March 30, 2013

“Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man.  Seize him and lead him away under guard.”  Mark 14:44

Passion of Christ at Ginosa (TA) (Italy)Last night my family and I went to the re-enactment of Christ’s trial and crucifixion that several Churches in our community performed.  It was well done and I appreciated the reality of it.  However, I cannot say that I liked it.  I guess the reason that I did not enjoy the play was because it is so negative.  I don’t like to ponder on the negative. I don’t like to ponder on the despicable, on betrayal, on conniving and the plotting of the destruction of another person and then the crass implementation of that strategy.

I look at Christ’s betrayal and arrest and I realize that this is just another example of how broken our world is.  What happened to Jesus is really not unique to human history.  The fact that this was the betrayal of the Messiah makes it wholly unique.  However, the betrayal of a perceived revolutionary is nothing new.  The plotting of the downfall of a charismatic leader for the protection of the establishment is a common theme in the history of civilizations.

That is how the world works.  This world is broken.  It is broken because of what Judas did – what the Sanhedrin did – what the Romans did.  What they did is exactly how the world works.  It is ‘Realpolitik’ in action.

‘Realpolitik’ is essentially a very pragmatic view of the world as it really is and the use of power and strength to manipulate events for either stability or to strengthen those in power.

Have you ever considered the Sanhedrin’s actions in terms of realpolitik?

We must remember the Sanhedrin’s responsibility.  The Sanhedrin was the supreme judicial and administrative council of the Jews.  They had responsibility for the smooth operation of both religion and the State.  They had responsibility for both.

The Sanhedrin was responsible for a nation under occupation.  Rome had subjugated Israel but allowed the Sanhedrin to exist solely for the purpose of maintaining the peace for the Romans.  The Sanhedrin was responsible of keeping the status quo – maintaining the stability of the existing balance of power in a powder keg of a nation.  The Sanhedrin was the institution with the practical view on the situation.  They knew that Israel was in no position to defend itself against the sole superpower of the time; the Roman Empire.  They knew what would happen if they did not keep a lid on the unrest that was continually swirling as an undercurrent in Israel.

The destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem.Just consider what did happen when the Sanhedrin finally failed in quelling the unrest.  In 66 AD, the unrest finally did boil over into open revolt.  The Romans responded in force retake the country.  The final act of suppression happened in 70 AD, when they destroyed Jerusalem, the temple and eliminated the Sanhedrin.  The number of Jews that were killed during this rebellion has been estimated at 1,340,000. (Josephus, Flavius ; Whiston, William: The Works of Josephus : Complete and Unabridged. Peabody : Hendrickson, 1996, c1987, S. Wars 6.414-420)

What would you do if you were on the Sanhedrin Council in 65 AD, the year before the rebellion broke out in Caesarea?  You are one of the seventy-one members of the highest court in the land of Israel.  You are responsible for protecting your people from the oppression of the greatest power in the entire world.  You know what the Romans are capable of.

What if you hear about a guy by the name of John of Giscala and another guy by the name of Simon Bar Giora?  They were the leaders of the rebellion in the north that started everything in 66 AD.  They were also the ones who took the war within Jerusalem that led to the prolonged siege and ultimate destruction of Jerusalem.  It is conceivable that if you are able to remove these individuals from the events of 65 AD that the unrest in Caesarea may not boil over into open rebellion.  If that doesn’t happen, then the Emperor will not send 60,000 Roman legionaries to Galilee, Jerusalem will not be destroyed, and 1.3 million people will be saved.   If you could get a spy into the inner circle of John of Giscala and Simon Bar Giora; a spy who would tell you where they were and identify them to the arresting authorities, would you do it?  Would you get your spy in place, gain the information, and arrest and put on trial John of Giscala and Simon Bar Giora if it would mean even the possibility of saving 1.3 million people?  Would you do it?

September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City: V...

