Sermon for Midweek Lent 2 (3/4/15)
Text: John 18:12-16
Theme: It Is Good That One Man Died for the People
How many of you are familiar with the movie Red Dawn? I’m talking about the 1984 classic in which Patrick Swayze leads a group of teenagers in guerrilla warfare against the Russians who have invaded the United States. It’s an entertaining and suspenseful movie as Patrick and his gang of teenagers band together in the Rocky Mountains and fight the evil Russians.
That movie is the closest I have ever come to experiencing what it must have been like to be an everyday Jew at the time of Jesus – at least as far as experiencing what Roman rule must have been like.
As long as any of us have been alive (and long before that), America has been free. American’s haven’t experienced enemy occupation since we did it to ourselves in the Civil War. So it is hard for us to imagine all of the emotions and feelings everyday Jews would have had toward the Romans. It’s hard for us to imagine what it would have been like to live in a politically charged atmosphere like Jerusalem at the time of Jesus’ arrest.
The Roman Empire was in the midst of the Pax Romana, a 200 year period of relative peace and stability in the Roman world. This was an unprecedented span in the history of the world. 200 years without a major war breaking out. 200 years of peace that the 20/20 hindsight of history reveals as God orchestrated, so that his fledgling New Testament Church could grow.
But just because there was peace doesn’t mean that things were always peaceful. You see, there’s just this thing about conquests that has been proven true over the history of the world – people, nations don’t like being conquered. They don’t like being occupied. No matter how far the conquering nation goes to keep peace, that doesn’t mean it’s always peaceful.
Jerusalem at the time of Jesus was one more living proof of that. The Jews hated the Romans, just like Americans would hate it if Russia invaded and conquered us. It didn’t matter to what lengths the Romans went to make the Jews happy, they were still occupying Israel, which meant there was always a tension. The peace that Rome was experiencing wasn’t a super stable thing. It was more of a tightrope they were all walking on.
But relative peace remained because the leadership of both the Romans and the Jews knew what would happen if the Israelites rebelled… Rome would come with its incredibly powerful and efficient armies and a lot of Jews would die.
Caiaphas, the Jewish leader and High Priest, knew that it would be to no one’s benefit (least of all his own) if the Jewish people got all riled up, and Pilate let the Roman soldiers loose. His own father Annas had been deposed by the Romans because he had been unable to keep the Jewish people peaceful.
It was the Passover, which meant that Jerusalem was swelling in size as Jews from around the world flooded in by the thousands for this high festival – it was a powder keg, politically speaking. Thousands and thousands of discontented Jews getting together in their Roman occupied capitol – the tight rope of peace seemed to be getting thinner and thinner.
It was in this politically charged atmosphere where Caiaphas came a certain conclusion – a conclusion that would prove to be one of the greatest ironies of all time.
Caiaphas saw the politically charged atmosphere, he saw peace threatened because his fellow Jews were getting together and getting all riled up. He saw his own career threatened because he knew what the Romans would do to him if his people directed their riled up angst against the Romans. And so he came to the conclusion that it would be good if one man died for the people.
It would be good to give his Jewish friends an outlet for this angst they are feeling. It would be good to give them something to rally around and protest over other than the Romans. It would be good for a Jew to be killed by the Romans to send that little reminder out there that it wasn’t a good idea to stand up to Rome. And hey, it was also a perfect opportunity to get rid of this thorn in his side, Jesus. It was a win, win, win, win.
It would be good if one man died for the people… one of the greatest ironies of all time… if only Caiaphas knew how true his thought was…
Caiaphas thought, he thought, the death of Jesus would be good to save some Jewish lives, to save his own job, so he orchestrated the arrest and death of Jesus to save his own skin – to stop Roman justice from raining down on all the Israelites.
Meanwhile, God was orchestrating this arrest and death of Jesus to save everyone – to stop God’s justice from raining down on all sinners.
Tonight we have a chance to simply stand with our jaws on the floor in wonder as we watch the hand of our God guiding history to save all people – to save us.
And to think this is the same God we have the audacity to doubt when we worry about today or tomorrow… to think this is the same God we have the audacity to question when something happens to us we aren’t sure we wanted to happen to us… to think this is the same God we turn our backs on as we serve ourselves over him…
We cannot read the Bible and not be convicted of the absolute foolishness of our doubts… We reads an account like this is John 18 with all of its history and context, and how could we ever doubt, even for a second, that God knows what he is doing in the world, and that he is doing everything exactly the way it needs to be done?
Our doubts, our worries, our fears, our arrogance is shown for what it really is as we stand in awe of the working of our God tonight in John 18. This is amazing – to study this history, to read this story, to see our God’s hand guiding it all down to the smallest detail.
It is enough to give you the chills – to see your God intricately involved in the details of this world with one thought in mind… how good it would be if one man died for the people…
If only Caiaphas knew… If only he knew how true his thought was.
We know better.
Jesus was arrested, tried, beaten, and killed not so Caiaphas could keep his job, not simply to give the Jews something to do, or to stop Roman justice from raining down. He was arrested, tried, beaten, and killed for me, and for you. He was arrested in our place to stop God’s justice from raining down on people like us. Jesus for us (Christus pro nobis), Jesus did all of this for you and for me.
Our God, Jesus, wasn’t helpless to the whims of Caiaphas. Our God was and is in complete control, more than capable of bringing about His one great thought – you in heaven with him.
Tonight we have the privilege to following Jesus as he’s arrested by Caiaphas. We have the privilege to stand in awe of our God’s ability to guide all of history with one purpose in mind. We have the privilege to see just how good it is that one man died for the people.