TURNING THE CHEEK: EMBRACING THE FIRST BLOW ONLY TO BE DEALT ANOTHER

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as recorded by the apostle Matthew. More specifically, today’s passage is found in verses eleven through thirty-one of the twenty-seventh chapter. When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find it picking up where verses one and two ended at the beginning of this same chapter. If you begin reading front he beginning of this chapter you will find that after the trial which Jesus stood and endured during the night, all the chief priests and the elders of the people of Israel took counsel how they might put Jesus to death. The opening verses of this particular chapter bring us face to face with the fact that Jesus was bound and led away to the place of Pontius Pilate who was the governor over the region of that particular time. When verse eleven opens up it does so with Pilate speaking unto Jesus and asking Him very bluntly and matter of factly whether or not He was in fact the King of the Jews. Upon hearing the question asked by Pontius Pilate Jesus promptly responded by simply saying and declaring “Thou sayest.” What is actually quite interesting about Jesus standing before Pontius Pilate there within the city of Jerusalem is that the trial which began at the palace and house of the high priest the night before continued on into the next morning as Jesus now stood trial before Pontius Pilate who in fact represented the Roman Empire. It was Pontius Pilate who was put in charge of Judaea and Jerusalem, and it was he himself who was the prefect of Rome and ambassador for the Empire within Judaea and the surrounding region. As you come to the eleventh verse of this chapter you will find Jesus standing before the governor, and the governor asking Him whether or not He was in fact the King of the Jews. What Matthew is careful to record in this particular passage of Scripture is that while Jesus stood there before Pontius Pilate His accusers continued lodging and hurling accusations against Him. When you begin reading with and from the twelfth verse of this chapter you will find that as Jesus stood before Pontius Pilate He was still accused by the chief priests and elders of the people, for they were still seeking occasion to put Him to death. In fact, the thirteenth verse presents us with the fact that Pilate himself asked Jesus whether or not He heard how many things the chief priests and elders of His own people were witnessing against Him and accusing Him of. What is so absolutely incredible about what we find and what we read in this particular passage of Scripture is that not only did Matthew record that when Jesus was accused of the chief priests and elders He answered them nothing, but when Jesus was asked by Pilate whether or not He heard the many things which were being said against and about Him, He answered him not a word.

WHEN THE SILENCE SPEAKS LOUDER THAN WORDS! WHEN THE SILENCE CAUSES OTHERS TO MARVEL! I have to admit that I absolutely love this passage of Scripture, for despite the fact that Jesus was being accused by the chief priests and elders of the people of Israel, He stood there with His mouth shut and did not utter a single word. If you take the time to read this particular passage of Scripture you will find that even though Jesus was being falsely accused by those who sought to find occasion and reason to put Him to death, He did not open His mouth, and He did not utter a single word. Not only did Matthew record that when Jesus was accused of the chief priests and elders He answered nothing, but Matthew also recorded that when Pilate himself asked Jesus whether or not He heard those things which were being witnessed against Him, He answered him not a word. I have to admit that I am completely and utterly amazed at the humility of Jesus in this passage of Scripture—a humility that would allow Him to remain silent in the face of and before His accusers. Despite the fact that the chief priests and elders of Israel continued to hurl false accusation and bear false witness against Him, He deliberately and intentionally chose to remain silent and uttered not a word. There stood Jesus before the governor of Rome who was appointed as prefect over Jerusalem and Judaea, and yet He chose to listen to the accusations which were being lobbied against Him without uttering and speaking a single word. WHEN RELIGION ACCUSES YOU BEFORE THE WORLD! I can’t help but be completely and utterly captivated by the fact that there was Jesus—the eternal, sinless and spotless Son of God and Son of man—and yet He was being accused by religion before the world. On this particular occasion we do not find Jesus being accused by religion before and among His own people, but we now find Jesus being accused before Pilate the governor of Jerusalem and Judaea. Oh, please don’t miss the tremendous significance and importance of what is written and recorded here, for not did religion attempt to accuse Jesus before the people of Israel, but now religion was seeking to accuse Jesus before Gentiles and before the world. By accusing Jesus before Pontius Pilate, religion was essentially seeking to accuse Him before Rome itself, for only Rome had the authority to put someone to death. By accusing Jesus before Pontius Pilate, that which religion sought to do was more than just accuse Him of perceived wrongs, but also find legal grounds to put Him to death and completely remove Him from the picture.

