This is an upside down world!
Atlas may have held the world on his sturdy shoulders, but Adam did him one better: he turned it upside down. Down is up and up is down in Adam’s fallen world. The least godly proclaim themselves to be the greatest, and the last people that are likely to turn to God end up first in most things. Our moral compass which should point straight up to God instead only points back to me, Me, ME!
And so in Luke 23:13-25, we see an upside down world. Like Frodo’s ring, there is a heaviness in this upside down world that only gets heavier with every step that Jesus takes and that I take with Him again. But in the end, as we know, Jesus snatches the world from Satan and turns it right side up again.
But these last few chapters before the Resurrection are to me pure agony. As one who is trying to meditate on them for the good of my own soul and that I might be united with God through Jesus, I am experiencing an unrelenting sense of heaviness and sin. You, too, may have felt it. You might have been thinking: “my Daily Bread sure is getting heavy these days, isn’t it. When will it (he) let up?”
There is a reason for this season of heaviness, and though it is difficult, I am happy to be following my Master and experience just a little of the heaviness He bore for me.
Surely, Luke betrays a world upside down!
Jesus is betrayed to death with a sign of love, a kiss.
Satan enters in to someone during the Lord’s Supper.
And here, we find both Pilate and Herod absolving Jesus of guilt and yet passing Him on to be put to death. “You see to it,” they say. This is the proverbial passing of the buck. Jesus is a divine hot potato that everyone wants to get rid of but who no one wants to be left holding the responsibility for. It is the ritual passing of the blame which Adam and Eve began in the Garden, after they had helped turn the world wrong side up.
In another bizarre sign of how upside down the world is, it is Barabbas who the world wants to release. Barabbas, who is a known rebel and murderer, is set free from punishment, while the spotless Lamb of God is about to be put to death. Bar-abbas, a name which means “Son of the Father.” Bar-abbas is almost like an antichrist, the opposite of Jesus, Superman’s Bizarro, and he is the one who has been let loose upon the earth, while the true Son of the Father is enslaved.
Alfred Edersheim, the great 19th century biblical scholar, believed that Pilate was essentially conducting a Jewish rite that had its roots in Deuteronomy 21:6ff and which probably continued to Jesus’ day. After the solemn washing of the hands of the elders and their disclaimer of guilt, the priests responded with: “Forgive it to Thy people, whom Thou hast redeemed, O Lord, and lay not innocent blood upon Thy people Israel!”
In Matthew’s account, Pilate washes his hands and says he is innocent of the blood of this just person. In response, the Jews cry out: “His blood be upon us and our children.” Here is the world turned upside down: God’s chosen people choosing to reject Him. A Roman washing his hands and saying he is innocent of innocent blood, and the Jews asking that the guilt of this innocent blood be upon both them and their children.
What meditation can I make on such terrible actions and such a terrible condition which is not only that of the first-century Jews but also my own?
There are two parts of our response.
First, we must not ignore our sins that have participated in and which have helped cause the upside downness, the depravity, of the world. I hope that we will not miss our obligation to do this today. There is a reason we are heavy today: we are still sinners and are worthy of death.
But, second, even on the most terrible day of each year, Good Friday, we cannot stop being Christians. After we have acknowledged and bewailed our sins, we must remember that the world has already been turned right side up for us. We must remember each day that our sins are taken away, if only we will confess them and actually turn from them. Jesus, the righteous one was sacrificed for the unrighteous. And we, the unrighteous ones, like Barabbas, are set free. May His blood be upon us, not as a curse but as the one and only sacrifice for our sins!
Each day, therefore, though it begins in tragedy, is transformed into a comedy by the sacrifice of our Lord.
And therefore we cannot end our meditation, our day, or our life in sin and mourning but in repentance, forgiveness, and joy!
Prayer: Father of the Son, I thank You for Your love to me, who am nothing but a rebel and a sinner. Praise be to You because You have undone what man has done and have redeemed Your world. Accept my sacrifice of repentance today, as well as my sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving.
Point for Meditation:
- Use the weightiness of your sins as a means of measuring the greatness of God’s mercy and forgiveness.
- In what ways is your world still upside down? Ask God to help you with it. In what ways have you made your world upside down? Ask God to help restore you and your world to conform more perfectly to His world.
Resolution: I resolve to feel the weight of my sins today, at least for a time. But I resolve to beg and receive forgiveness, and end the day in joy.
Jesus Before Pilate – U. S. Public Domain