John 18:13-14, 19-24; Luke 22:63-65 (spring AD 30, Friday of Passion Week)
When you get enough people of the same, strong opinion together, there is a danger that opposing views are not deemed worthy to be engaged with or rebutted. Rather, the carriers of those views become the ‘other’, the ‘enemy’, which must be belittled, abused, and ultimately destroyed. We see it on Twitter, in classrooms, in workplaces, in clubs and societies, and Jesus experienced it while being questioned by the High Priest.
In these scenarios, when someone is regarded as ‘the enemy’, committing immoral acts against that person are rationalised and justified – even when your primary complaint against them is that they’re immoral. Or as one US politician roughly expressed it a few months ago, ‘I may not have my facts all correct, but I’m morally right’ in their verbal attacks against an opponent.
Jesus didn’t always try to debate his accusers, in part because he knew they weren’t curious for the truth. They were certain in their own minds that Jesus was doing the work of the Devil, even if that just translated as ‘he hurts my influence’, or ‘people love him and they don’t love me’. Jesus contented himself with pointing them to everything he’d said before (v.20) and exposing their injustice and hypocrisy (v.23).
Jesus knew at this point, that the chain of final events had been set in motion that would end in his torturous death. It was probably less than twelve hours since he pleaded with his Father to find a different way to redeem his people. The temptation for Jesus to use his divine powers to escape the situation would have been very real, during this fatuous line of questioning and physical abuse. And yet Jesus – after a lifetime of going into his Father’s presence in prayer – submitted himself to what was happening to him.
It’s worth asking ourselves at this point who we most resemble:
Are we – like the high priest – putting ourselves above Jesus, demanding that he justify himself, his existence, his ideas and his instructions on our terms?
Are we – like the officials – trying to impress those around us with how much, and how enthusiastically, we agree with them, even when it comes at a cost to our relationship with God?
Are we – like the guards – tempted to insult, belittle or abuse people because it’s great to be part of a crowd rather than the victim of one?
Do we – like Jesus – refuse to rise to provocation, decline to apologise for what we believe, and gently speak the truth to those who don’t want to hear it?