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When Pilate heard of Galilee, he asked whether the man were a Galilean. And as soon as he knew that he belonged unto Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who himself also was at Jerusalem at that time. — Luke 23:6,7Pilate had never had a problem with causing bloodshed in the past, so it seems strange that he balked at the thought of crucifying Jesus. As governor and the chief legal authority of the land, Pilate had been invested by Rome with the power to decide who would and wouldn’t live. This Roman governor was infamous for his cold-hearted, insensitive, and cruel style of leadership and had never found it difficult to order the death of a criminal — until now. There was something inside Pilate that recoiled at the idea of crucifying Jesus. The Bible doesn’t state exactly why Pilate didn’t want to crucify Him, but it makes one wonder what he saw in Jesus’ eyes when he interrogated Him. We do know Pilate was shocked at the manner in which Jesus carried Himself, for Matthew 27:14 tells us that Pilate “marveled greatly” at Jesus. The words “marveled greatly” are from the Greek word thaumadzo, which means to wonder, to be at a loss of words, or to be shocked and amazed. A man like this Jesus had never stood before Pilate before, and the governor was obviously disturbed at the thought of murdering Him. In fact, Pilate was so disturbed that he decided to probe deeper by asking questions. He was looking for a loophole that would enable him to escape this trap the Jews had set both for Jesus and for himself as well. Indeed, the Jewish leaders had carefully schemed a trap with three potential results, all of which would make them very happy. The threefold purpose of this trap was as follows:
1. To see Jesus judged by the Roman court, thus ruining His reputation and guaranteeing His crucifixion, while at the same time vindicating themselves in the eyes of the people.To ensure that this happened, the Jewish leaders falsified charges that made Jesus appear to be a bona fide political offender. These were the charges: 1) that He had perverted the whole nation — a religious charge that was the responsibility of the Sanhedrin to judge; 2) that He had commanded people not to pay their taxes to Rome; and 3) that He claimed to be king (see Luke 23:2). According to Roman law, Jesus should be crucified for claiming to be king. If these charges were proven true, Pilate was bound by law to crucify Him. If this is what followed, the first purpose of their scheme would have worked.
2. To see Pilate wiped out and permanently removed from power on the charge that he was unfaithful to the Roman emperor because he would not crucify a man who claimed to be a rival king to the emperor.Had Pilate declined to crucify Jesus, this rejection would have given the Jewish leaders the ammunition they needed to prove to Rome that this governor should be removed from power because he was a traitor to the emperor. News would have reached the emperor of Rome that Pilate had permitted a rival king to live, and Pilate would have been charged with treason (see John 19:12). It is interesting that this same charge was brought against Jesus. It was a charge that most assuredly would have led to Pilate’s own death or banishment. If Jesus was allowed to go free by the Roman court, the Jewish leadership would have been thrilled, for then they would have had a legal reason to expel Pilate from their land. Thus, the second purpose of their scheme would have worked.
3. To take Jesus back into their own court in the Sanhedrin if Pilate would not crucify Him, where they had the religious authority to stone Him to death for claiming to be the Son of God.The truth is, the Jewish leaders never needed to deliver Jesus to Pilate because the court of the Sanhedrin already had the religious authority to kill Jesus by stoning for claiming to be the Son of God. Even if Pilate refused to crucify Jesus, they fully intended to kill Him anyway (see John 19:7). So we see that the trip to Pilate’s court of law was designed to turn Jesus’ arrest into a political catastrophe that would possibly help the Jewish leaders get rid of Pilate as well. But if Jesus had been freed by the Roman court, they intended to kill Him anyway. This was the third part of their scheme. The solution to this mess was easy! All Pilate had to do was crucify Jesus; then he would have happy Jewish elders on his hands; no charges of treason leveled against him in Rome; strengthened ties to the religious community; and a guarantee of remaining in power. Pilate just had to say, “CRUCIFY HIM!” and this political game would be over. But he couldn’t bring himself to utter those words! Instead, Pilate gave Jesus three opportunities to speak up in His own defense. But Jesus said nothing. Isaiah 53:7 (NKJV) says, “…As a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth.” According to the law, Jesus should have automatically been declared “guilty” because He passed up three chances to defend Himself. But this time Pilate simply could not permit himself to follow the due course of judicial process. He sought instead to find a way out of this dilemma. As noted above, perhaps Pilate saw something in Jesus’ eyes that affected him. Maybe Jesus’ kind and gracious behavior grabbed Pilate’s heart. Others have speculated that Pilate’s wife may have secretly been a follower of Jesus who told her husband about His goodness and the miracles that had followed His life. Matthew 27:19 reports that Pilate’s wife was so upset about Jesus’ impending death that she even had upsetting dreams about Him in the night. She sent word about her dreams to Pilate, begging him not to crucify Jesus. As Pilate probed deeper in his interrogation, he discovered that Jesus was from Galilee. At long last, Pilate could breathe a sigh of relief. He had found the loophole that shifted the full weight of the decision to his old enemy, Herod! Galilee was under the legal jurisdiction of Herod. What a coincidence! Herod just “happened” to be in Jerusalem that week to participate in the Feast of Passover! Pilate promptly ordered Jesus to be transferred to the other side of the city to the residence where Herod was staying with his royal entourage. The Bible tells us, “And when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceeding glad: for he was desirous to see him of a long season, because he had heard many things of him; and he hoped to have seen some miracle done by him” (Luke 23:8). However, it didn’t take long for Herod to get angry with Jesus and return Him to Pilate! What do you think went through Jesus’ mind as He stood before first a Roman governor, then a Jewish king — only to be shipped back to the Roman governor again? Have you been feeling knocked around and passed from one authority figure to another at home, at church, in the workplace, or in the governmental system? If so, you can feel free to talk to Jesus about it, because He really understands the predicament you find yourself in right now! Hebrews 4:15,16 says, “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.” Since Jesus understands your dilemma, I advise you to speak freely to Him about the emotional ups and downs you feel as a result of your situation. His throne is a throne of grace — a place where you can obtain mercy and find grace to help in your time of need. So go before God’s throne today. He will hear you, answer you, and give you the power and wisdom you need to press through this time in your life!
