Reflection, not revelry time


By Abdu Rafiu

It is in our character as human beings to turn every anniversary into a celebration. There is dancing and rejoicing. Easter is here and what will happen in Christendom was already foreshadowed last Sunday during Palm Sunday processions. Tomorrow which is Good Friday, except in places some young men act the crucifixion of the Lord to remind the world of the brutality and horror visited on the Son of God, Jesus, hardly would seriousness this time calls for be demonstrated. The Palm Sunday is yearly a re-enactment of the enrapturing reception for the Lord during Passover in Jerusalem. Passover was a thanksgiving celebration of the liberation of the Jews by Moses from Pharaoh’s Egypt. The occasion is described as the triumphal entry of the Lord into Jerusalem for the Passover. The reception was, to an unsuspecting great many, deception to entrap the Saviour. The elaborate plan laid out was that His entry would be hailed amidst cries in celebration: “Hosanna! Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.” (John 12: 13).

It all began from Judas Iscariot who made contact with a Resistant Movement who had been agitating to remove the Roman yoke on the Israelites. They believed rebellion against Caesar, Emperor Tiberius was the answer. Members of the movement were to come for Passover Festival disguised as pilgrims so as not to arouse any suspicion, particularly that of the Romans. The resistance members persuaded themselves that since Christ was the one generally believed to be the Messiah, he perfectly fitted the bill to lead them in the rebellion against Rome. The Romans were to be driven away. By their own understanding the mission of the Messiah must be political. Whether he liked it or not, Jesus was to be proclaimed king.

The grouse of Judas was that the Lord Jesus had no interest in material things. Everywhere Christ spoke His audience was always deeply moved; they watched His healing miracles with awe and in disbelief: The blind received their sight; the lame and infirm walked and He raised the dead. Because of His own love for the material, Judas was always ill-at-ease watching Jesus turning down gifts. Those healed offered their wealth which He always declined. How Judas wished such wealth or sundry gifts were his. He could not understand why in the face of opportunities they, that is, the Lord and His Disciples, could be living from hand to mouth and wandering about like vagrants when as the promised Messiah royal dignity should be His lot. He saw how Jesus held His audience spell-bound and exercised power over them through His Person and His Word. Judas was convinced such power could be converted into pursuit of earthly affairs and made to manifest in an earthly way. It would, in his reckoning, be history fulfilling itself and he being part of that history.

The day of the Lord’s entry into Jerusalem with fanfare came, and the reception by the multitude was as the members of the Resistant Movement wished it with the hailing: “Hosanna! Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.” It surprised Jesus and He felt uneasy with it, seeing through it all. He went to the Temple where He addressed the congregants who were ostensibly pilgrims for the Festival. He called for peace and love for and among fellow men. He spoke of submission to the Will of God, the Father. He then went on to command them to love their enemies. The battle-ready pilgrims were astounded by what they heard and their leaders pressed to meet and speak to the Lord personally, knowing the risk they had taken upon themselves. How could they be asked to love their enemies, the enemies they wanted driven out of Israel? The enemies were the Romans. They wanted to seek confirmation from the Lord of what they had laid out as His role to lead the Jews to battle and also receive words of encouragement from Him. But Judas could not arrange it as the danger to which he had exposed the Lord and fellow Disciples dawned on Him. His breach of loyalty would be exposed. His intellectual superiority among his fellow disciples would have proven to be in vain. He alone among the rebellious group knew that the Lord would not allow Himself to be made an earthly king. He could see that the Lord was far distant from the role penciled down He would play.

Before the Passover, the Son of God had raised Lazarus from the dead in Bethany. It was widely believed, not the least by the political establishment that, acts of raising people from the dead were veritable signs that the time of the promised Messiah and concomitantly the liberation and triumph of Israel was at hand. In Jerusalem, the Great Sanhedrin was totally perturbed by the development. They had a special meeting session where they asked themselves: “What do we? For this man doeth many miracles. If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation” (John 11: 47-48).

Realizing that his conspiracy had blown up in his face, Judas suffered from inner turmoil and engaged in a fierce inner struggle with himself. He got greatly confused and his turmoil got to the point he grew in hatred for the Lord. He fell into the hands of Caiaphas who soon got persuaded that the hatred Judas had developed for his Master was genuine. The plan was hatched as to how Judas would report the movement of the Lord to the authorities. He pledged that as soon as an opportunity for the arrest of his Master presented itself he would alert Caiaphas, the high priest. When the arrest was effected town–criers went round the streets in Jerusalem to announce it, calling the Lord the fake prophet of Nazareth and a blasphemer. The same crowd that hailed the Lord as the blessed King of Israel asked that He be crucified. It was reported that they had placed all their hopes of national greatness and liberation on the Lord and believed that they had been betrayed whereas it was they that did not have a clear recognition nor the understanding of who Christ was and what His Mission on earth was. He did not come to lead mankind to war, but to show them the way out of chaos and confusion as well as out of the burden of entanglement of the web of sins and wrong-doing. It is revealed in the enlightenment of these times spreading on earth today that “coming from the Highest, from the Luminous Heights of Eternal Truth, in order through His message to draw the human spirits’ attention to their wrong way of living, and to show them the only way leading upwards, the Son of God had no understanding for such futile, fleeting earthly desires as national pride, political influence or the craving for power.

