April 20, 2011

April 20: Whom is it that we persecute today?

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By Brook Hostetter, a sophomore music major from Harrisonburg, Va.
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 27:11-54 (NRSV)
Scroll down for complete Scripture.

DEVOTIONAL:
After reading this passage I decided to take a few days to reflect on this question in my own life. “Whom is it that I persecute?” Persecution in our lives may not seem as obvious or as harsh as it did in the Bible. I’ve found that as humans, we tend to get an idea about someone, and immediately draw conclusions about who they are. It frightens me to think about how quick we are to judge.

In this passage, a crowd of people sentenced Jesus to death. When I close my eyes I can picture this scene. Jesus and Barabbas are standing on a stage and a crowd of people is packed below them. They yell insults at Jesus, creating a huge uproar. The hot sun bakes the crowd, and dust lingers above their heads from disturbance of the dry ground. I wonder about the people in this crowd. I can imagine that many folks in the crowd didn’t actually know Jesus before they decided to mock him. Maybe they heard others’ negative comments about Jesus and decided to join the uproar. “If everyone else hates Jesus, he must be bad, right?” … Wrong.

There is a crowd today, and we’re all standing in it. I encourage us all to look for Jesus. Who is the person being persecuted? Maybe it’s your professor, your boss, your dad or your sister. Is it the non-stop “talker,” the annoying person or the insecure person? What about the person who “parties hard” or is it the “goody-goody”? Whoever that person is, keep an eye out for them, recognize them and remember the crowd that sentenced Jesus to death. Jesus is in each of us, and our job is not to judge, but to love.

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 27:11-54 (NRSV)
11Now Jesus stood before the governor; and the governor asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus said, “You say so.” 12But when he was accused by the chief priests and elders, he did not answer. 13Then Pilate said to him, “Do you not hear how many accusations they make against you?” 14But he gave him no answer, not even to a single charge, so that the governor was greatly amazed. 15Now at the festival the governor was accustomed to release a prisoner for the crowd, anyone whom they wanted. 16At that time they had a notorious prisoner, called Jesus Barabbas. 17So after they had gathered, Pilate said to them, “Whom do you want me to release for you, Jesus Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” 18For he realized that it was out of jealousy that they had handed him over. 19While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, “Have nothing to do with that innocent man, for today I have suffered a great deal because of a dream about him.” 20Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus killed. 21The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” 22Pilate said to them, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” All of them said, “Let him be crucified!” 23Then he asked, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!” 24So when Pilate saw that he could do nothing, but rather that a riot was beginning, he took some water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves.” 25Then the people as a whole answered, “His blood be on us and on our children!” 26So he released Barabbas for them; and after flogging Jesus, he handed him over to be crucified. 27Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the governor’s headquarters, and they gathered the whole cohort around him. 28They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on his head. They put a reed in his right hand and knelt before him and mocked him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30They spat on him, and took the reed and struck him on the head. 31After mocking him, they stripped him of the robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him away to crucify him. 32As they went out, they came upon a man from Cyrene named Simon; they compelled this man to carry his cross. 33And when they came to a place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull), 34they offered him wine to drink, mixed with gall; but when he tasted it, he would not drink it. 35And when they had crucified him, they divided his clothes among themselves by casting lots; 36then they sat down there and kept watch over him. 37Over his head they put the charge against him, which read, “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.” 38Then two bandits were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. 39Those who passed by derided him, shaking their heads 40and saying, “You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” 41In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking him, saying, 42“He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. 43He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he wants to; for he said, “I am God’s Son.’ ” 44The bandits who were crucified with him also taunted him in the same way. 45From noon on, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 46And about three o’clock Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 47When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “This man is calling for Elijah.” 48At once one of them ran and got a sponge, filled it with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink. 49But the others said, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him.” 50Then Jesus cried again with a loud voice and breathed his last. 51At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. 53After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many. 54Now when the centurion and those with him, who were keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were terrified and said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!”

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Comments (12)

  1. “His blood be upon us and our children”
    It is safer and more fundamental to state that Almighty God turns curses, however horrific, into blessings. Can the blood of Christ ever become the medium of a curse? Horrible thought. If the compassionate Christ could forgive his enemies who “know not what they do”, would not he shower his Spirit on those who called upon his blood, whether in ignorance or not? On the Cross Jesus must surely have foreseen the stark details of the Jewish people’s suffering down the corridors of time – the maltreatment by Christians and Muslims, and the inexorable horror of the Holocaust. Was that not reparation enough for a crime committed by the Jewish aristocracy and the local mob? Could an all merciful God have demanded it?
    Punishment is not the last word, it leads to healing, says the Holy Father. The Saviour never demands a “quid pro quo”, tit for tat. Pope Benedict writes, “When in Mathew’s account ‘the whole people’ say: ‘his blood be on us and on our children’, the Christian will remember that Jesus’ blood speaks a different language from the blood of Abel (Hebrews 12, 24): it does not cry out for vengeance and punishment, it brings reconciliation.”
    Mervyn Carapiet

    Mervyn Carapiet April 20, 2011 |
  2. You invite us to pray this text in a very practical way recognizing that Christ was judged by attitudes just like our own and at the same time He is in each of us. Thank you!

    Joan April 20, 2011 |
  3. Brook, a wonderfully powerful devotional today that invites me to pause and reflect in my own life, and in that way enter into this biblical passage. Thank you for inviting me into the Gospel story!

    Bob Yoder April 20, 2011 |
  4. Thank you for this powerful meditation, Brook. I had another devotional prepared for an anti-racism affinity group meeting that I will lead this morning, but shelved it in favor of your thoughts. Blessings, Lynda

    Lynda Hollinger-Janzen April 20, 2011 |
  5. What a great challenge–thanks for the jolt, I can use it!

    Sue April 20, 2011 |
  6. What a challenge you have given me today! Great reminder that we all need to hear and integrate into our lives.

    Grace Parker April 20, 2011 |
  7. Thanks, Brook. What a fitting and timely reminder to refuse to follow the mob and persecute people for who and how God made them. May the voices of GCers rise today, and show the world that they are healing the broken world, peace by piece.

    James Stuckey Weber April 20, 2011 |
  8. Thank you, Brook, for this beautiful reminder of how we are called to think like Jesus did.

    Deb B April 20, 2011 |
  9. Very insightful, Brook. I would encourage everyone to dig deeper and love the most hated in society: liberals. Our neighbors and relatives, they are the easiest to condemn. Jesus said to love even the Pharisees.

    SanWrites April 20, 2011 |
  10. Thank you for a very powerful reminder about judging or
    condemning others I truly needed this wake up call.

    Karen Speight April 20, 2011 |
  11. Thank you Brook. It gave me pause. As a liberal I’ve experienced hate from a conservative brother. At least he’s not a tea partier. That might bring up hatred from me toward him. Crowd mentality is so easy to fall into. Your meditation is very helpful in realizing where that can lead. Yes, we need to see the Jesus in each of us and reach out with love toward everyone.

    marjorie April 20, 2011 |
  12. Brook,thank you for your meditation! Your voice is one much needed in this day and age, and I look forward to hearing it more in the future.

    Jeff Hochstetler April 20, 2011 |