My Prayer for TodayLord, I am so glad You understand when I feel confused about the person I am supposed to report to and to whom I am supposed to be accountable at work and at church. Sometimes I feel like my leaders send me back and forth, not knowing what to do with me or to whom I am supposed to report, which makes it hard for me to do my job. I know that those who are over me have their own challenges, so I want to be helpful to them, not judgmental of them. Please give me the wisdom to know how to behave in a godly manner in this environment.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for TodayI confess that I have the mind of Christ for my situation. I am not in confusion; rather, I walk in peace in every situation. Because Jesus has been in my same place, I go to Him to tell Him about my situation, and He gives me all the mercy and grace I need to be successful in this place where He has called me!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer1. Do you feel like you are knocked around from one authority to another at your job or in your position at church? Are you confused about whom you are really supposed to be accountable to? 2. Have you ever asked for clarification regarding this matter? If you didn’t understand what you were told, did you seek further clarification to avoid confusion? 3. If you’ve done all you can to properly report to the authorities who are over you and they still don’t like the way you are reporting to them, have you prayed and asked the Lord to help you become what your authorities need you to be?
And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor. — Matthew 27:2Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you felt like you were surrounded and besieged by control freaks who were obsessed with keeping everything that moved under their monitoring control? If you’ve been in a situation like this before, you know how hard it is to function in that kind of environment. Well, at the time of Jesus’ ministry on earth, Israel was overwhelmed with scads of leaders who were obsessed with the notion of holding on to the reins of power. This paranoia was so epidemic that it had spread to both the religious and political world. The high priest, along with his scribes and elders, were suspicious and paranoid of anyone who appeared to be growing in popularity. The political leaders installed by Rome to preside over Israel were just as paranoid, looking behind every nook and cranny for opponents and constantly struggling every day of their lives to keep power in their grip. Israel was under the enemy control of Rome, an occupying force that the Jews despised. They hated the Romans for their pagan tendencies, for pushing Roman language and culture on them, for the taxes they were required to pay to Rome — and that’s just a few of the reasons the Jews hated the Romans. Because of the political turmoil in Israel, few political leaders from Rome held power for very long, and those who succeeded did so using cruelty and brutality. The land was full of revolts, rebellions, insurgencies, assassinations, and endless political upheavals. The ability to rule long in this environment required a ruthless, self-concerned leader who was willing to do anything necessary to maintain a position of power. This leads us to Pontius Pilate, who was just that type of man. After Herod Archelaus was removed from power (see April 18 to find out more about the three sons of Herod the Great), Judea was placed in the care of a Roman procurator. This was a natural course of events, for the Roman Empire was already divided into approximately forty provinces, each governed by a procurator — a position that was the equivalent of a governor. It was normal for a procurator to serve in his position for twelve to thirty-six months. However, Pilate governed Judea for ten years, beginning in the year 26 AD and concluding in the year 36 AD. This ten-year span of time is critical, for it means Pilate was governor of Judea throughout the entire length of Jesus’ ministry. The Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, noted that Pilate was ruthless and unsympathetic and that he failed to comprehend and appreciate how important the Jew’s religious beliefs and convictions were to them. In addition to the normal responsibilities a procurator possessed, Pilate also ruled as the supreme authority in legal matters. As an expert at Roman law, many decisions were brought to him for final judgment. Because of this high-ranking legal position, he had the final say-so in nearly all legal affairs for the territory of Judea. However, even though Pilate held this awesome legal power in his hands, he dreaded cases having to do with religion and often permitted such cases to be passed into the court of the Sanhedrin, over which Caiaphas the high priest presided. Pilate lived at Herod’s palace, located in Caesarea. Because it was the official residence of the procurator, a military force of about 3,000 Roman soldiers was stationed there to protect the Roman governor. Pilate disliked the city of Jerusalem and recoiled from making visits there. But at the time of the feasts when the city of Jerusalem was filled with guests, travelers, and strangers, there was a greater potential of unrest, turbulence, and disorder, so Pilate and his troops would come into the city of Jerusalem to guard and protect the peace of the population. This was the reason Pilate was in the city of Jerusalem at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion. As a highly political man, Pilate knew how to play the political game. The Jews he ruled were also well-versed at playing the political game with him. In fact, so many complaints had been filed in Rome about Pilate’s unkind and ruthless style of ruling that the threat of an additional complaint was often all that was needed for the Jews to manipulate Pilate to do their bidding. This no doubt affected Pilate’s decision