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There has been a tendency in the Christian telling of the Passion story to exonerate Pilate, or at least to make him an unwilling pawn of the Jewish leaders and crowds. Pilate, it is claimed, was a truth-seeking man who was caught between a rock and a hard place. Were it not for the pressure he received from the Sanhedrin and their supporters, he wouldn’t have crucified Jesus. This view of the noble Pilate seems at first to fit the facts of the New Testament Gospels. But, upon closer scrutiny, it falls short in a number of crucial ways.
Why did Peter deny Jesus? After all, he had been one of the first to follow Jesus, leaving so much behind to walk the uncertain road of discipleship. Peter had seen mighty wonders as his Master healed the sick, cast out demons, and even raised the dead. Peter had witnessed the miracle of the transfiguration. And he had even walked on water for a few brief moments. So why did Peter, of all people, deny Jesus?
Have you ever wondered why Jesus wasn’t clearer about who he was and what he had come to do? I certainly have. It seems like it would have been so much easier for all, including those of us who seek to follow Jesus today, if he had only said, “Yes, I am the Messiah, but not in the sense you expect. I have been anointed by God to bring the kingdom, but not in a military-political way. The kingdom is coming through transformed hearts, communities, and cultures. Most of all, the kingdom is coming through my death, as I bear the sin of Israel, and, indeed, the sin of the world. As Messiah, I must also suffer in the role of Isaiah’s Servant.” Yet Jesus didn’t say this directly. It’s something we have to piece together from his words and deeds.
Betrayal. I expect many of us have experienced it, and often in the course of our work. Betrayal happens when someone we have trusted turns on us, rejecting us, perhaps even injuring us. It’s not uncommon for people who work in highly competitive companies or industries to experience betrayal several times throughout their career. In praying with people who have been deeply hurt by others. I’ve felt betrayed a few times. And, if truth be told, I expect some former colleagues might have felt betrayed by me, no matter what I had intended.
The second of the biblical Stations of the Cross draws our attention to the betrayal of Jesus by Judas.
Today, as we prepare for Holy Week and Easter, I’m beginning a 14-part series of devotions based on the biblical Stations of the Cross. You may be familiar with the traditional Stations of the Cross, which are common in Catholic churches and retreat centers. But you may not know that in 1991, Pope John Paul II published another set of stations, each of these based on biblical passages related to the Passion of Jesus. These biblical stations take us through the last day of Jesus’s life, allowing us to contemplate what he experienced and why it matters so much.
As Christian leaders, there is nothing more important than our ability to hear God. Instructions from God inform our journey as we lead others to a place of divine purpose. Without God’s direction, we are left to our own devices, which often prove futile. God’s voice brings direction, strategy, wisdom, correction, and even comfort. Hearing from God is important, yet how we hear him is critical.
In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion, we noted that, after the first Christmas was over, both Mary and the shepherds went back to work. Mary was devoted to the care of her infant while the shepherds gave themselves to the care of their sheep.
Is there a way to take Christmas back to work with us? I’m not thinking about playing Christmas music in January or greeting people with “Merry Christmas” throughout the year. Rather, I’m wondering how the reality of Christmas might transform our experience of our work.
One of the most familiar and beloved of Christmas messages is “Peace on Earth.” You see this on Christmas cards, billboards, store windows, and church bulletins. Even people who don’t believe the basic story of Christmas can embrace “Peace on Earth.” It sounds wonderful, especially in a time of so much conflict in our world.
When we read about the shepherds in Luke 2, it would be tempting to project onto the story our own experience of Nativity scene shepherds. In reality, though, shepherding was hard, gritty work.
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