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Jun 9 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Jesus Before Pilate – 06/09/2024


Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Good morning, RefleXion Community!    Grace and Peace to you!

There was a meme going around this week.  It read, “What I thought was age-related memory loss was really just a failure to turn off auto pilot.” In our study of The Book of Revelation (the unveiling), we are learning how to learning to say “no” to the world’s systems and practices (political, financial, social).  Another thing I’m saying “no” to is auto pilot.  Well, I need auto pilot for brushing my teeth and washing my face, but there are so many other experiences where I don’t take the opportunity to be fully present.

Desire, Intention, Invitation–these concepts have been bubbling up for me this week as I’ve been re-reading Gerald May’s The Awakened Heart  Dr. May says “Seek your own experience; try to trust in your authenticity and in what love seems to be calling forth from your heart.”  My heart?  Is it awake?  Do I really know what I deeply desire or am I on auto pilot, and have I expressed my intentions to God, and well, to my own self?  What am I invited to do by heart?

I’m also listening to a podcast covering The Way of the Pilgrim, a little book by an anonymous Russian peasant in the 19th century.  In the pilgrim’s case, though a was a faithful Christian, a little phrase from scripture awakened a longing in his heart, and he began his ”journey to love.” 

We have always had desires (or we may call them longings), and intentions, and most certainly fulfilled them in a way that seemed right to us at the time.  We made our way, or as they would say, “You make the road by walking.”  I followed a lot of invitations for the wrong reasons, fulfilling shallow desires.  And through all those dead-end roads, mysterious, amazing grace has seen me and led me. So, now, do I consider myself a pilgrim on the journey to love?  Well, I am making space now to become more aware of my deeper longings and to make my intention the way of love and then to follow invitations that align.  Can I discern God’s invitations to me at this stage of my life?  A road that recognizes and trusts the abiding, empowering presence of God…that is what I deeply desire.  Or will I keep myself too busy, too noisy, on auto pilot?  If love is as Dr. May describes it, “the fundamental energy of the human spirit, the fuel on which we run, the wellspring of our vitality,” then love is the beginning of and the reason for everything.”

We keep refining.  What do we really want?  What are our intentions?  The invitations come.  Do they align with my core longings?  If we let the Spirit awaken our hearts to his way for us, we might just find that our longings are but an echo of God’s own longings for us.  Love has found us and is drawing us toward itself.  We make our road by walking a journey to love.

Join me to pray:  Father, you are generous and patient with us.  Let us see what our hearts are truly longing for, what your heart is longing for.  We look into our hearts not only as the center of our emotions, but as the very place where your ongoing, self-donating, empowering presence dwells.  Let us settle ourselves now in the Presence of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus as we are together this morning. Open our ears.  Open our hearts.  Amen

Morning Talk: Jim Calhoun

So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” 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.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”
After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him. But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover. So do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” They cried out again, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a robber.
John 18:33-70

I want to start by filling in the context of this story in hopes I can show why it is so compelling to me at this moment. Why what Jesus has said is so needed just now.
The Pharisees were the backbone of Jewish society. They were, at least to their own minds, the protectors of the Jews.

After the Exile
The people of the land and the Samaritans
Oral Torah
Theocratic nationalists

For many years the Jews and the Romans got along well. There was trade of course. Mostly the Romans had a hands off policy until there was a civil war that needed to be settled.
Removed the royal family from power
Became increasingly involved in religious affairs taxing a vassal state.

The Sadducees were a class of priests that believed that sacrifice at the temple was the primary religious duty of the Jews. They were supportive of adapting and adopting Roman customs and perspectives largely okay with the Romans. They were more connected to the power and wealth brought by Rome. They rejected the oral Torah
They helped reduce resistance to Rome
But there was resistance to Rome.
Judas of Galilee and the census
The zealots were just like the Pharisees with the added belief that decisive action was needed
Theocratic nationalists
Believed in the violent defense of the law of God

So the Sanhedrin drag Jesus to Pilate
Both Pharisees and Sadducees
A governmental body Rome allowed to settle inter-Jewish disputes.
But they can’t condemn Jesus to death.
They can’t enter the Praetorium because it will make them unclean.
Can you feel the cultural, political tension here?