to crucify Jesus. That day the high priest, the Sanhedrin, and the entire mob, insisted that Jesus be crucified. Pilate wanted to know the reason for this demand, so they answered him, “…We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to give tribute to Caesar, saying that He himself is Christ a King” (Luke 23:2). Pilate knew the Jews were jealous of Jesus. But politically the charges they brought against Jesus put him in a very bad position. What if the news reached Rome that Jesus had perverted the nation, teaching the people to withhold their taxes and claiming to be a counter King in place of the Roman emperor? It would be political suicide for Pilate to do nothing about that kind of situation. The Jewish leaders were well aware of this when they fabricated these charges against Jesus. They knew exactly what political strings to pull to get Pilate to do what they wanted — and they were pulling every string they held in their hands. The Jewish people loathed Pilate for his cruelty and inadequate care of his subjects. The kind of brutality that made him so infamous and hated can be seen in Luke 13:1, where it mentions that Pilate slaughtered a number of Galileans and then mixed their blood together with the sacrifices. Appalling and sick as this act may sound, it is in accordance with many other vicious actions instigated under Pilate’s rule as procurator of Judea. Another example of Pilate’s callousness can be seen in an incident that occurred when a prophet claimed to possess a supernatural gift that enabled him to locate consecrated vessels, which he alleged had been secretly hidden by Moses. When this prophet announced that he would unearth these vessels, Samaritans turned out in large numbers to observe the event. Pilate, who thought the entire affair was a disguise for some other political or military activity, dispatched Roman forces to assault and massacre the crowd that had gathered. In the end, it became apparent that nothing political had been intended. The Samaritans felt such great loss for those who died, they formally requested that the governor of Syria intervene in this case. Their complaints of Pilate became so numerous that he was eventually summoned to Rome to give account for his actions before the Emperor Tiberius himself. But before Pilate could reach Rome to counter the charges that were brought against him, the Emperor Tiberius had died. Outside the Gospels, Pilate is not mentioned again in the New Testament. Historical records show that the procurator of Syria brought some sort of accusations against Pilate in the year 36 AD. These indictments resulted in his removal from office and exile to Gaul (modern-day France). Eusebius, the well-known early Christian historian, later wrote that Pilate fell into misfortune under the wicked Emperor Caligula and lost many privileges. According to Eusebius, this man Pilate — who was ultimately responsible for the trial, judgment, crucifixion, and burial of Jesus and who had ruled Judea ruthlessly and mercilessly for ten years — finally committed suicide. With this history now behind us, let’s look at Matthew 27:2. It says regarding Jesus, “And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor.” The word “bound” is the Greek word desantes, from the word deo, the same word that would be used to describe the binding, tying up, or securing of an animal. I am confident that this was precisely the connotation Matthew had in mind, for the next phrase uses a word that was common in the world of animal caretakers. The verse tells us that they “led him away.” These words come from the Greek word apago. The word apago is used for a shepherd who ties a rope about the neck of his sheep and then leads it down the path to where it needs to go (see April 13). Just as the soldiers had led Jesus to Caiaphas, now they slipped a rope about His neck and walked the “Lamb of God” to Pontius Pilate. The Bible says that once Jesus was in Pilate’s jurisdiction, they then “…delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor.” The word “delivered” is the word paradidomi, the same word we saw when Jesus committed Himself to the Father who judges righteously (see April 13). However, in this case, the meaning would more likely be to commit, to yield, to transmit, to deliver, or to hand something over to someone else. This means that when the high priest ordered Jesus to be taken to Pilate, he officially made the issue Pilate’s problem. The high priest took Jesus to Pilate; delivered Him fully into Pilate’s hands; and then left Pilate with the responsibility of finding Him guilty and crucifying Him. Matthew 27:11 says, “And Jesus stood before the governor: and the governor asked him, saying, Art thou the King of the Jews? And Jesus said unto him, Thou sayest.” Pilate asked a direct question, but Jesus refused to directly answer him. Matthew 27:12 goes on to say, “And when he was accused of the chief priests and elders, he answered nothing.” So for a second time, Jesus refused to answer or refute the charges that were brought up against Him. Matthew 27:13,14 tells us what happened next: “Then said Pilate unto him, Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee? And he answered him to never a word; insomuch that the governor marvelled greatly.” Notice the Bible says Pilate “marveled greatly” at Jesus’ silence. In Greek, this phrase is the word thaumadzo, which means to wonder; to be at a loss of words; to be shocked and amazed. Pilate was dumbfounded by Jesus’ silence because Roman law permitted prisoners three chances to open their mouths to defend themselves. If a prisoner passed up those three chances to speak in his defense, he would be automatically charged as “guilty.” In Matthew 27:11, Jesus passed up His first chance. In Matthew 27:12, He passed up His second chance. Now in Matthew 27:14, Jesus passes up His final chance to defend Himself. At the very end of this time of interrogation, Pilate asked Jesus, “…Art thou the King of the Jews? And he answered him and said, Thou sayest it” (Luke 23:3). John’s Gospel tells us that Jesus added, “…My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence” (John 18:36). After hearing these answers, “then said Pilate to the chief priests and to the people, I find no fault in this man” (Luke 23:4). As you will see in tomorrow’s Sparkling Gem, Pilate searched diligently for a loophole so he wouldn’t have to kill Jesus. John 19:12 says, “And from thenceforth Pilate sought to release him.