Summary: This is the fourth in a series on the most important day in the most important life ever lived; we walk with Jesus to Calvary!
¡§The Most Important Day In the Most Important Life Ever Lived!¡¨
¡§His Blood Be on Us¡¨
March 3, 2002
It¡¦ll be in one of my next columns for the Tri-County News; I¡¦m calling it ¡§cheap patriotism¡¨. I think that we see a lot of it today, in the wake of 9/11. Now don¡¦t get me wrong: I bought a little American flag bumper sticker myself and put it on the back of my car. On my recent trip down South, to the glorious land of sweetened iced tea, grits, and Conway Twitty, I saw many, many examples of patriotism; American flags of every size were plastered all over the landscape. I even saw one that enraged me: an American flag tacked onto a billboard for an adult bookstore. I honestly thought about turning the car around and going over and ripping the flag off, but I guess that perverts can be patriotic too if they want to.
But you know what? Frankly, it¡¦s pretty easy to put a flag on your antenna or sing ¡§God Bless America¡¨. It doesn¡¦t take much effort to give a hearty ¡§Amen¡¨ to a speech by the President in which he promises to go after the bad guys. All of these are fine things to do, no doubt, but if these things alone constitute our idea of patriotism, then we have settled for a cheap patriotism. My suggestion, if you want to be a patriot, is to educate yourself on what it means to live as an American. Take the time to read through the Constitution, or at least the Bill of Rights. Find out what the American concept of ¡§limited government¡¨¡Xa concept we have almost completely forgotten about today¡Xactually means. Write or email your congressman about an issue that really matters¡Xand there is no shortage of those!
There is a woeful lack of understanding when it comes to our government, and no amount of ¡§cheap patriotism¡¨ can make up for it. Ever heard it said that the U.S. is a democracy? Thankfully, we are not! We are a democratic republic instead, and there¡¦s an important difference between the two. We are not governed merely by the democratic choice of people, but rather by a system of laws that, at least in theory, moderates the choices that people are allowed to make. You see, unrestrained democracy is not generally a good thing; let¡¦s look at democracy¡Xabsent principle¡Xin action as we read today¡¦s text. Stand with me, please!
It was democracy in action, but it was an ugly scene. An angry mob, several thousand strong, crowding the judgment hall to demand the death of Jesus of Nazareth, the itinerant preacher whom so many of them had hailed only days earlier. Those cheers, however, had lately been replaced by jeers and curses as the crowd, following the prompting of the religious leaders, the blind following the blind, whipped itself into a frenzy. The voices of the many united as the voice of one, screaming for blood and demanding satisfaction.
As we said last week, Pontius Pilate, a man jealous to guard his power, found himself with a dilemma. On the one hand, so crystal was the character of Jesus that the crude and corrupt Pilate could only marvel. Jesus¡¦ innocence was obvious to Pilate. On the other hand, Jewish leaders had wanted Him killed. Pilate, in his role as Roman procurator, had made several previous ruthless and insensitive moves; his reign was on shaky ground. To do anything which might foment rebellion might spell his downfall.
And so he had put it to the crowd. The Jewish people had been looking for a Messiah; Pilate was convinced that, if indeed this Jesus were the One they were looking for, He certainly posed no threat to Rome¡¦s power. Some Jews had ascribed that title to Jesus; the people were certainly aware of Jesus¡¦ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The Jewish leaders were envious of Jesus¡XJesus had dared to confront them, to call their hand on their hypocrisy, but the people, Pilate reasoned, wouldn¡¦t feel this way, and so he placed Jesus¡¦ fate in their hands, expecting exoneration.
In the middle of his deliberation, the Bible says he received a message from his wife. I¡¦m sure when he got the note, he must have thought, ¡§oh, she wants me to grab a gallon of milk and some Huggies on the way home¡¨, but instead, the message read that she¡¦d had a dream about this Jesus, and that he¡¦d better not mess with Him. While Pilate was receiving this message, the religion boys went to work. Soon, they were able to coax this crowd of curious onlookers into a state of near-hysteria. Sociologists speak of a ¡§mob mentality¡¨, of how people will act in ways when they are in large groups that they might only dream of when alone. Truck drivers drive through L.A. by the multiplied thousands every day, but Reginald Denny made the mistake of driving there the day the Rodney King beating verdicts were announced. It nearly cost him his life as a savage mob pulled him from a truck and beat him mercilessly, spurred on by the mob mentality. This is certainly what was going on in our text today. When Pilate returned, he was surprised to learn