Betrayed, accused, condemned, denied, mocked, insulted, and beaten. Would this treatment of Jesus prior to his execution have happened today? Let us consider this question as we follow the path to crucifixion as told in the Gospel of Mark.
Jesus was betrayed by a close companion and disciple; Judas (14:43-46). Mark does not tell us why Judas betrayed Jesus, but in John 12:2-8 we learn that while Judas seemed concerned over waste, as treasurers often are, he was really more concerned with padding his own pockets. Jesus did not fit his agenda. So Judas kept to his agenda and sold Jesus to the authorities for a sum of money. Would this have happened to Jesus today? Jesus is betrayed by people, even Christians, who prefer to set and keep their own agenda. Jesus is betrayed today.
Jesus was accused by authorities bent on finding evidence against him (14:55-59). However, there was none that would hold up. Eventually they use Jesus’ own words against him since there was no other evidence to be found. Apart from his own admission of being the Messiah, the authorities could find nothing. Would a conspiracy against Jesus have been made today? Authorities still try to find evidence against Jesus. There have been many books written (and therefore much money made) featuring this or that theory as to who Jesus “really may have been”. However, evidence against the reality of Jesus as Lord and Saviour is still hard to find. In fact the diversity of such theories is evidence in itself that none of these theories fits the evidence well. Often the simplest explanation is the best. The explanation that Jesus is the Messiah who died and rose from the dead fits all the evidence the best. Jesus is often dismissed, not because of the evidence, but because people simply do not want it to be true. There are conspiracies against Jesus today.
Jesus was condemned by the highest religious authority (14:63–65). Here we have a religious leader, the High Priest, who should have been pointing people to Jesus as God’s Messiah, pointing at Jesus and calling him a fraud instead. Would this have happened to Jesus today? Unfortunately, some who call themselves Christian leaders today view the Bible as being unreliable regarding the identity and reality of Jesus. I once took a multi-denomintainal pastoral care course where only two out of the six of us believed that Jesus literally rose from the dead. Christian leaders who should be pointing people to Jesus instead are pointing at him. Jesus is condemned as a fraud by religious authorities today.
Jesus is denied by a close friend, Peter (14:66-72). Peter means well, he does not want to deny Jesus and even affirms his commitment to him. However, he also does not want the danger present in being associated with Jesus. His commitment to Jesus is strong, but his fear is stronger and wins out. Would this have happened to Jesus today? We, who call ourselves Christian, may do the same thing. We mean well, but we don’t want what comes with being associated with Jesus. We honour Christ in his presence, in worship and in our personal times of prayer. But apart from him we go with the crowd. We fear what the crowd may think. We may even remain silent while people around us malign Jesus. Jesus is denied by close friends today.
Jesus is discarded by the people, through Pilate (15:1-15). We normally think of Pilate being the one who “pulls the trigger” in ordering the crucifixion of Jesus, but actually he allows the people to make the decision. They could have chosen to set Jesus free and crucify Barabbas instead. But they want Jesus dead. Would this have happened to Jesus today? We enjoy a secular democracy where the people ultimately decide on the values. I fully support our nation’s identity as a secular democracy. Religious perspective should never be forced and therefore being a Canadian should never mean instant association with being a Christian. That being said, our nation is founded on Judea-Christian values. However, the people have spoken and our society is slowly turning away from those values. Every society is marked by values, there is no such thing as a free nation, a nation free of values. But without God, where do the values come from? Jesus is being discarded by the people today.
Jesus is mocked by the soldiers (15:16-20). When the Roman soldiers mock Jesus, it is not really about him. Yes, he is the one they dress up as a king complete with purple robe and a crown of thorns. But really they are mocking the Jews whose land they occupy. “Your king is a weak wimp! We are great and powerful!” Their mocking is not a result of reasoned thinking about who Jesus is. Their mocking is a boast flaunting their power. Would this have happened to Jesus today? In our individualistic culture people have a sense of individual power. This is not a bad thing. However, Jesus is mocked by people today who have not given proper thought to who Jesus is. Some will utter his name all day long in cursing who have never applied their minds in an investigation of who he really is. They may just be unknowingly flaunting their own sense of power like the Roman soldiers. Jesus is mocked today.
Would Jesus have faced the same dire treatment today before his crucifixion? 2000 years have passed and not much has changed. Jesus is beaten up on a regular basis throughout our world, and right here in the nice town of Cobourg by very polite Canadians. Even the nicest Christians will do a Peter, keeping quiet to feel safe, or a Judas, keeping to their own agenda.
What can we do about that?
It begins with prayer, “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34). Or sometimes, “Father, forgive us, for we don’t know what we do.”
It continues with a loving defence:
So don’t worry or be afraid of their threats. Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way. 1 Peter 3:14-16 (NLT)
When Jesus is maligned and Christianity is dismissed, rather than get defensive, or even worse, offensive, we can be ready to give a defence and enter into a loving and intelligent conversation. It can begin with something like, “Jesus, whom you dismiss is not easily dismissed. Their are good reasons many brilliant people are Christians”. Of course this means knowing those reasons!
It ends with helping people know the Lord:
Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:18-20 (NLT)
When we witness Jesus being beat up today, when we see society drifting away from Christian foundations, when we find ourselves being more like Peter or even Judas than like Christ, we ought not to run and bury our heads in the sand. Let us instead stick close to Jesus, helping people know the love and grace of God. Jesus has promised to be with us no matter how much He gets beaten up along the way.