Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Christ Among the Shepherds

In the story of Jesus' trial and crucifixion, several key characters play the roles of prophet, priest and king. But they were just acting. They weren't really shepherds; they simply played that role for their own benefit.

First, Jesus was taken to the house of Annas the priest. Here's a great example of a shepherd who neglected God and God's agenda for the sake of his own personal agenda. The Bazaars of Annas in the temples were infamous for their ridiculous exchange rates -- bordering on extortion, really. There was one place in the temple where Gentiles could come and pray to YHWH, the God of the Israelites. This was where Annas placed his Bazaars -- keeping the temple from being "a house of prayer for all the nations" as God had commanded.

The position of high priest seems to have been kept in a tight family circle, and at this time, the position was held by Annas' son-in-law: Caiaphas. When Jesus stood before Caiaphas, surrounded by elders and teachers, this shepherd of Israel stood by while God Incarnate was slapped and spat upon. He had been given the task of leading people in the worship of God; instead, he led them into violence against God.

So, Jesus was sent from the priest to the king -- a man named Herod. Here's a king who abused his power by ordering the execution of John the Baptist (a true prophet). Herod responded to the word of God, as it was faithfully delivered by the prophet of God, more like a butcher than a shepherd. He was supposed to defent and protect God's people from their pagan enemies; instead, he offered Jesus up to the Roman governor: Pilate.

As the governor of the land, Pilate's responsibility was to establish truth and administer justice. Though he wasn't a prophet, he did receive a revelation from God -- in a dream to his wife. But when Pilate spoke with Jesus, he knew his decision would have little to do with truth and more to do with popularity and pragmatism. His decision about Jesus wasn't based on justice but on the prevailing mood of the people. Pilate washed his hands and went with the popular vote.

So, as we said yesterday, the Good Shepherd became like a sheep and was "led like a lamb to the slaughter". He sufffered under the shepherds who abused their power, compromised the truth and neglected the Lord. And on the cross he became the sacrificial lamb who would take away the sins of the world.

But on the third day....

Are there any better words than that?

On the third day he rose from the dead. Death is like a dark valley, and Jesus has travelled through it. It may still be a dark place, but it is now a safe place for all who will trust and follow the Good Shepherd through the valley of death. We fear no evil, for he is with us and has promised to see us through to the other side.