Call to Worship February 24 2019

Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of Luke

J.C. Ryle Luke 23:1-12

“Let us observe, for one thing, in this passage — what false accusations were laid to our Lord Jesus Christ’s charge. We are told that the Jews accused Him of ‘subverting the nation, forbidding to give taxes to Caesar, and stirring up the people.’ In all this indictment, we know, there was not a word of truth. It was nothing but a devious attempt to enlist the Roman governor against our Lord.

Lying and slander are two favorite weapons of the devil. He was a liar from the beginning, and is still the father of lies. (John 8:44.) When he finds that he cannot stop God’s work — his next device is to blacken the character of God’s servants, and to destroy the value of their testimony.

With this weapon, he assaulted David, ‘False witnesses,’ he says, ‘testify against me. They accuse me of crimes I know nothing about.’

With this weapon, he assaulted the prophets. Elijah was accused of being a ‘troubler of Israel!’ Jeremiah was accused of undermining the nation, and being a traitor!

With this weapon Satan assaulted the apostles. They were ‘pestilent fellows,’ and men who ‘turned the world upside down.’

With this weapon he assaulted our Lord all through His ministry. He stirred up his agents to call Him a glutton and a drunkard, a Samaritan and a devil! (Luke 7:34; John 8:48.)

And here, in the verses before us, we find Satan plying his old weapon to the very last. Jesus is arraigned before Pilate upon charges which are utterly untrue.

The servant of Christ must never be surprised if he has to drink of the same cup with his Lord. When He who was holy, harmless, and undefiled, was foully slandered — then who can expect to escape? ‘If they called the master of the house Beelzebub — then how much more will they call those of his household?’ (Matthew 10:25.)

Nothing is too evil to slander a saint with. Perfect innocence is no fence against enormous lying, calumny, and misrepresentation. The most blameless character, will not secure us against false tongues. We must bear the trial patiently. It is part of the cross of Christ. We must sit still, lean back on God’s promises, and believe that in the long run truth will prevail. ‘Rest in the Lord,’ says David, ‘and wait patiently for Him.’ ‘He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your judgment as the noonday.’ (Psalm 37:6, 7.)

Let us observe, for another thing, in this passage — the strange and mingled motives which influence the hearts of unconverted great men. We are told that when our Lord was sent by Pilate to Herod, king of Galilee, ‘Herod was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see Him. From what he had heard about Him, he hoped to see Him perform some miracle.’

These words are remarkable. Herod was a sensual, worldly man, the murderer of John the Baptist — a man living in foul adultery with his brother’s wife. Such a man, we might have supposed, would have had no desire to see Christ. But Herod had an uneasy conscience. The blood of God’s murdered saints, no doubt, rose often before his eyes, and destroyed his peace. The fame of our Lord’s preaching and miracles had penetrated even into his court. It was said that another witness against sin had risen up, who was even more faithful and bold than John the Baptist; and who confirmed his teaching by miracles!

These rumors made Herod restless and uncomfortable. No wonder that his curiosity was stirred, and he wanted to see Christ.

It may be feared that there are many great and rich men like Herod in every age of the church — men without God, without faith, and living only for themselves. They generally live in an atmosphere of their own — flattered, fawned upon, and never told the truth about their souls — haughty, tyrannical, and knowing no will but their own. Yet even these men are sometimes conscience-stricken and afraid.

God raises up some bold witness against their sins, whose testimony reaches their ears. At once their curiosity is stirred. They feel ‘found out,’ and are ill at ease. They flutter around his ministry, like the moth round the candle, and seem unable to keep away from it, even while they do not obey it. They praise his talents and openly profess their admiration of his power. But they never get any further.

Like Herod, their conscience produces within them a morbid curiosity to see and hear God’s witnesses. But, like Herod, their heart is linked to the world by chains of iron. Tossed to and fro by storms of lust or ungovernable passions — they are never at rest while they live; and after all their fitful struggles of conscience — they die at length in their sins. This is a painful history. But it is the history of many rich men’s souls.

Let us learn from Herod’s case, to pity great men. With all their greatness and apparent splendor — they are often thoroughly miserable within. Silks and satins and official robes, often cover hearts which are utter strangers to peace. That man does not understand what he is wishing for — who wishes to be a rich man.

Let us pray for rich men — as well as pity them. They carry a heavy weight in the race for eternal life. If they are saved, it can only be by the greatest miracles of God’s grace. Our Lord’s words are very solemn, ‘It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle — than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’ (Matthew 19:24.)

Let us observe, finally, in this passage — how easily and readily, unconverted men can agree in disliking Christ. We are told that when Pilate sent our Lord a prisoner to Herod, ‘That day Herod and Pilate became friends; before this they had been enemies.’ We know not the cause of their enmity. It was probably some petty quarrel, such as will arise among great as well as small. But whatever the cause of enmity — it was laid aside when a common object of contempt, fear, or hatred was brought before them. Whatever else they disagreed about — Pilate and Herod could agree to despise and persecute Christ.

The incident before us is a striking emblem of a state of things which may always be seen in the world. Men of the most discordant opinions — can unite in opposing truth. Teachers of the most opposite doctrines — can make common cause in fighting against the Gospel.

In the days of our Lord, the Pharisees and the Sadducees might be seen combining their forces to entrap Jesus of Nazareth and put Him to death.

In our own times, we sometimes see Romanists — and Socinians; infidels — and idolaters; worldly pleasure-lovers — and bigoted moralists; the friends of so-called liberal views — and the most determined opponents of all changes — all ranked together against evangelical religion. One common hatred binds them together. They hate the cross of Christ!

To use the words of the apostles in the Acts, ‘Against your holy child Jesus, whom you have anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, are gathered together.’ (Acts 4:27.) All hate each other very much — but all hate Christ much more!

The true Christian must not count the enmity of the world to be a strange thing. He must not marvel, if like Paul at Rome, he finds the Way of Life, a ‘way everywhere spoken against,’ and if all around him agree in disliking his religion. (Acts 28:22.) If he expects that by any concession, he can win the favor of man — then he will be greatly deceived.

Let not his heart be troubled. He must only expect the praise of God. The saying of his Master should often come across his mind, ‘If you belonged to the world — then it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you!’ (John 15:19.)”