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Archive for March, 2015

Washing Our Hands of It All

I am innocent of the blood of this righteous person.”  (Matthew 27:24b)

When Pontius Pilate realized that the leaders of the temple weren’t going to let him off the hook and continued to push for Jesus to be crucified, he took a bowl of water and washed his hands.  He then announced that he would not be held guilty for sentencing Jesus to die on the cross.

Does that mean that his complicity was washed away?  No.  In actuality, he caved in.  He had to choose between the crowd’s chanting “Crucify him!  Crucify him!” and his own sense of right and wrong.  According to some of the historical references, Pilate was pretty ruthless.  He had to be in order to maintain “peace” (at least Roman style peace).  No kind of insurrection was tolerated, and the roadsides were strewn with those who had been judged and crucified for trying to start trouble with the Romans.

It’s interesting to look at Pilate.  It would appear, according to the Matthew account, that he actually had a little bit of a conscience; although it wasn’t enough for him to choose keeping the crowd happy over crucifying an innocent man.  Even Pilate’s wife (only in Matthew) got into the act, sending word that he should have nothing to do with Jesus because he was innocent.

Washing one’s hands has become a symbol of letting go of something so we don’t have to deal with it any more.  Pontius Pilate started the whole thing apparently!  Washing one’s hands of something almost always has a negative connotation because it indicates that something was really annoying, and we no longer want to deal with it.

Maybe that is exactly what we need to do at times, though.  If we have no control over something, maybe washing our hands of it helps us to let it go.  Sometimes tough love it like that.  When we are dealing with our grown children, we often have to wash our hands of some of the choices they make about which we are not pleased, and let them figure it out for themselves.

That doesn’t mean that we approve, but rather, we have chosen not to interfere.  Pilate chose the easy route, actually.  He chose to not have his reputation sullied by having a riot occur within the crowd below his balcony, and he chose to wash his hands of whatever happened to Jesus.

I suspect he still felt some guilt, unless he really was as unfeeling as some commentators say.  In church tradition, his wife eventually became a Christian, and if that is the case, he would have felt a great impact as he heard her witness.  It would be interesting to have learned the “rest of the story!”

When have you “washed your hands” of something?

What was the impact?

Did it turn out to be a good choice?  Why or why not?

What did you take away from the experience?

How was God involved in your decision?


Jesus and Judas

Now the betrayer [Judas] had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.”  Mark 14:44 (CEB)

Judas has gone down in church history has Jesus’ betrayer.  In my childhood, I used to think about what a bad person he must have been.  Even as an adult in my pre-seminary days, I pictured him as an evil person.  In seminary, I began considering Judas as a human being who had other motivations for turning Jesus over to the authorities beyond what some of the gospels say about “Satan entering him.”

Judas was chosen by Jesus to be one of his followers.  Did Jesus know even then that Judas would be the betrayer?  Some might say that it was part of the “plan,” and others might say that certainly Jesus knew!  Did he?  I don’t know – none of us really knows, at least not about the very beginning of his ministry.  From the scriptures, we gather that he knew when they all sat together at the last supper.

Did Judas really care about Jesus?  Even though the scriptures don’t give us a lot of hints about this, I suspect that he considered him a friend, looked up to him, and had great hopes in Jesus.  Maybe that is where his downfall was.  He hoped for Jesus to “show his hand,” to rally the army and overthrow Rome at the point of his arrest.  Judas may have wanted the “great king David” type of savior, and he must have been frustrated and let down when Jesus kept preaching peace and love and compassion.

It’s hard to know what Judas was feeling, but in the end, he couldn’t bear the weight of what he had done and died probably at his own hand.  Sadly, we will never know what Jesus’ response to him might have been, except that Jesus was consistent, forgave Peter following Peter’s denial, and Jesus was always preaching forgiveness.  I suspect that Jesus forgave Judas even before Judas betrayed him.

When have we been betrayed?  Have we been able to forgive and let go?  It’s not easy.  When have we been the one who betrayed a friend, relative or fellow employee?  My husband works in the business world as a salesman.  He tells me all the time about experiences of being undercut and betrayed by fellow employees who “steal” his customers and lie about what they have done.  Maybe the most painful acts of betrayal come when a spouse is unfaithful or a family member who takes advantage of an elderly parent or any kind of situation that makes us feel the pain and hurt of betrayal.

It’s good to look at ourselves and examine our own motives and behaviors.  It’s good to run a check of times we may have betrayed someone.  It’s good to think about how we can forgive – ourselves and others.  It’s good to acknowledge that we, too, have betrayed Jesus in some way.  May we know his forgiveness.  May we live it.

Doing Something Beautiful

Jesus said, “Let her alone; why do you trouble her?  She has some something beautiful for me.”  Mark 14:6 (NIV)

An unnamed woman anointed Jesus’ head while he was at table in Simon the Leper’s house.  Jesus was only a short time from his arrest and crucifixion, and he received this woman’s gift as an anointing for his burial.  Certainly, there would be no traditional anointing of the body because he would die a criminal’s death.  in fact, in most cases, the bodies were left hanging on the cross until they were eaten away by birds or whatever.

In Jesus’ case, he was buried through the kindness of Joseph of Arimathea who took his body down from the cross and placed it in a grave.  This was Joseph’s gift to Jesus.  In another passage, Nicodemus (the Pharisee who had come to Jesus at night to question him) accompanied Joseph.  That was Nicodemus’ gift to Jesus.  The women stood by him at the cross.  That was their gift to Jesus.

On the other hand, the disciples ran – scattered – hid out of fear.  Later, they would find a new boldness in light of the resurrection as they then spread the word of salvation in Jesus Christ the risen Savior of the World.  That was then their gift to Jesus.

What is our gift?  What can we do for Jesus?  What gifts can we bring, can we offer?  When we think about the capabilities we have and the ways in which we are able to reach out to touch other people’s lives either positively or negatively, which do we choose?  Is our response to someone who is being unkind to return unkindness, or do we choose to find words that will diffuse the situation and seek to be a blessing?

This is hard stuff!  We are called to live counter-culturally, just as the unnamed woman in Mark 14:1-9 did.  We are called to make choices that will sometimes be mocked, criticized, and rejected.  Will we persevere or withdraw?  It is our choice.  In Jesus’ call to follow him, are we ready to take up the hard work of faithfulness, too?  This Lenten season, there is much to ponder about how we live our faith.

Let’s choose to do something beautiful to bring glory to God in Jesus Christ.

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