesus’s last meal with his disciples, his arrest and “trials” before the various authorities of church and state, and his crucifixion and death. This small section of the Passion Story describes Jesus’s appearance before Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of that small territory. The “assembly” who brought Jesus before the governor, the religious leaders of Jesus’s day, really wanted Jesus out of their lives. Jesus had often told them God had other hopes for his chosen people than sacrifices and empty rituals, hopes that they would treat one another and even foreigners they did not know with love. He came preaching something they were not expecting, and they wanted things back the way they were before he had started his ministry.

They perverted his words, misinterpreted his deeds, and presented all of it to Pilate in a way they thought would ensure that Pilate would order Jesus’s death.

Pilate smelled what they were up to and wouldn’t do it. He didn’t want to get in the middle of a church fight. So Pilate sent Jesus to King Herod the local ruler, a Jew. Herod wouldn’t take action either, sending Jesus back to Pilate. And this mutual experience of trying to deal with Jesus as a pawn of the religious leaders bonded Pilate and Herod as friends from that day on.  Since neither head of state would condemn Jesus, the assembly of leaders had to create a riot to get their way, and get it they did. They stopped at nothing to get Jesus out of their lives.

It’s a strong human impulse to punish someone whom you don’t like, whom you may fear, someone who makes you question your own beliefs and purpose and destiny. It’s a strong human impulse. But let us view the assembly in this story as a cautionary tale. Let us not condemn others because their views are not our views. We may find ourselves on the wrong side of history, even of God’s story.

Gracious God, Thank you for loving us. Help us to love others, as you want us to do. Bless us and our relationships so that they bear fruit for the world that you love.   Amen.