‘Are we getting rid of Jesus?’ Luke 22: 66 – 23: 1-25.

At the Jewish Supreme Court: there was just one charge against Jesus: blasphemy: because he dared to call himself the Son of God. (Matt. 16:16).
 
The Romans were not interested in Jewish religious law. At Acts 18:15 we read that Paul was dragged before Gallio, the Proconsul, on religious charges. Gallio said: ‘I refuse to be a judge in these matters', and had the Jewish accusers thrown out of the building.
 
To get rid of Jesus: the Jews were obliged to take him before Pilate. Only he, as Roman Governor, could pass a death sentence: but, there was the risk that he might set Jesus free. To prevent that happening, they told lies.
 
Any religious charge; was likely to have had them thrown out of Pilate’s Hall of Judgement: so they needed a different approach. Almost desperate in their desire to get rid of Jesus; they presented him to Pilate on trumped-up political charges of insurrection against the Roman State.
 
Pilate, an experienced, senior official: soon recognized the lies that he was being told; and he had no desire to fall in with the Jew’s evil plans. Amid all the talk: Pilate heard something else; that Jesus was a Galilean, coming under Herod's jurisdiction. So, he sent him to appear before the puppet-king; who was in Jerusalem at that time.
 
Herod knew the ins-and-out of Jewish law, faith and practice. He could, if he wished, have used this knowledge to good effect. Instead, he fell in with the evil desires and intrigues of those who desired to get rid of Jesus.
 
The attitude that Herod adopted: was a quite wrong approach to Jesus, an approach that is worth examining, because it is fairly common today.
 
'When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad; for he had long desired to see him. He had heard about him, and was hoping to see some sign done by him. So, he questioned him at some length; but Jesus made no answer'. (Luke 23: 8ff).
 
Herod confronted the man about whom great claims were being made: Messiah, Son of God and so on. He wanted to see a sign, or a miracle: something to justify such claims. In so doing, he seems to have regarded Jesus as a performer; obliged to go through with his act.
 
He questioned Jesus at some length, but got no answers: almost certainly because of his wrong attitude, and misplaced desires. If there were honest intentions behind Herod’s questioning; he would have got answers; and, very likely, would have acted in a very different way.
 
Not getting what he wanted; Herod reacted badly. The chief priests and scribes began to testify against Jesus. The king wanted to keep in with them; because they were important people; whereas the carpenter before him, appeared to be quite unimportant; so he made his choice.
 
Herod, and his soldiers, entertained the courtiers, chief priests and scribes: by trying to make Jesus look a fool. They dressed him in mock royal splendour; then sent him back to Pilate, when the joke wore thin.
 
Despite one, small redeeming feature: in telling Pilate that he could find no fault with Jesus: Herod allowed the political pressures of the moment, to blind him to the truth of what was happening; and to his own part in it all.
 
In sending him back to Pilate, Herod may appear to have removed Jesus from his presence: but what he had actually done was quite the reverse, for, spiritually, he had removed himself from the presence of Christ.
 
For the king: ‘seeing was believing’. There was no sign, no miracle: so he did not believe. He tried to cover up his failure to achieve what he wanted; and acted in ways that, perhaps, did not reflect his true nature.
 
There are some thoughts about ‘Getting Rid of Jesus’, then, in Herod’s day: but what of ‘Getting rid of Jesus’, now, in our day?
 
For the world, too: 'Seeing is believing'; but the way of God, in Christ, is very different: 'Believing is, eventually, seeing’.
 
Most of the details, about miracles done by Jesus, and many of his parables; show that, first, there was belief on the part of the people concerned; then, later, there was something to show for their belief; something to be seen.
 
However, to a large extent, the world all around us takes Herod's attitude to Jesus: ‘We have heard about you, now let's see what you can do; then we can make up our minds about you’. Often, when there is no immediate answer to prayers: and no tangible fulfilment of hopes; Jesus gets ‘written off’.
 
Like Herod, the world, largely, finds no fault with Christ. It is simply that he has come to be regarded, by many, as a much talked about performer, who fails to perform on cue…
 
…and regarded by others; as someone making little or no difference to the situations of day-by-day life: so why bother?
 
Those, mainly, are the attitudes confronting the Church today; and they must be overcome, if new people are to be added to the Kingdom of God.
 
