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Lombard CRC

Pilate #4: Here Is The Man

Have you ever noticed that it’s easy to talk about

an issue in theory,

and be sure that you are right,

but when it involves someone you know

it gets more difficult

to be so confident about your take on it all?

You have formed your opinion about homosexuality, but then a son or brother or friend says he is gay,

and now it’s personal.

It’s not an issue anymore;

it involves lives and gospel love and gracious care.

You see there’s more to it than you thought.

 

You never would call yourself a racist,

but you befriend and begin to know people of color

and their day to day experiences.

You start to recognize

there are deep assumptions and attitudes

that have formed and shaped

your thoughts and judgments.

And you must choose repentance

because these are your friends,

and you have not loved your neighbor

as Jesus commands.

 

You love the Cubs,

but your daughter says she’s now a Sox fan.

So you’ll take her to a game and even root for them. Will you?

Well, okay, we all have some maturing yet to do.

 

Today we can easily live in a life bubble

of our own making.

We buffer ourselves from the suffering and need

of the world by having friends just like us,

belonging to a church that is just for us,

watching news stations we agree with,

living and visiting only certain neighborhoods.

When we buffer ourselves from others,

then issues are only issues,

they are not personal,

and important parts of wisdom like

experience, sympathy, Christ-like love,

compassion and justice

get forgotten and ignored

so we can soothe ourselves and prop up our

self-interested spin on life.

 

It is the same

when it comes to faith in the Triune God.

When we treat God as an idea,

a concept to think about and debate,

an object for study,

we confine faith to the space between our ears.

But our intellect can’t contain God.

So often we wind up doubting,

or compromising the gospel,

or even letting go of belief in Jesus.

We idolize our own reasoning

and trust our own limited understanding above all.

It’s called a buffered self –

self-contained in our own world.

Living as if there is only this material world

with no thought that there is any

divine or supernatural reality.

 

That was Stephen Hawking’s take on life.

He was an atheist.

He treated God like an idea or concept,

so in his own reasoning explained God away.

Hawking is quoted saying:

“God may exist, but science can explain the universe without the need for a Creator.”

“I regard the brain as a computer

which will stop working when its components fail. There is no heaven or afterlife

for broken down computers,

that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.”

“God is the name people give

to the reason we are here.

But I think reason is the laws of physics

rather than someone with whom

we can have a personal relationship.

An impersonal god.”

Hear all that?

I regard . . .

I think . . .

Reason . . .

Impersonal . . .

Hawking could reason his take on ‘god’ away,

yet even he admitted human reasoning is

limited and can’t answer everything:

For instance,

Hawking admitted - “Why does the universe

go to all the bother of existing?”

He couldn’t reasonably answer why there is

something instead of nothing.

“If you understand how the universe operates,

you control it, in a way.”

In a way, not in all ways.

Which is to say we really don’t control it at all; anyone who has received a diagnosis out of the blue, or good fortune undeserved,

knows we can’t really control the things that matter

despite all our physical understanding.

“Women. They are a complete mystery to me.”

That’s his comment, I’m not going there.

But if he couldn’t understand half the human population, how could he be so sure

of his understanding of God?

 

We know from fictional characters

like Spock and Sheldon Cooper

that not all questions are scientific in nature,

science doesn’t come close to answering everything.

 

Stephen Hawking is an example of one who has buffered himself against the supernatural.

In this way he is like Pilate.

And like Pilate, there are things in life that disturb

such a take on reality.

For Pilate, here is Jesus.

A man, but something more.

His wife has a dream

that seems to be more than a dream.

A trial like this is something

Pilate has handled many times,

but he can’t be done with Jesus

for some reason.

He marvels at Jesus who doesn’t defend himself,

blame others or yield to Pilate’s authority.

Pilate sees his name on the door,

I am in charge, he thinks,

but he finds himself less and less in control,

and Jesus says your power comes from above.

Haunted.

 

Here is Pilate, living in his own Roman bubble, buffered in his own spin and take on the world.

But the presence of Jesus pops his bubble.

 

Jesus is real.

Pilate presents him to the world and says,

‘Here is the man.’

Jesus is the man.

God comes to be with us and be one of us

and reveals a true human.

Imagine Jesus standing before the world

bloodied and beaten,

condemned and alone,

judged with no mercy.

Do you see yourself in that sorrowful picture?

Do you see God?

 

God is not just a concept, an idea,

God has come in the flesh.

1st John begins this way:

That which was from the beginning,

which we have heard,

which we have seen with our eyes,

which we have looked at

and our hands have touched—

this we proclaim concerning the Word of life.

