Almost 2,000 years ago, Luke penned the last two chapters of his carefully researched accounting of the life of Jesus on earth. Bible scholars believe he wrote between 58 and 65 AD, a scant 30 years after Jesus had finished the mission for which He came and returned to heaven. The people Luke talked to as he investigated all the stories surrounding the events he’s shared were eyewitnesses. They were some of the very people who had sat at Jesus’ feet, followed Him through the cities and villages, and ate with Him at the table. Some were scoffers, having been in the crowds that shouted, “Crucify!” Others had followed from a distance, never declaring their faith until long after Jesus had disappeared from their streets.
From the first days of Jesus’ ministry, He caused upheaval in the normal course of society. As He continued to expose the sinful hypocrisy and empty hearts of the ruling religious, they used every opportunity to claim Jesus was motivated by political power. In His final days, the charges against Him weren’t just a rejection of the belief and faith in God He preached; He was an insurrectionist.
Then the whole body of them got up and brought Him before Pilate. And they began to accuse Him, saying, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, and saying that He Himself is Christ, a King.”Luke 23:1-2
Their charges were lies, of course. Jesus did not preach “misinformation.” He told the absolute truth and instead of misleading people, He was leading them toward eternal life. When questioned about taxes, He commanded people to obey the governing authorities and render to Caesar what belongs to Caesar. The problem was He also told them not to give Caesar what belonged to God. And again, He was indeed the Christ, a King, but was not pursuing an earthly kingship or attempting to take Caesar’s place. He clearly preached that His kingdom was not of this world, but his opponents twisted His words and used them against Him.
Jesus was convicted and crucified by the political powers in authority, but the motivation of His accusers was less political; their desire was to crush the conviction they felt as He confronted them with their sin. A corrupt Roman government made bargains with the corrupt religious leaders, each with his own gainful end in mind. At one point, Pilate sends Jesus to Herod, trying to avoid responsibility for condemning what he very well knew was an innocent man. They were enemies before, but afterward, their like-minded attitude towards Jesus made them friends. After all, the enemy of my enemy is my friend.
As I read Luke’s account in chapters 23-34, I can’t help but come to a conclusion. Human nature hasn’t changed. God gives us free will, and left to ourselves, the hearts of sinful men will always try to extinguish any and all voices that speak the truth, especially truth about sin. The events surrounding Jesus’ mockery of a trial, the lies used to accuse Him, the corrupt “backroom” deals made between “so-called” religious leaders and those in government positions, the twisting of His words … all of it will repeat itself in the lives of Christ-followers, just as it did in the life of Christ if we are bold enough to keep proclaiming truth according to God’s word.
This is why we shouldn’t be surprised, or offended, by the news headlines blaming much of our nation’s troubles on “white evangelicals” (their label, not mine). Never mind that people of all colors and all faiths have similar concerns about numerous social, political, and cultural issues. Those ideals are not really the issue, however. White evangelicals, at least those who actually do believe what the Bible says, are apt to speak out against sin. According to scripture, we can’t accept the idea that there are multiple genders, or that you can change your gender. We don’t believe God approves of same-sex marriage, or that we’re free to engage in physical relationships outside of marriage at all. We believe that God alone has authority over our bodies, that His commands are good, and that sin condemns us. And because we care about the eternal destiny of others, we’re called to tell the truth. Is it any wonder that those who would hate Jesus, would hate His followers also?
Jesus warned His disciples that they would receive the same treatment He did. The angels at the empty tomb reminded the women what this would look like, as they gently chided them for looking for the living One among the dead.
He is not here, but He has risen. Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified and the third day rise again.Luke 24:6-7
I’m not comparing what we may go through to what Jesus did for us on the cross. I definitely don’t want to diminish the price He paid for our salvation; I’m simply looking at the culture He lived in, and the events that took Him to the cross. But I have to conclude that we ought not to be surprised if we, too are delivered into the hands of sinful men if we preach the same messages Jesus did against sin.
Thankfully, that wasn’t the end of Jesus’ story, nor will it be ours. Resurrection Day came, and victory was won, just as the prophets foretold. It happened just as Jesus said it would.
We have a resurrection day coming. Some will never pass through the gates of physical death. Those who have put their faith in Jesus and are alive at the Rapture will go directly into God’s presence. The timing will be exactly as God has planned it since before time began. For others, it will be from the grave, having died in faith, still looking for that city built by God.
Some of you reading this don’t yet believe it. You are skeptical, and I can’t fault you for that. My prayer is that as you see the world continue to turn against anyone who claims faith in Jesus, you are reminded of what happened to Him, and consider your own eternal destiny. Those sinful men whose hands delivered Jesus to the cross and died without repenting will not see life everlasting, nor will those who condemn and label His followers today.