If you turn your attention back to the twenty-sixth chapter of this same New Testament gospel written by the apostle Matthew you will find that the trial of Jesus didn’t begin when He stood before Pontius Pilate, but it began the night before after He had been betrayed into the hands of the chief priests, scribes and elders by one of His own. It was the night before Jesus was brought before Pontius Pilate the governor of Jerusalem and Judaea when Jesus first stood trial and was first accused by religion and by those who sought occasion to put Him to death. What we must recognize and understand concerning this particular occasion is that religion didn’t merely seek to wrongly and falsely accuse Jesus, but it also sought to put Jesus to death. Merely accusing Jesus of perceived wrongs wasn’t enough, of religion sought to take it a step further and have Jesus eliminated and put to death. In fact, when you come to the fifty-seventh verse of the twenty-sixth chapter of this New Testament gospel you will find the following words which were written by the apostle Matthew concerning Jesus as He was brought before and unto Caiaphas the high priest during that time:

“And they that had laid hold of Jesus led Him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled. But Peter followed Him afar off unto the high priest’s palace, and went in, and sat with the servants, to see the end. Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put Him to death; but found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At the last time two false witnesses, and said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days. And the high priests arose, and said unto Him, Answerest thou nothing? What is it which these witness against thee? But Jesus held His peace. And the high priests answered and said unto Him, I abjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus saith unto Him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. Then the high priest rent His clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy: what further need have we of witnesses? Behold, now ye have heard His blasphemy. What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death. Then did they spit in His face, and buffeted Him; and others smote Him with the palms of their hands, saying Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee?” (Matthew 26:57-68).

What we are presented with here in this passage of Scripture is not only Jesus being seized and laid hold of by those who sought occasion to put Him to death, and not only do we find Jesus being led before Caiaphas where the scribes and elders were assembled, but we also find accusation giving way to suffering and mistreatment. If you take the time to read this passage you will find that in addition to Jesus being falsely accused by the chief priests, the scribes, the elders, and those whom they raised up to bear false witness against Him, but we also find Jesus suffering at the hands of those who were present on this particular night. In the sixty-seventh and sixty-eighth verses of this chapter we find that those who were present spit in His face and butted Him, while others smote Him with the palms of their hands and then demanded that He prophesy unto them who smote Him. What I find and what I read in this particular passage of Scripture brings me face to face with the words which Jesus the Christ Himself spoke when He delivered His Sermon on the Mount earlier on His ministry when the multitudes of people gathered themselves before and unto Him. If you turn your attention back to the fifth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew you will find Jesus speaking of that which was commanded and that which was instructed by the Law of Moses as set against and compared to that which the kingdom of heaven demanded. I have previously written concerning the stark contrast between the righteousness of men and of religion which is according to the Law of Moses and the traditions of men and the righteousness which proceeds from and within the kingdom of heaven. Here in this particular passage we find Jesus again comparing and contrasting the righteousness of men according to the Law of Moses and according to the traditions of men by speaking unto the multitude concerning retaliation, revenge, and even offense with those who wrong us. Consider if you will the words which Jesus Himself spoke unto the multitudes on this particular occasion concerning retaliation and revenge against those who would wrong us:

“Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him Twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, and bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for He make the His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and senders rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5:38-48).

