Years ago, during my seminary days, I once caught a ride with one of the leaders of my church to a baptismal service. Our church wasn’t yet built so we were availing ourselves of a swimming pool that belonged to another of our church members. It was a short drive, maybe fifteen minutes or so. In that brief amount of time – riding with a man who was serving as both an elder and as a Sunday School teacher – my young, trusting ears were seriously violated. On the way to celebrate a sacred moment, this church leader managed to share a string of vicious and unkind remarks about the Senior Pastor for whom I worked. I admired our Pastor. I was appalled. This guy was wanting me to join in some kind of cabal. I was not skilled enough at the time to pin back the ears of a hostile, backbiting elder. I’ve since acquired those skills.
When we arrived, the beautiful symbolism surrounding the baptism should have held my attention. Yet, I found myself glancing time and again in the direction of this Elder of Slander. He was a pro. A change had come over him. He was nodding along at just the right moments, looking saintly, and sharing a series of well-timed “amens.” I seriously considered re-baptizing him.
Going from hellion to holier than thou is not a new thing. It was a studied and refined talent of the Sanhedrin. At the end of the show trial Jesus had been beaten, spit upon and mocked. Now, as they ushered Jesus over to the Palace that housed the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate, the veneer of their religious perfidy surfaced once more: Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. ~John 18:28
It’s hard to grasp this stunning duplicity. In their arms was a bruised and bleeding man. Their main concern at the moment was the possibility of missing out on the Passover meal. The reason? It all had to do with their fastidious Sanhedrin math. The guy they needed a favor from was a Roman, therefore a heathen. If they entered his palace that would make them ritualistically unclean and unable to celebrate the Passover. And in their blindness, they never considered that the reality behind that symbolic meal stood bound and bleeding before them.