How do you kill a Red Elephant?
With a Red Elephant Gun.
My heart goes out to the millennials that desperately want to show a semblance of virtue, to convince others they live a dream existence and promote it on social media but without having to truly sacrifice for it. They want to be happy, not necessarily happy with themselves, and think they travelling from soundbite truism to soundbite truism will get them there.
The tragedy is that the false representation of achievements and the sharing of hyper-successful Millennials falsely promotes a worldly idea of success and a pressure that you aren’t anything until you obviously have it, and others see it. The multitudes of options paralyzes or sends the Millennials into spirals to quickly quit and do something different until they tangibly see quick results in their satisfaction. (1) Math seems hard? Quit. Mathematicians aren’t glamourous anyway. A boss seems unreasonable? Quit and find another job. So why do many run away so quickly from the “harshness”? Why are they so easily triggered and need “safe spaces”? I would just like to say, when you have real Truth on your side, you do not easily give up or are easily offended. There must be an objective grounding to the reasons why you do the things you do, or else your convictions and efforts will be erratic, short-lived or worse lead to a dissonance that causes us to compromise on what is truly good.
However, as written in my earlier post, the behavior of Millennials is but a symptom of the true elephant in the room – the post-modernist liberal relativistic climate that they have been born into. My gun is not aimed at the Millennial, but rather the elephant. We should learn from these Millennials, because they are a much better barometer of this climate because unlike us, they were born into it. Truth is relative.
“If we ask: ‘Why ought I to be unselfish?’ and you reply ‘Because it is good for society,’ we may then ask, ‘Why should I care what’s good for society except when it happens to pay me personally?’ and then you will have to say, ‘Because you ought to be unselfish’—which simply brings us back to where we started.”
CS Lewis, Mere Christianity
If we are bombarded by truth claims everywhere, perhaps all of them have no basis. Hence, the only basis is ourselves. But history has shown that relying on ourselves alone is a very risky prospect. When adversities come, even the best of us have slipped. However, we will slip even faster and harder when if we are convinced that we ourselves are the basis of truth.
But take great comfort that the Bible has addressed this a long time ago and records that even greater men have wrestled with this climate in even more pivotal moments in history. Did not Pontius Pilate, the fifth prefect of the Roman province of Judea exclaim in the public trial of Jesus, “what is truth?” Quid est veritas. He did this before exasperatingly giving in to political pressure and condemned a great man who he knew was innocent. He did what he did not want to do. Relativism had already reared its ugly head, combining with the sins of the Jewish mob to bring about the biggest tragedy and travesty in world history. My friend, don’t let these two bring about a travesty in your personal history.
So instructive here that we see the great contrast. Pilate and Jesus. One is on the side of power and accusation, the other like a lamb to be slaughtered. Rome was the nexus of so many religions, philosophies, and modes of thought. It was saturating. With all the saturation of Greco-Roman myths and traditions, cults, Greek philosophies, and all sort of Gnosticism, Cynicism, Epicurism, agnosticism and atheism which were prevalent in the 1st century, along with the Roman penchant of philosophical and political discussion, Pilate had already seen it all. He was the original Millennial of 0 A.D, before the Millennials of 2000 A.D. Even more so, this guy actually had great achievements. He was revered and envied. If he had Facebook, every small thought he posts would have thousands of likes by sycophants. Take a page from Pilate. Achievements on desperate display cannot fill up the God-shaped hole in your heart. But more importantly, he knew nobody that could simple be like Jesus. The undeniable that was brought out by the most soul crushing of situations. Whatever Jesus had inside of Him, it wasn’t anything Pilate has seen before, or have even discussed before.
Yet, in the showdown between Pilate and Jesus, it is Pilate; a sovereign Roman judge, with all his regalia on display, years of political maneuvering and faux-philosophical intellectualism that was unhinged. Even after flogging Jesus into a bloody mess and placing a crown of thorns on his head, the Bible records Pilate “was even more afraid” of Jesus (John 19). Like a desperate man grabbing hold of straws, he throws out rhetoric and panders to the crowds because his “truths” could not stand up to the pressure on him. A cowardly capitulation. The other one, Jesus, had the countenance of a lion. Even though a bloody mess, what dignity, what authority. This is the difference between relativism and Truth.
In fact, this court-case scene between the big time Roman government and the small time fisherman’s messiah is a good analogy for the perception of Christianity vs the other more “established” worlds of thought. There were so many “grander” and more socially acceptable religions to choose from at the time.
The great Greek philosophies. The overlapping Greek and Roman gods and traditions. The mystical cults. All of these came from great empires or in the case of Rome, the ruling empire. How a small-time bastard religion that was an offspring of a defeated and subjugated group of people (Judaism) eventually won out and lasted way longer than the rest is a miracle in itself. It defies historical norms. There has been none that have survived and grown across the world in such circumstances.
Think about it. People don’t tend to follow “losers”. There are much more benefits joining the acceptable thought club of the empire in power. People not only chose to follow a subjugated race’s religion, they followed the offshoot that was rejected by the establishment of that race itself. It was the rejected beliefs of a second class subjugated race. That’s double the rejection – double the reason that it should never have lasted against its louder and more alluring competition.
