Watching a King Die
Jerry A Collins
v How should we respond when we suffer unjustly?
v When can we expect to be ridiculed for our faith?
v Is it ever right to not do the right thing?
Jesus has always been controversial. Probably the most controversial figure in all of human history. He was especially controversial in His own day. He was controversial within His own family. With friends. With the crowds. He had many enemies and He had several close friends. Jesus was controversial because of His claims and the way He authenticated those claims—by miracles, healings, confrontations, and compassion. Followers of Jesus Christ can also expect to be controversial. You cannot help that if you take seriously His commands and attempt to apply those commands into your life and practice. Jesus made a difference and following Him meant you made one too. That brought people out of the woodwork to oppose Him, deny Him, scold Him, challenge Him, and eventually kill Him. So it is no surprise to see a variety of responses to Jesus death. Three times it is mentioned that Jesus is the KING OF THE JEWS vs 11, 37, and 42. One is questioning this claim. Another is mocking this claim. And the other is an accusation against Him. None of these three was meant to support the claim that He was King of the Jews. So, on the one hand the death scene is filled with mocking, scorn, ridicule, and unbelief. But there is also a ring of hope in the midst of such chaotic unbelief and rage. A soldier claims Truly this was the Son of God vs 54. Somebody finally got it. In the midst of the hardened hopelessness is a bright glimmer of hope. Someone believed and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten of the Father full of grace and truth John 1:14. More than just the disciples had seen this and believed. Matthew describes the whole scene of Jesus death as surrounded by a number of people—all kinds of people including His antagonists the Chief Priests and Elders vs 1, the scribes vs 41, and the Pharisees vs 62; Some new characters like Pilate vs 2, Barabbas vs 16ff, Pilate’s wife vs 19, Soldiers vs 27, Simon of Cyrene 32, two robbers vs 38ff, bodies of dead saints resurrected vs 52, a Centurion vs 54, and Joseph of Arimathea vs 57; There are close friends and followers, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joseph, the mother of Zebedee vs 56ff; There is the betrayer, Judas vs 3ff; and there are OT prophets Jeremiah vs 9, and Elijah vs 47ff. I want to focus on at least four things from all of the responses we see during the events associated with Jesus death.
EXPECT TO SUFFER UNJUSTLY AS A FOLLOWER OF JESUS
Jesus suffered unjustly at the hands of His enemies and His friends. Of course we have had the build-up to this suffering all throughout the book of Matthew. It now exerts itself with all of it’s crushing weight to press down upon Jesus. Added to this is the unjust betrayal of a close friend—one of the inner circle, Judas. Though Judas felt remorse, He never did repent. Jesus had said of Him in 26:24 that it would have been better if Judas had not been born. Imagine saying that about somebody. Judas never confessed His sin to God and His sin against God. There is a difference between repentance that brings redemption and feeling remorse or being depressed about it. Jesus enemies never felt any remorse and were so adamant that he die, that after he did, they persuaded Pilate to set up a watch over the tomb to ensure Jesus stayed that way and no hanky-panky from the disciples trying to steal his body and claim he was alive vs 62-66. Don’t live your life trying to avoid unjust treatment because of your faith. When it comes down to a moral and righteous decision you will have to make in your family or career or concern, suffer unjustly to do the right thing. Take the hit. Pay the price. Turn the other cheek. Don’t by into the world’s philosophy of exerting your rights, cutting corners or playing games. And don’t forget that some of your worst enemies will have been former friends.
YOUR FAITH IN CHRIST WILL BE MOCKED AND RIDICULED
1. The Roman soldiers mocked Jesus vs 27ff. They spit
on Him and clowned around with Him pretending Jesus was really a King. 2. Those passing by Jesus as He hung on the
cross mocked Jesus too vs 38ff. Their mocking was
two-fold: (1) Hurling abuse and wagging their heads at Him—a form of derision
and scorn VS 39. (2) Their mocking was from misunderstanding vs 40. They confused Jesus comments about the
3. Then the Chief Priests and Elders were mocking Jesus 41-43 (1) They claim Jesus cannot save Himself vs 42. They point out the inconsistency that Jesus saved others but not Himself. (2) They claim that God would not rescue Jesus. If He is the Son of God as He claims, here is the perfect opportunity for God to save Him vs 43.
4. The robbers mocked and insulted Jesus vs 44. Jesus is getting no respect here. Fortunately our job is not to get Jesus respect but to announce the good news that He can save people from their sin. That kind of thing has already been going on in our country. Christianity has been mocked and ridiculed on television, in education, and in government policy. But our faith is also mocked by world religions. Like Jesus, we focus on declaring the validity of our faith and Christ knowing the insults will come. Let God be the judge.
EVEN WITH THE EVIDENCE PEOPLE WILL REFUSE TO DO RIGHT THING
Pilate knew the Jews handed Jesus over because they were evil not because Jesus was guilty vs 18. Even his wife wanted Pilate to release Jesus vs 19. So he suggested releasing Barabbas thinking they would release Jesus instead but the chief priest persuaded the crowd otherwise vs 20-21. Pilate then saw a riot starting vs 24 and washed his hands of the whole matter 24-26 saying he was innocent. The reality is he refused to do the right thing because he was afraid of the crowd. You cannot wash your hands of a moral situation if there is something you can do about it. It is immoral to refuse to decide. If we as believers know personally of another excusing his/her sinful behavior and you do nothing—washing your hands of the matter because you are afraid of the crowd, then your willing to tell your children, grandchildren, your disciples that whatever sin that brother is committing is okay.
SOME WILL BELIEVE WHILE SURROUNDED BY UNBELIEF
the Centurion soldier vs 54 and Joseph vs 57—one overtly and another quietly make the claim of
belief. Of course Jesus close followers do the same—but all of it while surrounded
by unbelieving people. This week at Starbucks The
cashier asked me what I wanted and I jokingly said let me pray about it. A lady
already paying another for her purchase literally swiveled her head toward me
and with a startled look said you must be from