Pastor's Corner: Celebration of an unjust murder
Last updated 4/26/2022 at 8:02pm | View PDF
Christians are against murder. After all, it's prohibited by the law of God (#6 in the Ten Commandments, Exodus 20:13). In fact, even the beginning of murder - hostility and hatred in the heart - is ruled out by the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:22).
And yet there is one murder we celebrate and give thanks for: the judicial murder or unjust execution of Jesus Christ when Pontius Pilate was Procurator of Judea for the Roman Empire.
The moment I say that, of course, I have to hurry up and explain. It was not right for Jesus to be executed. He had done nothing wrong, as Pilate himself acknowledged (Luke 23:14). It shouldn't have been possible to use false witnesses and mob uproar to pressure the government to execute a righteous man. The judicial murder of Jesus is a devastating indictment of how very unjust human justice systems can be.
So it's not as a murder that Christians commemorate this reality. It's not because it was unjust that we give thanks for it. It was an enormous sin and a terrible crime, and in that light is very bad indeed. But that isn't the whole story. There's a reason Jesus allowed himself to be arrested, falsely accused, wrongfully condemned and ultimately executed. He told his disciples that he could have stopped all that happening (Matthew 27:53), but he chose not to. And there are at least three reasons to celebrate and give thanks for that.
The acceptance of this terrible death displays the love of Christ.] The reason Jesus allowed this miscarriage of justice to fall on his head, was love. As he said, speaking of his love for his disciples, "Greater love has no one than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends." (John 15:13)
Bringing good out of such profound evil highlights the wisdom of God. Human beings acted wickedly in seizing Jesus and killing him. But God overruled in that to bring about something truly amazing. Jesus was "delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification." (Romans 4:25) In God's unsearchable wisdom, the death of Jesus brought salvation.
The outcome of Jesus' death was a victory and a blessing there was no other way to secure. As Peter said: "For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit." (1 Peter 3:18). When Jesus embraced death on the cross, it opened the way for him to bring us back to God. That is certainly something to give thanks for!
Rev. Ruben Zartman has been the pastor at Ebenezer Reformed Church in Shafter since 2017.