September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City: View of the World Trade Center and the Statue of Liberty. (Image: US National Park Service ) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Let’s say it is the year 2000 and you are the President of the United States.  You have the opportunity to turn a member of Osama bin Laden’s inner circle.  You can find out his location.  Do you send in  Seal Team 6?  If you send in Seal Team 6, you can take out Osama bin Laden and possibly the 9/11 attacks don’t happen or can be stopped.  2,819 people could be saved – billions of dollars of destruction averted, the war in Afghanistan and Iraq possibly prevented.  Would you do it?  Would you send in Seal Team 6?

We can play this “what if” game all day long.  What about Lee Harvey Oswald; Pearl Harbor; what about Adolf Hitler when he was in Austria before he came to power; the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand that started WWI; what about John Wilkes Booth; on and on we can go.  The US has an entire agency established, the CIA, whose clandestine service’s purpose is to turn the Judas’ of the world.  The Judas’ of the world are usually the means by which the potential tragedies of the world are averted.  It all depends upon ones perspective.

That is the world that we live in – the world of realpolitik – a world that has not changed since the time of Christ.  The reason it has not changed is because this world is broken.  Am I right?  Is this not how our world works?  I realize that I am a cynic and that I certainly don’t look at our world from an idealistic point of view.  Our world is filled with conflict – our lives have this pull of competing interests at every turn – this is true in our families, communities, business, governments, and nations.  I look at history and I see the predominate characteristics of realpolitik at work.

That is the question that I have asked myself – why?  What is at the source of this struggle – this realpolitik – that I believe that we all engaged in – in one form or another?  I propose that the fundamental reason we are all practitioners of self-interest is a misplaced love.  We love ourselves and our families and the things of this world more than God.  Our will is more for those things than it is for the will of God.

The world of realpolitik is built upon the principle that people will actively pursue their own self-interest and they usually do.

Christ came to explode that principle.  On the night that He was betrayed, prior to the mob showing up, Jesus was praying for another way.  He prayed “not what I will, but what you will.”  He did not have to wait very long for the Father to answer His prayer.  The answer to Jesus’ prayer is very clear.  God’s will had not changed.  His Son would be rejected, hated, abandoned, betrayed, denied, condemned, spit upon, flogged, mocked, pierced, and killed. That all happened according to the Father’s sovereign will.

Jesus was obedient to his Father’s will, which is the exact opposite of realpolitik.

He could have run.  He could have fought.  In Matt. 26:52-54, He said to Peter that He could call twelve legions of angels to come and rescue Him if He wanted to be rescued. That is seventy-two thousand angels.  Can you imagine what kind of destruction seventy-two thousand angels could do, when in the Old Testament one angel killed 185 thousand Assyrians? Seventy-two thousand angels could do some serious damage and most assuredly could have freed Jesus.

Jesus did not do that.  Jesus shows us a unique motivation and heart condition.  He sought God’s will over His own will.  He pursued His Father’s interest above His own interests.  Some have called the cross “divine child abuse”.  That is an absurd accusation.  The Father did not impose His will on His son.  The Son chose the Father’s will.  The Son preferred the Father’s will over His own.

Christ’s actions are a beautiful display of love and obedience.

That is the contrast between Christ and the world.  The world that we live in does not operate on Christ’s principles.  It cannot understand the concept of preferring the will of God over selfish interest.

Maybe that is at the heart of the Christian life; understanding that our true self-interest can never be fulfilled by anyone or thing other than God himself.  I think this is where John Piper and Christian hedonism get it right.  God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him.  Our problems all start when we insist on seeking our satisfaction outside of God; when we revert to the self-interest games of this the world.

The brokenness of this world will only be fixed when you come to the cross and fall on your face and you realize that the cross is not another example of realpolitik. The cross is a work of God and the love of God on full display. It is when you receive Christ’s sacrifice as His highest gift and value that above all else, then you will be saved and Christ will be glorified.

That is what will heal this broken world that we live in.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for coming and saving us from a broken world.  Our world is beyond repair.  We cannot fix it.  Thank you for making a way for us to escape to you.  Keep me from reverting back to my old ways of personal realpolitik.  Help me to walk in your footsteps and follow You with all of my heart, soul and mind.  Amen


  1. We must take up our cross and follow him.

  2. The cross is such a harsh scene yet what moves me the Most to worship Him

  3. very nice wrapup in your prayer.

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