The Sadducees see Jesus as a threat to their power and status and gladly hand him over to the Romans.
The Pharisees see him as a threat to their system of keeping the Jews safe.
So they collude together to have Jesus killed by telling Pilate that he is a zealot, an insurrectionist, a king.
Pilate interviews Jesus and Jesus interviews Pilate.
Pilate firsts asks Jesus “Are you the King of the Jews?”
Jesus asks a clarifying question “Is this your opinion?”
Pilate explained he holds no opinion but that his own people have handed him over.
Jesus answers with “my kingdom”
Pilate responds, so you are a king?

Pilate’s job is to administer the state.
To see if there is a threat to the state
To see if Jesus is an insurrectionist, a zealot or a revolutionary.
He sees that Jesus is no threat in the ordinary sense. He is concerned about truth and other worlds and that is no threat to the Roman Empire. Pilate sees no threat and intends to set him free. But these things, truth and kingdom of God are an existential threat to the Jews. Jesus challenges every aspect of their lives and they want him and his teachings and his point of view silenced.

Pilate offers to set him free and the Jews won’t have it.
In the end they prefer to release a real zealot, Barabbas.
Falsely accused of being an insurrectionist Jesus is swapped out for a real insurrectionist.
What is truth?

Political expediency dismisses the discipline of holding fast to the truth. Political operatives play fast and loose with the truth. They will resent you for elucidating the truth. They will apply pressure on you to change your stance on the truth. The truth often stands between them and what they want, most often more power or more money, and it is quickly swept aside.

This is the way of politics. And it is the way of power. It is a trap. Even when you win this way you build distrust and resentment.

When someone, anyone is dismissive of verifiable evidence that goes against their claims, if they are unwilling to make the adjustment to best evidence, when they endlessly muddy the waters, then you can be sure there is a quest for power or money or both and you should be very cautious about them, their plans, their claims and their efforts to persuade you to join them.

Jesus came to bear witness to the truth
He was and is the living truth.
So it is our calling as followers of Jesus to also bear witness to the truth.
We cannot just say things because we like them, or wish they were true, or because we don’t or won’t get our way.
We will bear witness to the truth even when it is to our disadvantage. Even if we lose an argument. Even if our pet project dies. Even if we lose face or status or power.
If we are followers of Jesus

Jesus said:
My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.

Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world. We know this right? But it is a challenge. It is at this point I feel like this talk is a footnote to Chuck’s talks on Revelation. Especially last week’s reading of chapter 18

I’ll try to explain
Babylon is the image (the symbol) of the state, the forces of this world, the power, the wealth, the trade and merchants, the distraction and opulence and entertainment. Of every time. Of every place. The kingdom of this world. In this way, even Christendom, in all of its iterations are just outposts of Babylon.

We should make note here about those who call themselves Christians. Many use the term as a cultural identity in one of its many iterations. Or that they prefer and support Christendom one of the outposts of Babylon.

Some mean that they are followers of Jesus which is a whole different level and an important distinction. By the way, my job isn’t to line people up and decide who is in or who is out. I’m not even to do that for myself. I am not in the place to judge another’s servant. Nor can I judge myself.

My job is to set the intention of my heart and to make every correction I can along the way to the call of the one who loves me. As God calls me, and prints me and heals me and instructs me and grows me and corrects me I become better able to serve well. And for you too.

This, Babylon, is where we live, it makes endless demands upon us, it controls many of our thoughts and actions. It limits our possibilities. It binds up our hearts and minds and holds us captive. It is all consuming.

From Revelation 18:4-5, Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, “Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues; for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities.

Jesus is calling us to His kingdom
That is the whole point of the sermon on the Mount.
That is the whole point of the signs and wonders.
That is the whole point of the parables and hard teaching.
Jesus’ kingdom awaits us.

