Easter is just around the corner. In these weeks before Easter, will you join me in looking at the Cross. The Cross is not a pleasant place to be, but there were people there that I would like to examine, and ask, “why were you at the cross? As I look at the scene where Jesus died, I observe a group of people that I fit into four categories. As we look in on this scene perhaps you can see yourself.
The first group I see as I look, are the politicians. They are a strange group to be a part of the gruesome activity of that day, but they were there. I notice three politicians. The first is Herod. He is a king, appointed by Rome, to oversee the area of Galilee and Judea. He is the man Jesus called “a fox”. The second politicians that I see is Pilate. I call him Pilate, the pragmatist. He was also Rome’s man to oversee Judea, mostly Jerusalem. Pilate will do whatever is necessary to keep his job. The third politician is Annas. He is a Jew. Why do I place him as a politician? He is a Jewish high priest, and he is fearful that this Jesus will upset his position as High Priest.

Who is Herod, the man Jesus calls “a fox”? He is a part of a dynasty of “Herods”, who are put in place by Rome, to oversee all of Palestine and the surrounding area. He and Jesus meet briefly. Herod is more curious than threatened. He hoped to watch as Jesus performed some magical tricks that he heard about. It is interesting that when Jesus appeared before this monarch, he did not say a word. Herod dismisses Him as a hoax and a showman. The reason Jesus calls him “a fox’ is because Herod was known for his cunning and deceitful ways. Merrill Unger says of Herod, “His administration was characterized throughout with cunning and crime. He was intensely selfish and utterly without principle”. When Herod and Jesus briefly met, Herod was interested in a display of power, and was not seeking for any truth.

The second politicians I observe at the cross is Pilate. Little is known of him. He was appointed by Rome as a Governor. It is interesting to watch this man respond to the forces that are around him. It seems that Pilate initially has a sense of justice. On his first interview with Jesus, he returns to the mob and says, “I find no fault in this man”. It is then that he realizes that the crowd that has brought Jesus to him, is not interested in justice, but want this man dead. The Jewish people cry to Pilate, “this man wants to be king, but we have no king but Caesar”. I see three forces at work here. First, there is his own sense of justice. Then, he feels the anger of the mob he faces. Then, there is the threat to his position. He is Rome’s man, so who will he support? What does the pragmatist do in this situation? He will go for peace, whatever the cost! So he washed his hands to proclaim his innocence and turns Jesus over to the mob and his executioners. I believe he knew better, but he did not have the courage to carry out his principles. For the pragmatist, life is not based on principles but convenience.

This brings us to the third politician, Annas. He is the Jewish High Priest. Actually, he shares this position with his son-in-law, Caiaphas. Annas was a powerful, wealthy unprincipled Jew. He had bought his position from Rome, to represent Jewish tradition to Rome. As high priest, he was extremely wealthy, but had gained this wealth from his own people. He had a monopoly on all the business transaction that took place in the temple; the money changer, the animal stall for worship and the temple tax. That is why he was so upset [angry] when Jesus made a whip and cleansed the temple of all the commercial endeavors. This was where Annas got his profit. Why does Annas hate Jesus? It can be boiled down to one word, “jealousy”. Annas was out to get Jesus. So, when Judas comes with his offer to betray Jesus, Annas licked his chops and saw his wish coming to fulfillment. If I could point one finger to the man who is responsible for Jesus’ death, it would be this religious leader, Annas. He was a conniving schemer. He had the power even to intimidate Pilate, who represented Rome.

So, what is it I see in all this? When Jesus becomes a threat, when Jesus begins to upset my agenda, when Jesus’ popularity exceeds mine, Jesus must go. Can we see it in the public square of our nation today? Can we see it in our halls of learning? Can we observe it in our culture as a whole? Jesus has been removed except as a religious symbol.

We can see the cunning manipulation of Herod. We can see the convenient pragmatism of Pilate. Worst of all, we can see the scheming manipulation of Annas.
They all left the grisly scene of death that day with their own sense of satisfaction. Herod never gave it a thought-he had other things to do. Pilate soothed his troubled conscience-a man must do what he must do. Annas licked his chops in the assurance that his competition was dead.

None of them were prepared for the third day. Let the foxy, pragmatic, schemers do what they want to do, but God has a plan, and that plan will be accomplished regardless of who stands in the way.

Pilate asked Jesus a question that still thunders through time and still demands an answer; “What then shall I do with Jesus who is called ‘the Christ’”? What did these men do, when the guards came back to Pilate and said, “He’s gone!” We must still struggle with that issue today. What will I do with Jesus?

These politicians disappeared from the scene. History has swallowed them up in its timeless pursuit of truth. Jesus still stands, though the marketplace of our time pursues their answers to the human dilemma.

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