hard to define or describe, but we know it when we see it.
the account of jesus before pilate in john 18-19 is full of irony. in yesterday’s talk, we identified 7 points of irony as we celebrated palm sunday and observed passion sunday.
points of irony:
1. JOHN 18:28-31
the religious leaders don’t want to become defiled, so that they can celebrate the passover – and yet they are defiling themselves by wanting to kill the passover lamb of God. and more ironically, the death they seek will cause God to pass over the sins of millions of people around the world for the rest of time, because jesus will take on those sins on the cross.
2. JOHN 18:32-38
pontius pilate, the roman official in charge of judea and jerusalem, takes the role of judge in considering the case of jesus, the defendant. he asks him if he is a king. ironically, jesus IS a king. he is THE king, and pilate – while appearing to be the judge, is actually the one who must answer to jesus. additionally, pilate asks jesus, “what is truth?” while looking truth in the face. jesus once said, in john 14, “i am the way, and the TRUTH, and the life…”
3. JOHN 18:38-40
pilate doesn’t think jesus is guilty of anything, so he offers the leaders and the crowd a choice. a no-brainer choice at that. at least he thinks so. he offers to release a prisoner: either jesus or barrabas. barabbas was a notorious criminal who did not need to be walking the streets, and jesus was no threat. and yet they cry for the release of barabbas and the crucifixion of jesus.
but here’s the real irony: according to ancient greek texts of the bible, the full name of the criminal was jesus barabbas. and the word barabbas is actually a combination of two words: bar (son of) + abba (god). so the choice offered by pilate is a choice between jesus, son of the father – or – jesus the one who claims to be messiah (who of course, is the true and only son of god). an ironic choice. and one they all got wrong.
4. JOHN 19:1-8
the soldiers treat jesus poorly. they put a purple robe on him, the robe of a king. they put a crown on him. they greet him with ‘hail!’ which was the greeting one gave to king caesar. they were mocking him as an artificial king when in reality he was the king, and the one who would one day judge them all.
the thorns for jesus’ crown were made from dried date palm fronds. only days earlier, fresh date palm fronds had been spread out before jesus as he entered jerusalem being hailed as king. ironic.
5. JOHN 19:9-11
pilate is now afraid and confused, yet he tries to appear calm as he remind jesus that he has the power of life or death. truthfully, pilate has only the power that has been given to him ‘from above.’ for pilate, that means from caesar. but for jesus, it means from god. pilate is only acting out what god had designed in advance, before the creation of the world.
6. MATTHEW 27:24
pilate wants to remove himself from all responsibility, so he calls for a bowl of water and washes his hands of the guilt of this matter. ironically, he still stands guilty of the death of jesus – along with judas, peter, the religious leaders and the crowds.all are guilty, and no amount of handwashing can change that.
but even more ironically – the only way to truly be forgiven of guilt is not to wash one’s hands of the blood of jesus, but rather to be covered by it.
then one of the twenty-four elders asked me, ‘who are these who are clothed in white? where did they come from?
and i said to him, ‘sir, you are the one who knows.’
the he said to me, ‘these are the ones who died in the great tribulation. they have washed their robes in the blood of the lamb and made them white.’ (revelation 7.13-14)
7. ROMANS 5:6-11
every year at this time, we christians revisit the story of the death of jesus. we grieve his betrayal, his denial, his execution. we revile his enemies. we wish each year for a different outcome. as jesus’ friends, we are appalled by his enemies.
but romans 5 reminds us that because of sin, we are all enemies of God.
and only by the same blood of christ, are we made clean and forgiven.