Luke 23:13-25 God uses the injustices of life to refine the righteous for higher glory
Luke 23:13-25 God uses the injustices of life to refine the righteous for higher glory
13 Pilate summoned the chief priests and the rulers and the people, 14 and said to them, “You brought this man to me as one who incites the people to rebellion, and behold, having examined Him before you, I have found no guilt in this man regarding the charges which you make against Him. 15 No, nor has Herod, for he sent Him back to us; and behold, nothing deserving death has been done by Him. 16 Therefore I will punish Him and release Him.” 17 [ Now he was obliged to release to them at the feast one prisoner.] 18 But they cried out all together, saying, “ Away with this man, and release for us Barabbas!” 19 (He was one who had been thrown into prison for an insurrection made in the city, and for murder.) 20 Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again, 21 but they kept on calling out, saying, “Crucify, crucify Him!” 22 And he said to them the third time, “Why, what evil has this man done? I have found in Him no guilt demanding death; therefore I will punish Him and release Him.” 23 But they were insistent, with loud voices asking that He be crucified. And their voices began to prevail. 24 And Pilate pronounced sentence that their demand be granted. 25 And he released the man they were asking for who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, but he delivered Jesus to their will.
Jesus was arrested and brought before the Roman court and found to be innocent. However, the Jewish leaders, envious of Jesus’s popularity sought to crucify Him by threatening to incite a riot under Pilate’s watch. Although Jesus was declared innocent, He was still delivered over to be executed because of the Jews. Today’s passage teaches us to be patient and wait for God’s vindication whenever we suffer unjustly. How we respond to injustice reveals the true strength of our spirit. Injustice functions as fire either to refine us as gold or to incinerate our souls turning us into creatures of hate. God uses the injustices of life to prepare the righteous for eternal glory and honour.
I have found no guilt in this man regarding the charges which you make against Him.
Jesus was tried by Pilate and Herod and found to be innocent of the charges leveled against Him. Primarily, Jesus was accused by the Jews for inciting a rebellion against the Roman rulers. Because Jesus had no political agenda, the Jew’s accusations were baseless. It is important to note the significance of Pilate’s judgment for it affirms Jesus’s innocence in the Roman court of law.
Crucify, crucify Him!
Even after Pilate repeatedly upheld Jesus’s innocence: “Why, what evil has this man done?”, the Jews kept calling for Jesus’s crucifixion. Despite Pilate’s offer to scourge Jesus before freeing Him, the Jews remained insistent, with loud voices asking that He be crucified. And their voices began to prevail.
But he delivered Jesus to their will.
Pilate’s response to the Jew’s demands attested to his failure as a steward of justice by executing an innocent man. Pilate was in fact under pressure to maintain a cordial relationship with the Jews for fear that a riot may get him in trouble with Rome. The Jews successfully exploited this fear and Pilate caved. If history was anything to go by, Pilate met his own untimely demise 10 years later for the injustice he had done to this innocent Man.
There will be judgment in the heavenly court for every person according to his works.
God judges the heart of every person according to his works. As the Roman court had judged Jesus and found Him to be innocent. Similarly, a righteous court in heaven will judge the motives of every man’s heart and his works. Paul says,
(God) will render to each person according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. Romans 2:6-8
By works (deeds), God is not referring to religious rituals like baptism, worship and offering. Deeds refer to our lifestyle in reference to the precepts of the Law, our attitude towards our parents, and how we use our resources. Jesus has strong words for those who use religious works and their positions of authority as a cover for their deceit. However, on the day of judgment, God judges not only our works, but also the words that flowed from the abundance of our heart. Jesus says,
But I tell you that every careless word that people speak, they shall give an accounting for it in the day of judgment. For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned. Matthew 12:36
The tongue is the expression of the heart; it is like the fruit that reveals the quality of the tree. Therefore, God judges a man’s heart through the words that flow from his tongue.
Some churches play down the teachings on God’s righteous judgments preferring to saturate the people’s minds with messages of forgiveness. Their teachers paint a picture of an ever-smiling God who is oblivious to the sins of the people. They suppose that messages of forgiveness is needed in drawing the masses into the church, but it produces a decadent generation who tramples on the blood of Christ. While leaders must not use God’s judgment to intimidate people into living godly lives, an awareness of the final judgment produces responsible living. If every good parent will teach their children the rewards of hard work and the consequences of slothfulness, how much more believers should consider with utmost seriousness the judgment that has eternal consequences.
The human court may not give you justice, but the heavenly court will.
The human court is far from just; in some countries, influential men hold sway over the justice system. Although Jesus was exonerated by Pilate, but He was still delivered over to be executed like a criminal. However, the heavenly court of the sovereign Lord vindicated Jesus by raising Him from death and exalted Him above all creation. Therefore, believers must not be dismayed by injustice or harbor a personal vendetta when wronged. Those who suffer for the course of the kingdom must learn to forgive and trust God who will in His time execute righteous judgment for all. The apostle Paul said,
This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering—since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you. 1 Thessalonians 1:5-6
Jesus must have felt grave injustice when He was delivered over despite being exonerated by the Roman court. The Roman court could not be depended upon to protect the innocent as is the case for most courts in today’s world. Injustice is indeed the law of the devil’s kingdom, it rewards evil and punishes the innocent.
