Today: Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Rows Jesus had: On trial for his life    (11/28/2010)


There certainly was a row—noise, argument, confusion.  But it could be called the row that never was.

Jesus was on trial for his life. All around him were the babble of accusation, political gamesmanship, shouts of crowds, insults and the brutality of soldiers. In the end, simply to win the crowd and keep the peace, he was condemned to death and handed over to executioners for crucifixion.

Reading the story the gospel writers tell of that night of the rigged trial, you can hear the sound and fury swirling around Jesus, but you can also glimpse something of Jesus’ own reaction.

It sounds as though he spoke quietly—not responding to the noise, not defending himself, not seeking justice or his rights, but challenging his accusers and judges to see for themselves who and what he was, even at one point keeping silent, to the amazement of his judge. He refused to join in the row.

Perhaps he knew only too well that, if he’d answered back, justified himself, protested his innocence, it would have made no difference. They would still have crucified him. So he was led, in the words of the prophet Isaiah, like a lamb to slaughter. But a lamb that knew very well what it was doing.

I don’t think for a moment that Jesus was telling us just to lie down under the trampling boots of injustice. When it’s injustice or unfairness inflicted on others, of course we should protest. That is not a time to be silent (and there’s plenty that we should be making a noise about.) Even when the injustice or unfairness are directed at ourselves, there are times when we shouldn’t take it lying down, despite the apparent example of Jesus.

Perhaps what Jesus was doing here was forcing those who wanted rid of him to look into their own hearts, to judge themselves, to see whether their claims were right, whether they were actually rowing with God himself, rejecting truth and love, condemning themselves.

Sometimes a row is a sign of insecurity and weakness. Easier to shout back, to bluster and ridicule rather than listen and think and face truth. It’s easy to dismiss what we don’t understand—and perhaps, most significantly, what we don’t want to face.

But sometimes we might feel we have every reason to pick a quarrel with God and to shout at Jesus. Maybe he invites us at that moment not to fight or reason things out with him, but to go with him on that journey through the noise of his trial to the agony and anguish of the cross. If we find it difficult to listen to what he says, or if his silence seems deafening, come alongside him instead—as he has come alongside us. 

Hear his actions which say, “I know what it feels like, I’ve been there myself, I suffered rejection, brutality and death because I care so much about you and the whole world. I know exactly what false accusation feels like; I’ve felt God’s truth crucified, I’ve seen prejudice and intolerance appear to win the day.”

What he has done is absorb the rows, soak up the pain, and transform them into resurrection victory.

Pray: “Above all the noise of my confusion, questions and doubts, Lord, help me to listen to your silence, to hear your love and to find your peace. Amen.”

Think about:  When Jesus was arrested and tried, there were lone voices which protested the injustice of it all. Others were uneasy but were swept aside or simply bowed to group pressure. It takes courage to take a stand. Are there situations you know of which are plainly unjust, where you could take more of a stand, even if your voice is drowned out and ignored?

Challenge: If you were to argue with God about anything, what would it be? Look at that issue afresh in the light of Jesus’ response to accusation, and in the light of his acceptance of the suffering of the cross. Does his resurrection, too, cast a different light on the issue?

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