WHAT, THEN, SHALL I DO WITH JESUS? (Part 1)
Reading: Matthew 26: 69-75, 27: 1-5, 11-26.
Peter disowns Jesus (Matthew 26: 69-75)
Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant-girl came to him. ‘You also were with Jesus of Galilee,’ she said.
But he denied it before them all. ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ he said.
Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant-girl saw him and said to the people there, ‘This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.’
He denied it again, with an oath: ‘I don’t know the man!’
After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, ‘Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.’
Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, ‘I don’t know the man!’
Immediately a cock crowed. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: ‘Before the cock crows, you will disown me three times.’ And he went outside and wept bitterly.
Judas Iscariot (Matthew 27: 1-5)
Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people made their plans how to have Jesus executed. So they bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate the governor. When Judas, who had betrayed him, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders. ‘I have sinned,’ he said, ‘for I have betrayed innocent blood.’
‘What is that to us?’ they replied. ‘That’s your responsibility.’
So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself.
Jesus before Pilate (Matthew 27: 11-26)
Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’
‘You have said so,’ Jesus replied.
When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. Then Pilate asked him, ‘Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?’ But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge – to the great amazement of the governor.
Now it was the governor’s custom at the festival to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. At that time they had a well-known prisoner whose name was Barabbas. So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, ‘Which one do you want me to release to you: Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?’ For he knew it was out of self-interest that they had handed Jesus over to him.
While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: ‘Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.’
But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.
‘Which of the two do you want me to release to you?’ asked the governor.
‘Barabbas,’ they answered.
‘What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?’ Pilate asked.
They all answered, ‘Crucify him!’
‘Why? What crime has he committed?’ asked Pilate.
But they shouted all the louder, ‘Crucify him!’
When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood,’ he said. ‘It is your responsibility!’
All the people answered, ‘His blood is on us and on our children!’
Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.
The comic characters known as Statler and Waldorf, two old men from the Muppet show, start by saying one thing and end up saying something different! They applaud an act then have second thoughts and end up jeering them… or vice versa.
- We smile because it is so true to life
- Like Statler and Waldorf, we can be fickle, changeable, unpredictable and even disloyal.
Furthermore…there are occasions in life when people gather together to hear someone speak or experience something… and come away with entirely different perspectives…
- The referee was terrible or excellent (depending on whether your team won or lost)
- The school concert was a great success or a flop (depending on whether your child featured in it!)
SOMETIMES PEOPLE ARE DETERMINED TO HEAR WHAT THEY WANT TO HEAR …
- I was once taking a service in which I encouraged the folk to give younger people opportunities in church life, supported and guided by more experienced Christians. After the meeting a member of the congregation strode up to me, grasped my hand and exclaimed: I agree. You can’t trust these younger ones…before storming off through the exit door!
- Oh dear! Was the man’s response due to my poor explanation… or because he only wanted to hear something that confirmed his own pre-suppositions/ prejudices?
Members of a congregations might disagree about the quality of the ministry, sometimes because of personal preference… but sometimes because of an attitude that they bring with them into the service
- Jesus warned that we only receive from God if our motives are right
- The truth is that some people won’t be satisfied whatever happens because their hearts have become hardened (Do you know anyone like that?)
Jesus put the case even more strongly when He said that some people will not be convinced even if someone should rise from the dead!
- He was, of course, looking ahead to His own death on the Cross
THERE ARE MANY FACTORS THAT IMPINGE UPON OUR ATTITUDE TOWARDS JESUS CHRIST…AND TO CHURCH LIFE GENERALLY
Part of the reason for our differing attitudes towards Jesus Christ and the ministry of the local church is found within our own hearts…
- We can come in a wrong frame of mind…unprepared, unexpectant and negative about life generally
- We can come determined to find fault with the music, the temperature, the seats, the length of the sermon, etc.
- We can allow past experiences to cheat us of what God has in store for us: I didn’t get my own way, so now I’m sitting back, arms folded. Let them get on with it!
WHEN WE SEE JESUS BEFORE PILATE WE FIND A SIMILAR RANGE OF ATTITUDES… Let’s look at them in turn…
1. THE CHIEF PRIESTS AND ELDERS
- They were religious and obeyed the rules and regulations
- But they do not appear to have an understanding of the Person of God
- They did the right sorts of things out of fear, not out of love and worship
- They quoted the law but failed to apply the character of God in their judgements
- Their behaviour lacked grace, mercy, love or compassion
There are some similarities with Islam today.
2. JUDAS ISCARIOT
- He had walked closely with Jesus for two or three years
- He knew about Jesus…he had heard His teaching
- He had seen Jesus heal the sick, command evil spirits, raise the dead
- He was well-informed and probably an intelligent man
- Yet he betrayed Jesus for money
Would you and I do that? Choose wealth and prosperity above obedience?
3. THE CROWD
Crowds consist of individuals yet allow each one to remain anonymous.
- Some probably knew Jesus from some time back…perhaps they were from Bethlehem where Jesus was born of Mary
- Perhaps some were from Nazareth in the north
- Perhaps some were refugees
- Perhaps some had been shouting Hosanna only a few days before
- Now they cried ‘away with Him…release Barabbas’
True friends don’t hide in the crowd… they are there for you at all times, especially when the chips are down
4. PILATE’S WIFE
- Alarmed by vivid dreams and warnings about this man Jesus
- Scared by the thought that they might be doing something wicked that would anger God
- Frightened that something terrible would happen to her husband
- Afraid of what the future might hold if she were left alone
There’s a danger when we are more concerned with the consequences of sin than about the sin itself.
