Since it is Easter-time, I’ve been spending my time preparing for the big day by doing the usual ‘pre-Easter’ activities like filling plastic eggs full of goodies, reading the accounts of the crucifixion, and wondering how on earth anyone could possibly like Peeps. Gross.
This time around, I was drawn to Pontius Pilate. I suppose I’ve always seen him as a villain in the story. After all, he is the one who ordered Christ to be crucified. But this year, I realized something different about Pilate:
Three separate times he appealed to the Jews that he found no grounds for the death penalty (Luke 23:22). He tried to convince them to try Jesus by Jewish religious law rather than Caesar’s (John 18:31). He tried to avoid having to make a decision himself by sending Jesus to Herod (Jesus was from Galilee, which was in Herod’s jurisdiction) (Luke 23:7). He suggested a lighter sentence (flogging) to appease the thirst for blood, rather than a crucifixion (Luke 23:16). He tried to convince Jesus to defend himself against his accusers (Mark 15: 3). And finally, he put Jesus up against a known trouble-maker and murderer, Barabbas, for the annual Passover prisoner release (John 18:40). Presumably, he thought the Jews would choose Jesus over a scum bag.
I don’t know why, but I never noticed how much Pilate did to avoid killing Jesus, or at least avoid killing Jesus himself. It’s pretty clear this was something he didn’t want to do, though it’s not clear why. Perhaps he was a softy and didn’t like the idea of flogging and crucifying an innocent man. Or, perhaps he was afraid that he actually was killing the Son of God. After all, his wife tried to warn him against harming Jesus, and we all know wives are always right (Mat 27:19).
John’s account claims that Pilate was ‘afraid’ when he heard Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. Upon hearing it, he spoke to Jesus and “from then on tried to set Jesus free” (John 19: 12). Ultimately, we know he conceded to the power of the angry mob, but not before he claimed to be personally innocent of Christ’s blood (Mat 27: 24).
While I’m still not on Team Pilate, re-reading all of this gives me more empathy for the man. After all, aren’t we all guilty of doing the same thing? Obviously, not too many of us argue with Jewish rabbis on a daily basis. But we all want to do the right thing and defend Christ, but we end up nailing him to a cross all over again.
Though Christians claim to know rather than fear Jesus is the Son of God, we behave the same way as the Roman governor. We avoid making tough decisions, try to take moral ‘short-cuts,’ defend our actions, absolve ourselves of responsibility, and ultimately try convincing others, ourselves and God that we are innocent, or at least justified. Like Pilate, when siding with Christ costs us something, friends, family, power, or even 2 seconds of ridicule, we decide the cost is too high and turn our backs. In this way, we are no different than the man who ordered his death, the soldiers who flogged and nailed him to the cross, or those, who at one point offered praise,but later hurled insults at Christ.
If you go back and re-read this story this weekend, I hope like me, you see yourself in the crucifixion account. It might make remembering why Christ died today a little more clear. It was because he loved his peeps. Not his Peeps.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
Cafeteria food always creeped me out a little bit. There are only a few meals that I trusted, even fewer that I would call good eating. Most meals consisted of a few veggies or fruits, milk, and the main dish. Sometimes, the main course was so unidentifiable, it was labeled as: mystery meat.
I think the Bible is ‘mystery meat’ for too many Christians. Most of us don’t put faith in this ‘meat’ either and instead decide to give it a quick glance and maybe move on to the PB&J option. We treat it as a book that looks edible at first glance with some good tips for living, but otherwise it is mostly out of touch, certainly out-dated, probably inaccurate, and definitely made for a different society therefore not applicable to 2012 living. It certainly isn’t the infallible Word of God or soul food at it’s best.
Paul said, “We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God” (2 Cor 10:4-5). Paul warns that there will be obstacles to knowing the Truth and that arguments challenging it’s veracity are false. The implication is that there is a truthful argument to be made for the Bible in the first place. Of course, quoting scripture to an unbelieving ‘Christian’ is circular logic, so we’ve got to go a different route.
Historians measure the veracity of a historical text a few different ways. One is by the level of variation among the manuscripts. For example, the Old Testament text can be found in the Masoretic Text (dated 800 AD) and the Dead Sea Scrolls (dated around the BC AD change over). Between these two manuscripts, despite the 800 year difference, there’s about a 95% consistency with the last 5% being comprised of mostly spelling errors rather than content variation. All without a Kinkos too, pretty amazing.
Two other attributes historians look at: a) the lapse between the event in question and the recording’s date and b) the number of manuscripts. It’s estimated there are over 20,000 biblical manuscripts dating as early as 125 AD, the original text dating somewhere around 40-60 AD. Some might have a problem with the manuscripts dating about 100 years after the event. Fine, but compare that to the next most ‘accurate’ historical document, Homer’s “Iliad” (643 manuscripts, 500 years after the event), or other goodies like Caesar’s “Galactic Wars” (10 manuscripts, 950 years after the event) or Plato’s works (7 manuscripts, 1,200 years after the event). Yet, not too many people the existence of Plato.
Another reason to believe the Bible is from God – prophecy. Biblical prophecy isn’t at the fortune cookie or horoscope level, it gets pretty specific (though adding ‘in bed’ still makes them funny). There are over 100 prophecies relating to Jesus alone, including the year he would be killed (Dan 9:24-26). There’s also world events like the rise (and fall) of the Babylonian, Persian, Greek (and it’s break up into 4 territories), and Roman empires (also all in Daniel – he was a busy guy). There’s recently fulfilled prophecies like the re-establishment of the state of Israel (Ez 20:34). And there are still prophecies yet be fulfilled too, like an alliance between Russia and Iran forming…that one’s probably wrong though, right?
There would be archeological evidence like the Holy Grail and the Ark of the Covenant, but the Nazi’s had to go and ruin it for us all by choosing …poorly. Just kidding, but for example, until 1961, we didn’t have evidence Pontius Pilate was even a real man. But then a limestone ruin was found in a Roman theatre reading, “Pontius Pilate, Prefect of Judea.” Now there’s evidence he existed and served as a Roman governor in Judea.
Though it’s not ‘evidence’ per se, I’ve always wondered if the whole story was made up, why not make it better? For example, if the disciples wanted people to believe Jesus rose after three days, why send women, who’s word didn’t account for much, to the tomb? If I wanted to convince people, I’d have sent some well-respected men in the community that people would be more likely to believe. Or why when recording Jesus’s genealogy would the writers include men like Judah (the married guy who sleeps with his daughter-in-law while she was dressed as a prostitute) rather than Joseph (Judah’s stand-up brother and Jewish hero who rose to be Pharaoh’s powerful advisor)? And while people like Joel Osteen have millions in book revenue to gain today, what did the early Christians have to gain? When they were spreading the word, being the ‘light of the world’ literally meant their bodies were fuel for Roman street lights. They had nothing to gain but ridicule and death…or did they?
Like I said with my piece of evolution, this isn’t supposed to be a complete or exhaustive list on why the Bible is 100% true. If some Christians don’t want to buy into the Bible as the Word of God yet, I just suggest they do some research and know why (and while they’re at it, question Thucydides’s account of the Pelopanisian Wars – 8 manuscripts, 1300 years after the wars). But as for this Christian, I happen to like how the mystery meat and chilled monkey brains taste.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 3 so far )