Now, here is a thought that may shock some. I believe that the negative attitude that confronts the Church; is fairly common within the Church.
 
We may say: ‘Surely not!’ but I believe that, no matter how we may fiddle about with words and semantics; the centrality of Christ in his Church has, for a very long while, been gradually eroded.
 
In today’s Church, ‘getting rid of Christ’ may seem unthinkable: but no matter how unintentionally it may come about, the result can be exactly the same as it would have been, through deliberate action.
 
Herod may appear to have removed Jesus from his presence: but what he had actually done, spiritually, was to remove himself from the presence of Christ. Inadvertently, today’s Christians can remove themselves from full openness to, and deep relationship with, the living Christ – for this reason.
 
Christ is our intermediary, in heaven; yet, often, we pray direct to God the Father, as though Christ were not our divinely-appointed Advocate and Mediator.  Although, in this way, Jesus is not so much ‘got rid of’, but more, set to one side: once again, the result is exactly the same.
 
At John 14:6, Jesus said to his disciples: ‘I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father, except through me’. He did not speak in future, post-resurrection terms; but, instead, in the urgency of the present.
 
The Bible still teaches that, when we accept Jesus Christ as our personal God, Saviour and Lord; then he, and he alone is the Way and the Truth and the Life for us –in present terms, in the here-and-now of our lives.
 
Divergence from this; even in prayers offered direct to God the Father, can set us on a path that is different from the one that the Bible sets before us.
 
Any moving away from continual recourse to the living Christ: is a ‘moving away’ that may not only prevent spiritual gain, but also may bring about the gradual loss of what we believe to be precious to us.
 
It is much, much easier to be a follower of the Church, than a follower of Christ: and the temptation is, to take the easier way.
 
This is because the Church makes well-known, and usually practical, demands upon us. Such demands may sometimes sit heavy upon us; but, almost always, their fulfilment lies within our willingness and scope.
 
When Christ is safely contained within our Church-based hopes and expectations of him: he is under some restraint: because he will not force himself upon us, and, therefore, will not make demands of us.
 
But… when Christ is not under restraint: neither his, nor ours; things are very different! ‘Set free’ in our lives; he may carry us into the realm of the unknown; and seek to lead us in spiritual directions; and at greater depths; than we are prepared for, or willing to entertain.
Such demands may bring about a reactive fear; a fear that tends to close hearts and minds against his requirements of us; and to say: ‘No! Not yet’: while, somehow, still managing to persuade ourselves, that we are actively following the Lord.  
 
Herod got rid of Jesus, through lies and deception. Do we sometimes deceive ourselves, rather than risk the full impact of Christ, upon our lives?  
 
Christians can easily lose out on the impact of Jesus, and his mission in their lives: not through deliberate wilfulness; but through lack of regular, believing and meaningful recourse to the ‘Way’ that he sets before us; to the ‘Truth’ that he imparts, and to the ‘Life’ that he bestows.
 
Many Christians appear to live on a very thin diet of stories and traditions about Jesus: rather than to risk the full, life-giving, and life-sustaining impact of the indwelling Spirit of Christ, meaningfully at work in them, and through them.
 
All the while that they are more conscious of the traditions, hopes, fears and practical demands of Church life; than they are of the actual presence and requirements of Christ in their lives - there is something out of kilter.
 
They may, all along, have an honest desire to find greater reality; but are hindered by an unwillingness to undertake full surrender to Christ: out of nervousness, and even fear, about where such surrender might lead.
 
As already asked: and now asked again, do we sometimes deceive ourselves, rather than risk the full impact of Christ, upon our lives?  If we are troubled by such a concept of deception: it is a good sign, rather than a bad one.
 
Troubled hearts and minds have the power to bring about good: through prompting positive ‘Christ can help me to move on’ attitudes; that have more than a hint of spiritual adventure about them.
 
A true desire to move on: and have our questions resolved; our faith deepened, and our best hopes fulfilled, creates the need to take counsel;  not from ourselves and each other: not from the Church, with all of its facilities; not from the Bible; and not even from God the Father…
 
…but from the One appointed to direct our lives: Jesus Christ: whose ‘Way’ leads us to salvation; whose ‘Truth’ sets us free; and whose ‘Life’ becomes the very fabric of our being.  Amen.