I recently preached during a Wednesday night Lenten service at my church.  The text was from Matthew 27:11-26, where Jesus is condemned to death by Pontius Pilate. For nearly 2,000 years, Christians have confessed the words of the Apostles’ Creed: “He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried.”  Jesus was crucified as a rebel against Rome. In an early sermon Peter reminds the people, “This is the same Jesus whom you handed over and rejected before Pilate, despite Pilate’s decision to release him” (Acts 3:13). 

N.T. Wright has observed, “Somehow, Jesus’ death was seen by Jesus himself, and then by those who told and ultimately wrote his story, as the ultimate means by which God’s kingdom was established.  The crucifixion was the shocking answer to the prayer that God’s kingdom would come on earth as in heaven.  It was the ultimate Exodus event through which the tyrant was defeated.  God’s people were set free and given their fresh vocation, and God’s presence was established in their midst in a completely new way for which the Temple was just an advance pointer.”

Wright says further that Jesus “could not establish the new creation without allowing the poison in the old to have it full effect.”  Before he could bring healing to our world, He would provide “the antidote to the infection that would otherwise destroy the project from within.”  Jesus would defeat evil by means of “the deeply subversive nature of his own kingdom announcement.  He would defeat evil by letting it do its worst to him.”

A very contemporary phrase to use would be Jesus by his death and suffering was “draining the swamp.” Only Jesus could right all the wrong in our world – that is, drain all the puss out of the wounds of sin.  Contemporary political rhetoric will never get to the heart of this issue.  Paul provides us with this message to our divided world: “We’re Christ’s representatives.  God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them.  We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.  How? you ask.  In Christ.  God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God” (II Cor. 5:20-21 – Message). 

Where do we start to straighten out all the problems with so much “crooked timber?”  Of course, it will never be fully corrected until Jesus comes back and makes all things new. This is our hope and confidence.  As followers of Jesus, we are on the right side of history.  John tells of seeing Jesus seated on the throne, declaring, “I am making everything new!” (Rev. 21:5).  Then he was told, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true” (Rev. 21:5).  We live in the in-between time when Jesus is “draining the swamp.”  We can hear “loud voices” in heaven declaring, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever” (Rev. 11:15). 

Jesus’ suffering and death is our King defeating evil and beginning his reign on the earth.  The chorus from a new song by Shane and Shane entitled “You’ve Already Won” reminds us: “I’m fighting the battle/You’ve already won/No matter what comes my way/I will overcome/Don’t know what You’re doing/But I know what You’ve done/And I’m fighting a battle/You’ve already won.”

Men: stop striving and listen, “The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (Ex. 14:14).