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February 24, 2021

Jesus is Delivered to Pontius Pilate

Preacher: Rev. Jack Meehan Series: Midweek Lent 2021: The Passion According to St. Mark Category: Biblical Scripture: Mark 15:1–5

Midweek Lenten Service

February 24, 2021

Mark 15:1-5

 Jesus is Delivered to Pontius Pilate

“And as soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. And they bound Jesus and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate. And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” And the chief priests accused him of many things. And Pilate again asked him, “Have you no answer to make? See how many charges they bring against you.” But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed” (Mark 15:1-5).

In our midweek Lenten worship services, we are focusing on the Passion Reading that will be read in worship on Palm Sunday, also called the Sunday of the Passion. This lengthy Scripture lesson proclaims the suffering and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. This year, we are following Mark’s Gospel, and so week by week, we will hear a different portion of Mark’s account of the Passion narrative of Jesus’ suffering and death (Mark 15:1-47). All of this will help prepare us for worship on Palm Sunday (March 28) so that we may hear with greater clarity and deeper gratitude all that Jesus has done for us, and so be strengthened in our journey of faith. This evening, we begin with the opening verses as Jesus is delivered to Pontius Pilate (Mark 15:1-5). May the Lord’s rich and abundant blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word for Jesus’ sake.

It is now early morning of the day we call Good Friday. Having been betrayed by one of his own disciples the night before in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was tried and convicted by the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Council, of blasphemy (Mark 14:53-65). Blasphemy was a capital crime in Judaism, and Jesus was sentenced to death. But that charge of blasphemy would not stick with their Roman overlords, and because only Rome could carry out a sentence of execution, the charges against Jesus had to be altered. This is why Pontius Pilate, the fifth Roman prefect, or governor, for the Roman province of Judea (A.D. 26-36), had to be brought into the situation (Pontius Pilate | Biography, Facts, Religion, Jesus, & Death | Britannica). This is the reason for that early morning consultation of the “elders and scribes and the whole Council” (Mark 15:1). The charge of blasphemy with which the ruling Council had condemned Jesus are now changed to something that would stick within the Roman legal system as Pontius Pilate asked Jesus: “Are you the King of the Jews?” (Mark 15:2). Blasphemy has morphed into something much more threatening to Rome: a political rival. If Jesus is the King of the Jews, then that threat would definitely get the attention of the Roman governor. Very convenient, then and now. The truth is compromised for ulterior motives and political expediency seems to rule the day. It is as Emily Dickinson (1830-1886), the nineteenth-century American poet, wrote:

Tell all the truth but tell it slant —

Success in Circuit lies

Too bright for our infirm Delight

The Truth's superb surprise

As Lightning to the Children eased

With explanation kind

The Truth must dazzle gradually

Or every man be blind —

(Tell all the truth but tell it slant — (1263) by… | Poetry Foundation)

And here’s the thing: it worked then and it still works today: “Tell all the truth but tell it slant.” Tell it in such a way that the truth is compromised and coopted to suit whatever pre-determined outcome that we may require. The only answer Jesus will make to Pilate’s question, “Are you the King of the Jews?” (Mark 15:2), is this: “You have said so” (Mark 15:2). Lurking in the background are members of the Sanhedrin, making all kinds of accusations against Jesus while Pilate looks on. But Jesus makes no reply, causing Pilate to be amazed (Mark 15:5). The words of the prophet Isaiah are fulfilled in Jesus: “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7).

Who is really on trial here? On a surface level, it appears that Jesus is on trial before both Sanhedrin and Pilate, but in truth, it is our sin that is on trial, and Jesus bears it all for you and for me, silently enduring the mock trial and injustice of it all. All of our selfish greed and ambition, all of our compromising expediency that ignores and slants the truth in order to benefit ourselves – all of it is on trial in Jesus who stands before Pontius Pilate.

This is what we must confront in this Lenten season: our warping and twisting of God’s own truth that has brought Jesus to Pilate. The hammer of God’s righteous judgment that condemns the evil we have done and the good we have failed to do comes down not on us, but on Jesus. In the mercy of almighty God, “he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). This is the mystery of God’s amazing grace made known in Jesus in whom we have forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.

Join us for Midweek Lenten worship next Wednesday evening when we will hear of Pontius Pilate delivering Jesus to be crucified (Mark 15:6-15). May the Lord who has begun this good work among us bring it to completion in the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:6). Amen.