Leave it to a lawyer.
Granted, my friend Carol Swanda hasn’t practiced law in a few years, but she often views situations from a legal perspective.
And the trial of Jesus is no exception.
During Holy Week, many churches focus on the death and resurrection of Christ. We talk about the last supper Jesus ever ate with his disciples, his time praying in the Garden of Gethsemane — and the trial before the Roman leader Pontius Pilate.
“The lawyer in me cringes at what a mockery of justice this judicial proceeding was,” Carol said when she spoke recently at Full Life Church.
Carol referred to Bible verses from the 15th chapter of the book of Mark.
Here, the Scriptures tell how religious leaders handed Jesus over to Pilate.
“Are you the king of the Jews?” Pilate asks Jesus.
“You have said so,” Jesus replies.
The chief religious leaders accuse Jesus of many things, so Pilate again asks him, “Aren’t you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.”
Pilate is amazed when Jesus makes no further answer.
I’ll bet Pilate was astonished.
He most likely was accustomed to seeing people beg for their lives and argue their cases in an attempt to avoid the horrifying death due to crucifixion.
A man who stayed silent amid rabid accusations must have seemed a strange sight indeed.
So Pilate seems to try and strike a compromise.
There has been a custom of releasing a prisoner — at the people’s request — at the time of the Passover feast.
“Do you want me to release the king of the Jews?” Pilate asks the religious leaders and a crowd of other people.
But the religious leaders stir the crowd to ask that he release Barabbas, now in prison with the insurrectionists who’d committed murder in the spring.
“What do you want me to do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?” Pilate asks.
“Crucify him!” the crowd shouts.
Pilate doesn’t seem so sure about this.
“Why? What crime as he committed?” Pilate asks.
But the crowd shouts all the louder: “Crucify him!”
So wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate releases Barabbas and has Jesus whipped and sent to be crucified.
As Americans — taught that someone is innocent until proven guilty in a court of law — this shouldn’t set too well.
And it doesn’t with Carol.
“There were many allegations made, but no proof offered,” she said. “Jesus, the only witness, remained silent and made no affirmative representations.
“So all you had were a lot of baseless charges.”
And guilt or innocence aside, Pilate opts to make a trade — one prisoner for another — whatever the crowd wants.
I had to stop and think about this one.
If my life were on the line — and I knew I was innocent — how would I feel about being traded and sent to a brutal death in place of a known murderer?
I’d be screaming words like: “No, this is wrong. It’s not fair!”
Carol also noted something else.
As Christians — and with our “American sense of rugged individualism, justice and independence — we frequently bristle against the exercise of what we perceive as unjust authority,” she said, adding, “Shoot, we bristle at the exercise of authority in general.”
When we do, we should remember the humility of our Savior.
Then Carol said something that gripped me.
Jesus had no Constitutional Bill of Rights.
No Fifth Amendment Miranda Rights.
“He didn’t even have the right to be judged based on evidence; There was no evidence,” Carol said. “He had no rights. Let that sink in. The King of Kings did not insist on any of his rights. Having taken on human flesh, he quietly submitted to a disreputable sham of a legal proceeding.
“My American-born, lawyer-educated brain can’t quite wrap my head around that one,” she added.
Actually, I don’t think my brain can stretch that far either.
But I’ve been thinking about this.
Jesus gave up his rights and submitted to death on a cross so people like you and me could spend eternity with him in heaven.
He wasn’t just traded in for Barabbas.
Jesus was traded for us.
We may not be an insurrectionist like Barabbas, but as the Scriptures say — “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)
None of us is perfect.
I like the example Bible teacher and author Joyce Meyer uses. She talks about the cord of a lamp. It doesn’t matter if the cord was just severed once or several times, it’s still severed.
But through Christ’s death on the cross to pay for our sins — we are reconnected to our God.
When we believe that Jesus died on the cross and rose to life again, repent (turn from) our sins and ask Christ to come into our hearts and be our Savior, we can go to heaven.
It’s the most incredible trade ever.
Our sins for his righteousness — so that when God looks at us he doesn’t see the debt of our sins, but the paid-in-full status we have through his only Son and our Savior Jesus.
As the Scripture says: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)
After this, we need to pray, study the Bible, get into a solid, Bible-believing church and have regular fellowship with other Christians, who can encourage us in our faith.
And we need to serve others.
Doing such things can help us grow closer to God.
I’m so glad I have friends, like Carol, who encourage me in my faith and can help me see something in the Scriptures that I’ve never noticed before.
I like her analytical brain and her lawyer’s perspective.
Best of all, I like how she points people to Jesus, who willingly made the hardest trade for him, but the best trade ever for us.
He truly is our Savior, a friend like no other and someone whose perspective of our value paved the way for our eternal life with him.