A long time ago in a place far away a country prophet walked the dusty roads of ancient Palestine. His followers were for the most part a ragtag band of social misfits. Behind Him lay a trail of awed adorers, vicious critics, and curious masses. Before Him lay the uncertain prospect of triumph or the more probable possibility of tragedy.
This itinerate’s ministry abruptly ended when he was arrested by the religious leaders of His day. They tried and convicted Him of no less heinous a crime than blasphemy. After all, He had made Himself equal with God by claiming to be God’s Son. He even had the audacity to vow He would prove His outlandish claim to divinity by rising from the dead. For this reason, the religious leaders conspired to put Him to death. They were sure He, like all other men, would prove incapable of conquering death and the grave. Therefore, He would be discredited and they would be rid of Him once and for all.
To sentence this wandering miracle worker to death the religious leaders needed the help of the civil authorities. Only the civil authorities had the power to execute. Hence, the religious leaders added to the charge of blasphemy that of treason, for this country preacher had not only claimed to be God, but a king as well.
Although the civil authorities may have disregarded all claims to deity, they could not ignore any threat to Caesar. Whereas they may have viewed this itinerate laughable, Caesar may have found Him intolerable. Thus, in fear of the Roman Emperor, not this country eccentric, the civil authorities were forced to align themselves with the religious leaders in their plot to rub out this roving Jewish rabbi.
The execution of this Nazarene on a cruel Roman cross is heartrending, especially since it appears to have been so unnecessary. If He had only remained in His small rural village practicing His trade. Or if He had only toned down His rhetoric to have made it less offensive and confrontational. Whatever possessed Him to challenge the entrenched and established norms of His day? Why couldn’t He, like everyone else, be satisfied with the status quo?
It was the threat that He posed to the people of his day that got Him into all of His trouble. The religious leaders saw Him as a threat to everything they had thought, taught, and toiled for. He challenged all their ideas about man, life, and God, which backed them into an inescapable dilemma. They either had to rise to the challenge or remove the Challenger. They opted for the latter.
The religious leaders were joined by the civil authorities because they too felt threatened by this lowly Galilean. They were not threatened so much by His claims of establishing an eternal kingdom in the hearts of men, a kingdom which He brazenly boasted would one day usurp all other kingdoms. In all likelihood, they found such claims by this country eccentric quite humorous. Still, the possibility that Caesar might fail to find the humor in it was most worrisome to them. If Caesar viewed this simple Teacher’s claims as more serious than silly, their positions, as well as their lives, could be jeopardized by their inaction. Consequently, they felt compelled into action to eliminate this possible threat to themselves.
Together the religious leaders and civil authorities did away with this man who was a threat to life as all men had known it. They tried, convicted, sentenced, and executed Him. Afterward, they gave permission to a certain rich man to take His body down from the cross to bury in a tomb. The entrance to the tomb was sealed with a boulder and the Roman seal of state placed on it for safekeeping. As a further precaution, Roman soldiers were stationed as sentries at the sepulcher. At long last the threat was gone, the country preacher could be forever forgotten, and life could return to normal.
The dawning of the following Sunday brought with it, much to the consternation of all, the realization that life could never be the same again. Since the sunrise of that first Easter all who care to look may see for themselves that the tomb is empty. No Sanhedrin, nor seal of state, nor boulder, nor Roman guard could keep the Son of God from emerging that eventful morning from the tomb victorious over death and the grave. The indelible figure of the resurrected Christ still stands over our world today challenging men to rise above life as they have always known it.
Like the religious leaders and civil authorities of Jesus’ day we too are unable to rid ourselves of the threat Christ poses. Daily He challenges us to change the way we think, speak, and act. He threatens our place by desiring to unseat us on the throne of our heart. Even our lives are threatened by His demand that they be laid down at His feet, the nail-scarred feet of Him who laid down His life for us. Many today will spend their lives, like the conspirators of Christ’s day, futilely attempting to rid themselves of the Challenger. On the other hand, a few brave souls will rise in faith to meet the challenge. How about you? What will you do?