Midweek 6 LSB #’s 439 v.1-4, 437, 439 v.12-15
Text – Luke 23:25
[Pilate] released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection & murder, for whom they asked, but he delivered Jesus over to their will.
The Trial: A Place of God’s Will
We live in a world of trials. Turn on the television & frequently some major trial is underway. O. J. Simpson, Timothy McVeigh, the Unabomber, Kobe Bryant, Scott Peterson, Michael Jackson, Saddam Hussein . . . you can almost chronicle the passage of time by watching the major cases & trials on TV.
More interesting, however, is the way these cases are told. Have you noticed how on television a trial is turned into a drama? It really isn’t about the facts of the case at all. Instead, the reporters are more interested in the strategy of the lawyers, the emotions of the people, the intentions of the witnesses, the biases of the judge.
Impartial observation or a clear statement of the facts is not common in court reporting today. Instead, we find families of the victim sobbing out their story. This keeps us watching. It provides a sense of drama, but it does not advance our understanding of the case. Drama brings ratings, so we are directed from facts to feelings.
Justice no longer sits blindfolded & impartial. Now she holds a TV camera in one hand & a list of ratings in the other. Since this is the way we tend to view trials today, we can expect that Luke’s account of the trial of Jesus would strike us as radically different.
Luke begins by saying that he carefully investigated everything from the beginning. He tells us he desired to write “an orderly account.” (1:3) We expect Luke to present the trial of Jesus in a less dramatic, more reasoned fashion. After all, he didn’t have a TV camera, was not concerned about ratings, & courtroom drama had not become his hearer’s standard fare.
Surprisingly, however, Luke’s account doesn’t sound all that different. As He records the trial of Jesus, he spends a great deal of time telling us about the people, the emotions & the behind-the-scenes plotting that surrounds the case. Luke tells us about the relationship between the judges, Herod & Pilate. Enemies before, they become friends on this day.
Luke tells us what Herod wanted, what Pilate wanted, & all the while, Luke never lets us forget about the anger of the chief priests & the teachers of the law. Today, it happens so people keep watching the show. For Luke, I think there’s another reason.
Have you ever gone to look out a window & suddenly seen a reflection of yourself? You go to the kitchen window to check on the kids in the backyard, but for a moment all you notice is your own reflection. It’s a work of the light. You see yourself, anxious, well-dressed, ready for a dinner meeting with a client, yet you realize you’re not being the parent you wanted to be.
This is the 3rd evening in a row you’re going out. There hasn’t been a night at home with the children all week. As the babysitter arrives, you’re looking out the window to make sure they’re all right & you realize they are. They are okay, kicking a soccer ball around the yard, oblivious to what’s going on inside. You, however, are the one who is not all right.
Looking out the window to check up on your children, you find yourself looking within instead, checking up on yourself. In a way, Luke’s record of the trial works like that window. He causes us to see ourselves by a work of the light. You read this trial expecting to look into the facts about Jesus &, instead, Luke teaches you the facts of a fallen world.
You read this trial expecting to establish the truth of Christ’s claims, & instead, Luke asks you to confess the truth about yourself. Luke knows the trial is not about establishing Jesus’ innocence. That’s firmly recognized. Pilate himself finds no reason to crucify the man. The matter in question is “Why is an innocent man condemned to die?” To this, Luke gives an answer in the last sentence of this section: Pilate “delivered Jesus over to their will.” (23:25) “Their will.” That is the fact, the glimpse of the fallen world, that Luke gives to us. It is the will of a fallen world that its God should die. Luke invites us to look within the human heart this evening & confess the facts of a fallen world. It affected Jesus then, & it still affects Him now.
Haven’t you found yourself willing one thing in the church but doing another in the world? Have you ever wanted to tell of God’s love to your neighbor but then talked about the weather instead? Although Jesus has rescued us from the sin that lives in us by nature, there are times we find ourselves acting like we are still part of the fallen world.
Jesus says, “the spirit is willing but the body is weak.” Luke’s account of the trial helps us to call sin sin. It shows us where such willfulness leads, & gently encourages us to confess our plight. It’s easy here to will the peace of God for all people; it’s much harder to act on that when you have not been promoted because of the color of your skin.
It’s easy in church to want to help the poor, but it’s hard to do that when you see an advertisement for that new flat-screen TV . . . &, you do work hard for the money you earn. The more & more we go through this changing will, the easier it becomes to simply come into church saying one thing while going out into the world & doing another. That, my friends, is sin.
But this trial is not the end of the story. Jesus’ trial is about more than the changing will of human beings. It is also about the eternal will of God. This evening, Yahweh enters a place filled with the battle of human will & transforms it to be a place of His eternal will.
At the very beginning, Luke tells us what happened to Jesus at the hands of the men who were holding Him. They blindfolded & beat Him, then cried out to Him “Prophesy!” They mocked Jesus as a false prophet, yet their actions fulfilled the very prophecy of God. Jesus had predicted His Passion. He’d even predicted this mocking. The death of Jesus is part of God’s eternal will. God so desires to save all people that He sends His own Son to suffer in their place. This is the will of God: a love stronger than death; a word more powerful than sin; the death of Jesus that brings forgiveness to all people, even here tonight. Each time we gather, Jesus comes & forgives us our sins & then sends us out, forgiven, into the world.
Our world is full of trials. There are TV shows like Law & Order, or trials of real people in real circumstances. The greatest trial, however, is that of our Savior. It goes on all the time. It happened there in Jerusalem, & it happens today. Week after week, people whom God created make judgments against their Creator.
Sometimes, it receives national attention as courtroom dramas debate the rights of Christians to witness to their Savior. Other times, it goes unnoticed – in the office, around the lunch table, during the 1st year of college. People repeatedly subject Jesus to a trial of consideration & deny Him as their Lord.
He was a great teacher, perhaps; a revolutionary; a prophet; a figment of the Church’s imagination – these are their verdict. But God? No. For the world around us, Jesus is not Lord, & He certainly is not the only way of salvation. Luke, however, teaches us to confess Jesus; to confess His death & resurrection as the only way of salvation for all people.
As Luke tells of this historical event, we see the mission of God. Wherever people with a changing will fight against Yahweh, He comes among them, fighting for their salvation. In those courts of Jerusalem, there among the nations, here at St. Matthew Lutheran & around us in Holt, MI are the people for whom God has offered His Son to be our Savior.
They are lost in the grip of an ever-changing will. Their actions might offend you. Their conversation might be rude. You may get tired of trying, or become angry at their words. They hold Jesus up to trial & declare Him to be foolishness, but our heavenly Father continues to seek them in His love. Week after week, even tonight, in this place, He works the wonder of His love. Certain of our Savior, certain of His salvation, as we leave here, we go to a world that waits in need of its God. The thief on the cross next to Jesus, was mocking Christ, right up to the moment he realized that Jesus was his Savior. Later that day he joined Him in paradise.
That happened because it was God’s will to save him. The thief could not have waited much longer. Amen.
Was it for crimes that I had done He groaned up the tree? Amazing pity, grace unknown, & love beyond degree! But drop of grief can never repay the debt of love I owe; here, Lord, I give myself away: ’Tis all that I can do. Amen.
 Matthew 26:41
Pastor Dean R. Poellet