The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life,

which was with the Father and has appeared to us.

We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard . . .

 

Here is God revealed not as a theory,

not as a religious concept,

not as an object to reason and discuss,

here is a person.

Here is one who says he is God come in the flesh. Here is a man.

The man, says Pilate.

And all of the sudden his assumptions

and his conception of life and reality is challenged.

Jesus comes to challenge your take on life too.

 

One meaning of Pilate’s declaration,

“Here is the man,” is this:

here is what humans beings are becoming.

We see Jesus beaten and bullied

to picture our human condition:

bullies or the bullied,

mockers or the mocked,

beaten and harassed.

 

Jesus, the Son of God,

shares in humanity’s brokenness.

Isaiah 53 prophesied about him:

He was despised and forsaken by men,

A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;

And like one from whom men hide their face

He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.

Can you see God in this true man Jesus?

Coming to be with you and me in all our sorrow,

to bear the weight of grief,

the consequences of sin,

the burdens of shame and guilt.

If we’re seeing ourselves in Pilate,

we are meant to see ourselves in Jesus,

and to see in Jesus God’s deliverance

and our hope and mission.

 

More than sharing our burdens,

he does away with them.

We are not helpless in our sorrow.

We aren’t defined by our shame.

We can take up our suffering in the love

and the strength of Jesus.

 

This week many students participated in

the national school walkout,

one month after the Parkland, FL shooting,

walking out for 17 minutes

to commemorate 17 lives lost.

I was surprised by the judgment against them

by some for doing this.

Those judging the students seem to

expect more of the students

than is expected of adults

or our country’s leadership.

My question is,

why not first show empathy?

Why judgment as the response?

How do you feel when someone shows you empathy

in your fears and helplessness, instead of judging you?

So why wouldn’t Christians start with empathy first?

The march was a cry,

students crying out for us to see them,

demonstrating the hurt and helplessness

of those who don’t know what to do about this

yet have to live with the threat of violence.

The march was an opportunity

to show the compassion and empathy of Jesus

who bore the bullying, the violence, and

the injustice.

God fully with us.

We should have been fully with those crying,

we should be present in the pain.

Here is the man – see him suffer,

act in the name of Jesus

instead of lesser, fallible allegiances.

 

Think about that a moment as you hear Pilate again:

“Here is the man,”declares Pilate.

And the surprise is he’s not talking about himself.

Pilate has power, connections,

he’s a Roman citizen,

he’s married,

he’s attained some wealth and status and position,

isn’t all of this pointing the needle

in the direction of a good human life?

Pilate has it made,

he’s a successful person: he’s the man.

But no.

How come he’s not the man but Jesus is?

Jesus taught

what does it profit you to gain the world

but lose your soul?

Whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel

will find it.

So see Jesus: see his life as the light

to guide you in your goals and your purpose

and what to give yourself to in your life.

Where does his light point us?

We don’t imagine our lives leading to a cross,

do we?

Yet Philippians says

‘it has been given to us on behalf of Christ

not only to believe in him

but also to suffer for him.’

Here is the man,

here is the one we are to follow.

Why?

Frederick Buechner: "Behold the man," Pilate said when he led Jesus out

where everybody could see him.

He can't have been much to look at

after what they'd done to him by then,

but my guess is that, even so,

there suddenly fell over that mob a silence

as awed as ours when for the first time in their lives

they found themselves looking at a Human Being.

 

Seeing him like this, what does that say about us?

We caused this!

We can’t justify this!

Seeing Jesus like this,

we confess here is our neighbor –

here is the stranger –

here is the refugee –

here is the dreamer –

here is the homeless one - 

here is the beggar on the corner –

here is the immigrant –

here is the undocumented –

here is the sexually harassed –

here is the foster child –

here is the one we stay away from –

here are all those we judge first

instead of serving first, loving first.

 

Can we accept that Jesus being fully human

brings a sacredness to each human life?

And that we should respond accordingly?

After all Matthew 25 says we see Jesus

in the hungry, thirsty, sick and in need,

and implies: we only love Jesus as much as

the person we love least.

 

Now we are convicted.

Perhaps I have upset you.

Perhaps you have put up your defenses.

Or perhaps you don’t know how to go on with this.

But scripture is given to rebuke and correct us,

to train us in righteousness,

so stay with me yet a moment,

because Pilate’s statement, “Here is the man,”

means a little more.

 

Listen to Pilate again and find hope:

here is the man, he declares presenting Jesus.

