Training Jesus

I am a chaplain at a youth correction center. Most of the students I deal with are good kids. Oh sure, they messed up. But with a little training, they’ll be alright. The goal of the youth correction center is not merely punishment. The primary goal is correction. Just like the name implies. But can there be correction or training without consequences? Maybe, but I’ve never seen it work. I wonder if we think of Jesus this way. Whoa! That was an abrupt shift. Hang with me. Maybe if we could just train Jesus up a bit, he might be more palatable. I mean, he’s a little rough around the edges. Maybe if we give him the cold shoulder, he’ll come around to our way of thinking. Maybe if we persecute his church, he’ll get his act together. Maybe if we correct his words, he’ll get himself in line with cultural expectations. You know. Like that.

In Luke 23:13-16 Jesus is back with Pilate. Shuffling him off to Herod was not effective, it seems. Pilate summoned together the chief priests and the rulers and the people. Up until this point the people have been kind of a buffer between the hostility of the religious rulers and Jesus. The whole betrayal under the cover of darkness was done because the rulers were afraid of how the people might respond. Why does Pilate suddenly invite them to the party? Some suggest he was hoping that among them, there might be a Jesus supporter. On the other hand, it has been suggested that the religious leaders had been busy working on public opinion and that the people are now part and parcel in agreement with the accusations against Jesus. When you peruse the other gospel accounts, there is this major shift that takes place during the trial. Mob mentality is alive and well. So, maybe, the crowd has been worked up against Jesus and they have been shouting and clamoring for a conviction and Pilate is summoning together the opposition.

The formal accusation against Jesus is found in 23:2, 5. Notice that they accused Jesus of misleading “our nation.” Nation is the term Gentiles would use. When Pilate addresses the gathered together hostile crowd he recasts the accusation, “You brought this man as one who perverts the people.” He used the term “people,” which is how the Jewish people referred to themselves. They were the People of God. They are approaching Pilate as just another nation. They are not acting like the People at all. Pilate also changed the word from “misleading” to “turn, pervert.” The word “rebellion” is not in the Greek and is not really implied in the word “turn.” There is irony here. Maybe unintentional on Pilate’s part, but irony nonetheless. The religious rulers are the ones who have turned or perverted the people. Okay, there may just be a lesson here for us. Will we allow the religious elite to tell us who Jesus is? Maybe we should spend time with Jesus and discover who he is from him. This is the only safeguard from being turned.

Pilate makes it very clear that he has found no guilt. Their accusations are wispy at best. Herod may have mocked Jesus, but he sent him back without an official verdict of any kind. Pilate rightfully takes this as a “not guilty” verdict. Jesus may stir up the people, but he has done nothing that is worthy of death. So, the alternate plan is to punish him and release him. The word “punish” is usually translated “train” and is applied mostly to training a child. It hints at discipline. What Pilate is proposing is a good ol’ fashioned Roman beating and then release. Done! But the word he used implies that he either is conceding with Jewish leadership that Jesus may need some training to get himself on the right track, or that he himself thought it possible. After all, most people are guilty of something. Give them a beating and they will be trained to stay out of trouble. Verse 17 is not in the earliest and best manuscripts. It was most likely added later by someone who was aware of Mark’s account and thought this needed further explanation. There is nothing in this verse that changes or contradicts anything.

Jesus came to train us, but we tend to try to beat him into submission. It is tempting to tweak Jesus’ words in order to embrace sin. And that whole dying to ourself thing seems too harsh. Surely, Jesus came to bless our whims; to make us feel good about ourselves. There are churches that try to train Jesus into being a hater. Or maybe he should be a condoner of sin; one who eats with the sinners and never ever brings up repentance. Or maybe he is a white American. In the Chronicles of Narnia, Aslan, who is an allegory for Jesus, is often described as “not being a tame lion after all.” You cannot train Jesus. You can only train your perception. Rather, see Jesus and submit to being trained by him. This is more blessed.