And they began to accuse Him, saying, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, and saying that He Himself is Christ, a King.” Luke 23:2 [Luke 23:1-7]
Just days before, Jesus had turned over the tables of merchandisers in the temple (Luke 19:45-48). He then set out to teach them truth in that temple daily. With every question the scoffers asked the teacher, he was able to turn the tables on them, exposing the fallacies of their ways and their hypocrisy.
Frustrated, the leaders attempted to ring him up on false charges before Pilate. He mislead our whole nation! He forbids us to pay our taxes to Caesar! He says he is our King! These claims were obviously designed to pose a threat to the procurator’s control over his jurisdiction.
So Pilate cut to the chase. He asked Jesus if he was the King of the Jews, and he in so many words said, “I am.”
Unexpectedly, Pilate pronounced he found “no guilt in this man.” Doggedly, the leaders persisted, but made a tactical error in mentioning Galilee. Then Pilate kicked the can down the road to Herod, who happened to be in town.
The tables had been turned yet again. It is important to note the leaders did not enter the Praetorium (Pilate’s quarters) for fear of defiling themselves and missing out on the Passover meal (John 18:28), yet they wanted their Savior dead!
Trying to find a practical application for this account, I thought of times my hardheadedness led me on righteous pursuits, only to be surprised that to whom I appealed saw no problem with the issue. There’s always the chance that the tables will be turned on you. It normally happens when you’re blindly driven by wrong motives or objectives to the point that you position yourselves squarely in thin air. What I’ve learned is the necessity of applying much time, prayer, and intense reflection on God’s word to whatever wrong I think needs to be righted, so that I might see the forest, not just the trees. This personal lesson seems obscure in this passage, but that’s just how the Lord speaks to us in his word, from the actions of people we might scoff at and condemn. Do I not also possess the same characteristics? Let him without sin cast the first stone.
Out of a discussion of who might be the traitor among the disciples arose a dispute as to who was the greatest. You find this kind of contention amongst brothers all the time. It goes from needling to being at each other’s throats. The word chosen to describe this interaction is phileoneikia, used once and only here in the New Testament, meaning the love of strife. There are other sharper words that could have been used, so when I see “phileo” in a word, having a younger brother, and me having three sons in a row, and him having three sons in a row, and my son having three sons in a row, and his son having three sons in a row, I couldn’t help but recall all the “normal” contentiousness among brothers as they grow up.
Since the disciples reclined around Jesus, no doubt in a pecking order, the stage was set for interaction with such a provocative prospect of betraying their master on the table. Jesus uses the occasion to teach humility and service. He never let the honest expression of human nature go to waste. Since our “word” suggests kind of a brotherly squabble, Jesus teaches that in his realm one must be like the youngest in the family, and the one who by rank must serve rather than be served. Yet Jesus was the greatest servant of all, who most likely washed their feet that night (John 13:5). It’s almost as if he is dispatching the childish disputes among them for good at this moment. He says, look, where you’re going as my representatives you’ll be stepping into my shoes, and ultimately you’ll end up serving as judges in my kingdom. They would all be growing up quickly in the tragic days to come.