40 Days to the Cross: Reflections from Great Thinkers (Week Six: Monday)

Monday

Confession: Psalm 119:169–76

Let my cry come before you, O Yahweh;

give me understanding according to your word.

Let my plea come before you;

Deliver me according to your word.

Let my lips pour out praise,

because you teach me your statutes.

Let my tongue sing of your word,

because all your commands are right.

Let your hand be my help,

because I have chosen your precepts.

I long for your salvation, O Yahweh,

and your law is my delight.

Let my soul live that it may praise you,

and let your ordinances help me.

I have wandered like a lost sheep; seek your servant,

because I do not forget your commands.

Reading: Mark 15:6–20

Now at each feast he customarily released for them one prisoner whom they requested. And the one named Barabbas was imprisoned with the rebels who had committed murder in the rebellion. And the crowd came up and began to ask him to do as he customarily did for them. So Pilate answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release for you the king of the Jews?” (For he realized that the chief priests had handed him over because of envy.) But the chief priests incited the crowd so that he would release for them Barabbas instead. So Pilate answered and said to them again, “Then what do you want me to do with the one whom you call the king of the Jews?” And they shouted again, “Crucify him!” And Pilate said to them, “Why? What evil has he done?” But they shouted even louder, “Crucify him!”

So Pilate, because he wanted to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas. And after he had Jesus flogged, he handed him over so that he could be crucified. So the soldiers led him away into the palace (that is, the governor’s residence) and called together the whole cohort. And they put a purple cloak on him, and after weaving a crown of thorns they placed it on him. And they began to greet him, “Hail, king of the Jews!” And they repeatedly struck him on the head with a reed, and were spitting on him, and they knelt down and did obeisance to him. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him, and they led him out so that they could crucify him.

Reflection

Socrates, having expressed his idea of a perfect character—a truly virtuous man—ventured to predict the reception such a person (if such a one could ever be found) would meet with from the world. He thought that this man’s practice would be so dissimilar to others, his testimony against their wickedness so strong, and his endeavours to reform them so importunate and unwelcome that—instead of being universally admired—he would be disliked and hated. Humankind was too degenerate and too obstinate to bear either the example or the reproof of such a person, and would most likely revile and persecute him and put him to death as an enemy to their peace.

In this instance, the judgment of Socrates accords with the language of the Old Testament and the history of the New Testament. Messiah was this perfect character. As such Isaiah describes Him. Isaiah likewise foresaw how He would be treated, and foretold that He would be “numbered with transgressors.” He would be despised and rejected by the very people who were eye-witnesses of His upright and benevolent conduct. And thus, in fact, it proved. When Jesus was upon earth, true virtue and goodness were visibly displayed, and thereby the wickedness of humankind became conspicuous. For those He knew “preferred a robber and a murderer to him.” They preserved Barabbas, who had been justly doomed to die for enormous crimes, and in his stead they nailed Jesus to the cross.

—John Newton

The Works of John Newton

Response

Jesus’ perfection and sacrifice affects sinful people in one of two ways: It drives them away or it changes them. How has it changed you?[1]

 

[1] Van Noord, R., & Strong, J. (Eds.). (2014). 40 Days to the Cross: Reflections from Great Thinkers. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

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