Of all the things Pilate could say innocently enough

it’s probably this.

But little did he know

these are fighting words for the religious crowd.

Those very words are what this trial is all about.

The Jewish religious leaders knew these words

from the prophet Zechariah.

This prophecy refers to the Messiah,

the one to come and save Israel:

from Zechariah 6

“And the word of the LORD came to me: 

‘. . . make a crown, and set it on the head of Joshua, the son of Jehozadak, the high priest. 

And say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘Behold, the man -  Here is the man - whose name is the Branch: 

for he shall branch out from his place,

and he shall build the temple of the LORD. 

It is he who shall build the temple of the LORD

and shall bear royal honor,

and shall sit and rule on his throne.”

 

Ever come across those verses before?

The religious leaders would have.

They would have known them well.

This is the one they were looking for.

And now out of the blue

Pilate of all people echoes the prophecy:

Behold the man . . . here is the man . . .

And he points to Jesus,

whose name in Hebrew is Joshua.

And Zechariah’s prophecy was concerning

a man named Joshua:

make a crown and put it on his head.

And here stands Jesus,

with a crown of thorns on his head.

They’ve put him on trial because he said

he would destroy the temple

and rebuild it in three days,

as if he himself were the temple of God.

Joshua will build the temple,

bearing royal honor he will rule on the throne.

They brought him to Pilate to condemn him

for claiming to be the King of the Jews

and here he stands dressed in a king’s purple robe.

 

It’s Zechariah’s prophecy

fulfilled right in front of them.

Is Jesus the man, the one,

God come as God with us?

The crowd had to hear it

as one of the most spooky things ever said.

Talk about feeling haunted by what we’ve done

what we’ve assumed

what we’ve judged to be right!

How could Pilate know the prophecy?

No way he did.

He just says it,

and he nails them all right between their eyes.

 

Here is the one we are waiting for:

here is God come after all to deliver us and rule

bringing the blessings of peace.

These four simple words, here is the man,

say this is God:

The true God is not distant,

not an idea or concept to accept in our minds,

not impersonal like Hawking said,

not a philosophy exercise,

but a person, God come in the flesh,

this is what God does,

meets us in suffering,

meets us in our deaths,

he is here,

and he has gone ahead and done something about it, he is our deliverance.

 

Here is the man:

his life is the light that shines in our darkness.

He carries all our failures, regrets, limitations, brokenness, selfishness, sin.

This is what true life looks like

because we can only live a true life

by the grace and presence of Jesus, God with us.

 

Faith then is not just thinking about God

and trying to accept some knowledge about God

in order to live life and preserve it

the way we want it to be.

Faith demands we bow before him:

love what he loves,

let his Spirit’s counsel change us.

Will we follow him like this?

Accept his suffering for us?

Accept his death and meet him in our deaths?

So that we rise in him

in order to freely share with others in their deaths?

 

The crowd will have none of it:

in anger and judgment they cry, crucify him.

And this true man will die for the sin of the world.

 

That’s not just an idea either,

not just a story,

not a theory up for discussion.

Jesus will die for you and me.

For the joy set before him he endured the cross,

says the book of Hebrews.

That’s real too.

Faith is personal,

it is in the person and work of Christ.

It is relating to this man who is the man,

the true human who is the divine way.

Faith wants to change,

wants the Spirit of God to change our spirits.

Because Jesus shared our humanity as the true one, when we accept his gracious acceptance of us

we are open to transformation:

to be changed for the better,

to not only be blessed,

but to be a blessing to the nations,

to all those God has placed around us.

It is not just that the Lord sympathizes with us,

or does what we can't do,

more than that,

as he shares in our humanity we share in his victory, his life is the light, he changes us.

 

Here is a life that really impacts the world for good.

Did Jesus live the life that mattered?

A life of great impact for good?

But he suffered,

he died young,

he lived without,

he didn’t fulfill his wants and needs,

others came first,

he didn’t justify himself,

he bore another’s curse.

How can that give meaning or impact?

Greater love has no one than this,

that he lay down his life for his friend,

for another.

 

You want to live a worthwhile life?

A life that impacts those on your heart for good?

You wonder how this church makes any impact?

Love, care, forgive, forbear,

clothe yourself with compassion,

serve instead of being served . . .

Impact?

The world scorns,

but Christ builds and loves his church,

he says gathered as church we are

the hope of the world.

You want to make a difference with your life?

Here is the man,

here is the true human,

here is the one who made a difference:

then love God, love your neighbor

even the neighbor who is different from you,

and love Christ’s church.

 

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