…” But nothing Pilate could do was able to stop the plan from being implemented. Even Jesus passed up His three chances to defend Himself, because He knew the Cross was a part of the Father’s plan. When Jesus finally answered Pilate’s question, He still didn’t defend Himself, knowing it was the appointed time for Him to be slain as the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world. But Pilate didn’t want to crucify Him. In fact, the Roman governor began looking for a loophole — for some way out of putting this Man to death. But Pilate’s search for a way out was in vain; the plan couldn’t be changed because it was time for the Son of God to offer the permanent sacrifice for sin. As Hebrews 9:12 says, “Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.” Are you certain of God’s plan for your life? Consider whether or not you are able to say with conviction: “I know what God has called me to do, and I’m willing to go where He tells me to go and pay any price I have to pay. My greatest priority and obsession is to do the will of the Father!” If you are not able to say this yet, ask the Holy Spirit to help you grow to the point where doing God’s will, regardless of the cost, becomes the most important thing in your life. Even if the life of obedience takes you through hard places as it did with Jesus, the end result will be resurrection and victory!
My Prayer for Today
Lord, I want to be so confident of Your plan for my life that I refuse to let anything move me! Just as Jesus refused to be swayed away from Your plan for Him, I want to be fixed and committed to do exactly what I’ve been born to do. Help me know Your plan for my life — and once I really understand it, please give me the strength, power, and conviction to stand by that plan until I see it come to pass in my life!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for Today
I boldly declare that God has a wonderful plan for my life! God’s Spirit is revealing that plan to me right now. I am willing to do what He’s called me to do; I’m willing to go where He tells me to go; and I’m willing to pay any price I have to pay to accomplish the life-assignment God has preordained for me! My greatest priority and obsession is to do the will of the Father!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer1. Are you able to verbalize or write down God’s plan for your life? If so, try right now to speak out loud or write out plainly on paper what God has put in your heart about His plans for you. 2. Do you believe you possess the fortitude you need to stand firm in the face of any hardship or opposition that might come to challenge you as you follow God’s plan? 3. What steps do you need to take right now so you can grow strong enough spiritually to overcome any pressures that might try to coax you into giving up God’s plan for your life?
Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands, saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee? — Matthew 26:67,68
And the men that held Jesus mocked him, and smote him. And when they had blindfolded him, they struck him on the face, and asked him, saying, Prophesy, who is it that smote thee? — Luke 22:63,64If we’re going to get the full picture of what happened in Caiaphas’ chamber that night when the religious leaders were spitting on Jesus and striking Him in the face with their fists, we need to pull all the pieces of this picture together from both the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Luke 22:63 says, “And the men that held Jesus mocked him, and smote him.” I want you to particularly see the word “mock” in this verse. It comes from the Greek word empaidzo, which meant to play a game. It was often used for playing a game with children or for amusing a crowd by impersonating someone in a silly and exaggerated way. For instance, this word might be used in a game of charades when someone intends to comically portray someone or even make fun of someone. This gives us an important piece of the story that Matthew didn’t include in his Gospel account. Even before He had to endure the spitting and vicious beating of the scribes and elders that night, Jesus was also severely beaten by “the men that held” Him. This doesn’t refer to the scribes and elders, but to the temple police and guards who kept watch over Jesus before Caiaphas examined Him. In addition to everything else that was going on that night, these guards decided they would take advantage of the moment too. The Bible doesn’t tell us how these men mimicked and impersonated Jesus that night, but the use of the Greek word empaidzo categorically lets us know that these men turned a few minutes of that nightmarish night into a stage of comedy at Jesus’ expense. They put on quite a show, hamming it up as they almost certainly pretended to be Jesus and the people He ministered to. Perhaps they laid hands on each other as if they were healing the sick; or lay on the floor and quivered, as if they were being liberated from devils; or wobbled around, acting as if they had been blind but now could suddenly see. Whatever these guards did to mock Jesus, it was a game of charades to mimic and make fun of Him. When they were finished making sport of Jesus, Luke tells us that these guards “smote him.” The word for “smote” is from the word dero, a word used frequently to refer to the grueling and barbaric practice of beating a slave. This