Ernest Schmitt, in his work: ‘The Son of God—Birth and Trial of Jesus (in its Historical, Political and Religious Aspect)’ says: “But when in fulfillment of Divine promises He really did appear, it was just the leading religious circles who, having treated the prophecies about His coming so cheaply in order to make the people tractable for themselves, became his embittered enemies. Every word uttered by the Envoy of God exposed the emptiness of their doctrines, and the arrogance of their claim to leadership. With their power threatened, and seething with hatred, they only schemed how they could silence the troublesome admonisher.

“But even among those who honestly longed for the coming of the Messiah, many a one still passed him by unsuspecting, not being sufficiently alert, and in false expectation dreaming of a different fulfillment. Only a few were able to rise up to a divining of the greatness of the sacrifice that lay just in taking upon Himself the hardship and difficulties of an incarnation. Since also the Divine on earth is subject to the eternal and unchangeable Laws of God, It shows purely outwardly no striking difference from men.

“The impending expectation which should have created the soil for a speedy, joyful recognition of the Promised One actually formed a dividing wall, because those who awaited Him had, in the way of men, pressed it into the demand of their earthly-political worldly wishes. Thereby a connection with the Son of God and His Light-Message was made impossible.”

At the time of the Passover Festival, the priests had sentenced the Son of God to death but they could not have Him arrested because of the throng of the admiring crowd. Members of the priestly establishment unceasingly met to deliberate on an unbearable situation of crowd milling round Jesus, all a threat to their power and influence. They felt that there was no way they would attempt to arrest him and it would not trigger serious disturbances. The chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew His whereabouts, the person should report to the authorities for His arrest. (John 11:57). Judas knowing where the Lord could be found with His Disciples –Kidron Valley garden—in line with his promise to Caiaphas, led soldiers and police from the chief priests and the Pharisees armed with lanterns, torches and weapons to arrest the Lord. They tied Him up. He was kicked, scorned, and mocked and a crown of thorns was placed on His Head.

The Nazarene was taken to Pontius Pilate, the representative of Tiberius Augustus. Pilate, who did not see Christ as constituting any threat to Rome, thought of setting Him free. His wife too had warned him not to have hand in any harm to an “innocent man.” She said to her husband: “Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.” (Matthew 27:19). He was determined not to yield to the pressure of the Jews. The Jews had said in reply to Pilate’s questioning on why Jesus was brought before him: “We found this fellow perverting the nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Ceasar, saying that he himself is Christ, a King.” (Luke 23: 2). But Pilate returned the verdict of not guilty in favour of the Lord Christ. “I find no fault in this man.” But the crowd instigated by the priests further pressed the case which Pilate had thought was closed after his pronouncement. When the rabble would not give up, he referred the matter to Herod. He was again later to turn to the crowd, saying to them: “I find in him no fault at all. Will ye therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews?” And the rabble said they would prefer the release of Barabbas a gang leader being held over accusation of murder. Pilate said for the third time that he found no fault in Jesus the Lord. The crowd answered the appeal for their compassion with an even more hateful and dreadful outcry: “Crucify him!” At this point Caiaphas stepped in, employing political blackmail said to Pilate: “If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar’s friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar.” (John 19: 12).

In the end the death sentence on the Lord was supported with the invocation of Section 82 of the Jewish law which states: “Even the execution of an innocent person can serve in the maintenance of law and order, and the salvation of God’s people.” Pontus Pilate not wanting to offend Rome and lose his position, washed off his hands, believing that after all it was the people who would bear responsibility for their actions.

I have recounted these developments to show that the Lord Jesus did not come, descending from the Highest Heights, to die in order to take away the sins of humanity. He was dastardly murdered through the conspiracy of the Jewish priestly and political establishments of the era. The Almighty Father could not have sent His Son, to be sacrificial lamb for the sins of us mankind. Even in normal human law it would be totally strange, indeed horrifying and considered a great act of injustice to have an innocent man seized and executed in place of a criminal. The Lord brought peace and love as the Prince of Peace and the Love of God the Father, but was repaid with searing hate and most brutal cruelties and gruesome death simply because the priests and political authorities feared for their hold and influence on the people which might slip off their hands with the presence of the Envoy of God Whom they did not recognize as the Messiah. They whipped up hatred among the people against the Lord Jesus. There is nothing inscrutable about the perfect Laws expressing the Holy Will of the Almighty Creator which is All-Justice and perfection from the very beginning, governing the whole of Creation. Easter Festival, therefore, calls for nothing other than deep reflection and remorsefulness, not revelry. (NEXT WEEK: WHAT DOES IT MEAN WHEN IT IS SAID: Behold there goes the Lamb of God that beareth the sins of the world”?).

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The Guardian

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