The gods I Worshiped
I confess, I’ve worshiped many gods over my lifetime. When I was in high school and college, sex was ultimate in my life. My existence was about finding opportunities to be with women. (Perhaps not surprisingly, I was an atheist for most of that time.) Then I married Kathy and became a Christian, in that order, and things got a little better. But even when I identified as a Jesus follower, he wasn’t ultimate in my life. Honestly, I lived for my kids. The most important thing in the world was to pour myself into Gabe and Nate and Kyle and Cole and Cory. Then when the kids left home Kathy became my ultimate. I built her a huge beautiful house and bought her vacation rentals. Money was very near the top of my priority list during that time too. I lived for Kathy, but I also lived to expand my real estate portfolio. Then I turned my attention to my career at the fire department. Work became my god and I worked ungodly hours.
For most of this time, it wasn’t like Jesus wasn’t in my life–he just wasn’t first. And the consequences of those misplaced priorities were surprising.
During the coronavirus lockdown I’ve had time to reflect on truth, and on my past, and on God and Christ and where they belong in my life. We’ll get to that soon and continue this discussion about the gods I worshiped. But first we’ll continue our journey through the book of John.
Jesus and Pilate
In our last post from the book of John we left Peter in the company of his new peer group, the guards and officers of Jesus’ enemies. (see previous post The Simplest Way to Become Like Jesus)
Today we’ll look at Jesus’ interaction with Pilate. They bound Jesus and led him from Caiaphas to Pilate, the Roman governor presiding over occupied Israel. But Jesus’ accusers, the religious leadership of the day, wouldn’t enter Pilate’s headquarters because Pilate was a Gentile, and if they entered his building they would become unclean and wouldn’t be able to participate in the Passover.
They were meticulous about following their religious protocol.
But although they would stay “pure” for the Passover, they were determined to kill Jesus, God’s Passover lamb. An obvious example of observing religious rules and regulations but missing the far more important issues in God’s sight: love, mercy, and justice.
You strain out the gnat, but you swallow the camel, Jesus said to the religious leaders of his day. (Matthew 23:24)
So Pilate went outside to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?”
They said, “If he were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.”
Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.”
The religious leaders said, “It’s against the law for us to put anyone to death.”
It’s not lawful for us to put a man to death, they said to Pilate, yet they had attempted to kill Jesus before: one time by pushing him off a cliff, and several other times by stoning him. But Jesus had said he must be lifted up. Jesus and the prophets prophesied the manner in which he would die, and he wasn’t to be thrown down a cliff, or knocked down with stones, but he was to be lifted up, by crucifixion. “‘And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.’ He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.” (See John 3:14-15, John 12:32-33, see also previous post: Love Like Jesus: Surviving a Life of Loving Like Jesus, Chapter 28)
Crucifixion was torturous. So much so, it wasn’t permitted to be used on any Roman citizen. And what they said was true, the Roman law didn’t allow for the Jews to execute a man by crucifixion or any other method. For Jesus to die in the manner that was prophesied, it had to be the Romans who did it. The religious leaders and the Roman officers present that day didn’t realize it at the time, but their actions were fulfilling prophecy. (See Psalm 22, Isaiah 53, Deuteronomy 21:23, Galatians 3:13)
So Pilate went back into his HQ and said to Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?”
Jesus said, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?”
Pilate said, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?”
Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”
Then Pilate said, “So you are a king?”
Jesus said, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world–to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”
Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”
What Am I Of?
“Everyone who is of truth listens to my voice,” Jesus said.
At the beginning of this post I shared about the “gods” I used to worship. Sex and raising my kids and my wife and money and my real estate portfolio and my career. Reflecting back on my life I realize I was consumed by these things. I was pursuing each of these things in their season, and I was pursuing so hard there was no room for the real truth Jesus speaks of.
I was not one who was of truth.
I was of these other pursuits and priorities. So much so, I didn’t want Jesus’ to be my ultimate. I really didn’t want him or his truth in their proper place in my life, because they would get in the way of my “gods”.
We see this in our text. The religious leaders want to cling to their control and their power, but Jesus threatens that.
Pilate wants to maintain his political position as the Roman ruler who keeps order in occupied Israel, but Jesus threatens that.
Because of the lockdown, right now we have a unique opportunity to reflect. I hope you’ll take advantage of it. I hope and pray you’ll spend time on your face, alone with God, and ask Him to reveal your misplaced priorities–those things that you put above Him.
And let Him show you His truth: How His place in your life is your ultimate.
And the amazing abundant life you can experience when you put Him there.
In Jesus name.
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Love Like Jesus begins with the story of how after a life of regular church attendance and Bible study, Bennett was challenged by a pastor to study Jesus. That led to an obsessive seven year deep dive. After pouring over Jesus’ every interaction with another human being, he realized he was doing a much better job of studying Jesus’ words than he was following Jesus’ words and example. The honest and fearless revelations of Bennett’s own moral failures affirm he wrote this book for himself as much as for others.
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- How to love unlovable people the way Jesus did.
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- How Jesus didn’t love everyone the same (and why you shouldn’t either).
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