word is so dreadful that it is also often translated to flay, such as to flay the flesh from an animal or human being. The usage of this word tells us that even before the scribes and elders got their hands on Jesus, the guards had already put Him through a terrible ordeal. Immediately after the guards were finished playing their charades and brutally beating Jesus, the scribes and elders began to spit in His face and whack Him on the head with their fists (see April 14). But the elders didn’t stop there. They blindfolded Jesus and began to strike Him on the head again, taking their humiliation of Him to the next level. This represented Jesus’ third beating. If we only read Luke’s account, we might conclude that this third beating was also at the hands of the guards. However, when we compare and connect Luke’s account with Matthew’s account, it becomes clear that by this time Jesus had already been transferred into the hands of Caiaphas and his scribes and elders. What we read next in Luke 22:64 occurred after these religious leaders had already spit on Him and hit Him (Matthew 26:67). Luke 22:64 says, “And when they had blindfolded him, they struck him on the face, and asked him, saying, Prophesy, who is it that smote thee?” The word “blindfolded” comes from the Greek word perikalupto, which means to wrap a veil or garment about someone, thus hiding his eyes so he can’t see. We don’t know where the blindfold came from. It could have been a piece of Jesus’ own clothing or a garment borrowed from one of the scribes and elders. But by the time they finished wrapping Jesus’ head in that cloth, He was completely blinded from seeing what was happening around him. Just as the guards played charades at Jesus’ expense, now Caiaphas with the scribes and elders played blindman’s bluff at His expense! Once Jesus was blindfolded, “they struck him on the face.” The word “struck” is from the Greek word paio, which describes a strike that stings. A more precise translation might be “they slapped him on the face.” This is the reason the Greek word paio was used, for it referred to a slap that caused a terrible sting. After slapping Jesus, the scribes and elders would badger Him, saying, “…Prophesy, who is it that smote thee?” Here we find that these so-called religious leaders got so caught up in their sick behavior that they sadistically enjoyed the pain they were putting Jesus through. They slapped Him over and again, telling Him, “Come on, prophet! If You’re so good at prophesying and knowing things supernaturally, tell us which one of us just slapped You!” Finally, Luke 22:65 tells us, “And many other things blasphemously spake they against him.” The word “blasphemy” is from the Greek word blasphemeo, meaning to slander; to accuse; to speak against; to speak derogatory words for the purpose of injuring or harming one’s reputation. It also signifies profane, foul, unclean language. When Luke says they “blasphemously spake,” he is talking about Caiaphas with his scribes and elders! Once these religious leaders “took off the lid,” every foul thing that was hiding inside them came to the top. It was as if a monster had been let out, and they couldn’t get it back in its cage! Jesus had told these religious leaders earlier, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleaness” (Matthew 23:27). In the end, the death and uncleanness in their souls came raging to the top as they screamed and yelled at Jesus using profane, foul, unclean language. I’m sure that if the people of Israel had been allowed to sneak a peek into that room that night, they would have been horrified to see their supposedly godly leaders slapping Jesus, spitting on Him, slapping Him again, and then screaming curses right in His face! Here these leaders were — all dressed up in their religious garb, but inwardly so rotten that they could not hide their true nature anymore. So let me ask you two questions:
- Are you serious in your relationship with Jesus Christ, or are you, like those who held Him that night, simply playing games with Him?
- When other people start playing around with your mind and emotions, are you able to follow Jesus’ example by holding your peace and loving them in spite of the torture they are putting you through?
My Prayer for Today
Lord, I never want to play games with You. I am asking You right now to forgive me for any time that I have lied to You and to myself, deceiving myself into believing that things were all right in my life when, in fact, they were not inwardly good at all. Please shine Your light deep into my soul to show me any areas of my life that need immediate attention. And, Lord, I also ask that You give me a strong desire to read through all four of the Gospels so I might better know the life of Jesus and how I can be more like Him.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for TodayI declare by faith that God gives me the wisdom to know how to respond when I am in a difficult predicament. I know when I should speak, when I should be quiet, and exactly what steps I must take. When I find myself in a tight place, I don’t give way to my emotions. Instead, I guard my mouth and let the Spirit dictate my emotions so I can demonstrate the love of God even to those whom the devil is trying to use against me!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer1. Do you have areas in your life where you are playing games with God and deceiving yourself about your own spiritual condition? Isn’t it time for you to get honest with God and with yourself about these problem areas? 2. Have you ever experienced times when the monster in your flesh that you hadn’t yet dealt with came crawling to the top, causing you to behave in a way that was shocking even to yourself? 3. Since reading the Gospels is the best way to learn how to become more like Jesus, don’t you think it would be a good idea for you to carefully read all four Gospels from beginning to end?
Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him.… — Matthew 26:67Some years ago, I visited another church in our city to hear a special speaker who had come from afar. That evening at the meeting, the local church I was visiting announced they would be starting a building program. As I sat in there, God’s Spirit spoke to my heart and instructed me to sow a sacrificial seed into their new building program. It was a time when we desperately needed money for our own building program, so anything I sowed would be sacrificial. However, the amount the Lord put in my heart was significant. What made it even harder for me to give this gift was that this church had acted maliciously toward our church in the past. They had lied about us, scoffed at us, and even prayed for our downfall. And now the Lord was telling me to sow a large gift into this same church? Throughout that entire service, I argued with the Lord. The issue really wasn’t the money, although we could have used the money ourselves at that moment. The issue I was wrestling with was giving a gift to this church that had treated us with contempt for so long. Finally, the Spirit of God asked me, Are you willing to sow a seed for peace with this church? That clinched it! I pulled my checkbook out of my pocket to write what I considered to be a sizable gift for this other church. Writing that check was difficult, but once it was written, my heart simply flooded with joy because I had been obedient. There is no joy to compare with the joy that comes from being obedient! One week later, the pastor to whom I gave the gift was at a meeting with his staff and church leaders. The pastor told his leaders, “Look at this puny little check Pastor Rick gave us! Couldn’t he have done any better than this?” When I heard how he viewed the sizable gift I’d given, I was quite shocked. But when I heard what this pastor did next, I was literally stunned. He devoted the next part of his staff meeting to discussing all the things he didn’t like about me and our church. He poked fun at us, ridiculed us, mocked us, and put us down in front of his people. Instead of being thankful for the gift we gave, he once more demonstrated utter disrespect and contempt for us. When I heard about this event, it hurt so badly that it cut deep into my heart. How could anyone say the gift we gave was puny? It would be considered significant in any nation of the world. But what hurt the most was that the pastor had put us down and publicly made fun of us in front of his staff and leadership. I remember feeling as if I had been spit on — and as the years passed, this same pastor spit on us many more times. For instance, when we dedicated our church building — the first church to be built in sixty years in our city — it was a moment of great rejoicing. But soon after our dedication, this man stood before a large convention of several thousand people and sneered at our new facility. For a second time, he injected a dagger into my heart! At a time when this pastor could have been rejoicing with us, he chose to make it another opportunity to spit in our faces. How about you? Can you think of an instance in your life when you did something good for someone, but that person didn’t appreciate what you did? Was he so unappreciative that you felt as if he’d spit in your face? Were you stunned by his behavior? How did you act in response to that situation? I think nearly everyone has felt taken advantage of and spit on at some point or another. But imagine how Jesus must have felt the night He was taken to the high priest where He was literally spit on by the guards and temple police! For three years, Jesus preached, taught, and healed the sick. But now He was being led like a sheep to the spiritual butcher of Jerusalem, the high priest Caiaphas, and to the scribes and elders who had assembled to wait for His arrival. In the trial that took place before the high priest and his elders, the religious leaders charged Jesus with the crime of declaring Himself the Messiah. Jesus replied by telling them that they would indeed one day see Him sitting on the right hand of power and coming with clouds of glory (Matthew 26:64). Upon hearing this, the high priest ripped his clothes and screamed, “Blasphemy!” as all the scribes and elders lifted their voices in anger, demanding that Jesus die (Matthew 26:66). Then these religious scribes and elders did the unthinkable! Matthew 26:67,68 says, “Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands, saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee?” Notice that it wasn’t just a few who spit in his face that night; the Bible says, “…they spit in his face.…” The word “they” refers to all the scribes and elders who were assembled for the meeting that night. One scholar notes that there could have been one hundred or more men in this crowd! And one by one, each of these so-called spiritual leaders, clothed in their religious garments, walked up to Jesus and spit in His face! In that culture and time, spitting in one’s face was considered to be the strongest thing you could do to show utter disgust, repugnance, dislike, or hatred for someone. When someone spattered his spit on another person’s face, that spit was meant to humiliate, demean, debase, and shame that person. To make it worse, the offender would usually spit hard and close to the person’s face, making it all the more humiliating. By the time Caiaphas and his scribes and elders had finished taking turns spitting on Jesus, their spit was most likely dripping down from His forehead into His eyes; dribbling down His nose, His cheekbones, and His chin; and even oozing down onto His clothes. This was an extremely humiliating scene! And remember, the men who were acting so hatefully toward Jesus were religious leaders! Their hideous conduct was something Jesus definitely didn’t deserve. And what makes this entire scene even more amazing is that Malchus — the servant whom Jesus had just healed — was in all probability standing at the side of Caiaphas and watching it all happen! These religious leaders didn’t stop with just humiliating Jesus. After spitting on Him, they each doubled up their fists and whacked Him violently in the face! Matthew 26:67 says, “Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him.