Justice and Injustice

Matthew 27.13-14
Then Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?” But Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor. 

“Are you the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked. Caiaphas, the Jewish High Priest, had brought the accusation using Jesus’ own words from the Parable of the Tenants (Matthew 21.33-45). Jesus risked losing his freedom, possibly his life, if he affirmed the charge. The religious elite likely couldn’t imagine a scenario where a man would go to that length. If he denied the charge he might escape legal consequences but, most importantly, he would lose his influence with the people. 

“The universe held its breath as it waited for Jesus’ answer,” imagines Scottish theologian William Barclay. Surely Jesus wanted justice. The trial was anything but just. Jesus’ reply to Pilate revealed an expectant and quiet trust in the face of injustice. “You have said so.” With that, just two words in Greek, Jesus spoke his first and last of the trial. [1]

Even Pilate sensed the injustice of the moment and offered to spare a man’s life as a sign of mercy. First he presented Jesus, in whom he could find no fault. Then Pilate brought them Barabbas, a known violent criminal. Jesus had already prayed to his Father, “your will be done.” The people cried out for Barabbas. In no subtle way, the freeing of the criminal Barabbas was a sign of the people’s foolishness. But it was also more than that. 

In Christ’s condemnation for Barabbas’ freedom we see a foreshadowing of everything God was working on all along.

Jesus seemed expectant for God to bring justice, even in the injustice of this world. Barabbas, whose Greek name translates “son of the father,” walked free because Jesus laid down his life. Barabbas wasn’t the only one to go free that day. All the guilty were set free through the sacrifice of the One, Holy innocent. 

Prayer
Father, thank you for giving your only Son on our behalf. He endured the worst injustice and absorbed the blow of your justice. He laid down his life, defeating sin and evil, and offered his victory to anyone who would accept. We stand in awe of your sacrifice. We want to sit under your goodness and justice. We fall at the foot of your throne and offer our lives to you.

Justice Through Christ
Part 2 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org

Today’s Readings
Genesis 28 (Listen – 3:17)
Matthew 27 (Listen – 8:45)

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Footnotes

[1] William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew, 2:392.

Without a Cup of His Own

Matthew 26.27-28
Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

Aside from consumption of wine, one of the roles that chalices play throughout history is “of demonstrating the status of the owner or drinker,” notes the British Museum Magazine. As an example the museum offers the Lacock Cup, currently on display. The cup dates from 15th century England, weighs over two pounds, and is fashioned of gold and silver. The museum adds that the cup would have been a, “costly and showy item to own.” [1]

It is likely Jesus drank from a cup that was not his own during the Last Supper. It was standard etiquette, as late as medieval times, for the host to provide their guests with chalices. We also know from Scripture that Jesus owned few personal items, denying himself what most would consider essential. “The Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” It’s likely owning his own chalice was a luxury Christ did not experience.

Later that night Jesus embraced a second cup that was not his own. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he told his disciples. “Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.’”

Neither the cup of riches nor the cup of suffering held sway over him. Jesus left the riches of heaven for the poverty of earth. He endured pain and destruction on our behalf. When faced with God’s refusal to answer his prayer and remove the cup of suffering, he conceded, “Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Then he stood and walked, “like a lamb to the slaughter.”

Although neither cup was his, he embraced what was inside. From the cup of justice he drank all that we could not. He paid a price we could not pay. From the cup of heavenly riches he offered what we could not afford. He gave a gift we could not earn. [2]

Prayer
Father, our hearts find their rest in you. That you would freely offer us life through the costliness of your son’s death shows a love we struggle to grasp. While the cup of your Kingdom is something we could not afford, we embrace what is in it with joy and gratitude. May your love overflow from it into our own lives and into the lives of everyone around us.

Justice Through Christ
Part 1 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org

Today’s Readings
Genesis 27 (Listen – 6:25)
Matthew 26 (Listen – 10:01)

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Footnotes

[1] From a Table to the Alter. The British Museum Magazine. Spring/Summer 2014, Issue 78, pp. 44-45. | [2] Scripture references, in order of appearance: Matthew 8.20; Matthew 26.38-39; Isaiah 53.7

 

Weeping Over Jerusalem

Daily Reading
Genesis 24 (Listen – 9:42)
Matthew 23 (Listen – 4:53)

Matthew 23.37

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.”

This is usually the time of year when New Year’s resolutions begin to break down. It’s a lovely season for year-round gym attendees; classes get easier to book. It’s an unfortunate season in what it reveals about the condition of our souls. Yet again we are betrayed by the idea that intentional fortitude is all that we lack to change the affections of our hearts.

Jesus weeps over Jerusalem because he knows the people will be unfaithful to him. Although the religious elite have already rejected him, the people of the city will welcome him with an entry fit for a king. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” Days after their triumphalism the people would sentence Jesus to die.

God is under no illusions that we will keep our promises. Through the prophet Jeremiah, God reminds us, “The heart is deceitful above all things.” Christ doesn’t weep that the people will soon break their promises. Humanity’s disloyalty to God, despite intentions otherwise, is a repetitious theme in Scripture. Jesus went to the cross to take care of that reality, its root cause, and all its vicious implications. 

