The Trials of Jesus – Religion

4th Midweek in Lent 

Isaiah 1:10-17 & Mark 14:55-65

“With God all things are possible” — / that’s the beginning and the end / of theology. If all things are possible, / nothing is impossible. / Why do the godly then / keep slinging out their nooses?    (Wendell Berry)

Religion is all about control. The Christian faith is all about Gift. Religion is about how to manipulate access to God and God’s access to us. The Christian faith is all about the Gift of God in Jesus Christ, freely given without any merit or worthiness in anyone. Religion is about measuring oneself and one another. The Christian faith is about Jesus Christ and Him alone. It is far more efficient and effective to be religious than it is to be Christian.

Jesus is what life is about. He is with us, and we are with Him, flesh of flesh, bone of bone. Jesus’ death on the cross is the ultimate connection of us and God. In Him we and God go together. No Good Friday, no Easter. Or when you follow the arrow of the life that God lives and shares with us, if Good Friday, then Easter, and if Easter, then Pentecost, and if Pentecost, then on and on … with Jesus and His mission.

That is what life is about. That is what we are joined into, His name put upon us with the water and the Spirit, born His child. He is with us, as food to our bodies, with bread and wine, His body and blood. We are in-corporated, bodied and blooded together. Jesus is alive in us. We are alive with His life that lives always further and farther than we could ever imagine.

It was risky, it really was, to summon Jesus there as the Sanhedrin did. They had heard about Jesus. Everybody has heard something about Jesus. But that something might be just about enough—enough to have sorted Him out, got His number, put Him in His place, nice Jesus. Nice to have Him in our place.

More Jesus might be risky. He is so difficult to keep under control. The Sanhedrin is going to have to bring in false witnesses, people who will say what Jesus has not said, people who will claim what Jesus has not claimed, religious witnesses, making religious testimonies about a Jesus who is not Jesus. They will certainly find Him useful to that end.

St. Mark gives us a Jesus whom you cannot fool. He knows what’s coming at Him, but that doesn’t stop Him. Caiaphas and the Council, the whole religious bunch of them, don’t realize what they are in for. They expect to measure up Jesus and decide what’s the use of Him and how to dispose of Him. But what happens is that Caiaphas & Co. are the ones who end up disposed. With Jesus you can’t play at taking measurements.

The Religious Council summoned Jesus. They would call the shots according to their rules. Jesus would be at the receiving end of the way the religious played it. But what spoils their game, what shouldn’t have happened, is that Jesus doesn’t play along. He says nothing. He neither debates nor denies nor argues any of their religious sparring. It is only when they ask the true question, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” Then Jesus answers, “I am.” So profoundly simple. So simply profound. “I am.”

The religious had demanded signs. They had insisted on proper authority. They were busy tying the people up in knots with the Law…and again and again they were slinging out their nooses to catch Jesus in His words, to manipulate Him into saying something, doing something they could then use against Him. Tie Him up. Cut Him down.

Jesus wasn’t like that. He did not attempt to work them or anyone else. He was simply there. “I am.” Nothing held back to negotiate with. But the religious are so frustrated with Jesus that they spit and strike and sneer. Jesus knew what was coming to Him.

They came at Him to sit in judgment on Him. Jesus was judged already…judged for the sake of a world that had had enough of religious judgment. Jesus doesn’t play the games by which religion and the world try to get along. Jesus isn’t like religion. Ah, but just to say what Jesus is not like, is to put Him to that same religious judgment. And He doesn’t suffer Himself to be measured by any judgment we may try out on Him at all.

“Are You the Christ?” they asked. And they had their measurements of what an answer should be. Jesus replies, “I am.” Without measurement, without innuendo, without judgment. “I am.” Jesus. Only Jesus.

No one has ever been here for us like that. Only the Lord God Himself can do it. He is there…for them. For us. Here is here for us…all of Him.

Where cross the crowded ways of life—where sound the cries of race and clan, the noise of religious strife—we hear Thy voice, O Son of Man. He is the Jesus whom He gives Himself to be. Not as we measure Him or as we manage Him. He is who He is. And faith says, “That’s my Jesus.”