Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Enemy of My Enemy

Earlier this week, my Bible study took me into the tail end of the Gospel of Luke and a story we all at least assume we know: Jesus stands in judgment.

Let me take you to the text:

Then the entire assembly stood up and took [Jesus] to Pilate.  They began to accuse Jesus by staying, 'We found that he stirs up trouble among our people: He keeps them from paying taxes to the emperor, and he says that he is Christ, a king.'  Pilate asked him, 'Are you the king of the Jews?'  'Yes, I am,' Jesus answered.  Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowd, 'I can't find this man guilty of any crime.'

The priests and the crowd became more forceful.  They said, 'He stirs up the people throughout Judea with his teachings.  He started in Galilee and has come here.'  When Pilate heard that, he asked if the man was from Galilee.  When Pilate found out that he was, he sent Jesus to Herod.  Herod ruled Galilee and was in Jerusalem at that time.  Herod was very pleased to see Jesus.  For a long time he had wanted to see him.  He had heard about Jesus and hoped to see him perform some kind of miracle.  Herod asked Jesus many questions, but Jesus wouldn't answer him.  Meanwhile, the chief priests and the experts in Moses' Teachings stood there and shouted their accusations against Jesus.

Herod and his soldiers treated Jesus with contempt and made fun of him.  They put a colorful robe on him and sent him back to Pilate.  So Herod and Pilate became friends that day.  They had been enemies before this.  (23:1-12; emphasis mine)

At first read, my initial reaction was yeah, ok.  Herod and Pilate became friends because they both mocked Jesus.  That old adage that the enemy of my enemy is my friend came to mind.  But later in the day as I thought about it more, I wasn't sure.  I'm still not.

Because we have no evidence, at least in this story, that Pilate had any ill-will toward this Jesus.  Herod, we know, had plenty.  But Pilate?  This was a man who desperately tried to not let the Messiah be taken by the will of the people.  This was a man who plead on behalf of justice.  This was a man who wanted to turn this Teacher free.  This was a man who washed his hands of the whole situation.  And in this story, at the end of the first paragraph as quoted, I see this man kind of shrugging his shoulders and saying, "Ok, and....?"

I just picture Pilate as someone lukewarm, who is neither impressed by Jesus nor impressed by the accusations against him.  

Then how do we get from "Herod made a mockery of the Man, so he and the other judge became friends"?

There has to be something we don't know.  There have to be other details somewhere.  Maybe Pilate was a man weary of Jesus and of the Pharisees' constant push to have something done about it.  Maybe in other ways, Pilate was a tough man and Herod's mockery somehow impressed him.  Maybe it's not about Pilate at all; maybe Pilate never had a beef with Herod but suddenly, Herod was deeply appreciative of the chance to take his turn at Christ and now respected the system a little more.  There just has to be something in this dynamic - or perhaps in this interaction - that we don't know about.

Otherwise, I'm still confused.

Now, I say all that to say this: anyone who reads my stuff long enough will discover I love stories of Jesus in judgment.  We learn a lot about our God this way, and it gives us incredible permission to be like He was - snarky and wise-cracking at times, silent at others.  But until this week, until this particular story in whatever you would call this moment's particular circumstance (nothing that seems different than any other day), I hadn't really thought much about the stories happening around Jesus.

Today, I'm curious.  This story isn't about Jesus.  It is, but it isn't.  He's there, but He's not central.  The relationship of judges is central.  Yet even though He said not a word and didn't lift a finger, somehow the way this whole procedure centered around this man Christ still managed to make friends of enemies.  For whatever undisclosed reason.  And it's big enough, important enough, groundbreaking enough that Luke breaks away from the story that begins the ritual of sacrifice to tell us about two totally other guys - Pilate and Herod.

It makes me wonder what other things are happening around Jesus that maybe we're not noticing or when it's clear to us that there has to be something we don't know.  Things that are going on even though He doesn't seem to be lifting a finger, doesn't say a word.  Things that are happening because this whole mess is swirling around Him and even if we're not dragging Him into it (oh wait - they did), somehow good is still happening.

It makes me wonder about all of those times we as believers - myself included - fail to consider a moment holy, fail to consider this our chance, fail to see that what's happening is consequential...even if it doesn't look like it.  It makes me think about the times and the places to which Jesus has just brought me.

It makes me wonder which of our moments that we didn't consider holy might some day end up big enough, important enough, groundbreaking enough to include in His story.

It makes me wonder if this moment is that one.  And if I'm wasting it.

No comments:

Post a Comment