Read Matthew 27:11-26.The religious leaders and the people they sway to their way of thinking seem to be a theme that has been running for several chapters now. Once again, I am struck with the contrast between the religious leaders and the non-believers, in this case, Pilate, the Roman governor, and his wife. Here they turn over Jesus to the civil authorities stating a charge of treason since blasphemy would not have a stand in the civil courts. They could use treason because Jesus had claimed to be "king" of the Jews. Therefore, they were trying to show that Jesus was usurping the Roman authority. But Pilate, this non-believer, sees right through the ruse. Look at verse 18 again, "For he knew it was out of envy that they had handed Jesus over to him." He knew that he was receiving an innocent man to be put to death because of the Jewish leaders' arrogance. Isn't that amazing....and tragic? Even Pilate's wife pays attention to a dream she has and tells Pilate in verse 19, "Don't have anything to do with that innocent man...." Two people, not a part of The Way, probably worshippers of mythological beings, sees the Truth clearer than the ones claiming to be upholding it.
"'I am innocent of this man's blood,' he said. 'It is your responsibility!'" NIV
And the responsibility for this tragedy doesn't all fall on the religious leaders' shoulders. The people allowed themselves to be swayed by the chief priests and elders and would rather have a known criminal freed and an innocent healer crucified. The blindness is so complete. The enemy had a stronghold that day -- only because God allowed it to fulfill His purposes. But still, the ability to move that many people away from the Truth. We so underestimate his powers. Granted, we have a greater power over the enemy, but only if we keep our eyes focused on Jesus and not moved to Satan's lies.
In the end, the only person who saw the truth was Pilate. He didn't have the fortitude to stand up to the crowd and fight for Jesus' innocence; instead he washed his hands of the responsibility. The people had spoken, and he would honor their request. But he made it publicly known that he didn't agree with the verdict.
So how does the non-believer see clearer than the supposed believer? What is happening in the believer's life to hinder them from seeing Truth as truth? As I look over the last 15-20 years, I know I have grown so much closer to the Lord. I credit consistency to my time in the Word, surrender to His Lordship, and a constant working on my personality to reach out to others rather than just taking care of myself. And as I grow closer to Him, the sin around me becomes more obvious. Inconsistencies are glaring, the world seems to become blacker and Christ's truths, whiter. And my sin appears more wretched than it ever was because I see the perfection of God magnified.
So I guess that boils down to four things: (not necessarily the only things....)
- surrender to His Lordship
- consistently studying the Word to know Him better - this is hearing His voice
- taking steps to be more like Christ
- when I sin, recognize it and immediately confess it
The religious leaders were not doing any of these. Well, obviously they new the Word, but only the law, not the heart. And they obviously did not learn very much about the character of God because their lives did not exemplify Him at all.
This is a clear warning for us all. A life that loses focus on the right priorities, misses seeing the Truth. And that is an eternal tragedy.
- How are you doing on the "four things?" Are there other areas you think are important that the religious leaders were missing?
- Compare and contrast the religious leaders of that time to judgemental Christians today. What happens to turn us into judgemental Christians? How is the opposite lived out?