From John Stotts’ “The Cross””

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“In Matthew’s words, ‘He knew it was out of envy that they had handed Jesus over to him’.There is no reason to question Pilate’s assessment. He was a shrewd judge of human character. Besides, the evangelists appear, by recording his judgment, to endorse it. Envy! Envy is the reverse side of a coin called vanity. Nobody is ever envious of others who is not first proud of himself. And the Jewish leaders were proud, racially, nationally, religiously and morally proud. They were proud of their nation’s long history of a special relationship with God, proud of their own leadership role in this nation, and above all proud of their authority. Their contest with Jesus was essentially an authority struggle. For he challenged their authority, while at the same time possessing himself an authority which they manifestly lacked. When they came to him with their probing questions, ‘By what authority are you doing these things? And who gave you authority to do this?’(Mark 11:28), they thought they had nailed him. But instead they found themselves nailed by his counter-question: ‘John’s baptism –was it from heaven, or from men? Tell me!’(v. 30). They were trapped. They could not answer ‘from heaven’or he would want to know why they did not believe him. Nor could they answer ‘from men’, because they feared the people who were convinced that John was a true prophet. So they gave no reply. Their prevarication was a symptom of their insincerity. If they could not face the challenge of John’s authority, they certainly could not face the challenge of Christ’s. He claimed authority to teach about God, to drive out demons, to forgive sins, to judge the world. In all this he was utterly unlike them, for the only authority they knew was an appeal to other authorities. Besides, there was a self-evident genuineness about his authority. It was real, effortless, transparent, from God.” — John Stott (pp. 53-54)

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