“Houston, we have a problem,” is a famous quote from the movie “Apollo 13” when the astronauts realize something is not right and they are radioing earth for “the new plan.” Our family uses it whenever we want to signal that we need to recalibrate, At the High Priest’s house, the scene of the religious trial of Jesus, Jesus appears to commit blasphemy by claiming to be I AM, God. On the wilderness journey, people were killed for less. One person was caught collecting wood on Sabbath. Disrespectful children were dealt with severely. Claiming to be God was way over the top in terms of offenses. But the religious authorities are not in the wilderness but are in Jerusalem so now must involve civil authorities to get a death sentence. I think we call it “situational ethics,” I modify how I behave to conform to the norms of the crowd. Mark 15:1 says, “As soon as it was morning, the chief priests with the elders and scribes and the whole council held a consultation, and they bound Jesus and led him away and delivered him to Pilate.” Pilate is Roman authority and has the power to condemn Jesus to death.
We know that from the beginning the religious authorities wanted to kill Jesus, but what about the crowd? What about you and me? We know this scenario! It is our story. People, gather at the capitol to demonstrate, are swept into a crowd, become a mob, and are charged with “insurrection.” A demonstration turns violent and looting results. That was not the intent of most but things got out of hand – perhaps. Perhaps we would like to think we are not one of “those” but we see crowds at sports games that disagree with calls, yelling to “kill the ump!” Swearing by the name of our God has become so common we do not even notice it on TV or at the store. Hopefully we do not participate – just silence. The slide from moral convictions we talk about on Sunday to social behavior on Monday, when income tax is due, is a slide we know. Our lives are spent between Jerusalem and Rome, between beliefs and behavior.
Lent confronts me. Where would I have been on that Good Friday morning? Asleep in bed? Following the crowd? Hiding in fear? Lost in grief and confusion? May the passage of time not numb us to our very real tendency to compromise our beliefs and be silent in the public areas of our life. We may hang our head and recognize ourselves but we are not people without hope. Jesus is walking the walk and talking the talk that saves sinners like us. He is not afraid and he cares for us, even when we are broken. Thank you, Lord!