As usual the passage can be read here.
On February 26th Lance Corporal Josh Leakey of the Parachute Regiment was awarded the Victoria Cross. The medal is the highest award made by the Armed Forces of the Commonwealth; it is only presented after exceptional courage in the face of the enemy and is often awarded posthumously. He became one of only ten living VC holders. Lance Corporal Leakey’s medal was presented by the Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Nicholas Carter, who saluted, shook his hand and in a break with tradition, gave him a hug.
Many of us find accounts of courage like that of Lance Corporal Leakey inspiring. His citation states that he was; ‘undeterred by the very clear and present danger’, he risked his own life so that others could be saved. In our passages this week, we will read of Jesus’ final hours. He knew; the suffering that lay ahead, that the charges against him were false, and that those who would judge him were in no position to judge anyone. It wasn’t as if he was powerless, he had options; he could have caused a sudden dramatic change in the weather with a command, silenced the angry mob with a few well-chosen words, appeared in his glory before them, or just walked right through those who wanted him dead. He had done all of these things before. There are other things too; he could have called a legion of angels, or simply judged the world there and then. But he didn’t,
“The Sovereign Lord has opened my ears;
I have not been rebellious,
I have not turned away.
I offered my back to those who beat me,
my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard;
I did not hide my face
from mocking and spitting.
Because the Sovereign Lord helps me,
I will not be disgraced.
Therefore have I set my face like flint,
and I know I will not be put to shame.” (Isaiah 50:5-7)
Chapter 22 closes with Jesus’ final Jewish hearing. He had appeared before Annas (John 18:12-13, 19-24), and before Caiaphas, the high priest and the teachers of the law (Matthew 26:57). Now after sunrise he stood before the Sanhedrin. He had already been abused and beaten (22:63-65). He was asked two questions; are you the Christ (Messiah)? And are you the son of God?
There were many areas where the law was broken during Jesus’ trial, the verdict had already been decided and the questions asked and answered (Matthew 26:59-66). Perhaps this explains the first part of Jesus answer; “If I tell you, you will not believe me, and if I asked you, you would not answer” and to some extent, his answer to the second question. He went on to say; “But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.” Note, it is ‘from now on’, Jesus is about to assume his rightful position at the right hand of the Father and this is not some distant dream, it was from now on. It was a warning, Jesus was the judge and they would one day stand before him.
With the appearance before Pilate, the trial moves from being religious and Jewish, to a Roman criminal trial. The charges are different as well; it’s no longer about whether Jesus is the son of God or the Messiah. Now he is accused of subverting the nation, opposing the payment of taxes and claiming to be king and the reason for the change? The religious leaders wanted Jesus executed but did not have the authority so they needed Pilate, the Roman Governor, to sentence Jesus to death. Jesus is honest, he freely admits that he is the King but his kingdom is not of this world (John 18:33-36). Pilate stated something in verse four that he would repeat again and again; “I find no basis for a charge against this man.”
It must have been quite a sight, Pilate with the backing of a sizable garrison of soldiers, the high priest and all of the leaders of the Jewish people and then there was Jesus, the accused. His face must have borne the evidence of having been blindfolded while grown men, who hated him, took turns to punch him. He had been spat upon. His friends had abandoned him. He must have looked like the victim. Yet it was Jesus who was in control. He knew all of the facts. He had made his choice and it is here, that we see true courage under fire. Never has bravery been seen so clearly or valour so vividly displayed.
“You chose the cross with every breath
The perfect life, the perfect death:
You chose the cross.
A crown of thorns You wore for us,
And crowned us with eternal life:
You chose the cross.
And though Your soul was overwhelmed with pain,
Obedient to death You overcame.” (Martyn Layzell)