Did you catch what Jesus spoke unto the multitudes on this particular occasion? Jesus began by declaring unto those who were gathered before and unto Him that they had heard it said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth, but Jesus declared unto them that they resist not evil. Pause for a moment and consider that statement, for it directly confronts everything we have been taught to believe and accept in this generation and in our society. Immediately after Jesus spoke unto them concerning that which they heard, He then proceeds to declare unto them that they resist not evil. Please don’t miss the tremendous importance of that statement, for that which Jesus was essentially declaring unto those who were present before Him was that they do nothing to resist or oppose evil within their lives. In all reality, that which Jesus was truly declaring unto those who were present on this particular day was that despite the fact that there would be those who would wrong them, and despite the fact that there would be those who would commit evil against them, they were to do nothing to try and oppose the evil that which would be done unto them. Essentially, what Jesus was declaring unto those who were standing before Him on this day was that they do not align themselves with a defensive posture—a posture that would cause them to try and do whatever was necessary to shield and safeguard themselves from having evil committed unto and done against them. This is so counterculture and goes against everything we have heard and everything we have been taught in our society, for we have been taught to do anything and everything that is necessary to safeguard and protect ourselves from all manners of evil. We have been taught and we have been led to believe that it is acceptable to live our lives in a defensive posture and with a defensive nature—one that seeks to guard and protect itself from being hurt, wronged, bruised, scarred, offended, and the like. We have been taught that it is acceptable and it is the norm to live our lives in such a way that no one can ever or will ever hurt us ever again. This is especially true by those who have been hurt and wronged in the past, for more often than not they have vowed within themselves that they will never again allow themselves to fall victim to those who would seek to wrong, hurt, wound, scar and bruise them. There are those among us this day who live their lives in such a defensive posture that they have completely shut themselves off from those before and around them, and they have erected and built walls around themselves, around their hearts, around their souls, and around their minds in order that they might not be hurt, wounded and wronged. The apostle Paul had something to say about this, and I can’t help but be reminded of the words which he wrote when writing unto the Corinthian saints in the first epistle written unto them. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Paul wrote when writing unto the Corinthians in the first letter which was written and sent unto them:

“Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints? Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? And if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? How much more things that pertain to this life? IF then ye have judgments of things pertaining to this life, set them to judge who are least esteemed in the church. I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? No, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren? But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before unbelievers. Now therefore there is utterly a faulty among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? Why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded? Nay, ye do wrong, and defraud, and that your brethren. Know ye not that the unrighteousness shall not inherit the kingdom of God?” (1 Corinthians 6:1-9).

There is a tremendous amount of language that is found within this particular portion of this first epistle which was written unto the Corinthian congregation by the apostle Paul, and we would be incredibly wise to pay close attention to it. In a passage that speaks directly to the saints of God taking each other to court and bringing each other before the Gentiles to judge between their matters of right and wrong, the apostle Paul asks some very pointed and powerful questions. If you read the seventh verse of this particular chapter you will find the apostle Paul not only ask them, “Why do ye not rather take wrong,” but we also find him asking “Why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded?” These two questions go completely and totally against everything we have been taught and led to believe, and are so counter cultural that it bears bringing before you in this writing. When writing unto the Corinthians saints the apostle Paul asks them why they refused to, and why they were unwilling to take wrong, and whether or not they were willing to allow themselves to be defrauded. Please don’t miss the incredible significance of such questions, for it directly confronts our own hearts, and how we live our lives and conduct ourselves before others. That which the apostle Paul sought to correct among the Corinthian saints in this particular passage is both their need to, as well their perceived right to defend themselves from being wronged and being defrauded by those who were before them. The apostle Paul noticed and was made aware that there were those present within this congregation who could not handle any wrong to them, and who the minute any wrong is done against and committed against them, they automatically go in straight defensive mode and seek to defend themselves from that which was done to and against them. That which the apostle Paul was asking the Corinthian saints was whether or not they were secure enough in themselves, and whether or not the character of Christ had been developed in them enough to where they willingly accepted wrongdoing against them, and willingly accepted evil when it was committed against them. Before I move any further in this writing, it’s imperative that you and I understand that this doesn’t mean that we go around searching for evil and wrong to be done toward and against us, but rather that we do nothing to safeguard and defend ourselves from such evils and such wrong being committed against us. The apostle Paul was directly confronting that attitude of our heart and that posture within our lives when we are completely and utterly unwilling to allow ourselves to have any wrong done to us, and to have any evil done toward and against us.

