October 18, 2013
Dear brothers and sisters,
I am taking the good news today from Luke 23:1-7.
Then the whole assembly of them arose and brought him before Pilate. They brought charges against him, saying, “We found this man misleading our people; he opposes the payment of taxes to Caesar and maintains that he is the Messiah, a king.” Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” He said to him in reply, “You say so.” Pilate then addressed the chief priests and the crowds, “I find this man not guilty.” But they were adamant and said, “He is inciting the people with his teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to here.” On hearing this Pilate asked if the man was a Galilean; and upon learning that he was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod who was in Jerusalem at that time.
These were patent lies, of course. Not only that, the members of the Sanhedrin didn’t even mention to Pilate the real reason for their outrage — blasphemy that Jesus somehow in their eyes claimed to be the Son of God. That would have been of no interest to Pilate, that was a strictly Jewish matter, not political. So, they made up these lies with which to charge Jesus.
Richard Rohr has remarked that there were and are two classes of people who face the greatest challenge to entering the kingdom of God: the rich and the religious. Here we have both showing why. Barclay writes, “The charge they leveled against Jesus was entirely political, and it has all the marks of the minds and ingenuity of the Sadducees. It was really the aristocratic, collaborationist Sadducees who achieved the crucifixion of Jesus, in their terror lest he should prove a disturbing element and produce a situation in which they would lose their wealth, their comfort and their power.”
The rich and the powerful almost always collaborate. They have the most to lose and so join forces to maintain their positions and their property. That is why Jesus came to minister to the poor — to offer hope, to heal, and above all to show them God’s love. They were open to conversion because they had nothing to lose and everything to gain. That’s why Jesus wants me to be poor in spirit. Henri Nouwen has a lovely way of describing this in his book Aging, “Poverty is the quality of the heart which makes us relate to life, not as property to be defended but as a gift to be shared. Poverty is the constant willingness to say good-by to yesterday and move forward to new, unknown experiences. Poverty is the inner understanding that the hours, days, weeks, and years do not belong to us but are the gentle reminders of our call to give, not only love and work, but life itself, to those who follow us and will take our place. He or she who cares is invited to be poor, to strip himself or herself from the illusions of ownership and to create some room for the person looking for a place to rest.”
Jesus looks for a place to rest; he looks for a heart at peace. It is when I am at peace that I am most able to commune with him. Sadly, I can look back at the times I have strived to protect my power and my property and remember the lies I have told, the false charges I have leveled. At those times there is no room in me for Jesus to find rest; I have locked him out of my heart. In so doing I have denied that he is the Son of God just as the members of the Sanhedrin did out of fear of losing what they valued instead of out of fear of losing their souls. But they were adamant and at times I have been as well, pressing my case to successful conclusion. Those memories bring shame as they should so that I may be more likely to remain poor in spirit.