Tuesday, September 02, 2014

I find no fault in this man

Image:  The Aztec Great Pyramid of Cholula, Puebla, Mexico

Note: Here are some of my notes from the closing application of last Sunday's sermon titled I find no fault in this man (Luke 23:1-12):

Then said Pilate to the chief priests and to the people, I find no fault in this man (Luke 23:4).

The phrase that stands out again in my mind is the ironic declaration from an unlikely mouthpiece, the cold and ruthless Roman ruler, Pontius Pilate.  What does he say of Jesus?  More than he might ever have understood:  “I find no fault in this man."

Now, most of us don’t have any problem finding fault.  We can take even the best of men and find some fault with them.  But the Scriptures say of Jesus:  “I find no fault in this man.”

Think of what your stance would be if you had to stand before God and given an account of every thought, word, and deed in your life.  Would anyone say of you:  “I find no fault in this man.”?  Consider Psalm 130:3  “If thou, LORD,, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who shall stand?”  And the intended answer is, NO ONE!  Yet the Psalmist continues:  “But there is forgiveness with thee that thou mayest be feared” (Ps. 130:4).

This past week I started reading a book by Charles Van Doren, a man who worked as an editor for the Encyclopedia Britannica, titled A History of Knowledge.

In the very beginning, he describes the ancient religions that arose and are recorded in early history.  He has one section where he describes how human sacrifice was an almost universal practice in primitive religions.  In this section he describes the practice among the ancient Aztecs in Mexico:

Among the Aztec, the toll of sacrifice stuns the mind.  In the last years before the Spanish conquest, a thousand of the finest children and young people were offered up each week.  Dressed in splendid robes, they were drugged and then helped up the steps of the high pyramids and held down upon the altars [I omit the grotesque description which follows]….  A thousand a week, many of them captured in raids among the neighboring tribes in the Valley of Mexico.  A thousand a week of the finest among the children and youth, who huddled in prisons before their turn came (p. 12).

We know the ancient Canaanite religions did this as well.  Compare:

Jeremiah 32:35 And they built the high places of Baal, which are in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire unto Molech; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.

Van Doren suggests it was probably the Israelites of old who were the first ancient civilization to reject human sacrifice as wrong and as something that God did not require (citing Genesis 22).  Then, this unbelieving scholar makes an interesting observation.  He says, “The Christians never practiced human sacrifice” because “their religion is based on the one supreme sacrifice” (p. 15).

Why did the ancient Aztec practice human sacrifice?  I think it was because they knew of their sin guilt before a holy and righteous God.  They tried to respond to that guilt in awful and detestable ways that God never required.  But despite the sacrifice of thousands of lives, the guilt was never relieved.  Why?  There never could.  There never was one offered up in whom no fault could be found.

Contrast this with the Gospel account of the passion of Christ.  It only took the laying down of the life of the one perfectly righteous and just man to satisfy the wrath of God and to open a way of peace and reconciliation.


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