As I am sitting here right now I am completely convinced that that which opened up and that which exposed Jesus to such hostility from the chief priests, the scribes and elders was in fact relationship. I am convinced that the only reason Jesus was able to have the chief priests, the scribes and the elders seek false witness against Him was because of His unwavering commitment to relationship. Were it not for Jesus engaging Himself with those present during those days, and were it not for Jesus taking on the form of human flesh, it would have been utterly and completely impossible for Him to experience such wrongdoing and evil. In all reality, I am convinced that the more we open ourselves up to relationship, and the more we open ourselves up to interacting with those before and around us, the more we open ourselves up to being wronged and having evil being committed against us. What’s more, is that I would dare say that it was this reality and concept of relationship which was so demonstrated by Jesus, and so manifested within his life that was so utterly and completely offensive and reprehensible to the scribes, to the chief priests and to the elders of the people of Israel. The more Jesus opened Himself up to relationship—the more Jesus opened Himself up to minister to the needs which were before and around Him—the more He opened Himself up to the hostility and animosity of those who were around Him. In all reality, I would dare say that the quarrel religion had with Jesus wasn’t so much a quarrel of doctrine and teaching as much as it was a quarrel of relationship and fellowship. The more Jesus opened Himself up to those who were before and around Him, and the more He was willing to engage Himself in the lives of those present during that day, the more He opened Himself up to being hated and despised by the chief priests, the scribes and the elders. Furthermore, the more Jesus opened Himself up to bringing healing to the lives of those who needed it—even though it directly offended that which the scribes, the elders, the chief priests and the Pharisees taught and believed—the more He opened Himself up and made Himself vulnerable to their hostility and animosity. I say this because one of the greatest ways we seek to defend ourselves against being wronged and defrauded is by removing ourselves from relationships. This is particularly and especially true when we have been wronged in previous relationships, or when we believe and perceive that we have been wronged within previous relationships. Do you want to know what the irony of this whole thing truly is? The more we engage ourselves in relationship(s), the more we open ourselves up to being wronged and defrauded, and yet the more we engage ourselves in relationship(s) the more we open ourselves to receive healing within our hearts and souls. It’s almost as if we want to receive healing and be made whole within our lives, we desperately need to open ourselves up to the same thing that could potentially cause us to experience hurt, pain, wounds, scars, evil, and wrong.

When Jesus was delivering the Sermon on the Mount He declared unto those whom He was speaking that they resist not evil, and immediately after he declared unto them that they resist not evil He declared that if someone smites them on their right cheek, they are to turn to them the other also. Oh think about how incredibly hard and how difficult this truly is, for not only does it suggest that we take the first blow, but it also suggests that we open ourselves up to another blow. I can’t help but think of this being manifested within the life of Jesus the Christ when He stood trial before the chief priests, the scribes and elders of Israel, as well as when He stood trial before Pontius Pilate, and was eventually led away to be crucified after Pilate washed his hands and declared his innocence of this man’s blood. In the twenty-sixth chapter of the New Testament gospel of Matthew we find and read that those who were present on the night in which Jesus was betrayed spit in His face and buffeted Him, while there were others who smote Him with the palms of their hands. Oh, I can’t help but wonder how many times Jesus was struck on the face, and how many times He turned the other cheek toward His accusers and His opponents. When Jesus delivered His Sermon on the Mount, not only did He suggest that we are to take the initial blow and experience the initial wrong, but we are to then open ourselves up to a second blow and a second wrong. What’s more, is that I can’t help but wonder if we get struck on our right cheek we turn our face to expose our left cheek, and if we are struck on the left cheek, we are to then turn the right cheek—the cheek that was already smitten. TURNING THE CHEEK THAT WAS SMITTEN! EMBRACING THE BLOW TO BE DEALT ANOTHER! There are far too many of us who would be struck on the one cheek and we immediately shift our attention and our focus—not only to guarding that cheek from being struck again, but also guarding our other cheek from being struck. The truth of the matter is that this isn’t at all what Jesus declared when He delivered the Sermon on the Mount, for Jesus declared that if we are struck on the right cheek, we are to turn the other cheek—perhaps to the same one who struck us in the first place, or perhaps even to someone else altogether. What we must recognize and understand is that the only way we can put these words of Jesus into practice within our hearts and lives is if we engage ourselves in relationship, and if we refuse to close ourselves off from relationship. The only way we can truly understand these words which Jesus declared and spoke unto the multitude of people is if we are truly willing to allow ourselves to be engaged in relationship. The more we open ourselves up to, and the more we engage ourselves in relationship—the more we open ourselves up to being wronged and defrauded. I am convinced that the trial of Jesus wasn’t so much a trial of doctrine and teaching as much as it was a trial of relationship—a trial that was centered around His willingness to engage Himself in relationship with those who were present during that day.

