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March 11, 2018, 12:00 AM

Christian Morality

Well let us dig right in with the very first paragraph that I read. Now it may be helpful to remember that almost everything that they bothered to record in the Gospels that relates to a Jewish authority was not a positive. This does not say that the Jews of Jesus' time never did anything right, but those are not the things that are recorded in the Gospels regarding the Jewish authorities. Today's lesson is no different and they are wrong almost from the moment we read about them so let us start.

Then they took Jesus from Caiaphas to Pilate’s headquarters. It was early in the morning.

OK, No problem.

They themselves did not enter the headquarters, so as to avoid ritual defilement and to be able to eat the Passover.

Now wait a minute. So these people who are accusing Jesus and bring him before the occupying Roman law are not willing to go themselves in front of the judge. They have decided to bring the accusations to Pilate but they will not go in to the building because to do so would make them ritually unclean and they would not be able to eat the Passover. There were many rules at that time for those people regarding what they could or could not do, if they wanted to be pure enough to participate in worship. Thank God we have Grace and forgiveness and have the law written on our hearts. That said it is a good reminder that not all actions are acceptable in the eyes of God.

Let us continue.

So Pilate went out to them and said, ‘What accusation do you bring against this man?’ They answered, ‘If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.’

Now here is, in my experience, a very human moment. “If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.” The ever popular self evident truth problem. And I see a lot of this today in our own society. Well I see this and then I see people going, “It must be true because it feels right for it to be true.” So, here are the philosophical changes that have happened and it might be time for the pendulum to swing in a new direction.

First we had modernism, which loosely stated that there was an identifiable truth and that came from things like the scientific method. Then we had post modernism which was the reaction to that and that was the belief that there was no such thing as a verifiable truth. This eventually gave way to the meta-modern philosophy which states that there is truth but that it is naturally bounded or if you prefer only true in a particular set of circumstances. It make some sense that if there is truth then we must define under what conditions something is the truth. But we have proceeded beyond this to an age of post truth. In post truth we can scientifically prove that something is true and then argue that it is not true because I did not prove it to myself or maybe because for all I see the data I still don't believe it. It is saying that I know that people with a waist line over 38” have a higher risk of heart disease and then saying but I feel OK and so it must not be true for me. Another time this is easily evident is when someone says, Yes that is true, but it does not affect me or will not be consequential inside my life time, so I don't care. So we have the problem today of rejecting truth because we don't like it or because we can not prove it with our own eyes or because the problem is so far removed from this moment that I can not be bothered.

The other problem with the logic pattern of the religious leaders in our text is circular logic. We would not have brought him to you if he were not a criminal. Consider the following and even I may have been guilty, although I tried not to do this. I teach it to my children because it was taught to me and it was good enough for me, … with no evidence it was good for you. This is a problem because it is the same logic used by an abuser. I beat my children because I was beaten and then so often they will say “and I came out OK” and yet this just after you had a long discussion on the psychological impacts of that abuse. 

Finally we come to this little gem.

Pilate said to them, ‘Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law.’ The Jews replied, ‘We are not permitted to put anyone to death.’

And here again we see this reflection of the human condition. We know what we want to see done but often want someone else to do the dirty work. In this case it is the Jewish authorities of the day want Jesus dead because he threatens their status quo, he threatens the way they make their living, but they want Pilate to do their dirty work. Having someone else do the dirty work helps us to keep from feeling responsible. If they did it then I am not morally responsible for the outcome because I did not do it. This logic is interesting because if we are still feeling guilty then we will say, “They could have refused to do it if they did not want to do it.” Sorry folks but if you ask someone else to do something it does not remove your responsibility for the crime.

I guess you might have sensed that I am frustrated at the current condition of our world. I see people who are not doing, that which is not convenient, even though it is right. I see people who are not doing that which is right because it would require real thought. I see people doing that which is wrong because it was done to them. I see people justifying they are right because they see other people doing it. I see the presence of a morality if you will, which is not based on any principle other than hedonism, the moral philosophy that if it feels good it must be right. And here is the problem with that for people sitting in a pew on Sunday morning. That my friends is the tempter often known as the devil.

Consider the following. Jesus had been in the desert 40 days and he was hungry, the devil says to him why not make bread from these stones. In other words give up the spiritual gains to settle your physical craving. Eve is in the garden and the serpent says, surely God did not mean you will die when you eat this beautiful fruit. And once again it looks good and tastes good and is physically satisfying but the death it brought was spiritual in nature. It is tempting to settle the physical craving and may well be OK some of the time, however that is not universally true and might lead to a spiritual death or some separation from God.

It might feel good to sleep with someone not your spouse and knowing it would hurt the spouse if they know, you do not tell your spouse and that is adultery. It might feel good to sit down at an all you can eat buffet every day and eat until you are stuffed but that my friends is gluttony. It might feel good to have lots of money, but if that means that you are over charging and limiting access to something like water that is necessary for life then greed has overtaken. So, because it feels right is not the correct reason for a Christian to do something. We need to work at being the example for the rest of the world that a higher moral ground is possible.

Now at this moment you may be feeling bad about one of more things you have done and so I want to bring you the good news. If you are repentant, truly sorry, sorry enough to try not to do it again confess it and be reminded of the forgiveness Jesus offers as we baptize two little children this morning. That is the grace and glory of our faith. We are given a better path to walk along and higher standard to live by and we are given forgiveness when we stray from the path, so that we might return to the path and try walking on it again. So, place your sin at the feet of the great redeemer and receive forgiveness so that you might walk out of here renewed, refreshed and strengthened for the road ahead.

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