5—11 November 2007
Issue No. 42
Mickey Chiang: Whose Responsibility is it? (Matthew 27)
Picture this: The chief priests and elders of Jerusalem have arrested Jesus, never mind if they had the legal power to do so or not. They now decide to put him to death. They bind him and hand him over to the Roman governor, Pilate, to do the killing for them. All this is seen by Judas Iscariot, one of Jesus’ disciples who had secretly betrayed Jesus by revealing where he was, and by kissing him to identify him so he would be arrested.
Judas now feels remorse, and approaches the chief priests and elders. “I have sinned, for I have betrayed innocent blood!” he cries out (Matthew 27:4a).
The priests and elders callously replied, “What is that to us? That’s your responsibility!” (Mt 27:4b).
What does “That’s your responsibility” mean? Does it mean: “It has nothing to do with us, even if we did plot his death”? Doesn’t it mean: “The guilt is on you”?
How simple it is to shift the blame on to someone else with just a few words. Then no matter what bad things happen, why, you are not to blame! It’s someone else’s fault, you know. But have you really shifted the blame from yourself? You may fool yourself, you may fool a few people, but can you fool God?
Matthew’s observant eye noticed that another person also used the phrase “your responsibility”. Could it be by sheer coincidence that he recorded this in the same chapter?
Here is the scene. Jesus is before Pilate. A crowd of Jews is shouting, “Crucify him!” Pilate knows Jesus is innocent. He declares, “I find no basis for a charge against this man” (Mark 23:4). He pronounces the same verdict again (Mk 23:14), and again (Mk 23:22). And still the chants of “Crucify him!” ring out. Finally, fearful of the uproar Pilate gives in. Washing his hands symbolically, he says, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. It is your responsibility” (Mt 27:25). So whose responsibility was it then?
The crowd shouts out the answer, “Let his blood be on us and on our children!”
It is so human to deny responsibility for a bad deed and lay the responsibility on someone else. We often forget that God sees everything and knows who is actually responsible for the sin, the crime, the transgression, and the defiant disobedience of His commandments.
The crowd of Jews accepted the responsibility. Although they wanted the blood of Jesus to be on them and their children, it was not to be. Only the guilt was on them. If they had been covered by the blood of Jesus, they would have been saved for eternity.
Matthew brought up two bad examples regarding “your responsibility”, but thankfully, he did not leave the matter hanging on bad examples. Near the end of the same chapter he brought up a good example, of someone who took the responsibility to do something good.
See, Jesus has given up his spirit. A Roman spear is thrust upward into his side and into his chest cavity, to make sure he was not faking death, and to kill him if he was. Now that Jesus is dead, who is responsible for giving him a decent burial?
Certainly not the Roman soldiers. To them he is nothing more than a criminal or troublemaker. And, as evening is fast approaching, they are probably in a hurry to return to their barracks for a hot meal. In all likelihood they would bury Jesus hurriedly in a shallow unmarked grave.
However, Joseph of Arimathea, a Jewish Council member and secret disciple of Jesus, made it his responsibility to give Jesus a decent burial. He “boldly” approached Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body (Mk15:43) even before Pilate was aware of Jesus’ death (Mk 15:44). Then Joseph “took the body, wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and placed it in his own new tomb” (Mt 27:59, 60). Since one does not normally carry around clean linen cloth, could it be that Joseph had already resolved much earlier in the day to claim Jesus’ body?
Wasn’t it dangerous for Joseph to reveal himself as a follower or friend of Jesus at that point of time? Was that why none of Jesus’ other disciples or relatives had come forward? So, a task that no one else wanted or dared to take on was taken on by Joseph as his personal responsibility. Don’t you think great would be his reward in Heaven?
As we walk through life, what unwanted, tough or dangerous tasks should we take on as “our responsibility”?
For the many CS Lewis aficionados who attended Prof James Houson’s lectures on the 2nd and 3rd of November it was a marvellous treat. Lowly mortals as we are the mere idea that the speaker associated with Lewis personally for about 10 years was thrill enough. So it was very moving to hear Prof James Houston say that he had never wanted to speak publicly about Lewis before for precisely this reason - he had not wanted to cheapen that relationship for self-gain in any way. For us that remark was symbolic of the spiritual heritage in which Prof Houston stands in line with CS Lewis. It spoke of an ability to uphold values contrary to secular ones that would have persuaded a very different sort of behaviour.
The key word for both nights must have been “behaviour” above all things for in examining our “temptable natures” and “finding our faces” we have to deal with how we live out our faith in real terms both within ourselves as well as in our relationships.
In the lecture on “The Screwtape Letters” Prof Houston dealt with Lewis’ conception of “Hell”. What else can be more “real” than to ponder the idea that we very often create our own hells! In the second lecture, the focus was on Lewis’ extraordinary story, “Till We Have Faces” which made us think about the meaning of being a person. Prof Houston helped us see why Lewis himself said this was the most important book he’d ever written.
The lectures were wonderfully insightful and can hardly be summarised here. If you wish to hear them for yourself you may request their recordings from the BGST library.
The BIG DAY draws near!
Excitement mounts as our fundraising dinner is just days away. Our hopes and expectations rest fully on the provision of our God who gives to all who ask. And indeed we are moved beyond words by the wonderful way He has made things possible for us in the organisation of this dinner. God’s Spirit which binds believers in love has already moved many to come forward with generous financial support for the future plans of the School.
As we ready ourselves for the actual event we ask that you stand with us in prayer for the smooth execution of all logistical details, so that all who attend may enjoy a pleasant and meaningful evening. Pray that we might have good weather and that all might travel safely to the dinner. Above all pray that the objective of the dinner might be achieved: that there would be generous giving towards our People Development Fund. Pray that Prof James Houston’s address that night will help all diners to see and believe in the crucial need to equip the laity for service in God’s kingdom.
We now make a final appeal. There are still several tables to be filled. We ask that you consider taking up a place. You may donate whatever amount you are able. If you have been blessed by the work of BGST or if you would like to know more about it please avail yourself of this opportunity to fellowship with us. We will close registration on Wednesday, 7 Nov, at 6 p.m. So we welcome you to join us and we look forward to your support.
Grad Dip in Education for Christian Formation
Govin is a graduate of Charles Stuart University and a Shipping Consultant and Trainer by profession. He worships at the Adam Road Presbyterian Church where he and his wife, Betty, are serving as Educators in the Boys’ Brigade ministry.
Master of Arts in Education for Christian Formation
Wong Choon Yew completed his BA from Murdoch University (W. Australia). He is a member of Kay Poh Road Baptist Church and a photo-journalist by training. He has interest in doing Christian education in a cross-cultural context.
· The library will be closed at 5 pm on Friday, 9 Nov due to the Fundraising Dinner that night which starts at 7 pm at the Fullerton Hotel.
· If you had missed the speech presentation at chapel on 24 Oct 07 you may hear a recording of it at http://www.missiontech.co.nz/BGST/files/bgstplayers.mp3
Dr Ng Peh Cheng was the speaker on Oct 28. She did a combination of reflection exercises with hymn singing on Psalm 84. This week our speaker is David Leong, an alumnus.
“You and I have need of the strongest spell that can be found to wake us from the evil enchantment of worldliness.”
- C.S Lewis (The Weight of Glory)
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