Monday, August 13th. Mark 15:1-5

As soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate. Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” He answered him, “You say so.” Then the chief priests accused him of many things. Pilate asked him again, “Have you no answer? See how many charges they bring against you.” But Jesus made no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed.  Mark 15:1-5


Now we come near to the end…of the new beginning.


The religious leaders, having held Jesus overnight, hand him over to Pilate.  Why?


They were under no obligation to do so.  Even though the Romans, as an occupying force, were the political powers-that-be, the religious leaders had no reason to turn Jesus over to them.  Their charges against Jesus, that he, according to them, falsely claimed to be the Messiah, were religious charges.  Their “problem” was heresy, not sedition against the government.  The religious leaders weren’t in the business of propping up or protecting the Roman government, so why hand Jesus over?


The Old Testament law was pretty clear. Deuteronomy 13:6-11 and 17:2-7 both outline the punishment fit for someone who leads others into false belief, into idolatry.  They are to be stoned to death.  The religious leaders could have carried that out and Rome wouldn’t have given them a wink.


As for the idea that the Jewish law had no provision for “hanging someone from a tree” or crucifixion, it actually did.  Deuteronomy 21:22-23 gives instruction on how to handle the body of someone executed for a capital crime and hung on a tree.  Such a practice, the public display of a dead body, performed the same function for both the ancient Israelites as it did for the Romans – it was a warning to the people as a whole not to step out of line or to get in the way of power.


So why didn’t the religious leaders just kill Jesus themselves and be done with it?


Perhaps because Jesus wasn’t really the one on trial.  Perhaps the real reason is that the ones truly on trial in all of this is all of us.  We who either enjoy the privileges of the powerful or suffer under them or both.  We who continue to seek salvation under religious systems and political systems that deal in death, division, greed, and power for the sake of power rather than power in pursuit of justice.


Thus does Jesus simply hand the charge back to Pilate – You say so – and then refuses to defend himself (Isaiah 53).   The sheep is now led to the slaughter.


Let us pray:  Dear Lord, you came among us to teach us the power of love, to cut through our defenses of position and class and gender and all that divides us.  You fed the hungry, healed the hurting, and sought nothing for yourself.  For that you were rejected and are rejected still.  As we follow you through these last days, open our eyes to see what you would have us see, to learn what you would have us learn.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.


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