Lenten Day 36: The People’s Rule.

Today’s Lectio Divina: Luke 23: 13-25 (MsgB)

Then Pilate called in the high priests, rulers, and the others and said, “You brought this man to me as a disturber of the peace. I examined Him in front of all of you and found there was nothing to your charge. And neither did Herod, for he has sent Him back here with a clean bill of health. It’s clear that He’s done nothing wrong, let alone anything deserving death. I’m going to warn Him to watch His step and let Him go.” At that, the crowd went wild: “Kill Him! Give us Barabbas!” (Barabbas had been thrown in prison for starting a riot in the city and for murder.) Pilate still wanted to let Jesus go, and so spoke out again. But they kept shouting back, “Crucify! Crucify Him!” He tried a third time. “But for what crime? I’ve found nothing in Him deserving death. I’m going to warn Him to watch His step and let Him go.” But they kept at it, a shouting mob, demanding that He be crucified. And finally they shouted him down. Pilate caved in and gave them what they wanted. He released the man thrown in prison for rioting and murder, and gave them Jesus to do whatever they wanted.

In our American form of government, there is a high value given to the people’s right to rule.

Ours is a unique system of government that hadn’t been used much over the centuries until a band of brave men and women living in 13 British colonies in 1776 decided they wanted to give ‘freedom to the people’ a try.

It’s called a republic.

A republic is a unique form of government where people retain control over their governmental system, and where offices of governmental power are not granted through heritage or self-appointment, but through public consensus and election. In other words, there is no monarchy or one who rules outside of the desire of the people.

Often, Americans confuse our republic system of government with a democracy. America was not actually set up to be a democracy.

Now before you start calling me a heretic, let me explain.

A democracy, on one hand, is similar to a republic, since the ultimate power lies with the people. But while a republic elects certain individuals to represent the people in important affairs of the state, a true democracy removes most, if not all, elected positions of power, leaving every individual with the right and the responsibility to share in the governmental decisions at hand.

As with any form of government, there can be great advantages attached to the philosophy of that system, but in reality, each type of governmental structure can also have great disadvantages as well.

In some ways, the Roman government had the makings of a good republic, where individuals are appointed to the affairs of the state, representing the people’s rights and needs. Pilate, for example, has been appointed to his position as prefect to oversee the Roman rule of government in the province of Judaea. The missing piece, of course, in the Roman system is the fact that the government was led by a varying degree of different ‘Caesars’ (czars) over several centuries of power. At times there are better ‘Caesars’ than others. When a benevolent man sat in power, the Roman republic was, at times, a healthy, positive form of government for most citizens of Rome. But the majority of the time the men leading Rome and appointed to power to ‘represent’ the people’s government were far from benevolent people, leaving the citizens to fend for themselves.

To many, a true democracy, on paper, looks to be the best answer, but as we see here in Luke’s passage, a democracy where every person rules, can quickly turn into a lynch mob like it did here in Jesus’ case. It’s interesting that James Madison, 4th President of the United States, did a detailed study of the differences between a republic and a democracy and found the latter to be lacking for this very reason!

While no one is suggesting here that Pilate was a benevolent leader of the republic by any stretch of the imagination, it’s clear that in a true republic, Jesus might not have been crucified in 33 AD. According to Luke, it’s when the mob rule (i.e. a democracy gone bad) takes over that Jesus is actually condemned to His gruesome death on a cross. Apparently, had Pilate had his way (i.e. republic rule) Jesus might have lived to see another day.

So, where’s this lesson in political science taking us today?

The truth of the matter is that there are really only two forms of governmental rule to choose from here on planet earth.

Man’s versus God’s.

Earthly forms of government versus Kingdom rule and reign.

Like the American patriot, William Penn suggested; no form of earthly government can be good on its own accord. Since all forms of government; from socialism and communism to a republic or democracy, have both advantages and disadvantages at their core, the key to any success will not lie in the form of government chosen, but in the Kingdom character and integrity, or lack of, in the men and women chosen to lead and serve the people living under that governmental system.

From God’s perspective, when Jesus is the supreme ruler put in charge of our lives, the system of rules and regulations we then choose to live our lives by will reflect the values and character of the Kingdom of God.

Will that form of Kingdom perfection ever be attained here on earth? No. Because we fallen men and women will always struggle with whose will we truly want here on earth. God or ours?

But as I see it, we Christians can still pursue these Kingdom goals with a deep passion for extending God’s rule and reign in the hearts and minds of all men and women. It’s this Kingdom mission that can literally transform our world from darkness into increasing light.

Sadly, on this dark and sinful Friday morning in Jerusalem in 33 AD, the ugly rule of fallen men and women is having its say. Fortunately for all of us, God will step in and overturn all of these ugly judgments within 48 hours!

Stay tuned; the good part is yet to come!

My prayer: Lord, for reasons beyond my wisdom, You’ve chosen to bring Your Kingdom rule and reign to planet earth and let it mingle with all of these fallen systems of government. For two thousand years now, we followers of Jesus have had to struggle with which power we will serve. Earthly governments versus Kingdom rule and reign? Since all forms of earthly government have both the potential to bless or curse, please empower us increasingly with Your Kingdom wisdom so that we might live wisely in this world in ways that will please and honor You. For Your name’s sake. Amen.

My questions to ponder: Government versus religion? While the two can’t mix, how do we live in this world where worldly governments have been established as a way of life, yet not let those governmental systems domineer over our lives as followers of Christ? As ambassadors of the Kingdom of God, how can I work within our current republic form of government, being effective and involved, yet not overly consumed or over-committed to a system that is fading away?

So, what are you experiencing today as we are journeying through this Lenten Adventure?

Over a 48-day period (from Ash Wednesday through the Monday after Easter), you and I will be taking a deeper look at the stories surrounding the life and ministry of Jesus (especially the last week known as Holy Week) as recorded in the Gospel of Luke. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Our Lenten Journey home page for ease of use. 

If you like what you’re reading, might we suggest you share this page with others!

Click here to go onto the next Lenten session…

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