5. THE DISCIPLES AND PETER
- Jesus’ closest allies
- Now hiding away, running for their lives
- Not willing to be associated with the Son of God
- Even denying Him three times (Peter)
And when was the last time you and I recommended Jesus Christ to someone we know? Or maybe we find it easier to lead a quiet life!
- The man who had the power and authority to release Jesus
- Who did not believe the charges against Him
- Who thought that Jesus had done nothing to deserve punishment
- But was swayed by those who threatened to report him to Caesar for disloyalty
- And who washed his hands of the affair … no doubt with his wife’s warnings in mind.
Lack of moral courage was as common then as it is today.
SO MANY DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES AND REACTIONS…
- There were many others, of course, who were loyal to Jesus
- Believing that He was who He said he was
- Feeling powerless in the face of the hate campaign that was being waged in front of them
- There were members of Jesus’ family around…and faithful supporters who had stuck by Him through thick and thin
BUT WHAT NOW WERE THEY TO DO WITH JESUS?
- It’s one thing to know the Jesus of miracles, who puts to flight the enemies of God by His wisdom and authority
- It’s quite something else to see your hero with a face so badly disfigured by the agony of the situation that he is unrecognisable … hanging on a Cross with criminals, jeered by the crowd, mocked by the hypocritical religious leaders
WHAT WOULD WE HAVE DONE? What will we do with Jesus?
For we, too, have a responsibility in this matter…
- Even though we were not present
- Even though we did not run away (like the disciples) or shout with the crowds or wash our hands of the matter or deny Him three times
WE STILL NEED TO CONSIDER OUR ROLE TODAY… at this moment in time
- For we cannot distance ourselves from the event like a small child covering his face to make himself ‘invisible’
For Christ’s death at Calvary cannot be ignored… or viewed as someone else’s problem
- We are all implicated in His life and death… whether we like it or not!
- His death was for the sins of the whole world… each person… and that means you and me.
We may not be the religious leaders of the day… but we may be relying on ‘safe’ religious observance rather than having a close relationship with God for ourselves…
- Happy to know about God rather than knowing Him through the indwelling Holy Spirit
- To keep Him nicely wrapped up… ‘mothballed’ within a regular routine of church attendance
We may not be Judas Iscariot… handing over Jesus to be crucified…
- But perhaps we sometimes choose to chase moonbeams in our lives rather than the life of obedience that Jesus demands
- Making money and possessions our goal rather than serving Christ
We may not be the crowd… baying for Jesus’ blood…
- But where is our obedience to the Lord of Creation…our dedication… our commitment?
- It is easy to follow Jesus Christ when it costs nothing… when it makes few demands upon us… when we can breeze through life
As King David once said to his followers: I will not sacrifice to the Lord that which costs me nothing
- Many Christians in the world are sacrificing everything for His Name’s sake
We may not be Pilate’s wife…thinking only of our own welfare… anxious that nothing disturbs our smooth passage through life…
- But it’s all too easy to view Jesus Christ solely as an ‘insurance policy’… a safety net in case all else fails
We may not be the disciples…hiding away and unwilling to be associated with Jesus…even denying Him…
- But are we guilty of keeping a discrete distance at work or the place we spend most time… when we should speak up for righteousness (courteously and wisely)
- We can all stay at a convenient distance from situations when we ought to intervene
- We can all look the other way when we should be standing up for good over evil in society
We may not be Pilate…sending an innocent man to death… pretending that we can wash our hands of any involvement… preferring to blame others
- But righteous indignation never saved anyone… washing our hands of a difficult situation never solved it
- Hoping for the best like Pilate did is akin to those who believe in ‘good luck’ or superstitious clap-trap
- Trying to pass the buck (as in verse 24, ‘It is your responsibility‘) is hardly demonstrating godly wisdom or trust in God!
IF WE WANT TO BE SALT AND LIGHT IN SOCIETY as Jesus commanded, we must face up fairly and squarely to our high calling and the need to get right with Jesus Christ today
WHAT THEN SHALL I DO WITH JESUS?
- Surely we will not be like those who demanded His death?
- We will not betray Him for money
- Or turn against Him when the going gets tough
- Or wash our hands of Him…
All too easy to make Jesus a religious pastime…church becomes a hobby … something we keep for Sunday
Keeping Jesus well under control…a sanitised Jesus (squeaky clean!) at a convenient distance, so that He does not intrude upon our lives too much
SOME OF US MUST STOP MAKING EXCUSES…
- Any time now I’ll trust Jesus Christ and believe that He is the Saviour…
- As soon as I’ve got this promotion/reached retirement/passed these exams…I’ll follow Him
- Once I’m financially secure I’ll give Him everything…
- Let me enjoy myself first then I’ll be His devoted follower.
IF YOU VIEW YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRIST IN THIS WAY, hear what He says to you and to me:
- Seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness
- Take my yoke upon you and learn of me
WE MUST ALL DECIDE WHAT WE ARE GOING TO DO WITH JESUS
- Not just once… but every day
- In every decision… every action
- Guided by the Spirit of God, who teaches us all things.
In the words of the old chorus:
What shall I do with Jesus?
Neutral I cannot be
For one day my heart will be asking:
What will He do with me?