This scandal business gets to be a little ridiculous, don’t you think? One scandal following another scandal following another. Jesus has been plotted against, he has been betrayed. He is arrested and then put on trial. There’s been so many scandals that I’m tired of talking about it. But of course, there is one more scandal that we must deal with. Now is the time for the scandal of the decision made against him following this trial. The decision that sends him to the cross to be crucified for crimes he didn’t commit.
What is it about a mob mentality like the one happening before Pilate? For the people involved in the midst of this mob gathered before Pilate and screaming for Jesus crucifixion there are too many parallels to what is going on today in our political arena.
It is what describes a society that is going down the path of incivility. It is what describes a society that is going down the path of focusing on their own desires with no considerations for the good of the entire society and then results in a mob angrily yelling and screaming for what they want. In a crowd that is all wound up about something, things like common sense, common decency and common good go right out the window. Crowds have always acted this way, and the crowd in front of Pilate has gotten themselves whipped up into a nice froth of a frenzy.
There are things in life to be angry about and to clamor loudly for change. There are people in the world without enough to eat. There are people in the world without a place to live. Some of those people are our people, right here in Lincoln. We should be angry about that and clamoring for change. But being angry about an innocent man who is God’s forgiveness and mercy personified and clamoring for his death is not one of those things. It’s something of a scandal that they are.
They want to get rid of Jesus because he is a threat to their position and their status quo. Turns out, that is a recurring theme in our faith life as well.
Did you keep your notes on substitionary atonement? I said there would be a test. Substitutionary atonement more or less says an angry God is sitting there on his heavenly throne wanting to exact Godly justice on every sinner but deciding that he can’t wipe out everyone who is a sinner. That’s been attempted already in the flood with Noah and the ark and it apparently didn’t take. So instead God will pick just one to be sacrificed on behalf of everyone else. Christ draws the short straw and is substituted on our behalf to atone for our sins. Substitutionary atonement.
This doesn’t speak well of God. Not that God is sitting around waiting for us to speak well of his Godness. The real life problem is that it doesn’t speak well of God which gets in the way of how we connect with and relate to God. People have a hard time reconciling a loving God and a wrathful God. And therein is the big problem.
This doesn’t mean modifying our understanding of the Bible to fit what makes us happy and feel good so that we all get a trophy. It does mean clarifying an understanding of the Bible in a way that leads us to be the mob that crucifies Jesus… Let me say that again; It does mean clarifying an understanding of the Bible that leads in a way us to be the mob that crucifies Jesus so that in the clarification we instead understand the Bible in a way that leads us to a God of forgiveness and mercy.
The trouble is we like the idea of forgiveness and mercy in the abstract a whole lot more than we like to accept the reality of God’s forgiveness and mercy. That’s really why Jesus had to die. Not to appease an angry God but to convince us that God is serious about forgiveness and mercy.
We like to twist and turn under the abstract idea that God is angry and wrathful because it is easier to accept than the reality that God is forgiving and merciful. We hold God off at a distance so we don’t have to deal with the reality of God. And so God comes to us in Christ Jesus.
Here’s one example of what I mean about accepting things that are good. How many of us have trouble accepting a compliment and just saying thank you? That’s the kind of thing I’m talking about here. Just as we struggle to accept a very good thing like a compliment we struggle to accept a very good thing like God’s forgiveness and mercy.
It is in this way that we are responsible for Christ’s death. Not because we are sinful and Christ had to die to appease and bribe God but because we are the unruly and uncontrolled mob and couldn’t accept God’s love and forgiveness freely given. Unconditionally given. We’re like that scene in the 1992 movie ‘A Few Good Men’ where Jack Nicholson’s character says, “You can’t handle the truth!”
God’s “problem” is not that he can’t be merciful until he has been satisfied but rather that he won’t be satisfied until he succeeds in actually having mercy on whom he will have mercy. And we can’t accept mercy without a crucified Christ.
We are the problem children. But God loves us anyway.