Posts Tagged ‘Nazarene’

Pilate washes handsWhether it was sending Jesus cross town to Herod (since Jesus was a Nazarene and in Herod’s district) or offering the crowd an opportunity to voice vote and release Jesus or just washing his hands of the entire event or sending a guard to seal the tomb of Jesus’s internment, Pilate did everything he could to avoid responsibility for Jesus’s death. Whatever happened, whatever Pilate had heard or feared, he did not want the buck to stop anywhere close to him. He was the consummate politician.

When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!” [Matthew 17:24, NIV]

not my faultProtecting ourselves from blame is a very common and contemporary habit. So often, people want to lay the cause for their troubles elsewhere, whether it’s their parents, their environment, or their limitations. If only, they think, if only things would have been different, I could have succeeded.

I heard someone say, just yesterday, “every time I try to do the right thing, it goes wrong for me.” As though the very act of doing “right” brings about doom and gloom. For them, living life is one streak of bad luck after another.

hard roadBut this is not the way of God. There are some paths that must be walked whether they are difficult or not. Jesus could have avoided crucifixion if he really wanted to; he had the power to escape. But for the sake of humanity and the fulfillment of prophecy, this was the way he had to go. Even his disciples dried to stop him and Jesus rebuked them.

God does not promise an easy road, merely that we will not have to walk it alone.

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If we just call it a “sect” or a “faction” or even a “cult,” we can marginalize everyone within that group. These labels already carry negative connotations without anyone needing to know any actual beliefs or doctrines. It’s a technique for categorizing the world and justifying our actions.

Acts 24:5-6
We [Sanhedrin] have found this man [Paul] to be a troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the Nazarene sect and even tried to desecrate the temple; so we seized him.
[Tertullus, the lawyer, speaking against Paul to Felix, the Governor, in Caesarea]

I have always been intrigued by labels. It’s something that humans do automatically. It’s how we “understand” what we are seeing or hearing. We look at an object and our brain identifies it as a chair or an animal or a tree. And then there are the sub-categories like particular designs of chairs or specific animals or breeds or types of trees. We do this with people too. They are categorized by how they look by skin color, body part shapes, hair color or texture, size, etc. People are also sorted by their sex, clothing, their neighborhood, their country, their language, and their incomes. And of course, they are classified by their associations, whether religious or secular.

But how do we understand or embrace something or someone new? How do we recognize it? If that thing or person does not fit into any of the normal designations, then what is it? Who is it?

I always thought the ancient prophets, whose writings and prophecies are peppered throughout the scriptures, were beleaguered with this categorization problem. They were seeing visions of a future they could not know. How would a primitive person describe an airplane, a rocket, or a space ship? How would they describe an atomic explosion? Are we any better at explaining or understanding miracles?

We use our limited understanding, our own frames of reference. We shove the unfamiliar into the closest or most familiar box. If there is no shape we recognize, we give it shape. We name it.

Jesus was outside the box. He was doing and saying things that made no sense to most of the people he encountered. Paul wasn’t much better.

Christianity of today evolved its own norms. It has taken the recorded words of Jesus and scrutinized, categorized, dissected and analyzed them to the extreme. And yet, when folks start pulling at the edges of Christianity, there is no less resistance than there was in Jesus’s day. We are still afraid of being deluded, of believing a lie, of breaking the law.

But God does not need us to “protect” the truth. God knows the heart.

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