Culture

Ryan Bell and Charlie Hebdo: God on Trial, pt. 2

February 2, 2015

Continuing along after a lengthy delay between this and the previous post…At the very end of his three and a half years of ministry, Jesus was brought on trial before both secular and religious authorities.  If you look at the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, it’s incredible to note that more time is spent in the narratives giving details about the trial and crucifixion of Jesus rather than than the rest of his life.  Especially if we look at the Gospel of John, a large part of it is dedicated to the last few hours of Jesus’ life.

Near the end of each story, Jesus is apprehended at night and brought before the Jewish religious leaders of his day and later to Pontius Pilate, a local ruling governor for the Roman Empire.

I’m going to weave the narratives that we find in Matthew and John about Jesus’ trial, so let’s start off by opening to Matthew 27:11-15:

11 Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
“You have said so,” Jesus replied.
12 When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. 13 Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?” 14 But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor.

I’m skipping a few details that happened before this scene, but Jesus is brought before the Jewish authorities and then to Pilate.  Evidently, Pilate stopped to have a private council with Jesus before continuing the trial.  John 18:33-38 provides the rest of the detail from that conversation.

33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”
35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”
36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”
38 “What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him.

That phrase, “What is truth?” is especially interesting.  How was it spoken?

Sadly, we don’t know what tone Pilate gave off when he uttered his words.  Could it have been sincere existential longing?  Could it have been biting cynicism?  We don’t know.

What is interesting is that, in Latin, the words of Pilate are, “Quid est veritas.”

These words take on a special quality in Latin, because they are actually an anagram.  An anagram is a word, phrase, or name formed by rearranging the letters of another, such as “listen”, formed from “silent”.

If you re-arrange the letters you obtain the following sentence, “Est vir qui adest,” translated it means It is the man who is here.”

According to Christian theology and even Jesus’ own teaching, He was the clearest revelation of who God was.  Sure, you may learn a lot about the Law from the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible), be inspired by the poetic books in the OT, be convicted from passages in the Major and Minor Prophets, and appreciate the deep theology from Pauline or Johannine writings.  But if you want to know what God is and how he would directly act, you need to look at the life and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth found in the Gospels.

So, because of this reality, I’m going to look at this experience in Jesus’ life to see what God would have done when faced with the criticisms of the Ryan Bells of the world or used as an accessory to murder in the face of the tragedy in France.  Consider the following lessons form Jesus’ trial before both religious and secular skeptics:

  1. Jesus remained mostly silent to the accusations of his haters, critics.  Using very little words, He let the record of his actions be his evidence.

Check out what Jesus said in front of the religious leaders when he was put on trial before them in John 18:

20 “I have spoken openly to the world,” Jesus replied. “I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. 21 Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.” 22 When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby slapped him in the face. “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” he demanded. 23 “If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?”

Compare Jesus’ response to insult to that of his disciples.  Peter was even willing to go a far as to kill people to defend Jesus (he chopped off somebody’s ear, and even then, he only got the ear because he probably had poor aim).  Why is it so much easier for some people to kill for faith rather than to live for it?  Jesus doesn’t need anybody’s help or defense.  Truth, if it is truth, does not need anyone to support it.

  1. Jesus allowed others to come to their own conclusions about him.  However, he does question you on whether you have come to your decisions on your own or if they’re adopted from elsewhere.

John 18:34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”  This goes for both believers and non-believers alike.  You can grow up in church and know a lot about Jesus (from what you’ve been told your whole life), and still never come face-to-face with a personal experience of your own.

Still, whatever you ultimately decide to do with Jesus, he will honor that choice.

  1. Jesus acknowledged that his Kingdom was not of this world, but never did he deny the fact that truth must be lived out on this world before it can be lived out in the next.

If truth is not lived out in this world, it will not be lived out in the next.

35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”
36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”
37 “You are a king, then!” said Pilate.
Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

The evidence in Jesus’ life is this: He healed the sick, preached the Gospel, attended to the needs of the poor, and championed the cause for the marginalized and disenfranchised by society, all while upholding God’s standard of righteousness and never once sinning.

I haven’t found a single person yet, religious or non-religious, that has read the account of Jesus’ life and been like, “Man, that Jesus guy was a real scumbag.  I would never want to have that guy around me or my family.”  Right?

Most people have no problem with Jesus as a person.  They may dispute the historical accuracy of the gospels or the claims that he made, but as a person, usually people would say that he was a pretty okay guy.  Allow me to switch gears here for a bit let’s go into the deeper issue here.

Is unbelief really the result of a lack of evidence?  On the face of this debate it appears that the whole thing boils down to proof and evidence.  It’s actually not that simple.  More on this next time.

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