As we know it, injustice prevails in all stratas of society, in the family, work place and even in the highest court of the government. But Jesus, the righteous Judge will return and execute justice for all people. Therefore, believers must wait patiently and do what is right by loving God and loving others. Peter asked Jesus concerning justice, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?” Jesus told them about an impending shift in power, that those who are righteous will be promoted to positions of authority (see Matthew 19:28). And this universal phenomenon will ensue:
And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last; and the last, first. Matthew 19:29-30
God uses life’s injustices and suffering to refine the righteous for higher glory and authority.
Christ was unjustly condemned so that He through suffering may be crowned with glory and honour. Hebrews 2:9 says,
But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honour.
Likewise, God uses life’s injustice and suffering to refine His children, that in carrying the cross they may be perfected as well. The cross symbolises the path of suffering and injustice that leads to eternal glory and honour. Indeed, if there is no cross, there will be no crown. The apostle Peter taught that it is appropriate for one to suffer for doing right,
For it is better, if God should will it so, that you suffer for doing what is right rather than for doing what is wrong. For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit. 1 Peter 3:17-18
Jesus was glorified (made alive in the spirit) because He obeyed and suffered for doing what is right (put to death in the flesh). Although it is grave injustice for Jesus who did no wrong (the just) to be punished for the sake of the wicked (the unjust), God vindicated Him through His resurrection. Injustice for the just is the crucible of eternal glory.
How do believers cope with suffering? The apostle Paul encouraged believers in the midst of suffering to look to the surpassing glory of the reward,
The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. Romans 8:16-18
What are some of the sufferings of this present time?
- To suffer is to put aside one’s personal dreams to fulfil God’s dreams (see 2 Timothy 2:3-4). The righteous can no longer do what they desire (see John 12:24-26). However, this is all worth it considering the glory that will be given (see Romans 8:18).
- To suffer is to serve the church and thus deprive oneself of a more affluent and carefree life (see Colossians 1:24).
- To suffer is to experience backlash and attacks of the enemy when you do what is right. Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. 2 Timothy 3:12.
- To suffer is to persevere in the work of the gospel despite tiredness and physical discomfort, poverty, mental fatigue and dangers (see Matthew 8:20).
- To suffer is to experience God’s discipline in preparation to receive greater authority and blessing (see Psalm 119:71, Hebrews 12:10-11).
- To suffer is to fight against the corrupt desires of a perverse generation. Righteous Lot was tormented day after day by the lawless deeds of the people (see 2 Peter 2:7-10). Persevere in sanctifying yourself for the sake of your family and disciples and do not give up. Jesus’s motivation in personal sanctification is so that His disciples may be sanctified through Him (see John 17:19).
- To suffer is to experience a thorn from God so that the elite of God may remain humble (see 2 Corinthians 12:7).
- To suffer is to come to the limit of what one can bear, which compels him to draw from the infinite grace of God (see 2 Corinthians 12:10).
Every person in authority will be held accountable for his actions and the decision he makes.
Those who are in authority must carefully consider their own manner of life as they will be judged more severely. James says,
Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. James 3:1
Those in authority will be judged more severely as their actions will carry greater consequences on the day of judgment. Therefore, bosses, pastors, parents and heads of companies and states must discharge their responsibilities according to the standard of the truth and not be swayed by fear or personal agenda. Therefore, those who aspire to higher offices must understand that authority does not carry special privileges in God’s kingdom. They must not be given to fleshly ambition or be drawn by the allure of power. Pilate acted unjustly when he handled Jesus over to the Jews. As history has it, he ended his own life a decade later as just payment for his deeds.
Let us be more careful with the words that we speak and the things that we do as we will be called to account for them. Hence, we must never deceive others with lies for the truth will be revealed. Things done in secret that are buried will resurface on the day of judgment.
If you are a person in authority, do you direct your subordinates according to your fancies and practice double standards? Do you practice favoritism in a bid to cause others to submit to you? We must treat our subordinates according to the righteous principles of God and reward them accordingly.
Are you sometimes easily angered when certain hurtful incidents are brought to mind? There may be emotions of injustice that run deep that may one day rear its ugly head to trouble you. We must remember that God is our vindicator who will require justice from those who have hurt the innocent.
Do you harbour a sense of injustice that you are always dealt a bad hand. You have always felt that others are given a better lot, with better talents, and greater resources. But your academic achievements are not great, your career has not been smooth, and you are always overlooked when opportunity comes. Nevertheless, you desire excellence in your endeavours and hope that you may one day be exemplary in your community. Be comforted for God is using your circumstances to prepare you to receive a greater anointing. Rejoice that your sufferings are not without purpose and they will surely come to an end. The Psalmist says, “Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.” Psalm 34:19.
Dear Lord, I will be true and just in all my dealings with others. Give me the wisdom to treat others with fairness and equity. As I trust you as my vindicator, heal the wounds of my heart and remove from me the emotions of injustice. Give me grace to persevere on this journey so that I may fulfil my calling in good time. In Jesus’s name I pray. Amen.