…” The word “buffet” is the Greek word kolaphidzo, which means to strike with the fist. It is normally used to picture a person who is violently beaten. As if it wasn’t insulting enough to spit on Jesus, approximately one hundred men viciously and cruelly struck Him with their fists. Not only was this brutal — it was sadistic! Humiliating Jesus with their spit and curses didn’t satisfy the hatred of these men; they wouldn’t be satisfied until they knew He had been physically maltreated. To ensure that this goal was accomplished, their own fists became their weapons of abuse. It appears that these scribes and elders were so paranoid about Jesus getting more attention than themselves that they simply wanted to destroy Him. Every time they spit on Him, they were spitting on the anointing. Every time they struck Him, they were leveling a punch against the anointing. They hated Jesus and the anointing that operated through Him to such an extent that they voted to murder Him. But first they wanted to take some time to personally make sure He suffered before He died. What a strange way to render “thanks” to One who had done so much for them! When I get disappointed at the way others respond to me or to what I have done for them, I often think of what happened to Jesus on that night when He came before these Jewish leaders. John 1:11 tells us, “He came unto his own, and his own received him not.” Although these men who spit on and hit Jesus refused to acknowledge Him, He still went to the Cross and died for them. His love for them was unwavering — unshaken and unaffected by their wrong actions. As you think of how people have wronged you, does it affect your desire to love them? What have these conflicts revealed about you? Is your love for those unkind people consistent, unwavering, unshaken, and unaffected? Or have the conflicts revealed you have a fickle love that you quickly turn off when people don’t respond to you the way you wished they would? The same Holy Spirit who lived in Jesus now lives in you. Just as the Spirit of God empowered Jesus to love people consistently, regardless of what they did or didn’t do, the Holy Spirit can empower you to do the same. So why don’t you take a few minutes today to pray about the people who have let you down or disappointed you? Then forgive those people, and decide to love them the way Jesus loved those who wronged Him!
My Prayer for TodayLord, thank You for being such a good example of love that is unshaken and unaffected by other people’s actions. You have loved me with a consistent love, even in times when I’ve acted badly and didn’t deserve it. Thank You so much for loving me in spite of the things I’ve done and the things I’ve permitted to go on in my life. Today I want to ask You to help me love others just as consistently as You have loved me. Forgive me for being on-again, off-again in my love. Help me become rock-solid and unwavering in my love for others, including those who haven’t treated me too nicely. I know that with Your help, I can love them steadfastly no matter what they do!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for TodayI confess that what other people have done to me doesn’t affect my desire or my commitment to love them. My love for people is consistent, unwavering, unshaken, and unaffected. The same Holy Spirit who lived in Jesus now lives in me — and just as the Spirit of God empowered Jesus to love everyone consistently, now the Holy Spirit empowers me to do the same!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer1. Has there ever been a time in your life when you felt like someone you tried to help later turned around and “spit in your face”? 2. Did that conflict reveal that your love for them was consistent, unwavering, unshaken, and unaffected — or that you have a fickle love that is quickly turned off when people don’t respond to you the way you wished they would? 3. The next time someone treats you this way, how do you think you should respond to him or her?
And they that had laid hold on Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled. — Matthew 26:57After Jesus demonstrated His phenomenal power, He permitted the soldiers to take Him into custody. In a certain sense, this was simply an act, for He had already vividly proven that they didn’t have adequate power to take Him. Just one word and He could put them on their backs, yet the Bible says that they “laid hold on Jesus” and “led him away.” The words “laid hold” are from the Greek word kratos. In this case, this word means to seize, to take hold of, to firmly grip, and to apprehend. Used in this context, it primarily carries the idea of making a forceful arrest. Once Jesus demonstrated that He could not be taken by force, He then allowed the soldiers to seize Him. Once Jesus was in their hands, Matthew 26:57 tells us that they “led him away.” This phrase comes from the Greek word apago — the same word used to picture a shepherd who ties a rope about the neck of his sheep and then leads it down the path to where it needs to go. This word pictures exactly what happened to Jesus that night in the Garden of Gethsemane. He wasn’t gagged and dragged to the high priest as one who was putting up a fight or resisting arrest. Instead, the Greek word apago plainly tells us that the soldiers lightly slipped a rope about Jesus’ neck and led Him down the path as He followed behind, just like a sheep being led by a shepherd. Thus, the Roman soldiers and temple police led Him as a sheep to slaughter, just as Isaiah 53:7 had prophesied many centuries earlier. Specifically on that night, however, the soldiers led Jesus to Caiaphas the high priest. Let’s see what we can learn about Caiaphas. We know that Caiaphas was appointed high priest in the year 18 AD. As high priest, he became so prominent in Israel that even when his term as high priest ended, he wielded great influence in the business of the nation, including its spiritual, political, and financial affairs. Flavius Josephus, the famous Jewish historian, reported that five of Caiaphas’ sons later served in the office of the high priest. As a young man, Caiaphas married Anna, the daughter of Annas, who was serving as high priest at that time. Annas served as Israel’s high priest for nine years. The title of high priest had fallen into the jurisdiction of this family, and they held this high-ranking position firmly in their grip, passing it among the various members of the family and thus keeping the reins of power in their hands. It was a spiritual monarchy. The holders of this coveted title retained great political power, controlled public opinion, and owned vast wealth. After Annas passed the title of high priest to his son-in-law Caiaphas, Annas continued to exercise control over the nation through his son-in-law. This influence is evident in Luke 3:2, where the Bible says, “Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests.…” It was impossible for two people to serve as high priests at the same time; nonetheless, Annas held his former title and much of his former authority. He was so influential to the very end of Jesus’ ministry that the Roman soldiers and temple police who arrested Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane led Jesus to Annas first before delivering him to Caiaphas, the current high priest (John 18:13). Both Annas and Caiaphas were Sadducees, a group of religious leaders who were more liberal in doctrine and had a tendency not to believe in supernatural events. In fact, they regarded most supernatural occurrences in the Old Testament as myths. The constant reports of Jesus’ supernatural powers and miracles, as well as the reputation He was gaining throughout the nation, caused Caiaphas, Annas, and the other members of the Sanhedrin to view Jesus as a threat. These religious leaders were control freaks in the truest sense of the word, and it was an affront to them that Jesus’ ministry was beyond their control and jurisdiction. Then they heard the verified report that Lazarus had actually been resurrected from the dead! This incident drove them over the edge, causing them to decide to do away with Jesus by committing murder. These leaders were so filled with rage about Lazarus’ resurrection and were so worried about Jesus’ growing popularity that they held a secret council to determine whether or not Jesus had to be killed. Once that decision was made, Caiaphas was the one who was principally responsible for scheming how to bring His death to pass. As high priest and the official head of the Sanhedrin, Caiaphas was also responsible for arranging Jesus’ illegal trial before the Jewish authorities. At first, he charged Jesus with the sin of blasphemy. However, because Jesus wouldn’t contest the accusation Caiaphas brought against Him, the high priest then delivered Him to the Roman authorities, who found Jesus guilty of treason for claiming to be the king of the Jews. Caiaphas was so powerful that even after the death of Jesus, he continued to persecute believers in the Early Church. For instance, after the crippled man at the Beautiful Gate was healed (see Acts 3), Peter and John were seized and brought before the council (Acts 4:6). Caiaphas was the high priest at this time and continued to serve as high priest until he was removed in 36 AD. This emphatically tells us that Caiaphas was also the high priest who interrogated Stephen in Acts 7:1. In addition, he was the high priest we read about who gave Saul of Tarsus written permission that authorized him to arrest believers in Jerusalem and later in Damascus (Acts 9:1,2). Because of the political events in the year 36 AD, Caiaphas was finally removed from the office of high priest. Of the nineteen men who served as high priests in the first century, this evil man ruled the longest. The title of high priest, however, remained in the family after Caiaphas stepped down, this time passed on to his brother-in-law Jonathan, another son of Annas. Consider this: Jesus had never sinned (2 Corinthians 5:21); no guile had ever been found in His mouth (1 Peter 2:22); and His entire life was devoted to doing good and to healing all who were oppressed of the devil (Acts 10:38). Therefore, it seems entirely unjust that He would be led like a sheep into the midst of the spiritual vipers who were ruling in Jerusalem. According to the flesh, one could have argued that this wasn’t fair; however, Jesus never questioned the Father’s will or balked at the assignment that was required of Him. The apostle Peter wrote this regarding Jesus: “Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously” (1 Peter 2:23). The word “committed” is the Greek word paradidomi, a compound of the words para and didomi. The word para means alongside and carries the idea of coming close alongside to someone or to some object. The word didomi means to give. When compounded together, it presents the idea of entrusting something to someone. The prefix para suggests that this is someone to whom you have drawn very close. It can be translated to commit, to yield, to commend, to transmit, to deliver, or to hand something over to someone else. The Lord Jesus yielded Himself to the Father who judges righteously when He found Himself in this unjust situation. In that difficult hour, He drew close to the Father and fully entrusted Himself and His future into the hands of the Father. Jesus knew He was in the Father’s will, so He chose to entrust Himself into the Father’s care and to leave the results in His control. If you are in a situation that seems unfair or unjust and there is nothing you can do to change it, you must draw as close to the Father as you can and commit yourself into His loving care. You know He wants the best for you, even though you have found yourself in a predicament that seems so undeserved. Your options are to get angry and bitter and turn sour toward life, or to choose to believe that God is in control and working on your behalf, even if you don’t see anything good happening at the present moment. When Jesus was arrested and taken to Caiaphas to be severely mistreated, there was no escape for Him. He had no choice but to trust the Father. What other choice do you have today?
My Prayer for TodayLord, in times when I find myself stuck in a situation I don’t like or enjoy, help me lift my eyes and look to You for strength. I know that You love me and are looking out for my life, so in those moments when I am tempted to be nervous or afraid, I ask You to help me rest in the knowledge that You will take care of me.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for TodayI declare by faith that I am kept by the peace of God. Even when I find myself in situations that seem unjust, undeserving, and unfair, God is secretly working to turn things around for my good. He loves me; He cares for me; and He wants to see the very best for my life. Therefore, I entrust my job, my income, my marriage, my children, my health, and everything else in my life into the hands of my Heavenly Father!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!