We bring about the destruction of Babylon in our hearts by turning toward Jesus’ kingdom. Each step we take toward Jesus kingdom tears down Babylon and our allegiance, our dependence, our bond to it.

Jesus said “If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting”
Isn’t this fascinating?
Isn’t it thrilling?
Jesus’ kingdom is something completely different.
But this kingdom cannot be founded with violence. It cannot be won by fighting.

Before the guards came to get Jesus as he his preparing to go to the the garden to pray, Jesus tells the disciple to buy a sword if they have money enough. They produce two swords they already possess Peter has one and likely Simon the zealot one of the twelve had one as well. Jesus says, “Oh, well that’s enough.”

Enough for what exactly? To fight a group of guards? No. In terms of self-defense or fighting it is good for exactly nothing. Even when Peter uses one Jesus is quick to heal the guard and tells his disciples to stop.

Violence is the “normal” human way to establish a kingdom on earth. But it is not possible to bring God’s kingdom by violence.

It has been tried
Lord knows it has been tried, and the results have been destructive, leaving a stain on the name of Christ.
The Crusades
The world slave trade
The treatment of indigenous people
Sadly these are the fruits of Babylon and its outposts.

But violence cannot establish the kingdom of God in part or in whole.
Christians cannot rely on it to witness to God’s great love.
How could they possibly.

Now you may be thinking he is talking about MAGA. You are right.
You may be thinking he is talking about Antifa. You are right
Or the boogaloo boys in their chinos and torches
Or animal liberationists
Or slow growth
Or Christian militia.
Or any other faction or group that encourages or practices violence
But not if you are a follower of Jesus.
Violence will only make a mess of things.

And this isn’t just daggers or guns or bombs.
It includes all forms of violence. Take time to review the works of the flesh in Galatians chapter 5. It is all the ways we tear others down.

There is a great sadness for me in this. To my mind there has been a turning away from Jesus over the past decades and what was once unthinkable behavior is happening right before our eyes. I suspect that there may be growing threats of violence in our society from every direction and people who think of themselves as Christian will be tempted to join in since it feels powerful and seems expedient. This is unbearably sad to me.

I have been reading the stories of Dostoevsky lately and one of the recurring themes in his work is the love triangle. I was confused by this especially after learning that he personally experienced this ten years after he began using it. But he was a spiritual writer in a fashion illuminating spiritual truths through everyday realities and then it dawned on me.

In the love triangle I love you, but you love another. It is heart wrenching and if you have ever been involved you know. It illustrates a situation all too common. God loves me, offers me wholeness, freedom and entry into the kingdom, but I turn to the side to love another hoping to meet my needs, my desires, satisfy my resentments maybe, to fulfill my life. I am turning away from who loves me fully and completely. This is the very essence of tragedy.

Let me clear,
the world does not need the followers of Jesus to join in whatever movement and just repeat what others are doing.
What the world needs is for the followers of Jesus to bring their unique perspectives and gifts into our concrete situation

Hear the voice of the Holy Spirit
Turn and turn and turn again toward the God who loves us
The fruit of the spirit and sacrifice
Compassion and neighborliness
Forgiveness and reconciliation
Attending to the least of these
Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women

The world doesn’t need us to come up with some big program, to win office, to be endorsed by celebrities. Or have a catchy tune.
It doesn’t need us to have deep pockets or find venture capitalists, or a run capital campaign or secure grants or loans. It doesn’t need us to work a PR program, a Super Bowl ad, a bumper sticker, a frame for our license plate or doodads and geegaws
It doesn’t need more evidence that demands a verdict or a master plan of evangelism or some other pyramid scheme

The world needs us to be followers of Jesus, who each day follow Jesus step-by step-out of Babylon and into the kingdom of God.

And the world, our neighbors, our individual neighbor with whom we have contact in our actual unique concrete situation, these people need the followers of Jesus to love with love that looks like and feels like God’s love in order to help them join in the migration out of Babylon.

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