Christ weeps out of the depth of his love for humanity. He left the riches of heaven, to endure the poverty and brokenness of earth, so that we might inherit the righteousness of God. He is the sufficient answer to every one of our problems. He is the one good and true lover of our souls — even while we were yet sinners. He is faithful in our unfaithfulness — loving when we are unlovely. Christ’s teachings draw lines in the sand; no doubt. But we miss the foundation for everything Jesus says and does if we overlook the depth of his love and brokenness. “Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

Prayer
Father, you are wonderful. To see your son weep over the lost is arresting. Truly you love us more than we know. Thank you for your vast, unfailing love. Thank you for pursuing us, even when we deny you. Help us to overflow with your love for us, that we would become vessels carrying your love to others.

This week: For These Things, I Weep
Part 5 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org

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Weekend Readings

Saturday: Genesis 25 (Listen – 4:18); Matthew 24 (Listen – 5:59)
Sunday: Genesis 26 (Listen – 4:31); Matthew 25 (Listen – 6:04)

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Footnotes

[1] Scriptures quoted today (in order of appearance): Matthew 23.38; Jeremiah 17.9; 1 Corinthians 8.9; John 15.13

 

TBT: The Highest Right

Daily Reading
Genesis 23 (Listen – 2:34)
Matthew 22 (Listen – 4:56)

Matthew 22.21
Then Jesus said to them, “So give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s.” 

TBT: The Highest Right |by Abraham Kuyper

In politics, the human element—here the people—may not be considered as the principal thing, so that God is only dragged in to help this people in the hour of need. On the contrary, God, in His Majesty, must flame before the eyes of every nation, that all nations together are to be reckoned before Him as a drop in a bucket and as the small dust of the balances.

The Sovereignty of God is the source of all authority among men. It makes it easy for us to obey authority, because, (1) in all authority, it causes us to honor the demand of divine sovereignty. (2) It lifts us from an obedience born of dread of the strong arm, into an obedience for conscience sake. (3) It teaches us to look upward from the existing law to the source of the eternal Right in God, and (4) it creates in us the indomitable courage to protest against the unrighteousness of the law in the name of this highest Right. 

A people therefore which abandons to State Supremacy the rights of the family, or a University which abandons to it the rights of science, is just as guilty before God as a nation which lays its hands upon the rights of the magistrates. And thus the struggle for liberty is not only declared permissible, but is made a duty for each individual in his own sphere.

However powerfully the State may assert itself and oppress the free individual development, above that powerful State there is always glittering, before our soul’s eye, as infinitely more powerful, the majesty of the King of kings, Whose righteous bar ever maintains the right of appeal for all the oppressed, and unto Whom the prayer of the people ever ascends, to bless our nation and, in that nation, us and our house! [1]

Prayers from the Past:
We beg you, Lord, to help and defend us. Deliver the oppressed, pity the insignificant, raise the fallen, show yourself to the needy, heal the sick, bring back those of your people who have gone astray, feed the hungry, lift up the weak, take off the prisoners’ chains. Make every nation come to know that you alone are God, that Jesus Christ is your Child, that we are your people, the sheep that you pasture.

— Clement of Rome c. 96 C.E. 

(An excerpt from the earliest known Christian prayer from outside of scripture)

This week: For These Things, I Weep
Part 4 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org

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Footnotes

[1] Abridged and updated language from Abraham Kuyper’s “Calvinism and Politics.” Lectures on Calvinism. Eerdman’s Publishing, 1931.

 

Glory in Rejection

Matthew 21.42
Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes.’”? 

Practicing the Christian faith in the modern professional world is risky. Christian ethics can lead to social, positional, and financial setback or loss. One of the most significant roles of Christians in the workplace is not preaching (which can be detrimental in most places), but the integration of faith with work.

The rub comes not in the vision of integrated faith, but in its cost. Many Christians choose to practice honesty as an act of faith. Honesty, as practiced in far too many organizational cultures, amounts to little more than an value of convenience, negotiation tool, or parlance for any behavior which is unlikely to be indicted. Far too often the honest person pays the price while watching the mendacious prosper.

The most important work of Christ is found not in changing outward actions, but in restoring the heart within. Part of what Christianity seeks to accomplish is the reordering of a person’s life so that they chase after far more transcendent things than approval, promotions, and accolade. This makes the loss of temporal status and benefit no less real, but felt less deeply. German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer calls this costly grace. “Costly because it costs a man his life, and grace because it gives a man the only true life.” [1]

Jesus faced his own rejection and loss. In today’s teaching from Matthew, he quoted a messianic prophecy from Psalm 118. The psalmist wrestled with the cost of his faith, yet also celebrated the steadfastness of God’s enduring love. “Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free. The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?” The psalmist, like the Messiah he wrote about, concluded that he was not left alone. More importantly he revealed that there is joy in giving yourself fully to a God who is worthy of your life.

Prayer
Father, give us today the courage, boldness, and wisdom to live as people of faith in the workplace. Give us patience and contentment as we wait for the right opportunities to share. Give us endurance as we work in industries with realities beyond our control. Give us community with others of faith, and help us draw from our community with you so that we do not labor alone.

Daily Reading
Genesis 22 (Listen – 4:01)
Matthew 21 (Listen – 7:10)

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