How did it survive?
It was not for political reasons as many uninformed would say. I’m not talking about when Constantine made Christianity tolerable in 312 AD. I’m talking about the 300 years before that! Nero and a whole slew of powers abused the followers of Christianity. They were cast to lions while other religious clubs had social benefits. How it survived, as you will see in Pilate’s and Jesus case, is the same.
While others were talking about systems of thoughts, how to better your behavior, or what heaven and hell could be like – either esoteric or fluffy stuff based on revelations that could never be proven. Early Christianity was just eye-witness testimonies. Nobody was Bible thumping verses for behavior modification. People were spreading the word that they saw Jesus in person. Jesus did miracles. They saw him die on the cross. They saw the tomb was empty. They saw his resurrection as evidence that what He said was true. Heaven was invading Earth with tangible results. The blind see. The lame walked. Grace was overwhelming all sorts of injustice.
Miracles were supposedly happening as the Gospel was being preached too. Heaven was endorsing this movement. This is why God chose to use the least of the least people as messengers, from a people’s group that was politically subjugated, and whose group’s establishment had rejected! God uses the least of the least of the least to show people that when it works, it is not due to chance.
The highly esteemed Pharisee and Paul’s mentor, Gamaliel, stood up in the Sanhedrin and offered his insight, after seeing so many “fake messiahs” come and go.
“Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”
Back to the Courtroom
Pilate was unhinged, never before seeing someone so stoic, so perfect, in the face of mob condemnation and certain mockery and death. Jesus’ supernatural steadfastness was a direct challenge to the essence of Pilate’s being. Pilate knew that no man, including himself, could behave in such a kingly way. A true king, revealing all the others who were pretend kings without crowns. Real Truth is uncomfortable. It reveals our own mistruths, our subtle inadequacies that we conveniently adopted in order to avoid soul-searching and asking the tough questions that we might continue to “eat cake”. Or, in the original French the alleged quote reads, “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche,” which means, literally, “Let them eat rich, expensive, funny-shaped, yellow, eggy buns.”
So he barraged Jesus with questions. But the questions were not for Jesus. They were a helpless reflex of a man in dissonance, because the spirit and countenance of Jesus was unlike anything he had seen, and it condemned him – Pilate knew he could never have the substance within. It made him very uncomfortable. The man who had every reason to be unshakable was visibly shaken. The man who had every reason to be visibly shaken was unshakable. Where did such spirit come from?
“Where do you come from?”
“Do you refuse to speak to me?”
“Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or crucify you?”
How can a man that was subjugated and beaten by Pilate and betrayed by his own Jewish brothers still conduct himself like a king. It’s like He knew something that everyone else didn’t. It’s like He was something that everyone wasn’t. It’s because He had an absolute truth, above the truths of man. This truth fully defined his kingly identity, his unmovable destiny and the inseparable love to Him by an almighty God. Jesus had the perfect answer. His timing to not answer Pilate was the perfect answer in itself. The silence spoke volumes.
Then Jesus spoke, in His timing, on His terms, to answer a question that wasn’t even asked! He knocked the elephant in the room with his elephant gun. The one nugget of truth that put everyone else and the world itself in their place. God is ultimately in control, the Father loves the Son, and no person can derail the great plans God has for those who love him. (Jer 29:11-13, Rom 8:28)
Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above.” (John 19:11)
In a relativistic world, everybody’s opinion matters. Everybody’s self is the source of their authority. Yet, in a world where everyone’s opinion is truth, nothing is truth. Hence, by extension, the powerful, the rich, the successful and charismatic get to impose more of their truths on society. They have to do so in order mask the bankruptcy of their lives. Yet in doing so, they push people down. There is no divine plan. We are in some sense the victim of random forces. If you cannot achieve as much as others or as fast, then you can either blame yourself, everyone else, or everything at all. Is there really any meaning in this universe?
“If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning: just as, if there were no light in the universe and therefore no creatures with eyes, we should never know it was dark. Dark would be a word without meaning.”
CS Lewis, Mere Christianity
Yes. By logic alone we see the shadow that there could be meaning. But Jesus saw the meaning in it’s fullness.
With Jesus, He knew that no matter what the world tried to do with Him, God would fit all of those machinations, good or ill-intended, and use it to fulfill His perfect will. The world would be saved, and Jesus would be seated on a heavenly throne at the right hand of God. The truth is, there are heavenly forces influencing worldly randomness to take shape into the destiny of Jesus. Pilate could sense it, perhaps he could even see it, even a bloodied face cannot hide it. And when Pilate turned his eye upon Jesus, and looked full in His wonderful face. The things on earth became strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.
This is your Jesus. Even in the face of roaring mobs and authority of local government threatening beatings and death, He was the lion. He didn’t even have to open His mouth for his detractors to know that. Compare that to the postmodernist mobs that are fighting to persuade each other for legitimacy. Their unceasing verbal gymnastics and virtue signaling bores me.
But this was Jesus, you might ask. This is not me. What Truth do I have?
I’m glad you asked. Stay tune for part 3.
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