SILENCE AND THE TURNING OF THE OTHER CHEEK! When you read the words which are found in these two chapters within the New Testament gospel of Matthew you not only find the silence of Jesus before His accusers, but you will also find His willingness to turn the other cheek when He was smitten. The one thing Scripture isn’t clear about is how many times Jesus was smitten on the face, and how many times people spit in His face. Scripture isn’t clear how many times Jesus was punched and smacked, and I can’t help but wonder how many times Jesus had to turn the other cheek only to be met with another fist or the back of someone else’s hand meeting that cheek. I can’t help but be reminded of Peter’s question when he asked Jesus how often his brother would sin against him and he forgave him. Peter mentioned unto Jesus his brother sinning against him seven times, and his forgiving his brother seven times, and yet Jesus declared and responded unto Peter by saying that he wasn’t to forgive and be wronged seven times, but seventy times seven. Based on that alone, I can’t help but think about how many times Jesus was struck, smitten, punched, slapped and spat upon, and how many times He had to turn the other cheek, as well as not raise His own fists or the back of His own hands. I can’t help but wonder how many times Jesus Himself had to allow Himself to be smitten and wronged when He stood trial before others, and what it was like to remain silent. Consider the fact that not only did Jesus remain silent in the face of His accusers and those who sought occasion to condemn Him, but He also remained silent despite the fact that His face was spit upon, and despite the fact that His face was continually buffeted, smacked, and punched. Perhaps the single greatest question we must ask ourselves is whether or not we possess the humility, and whether or not we possess security enough within ourselves to remain silent—even when we are being wrongly and falsely accused by others. Do we possess enough security within ourselves, and do we know who we are enough so that when others might wrong and defraud and offend us, we choose not to retaliate and exercise revenge and vengeance on others? We must ask ourselves whether or not we feel so entitled within ourselves that we should not be wronged or defrauded at all. Are we so stuck on ourselves that we will do anything and everything to guarantee that no one will be able to wrong and defraud us at all within our lives? What sense of entitlement do we have within our own selves that we feel as though we somehow have the right not to be defrauded and wronged by those around us? Why do we feel the need to immediately defend ourselves from those who would seek to wrong and offend us, and so safeguard ourselves from hurt, from wrong and offense that we close ourselves off from relationship?

At the tale end of this particular passage of Scripture we find Pilate washing his hands of the blood of Jesus, and permitting the soldiers to have their way with Jesus until He was crucified and executed upon the cross outside Jerusalem. In verses twenty-seven through thirty-one we find that the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the common hall, gathered the whole band of soldiers, stripped Him, put on Him a scarlet robe, and platted a crown of thorns which they placed upon His head. As if this weren’t enough, they mocked Him, they spit on Him, and they smote Him on the head. It wasn’t simply enough that Jesus be crucified upon the cross and be put to death, but there was also an element of suffering directly linked and directly connected to the cross which Jesus needed to face, experience and endure. We dare not miss and lose sight of this tremendous reality, for here again we find Jesus being spit upon, we find Jesus’ face being smitten, and we find Him being wronged, abused and mistreated. Once the false accusation was over, that was when the wrong and offense continued and escalated, for that’s when Jesus would begin to be spit upon and when His face would begin to be punched and smacked. The final words of this passage of Scripture are “and they led Him away to crucify Him,” and yet before He was led away to be crucified, He was falsely accused, mocked, ridiculed, and mistreated—both by the religious leaders and false witnesses, as well as by the Roman soldiers. It wasn’t merely His accusers and His opponents who spat upon Him and smote Him on the face, but it was also His executioners and those who would put Him to death that would spit upon Him and smite Him on the face. The more we read this particular passage of Scripture, the more we are faced with and confronted with the fact that we need to determine what type of people we are going to be, and whether or not we are going to be those who would seek to defend ourselves from being wronged and defended, or whether we are going to be those who are going to rise up in retaliation and revenge against those who would wrong, defraud, mistreat, abuse, hurt and wound us. IT’s imperative that we recognize and understand that not only did Jesus remain silent before His accusers, but He also chose not to retaliate when His face was spit upon, and when His face was struck and smitten. Will we be such individuals who will chose to remain silent before our accusers, and will we be those who will not only choose to allow ourselves to be wronged and defrauded, but also those who will choose not to retaliate and exercise our need for revenge. Will we be a people who will so engage ourselves in relationship with those before and around us that we open ourselves up and make ourselves vulnerable to being wronged and defrauded. Are we going to be those who are going to be so guarded that we defend ourselves against any any all wrong, or are we going to be those who will deliberately and intentionally recognize that we are owed nothing, we are entitled to nothing, and that we dare not and ought not have any expectations of those around us. Jesus didn’t prepare us to be loved by others, but rather to be hated, and we would be incredible wise to recognize and understand this within and throughout the course of our lives.

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