Saved by Grace

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God – Ephesians 2:8

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Scala Sancta (Pilate’s Staircase) in Rome

Years ago I stood watching people ascend what is commonly known as Pilate’s Staircase.  Just today my family and I were talking about it and I got emotional as I thought of the people I saw going up the stairs on their knees just as Martin Luther did in 1510, probably repeating as he did the Our Father on each step.  It was said that by doing this work one could “redeem a soul from purgatory.”  It is believed that this staircase, Scala Sancta, that was used by Jesus in Pilate’s Judgment Hall in Jerusalem was, according to legend, supernaturally transported from Palestine to Rome.

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Figures of Pilate and Jesus at base of Scala Sancta

At the base of the staircase are the statues of Jesus and Pilate.  Pilate is introducing the King of the Jews to the people and saying, “Behold the Man!”  This reminded of what Jesus said to Nicodemus.  “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up,  that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:14, 15).  By beholding the serpent, the people were saved by faith.  Likewise by beholding Jesus and believing in Him, we are saved.  

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Joseph Fiennes as Martin Luther in the movie, Luther

It was here on the Scala Sancta that the unexpected happened for Martin Luther.  It was where his eyes were opened to the truth that salvation comes by the grace of God and not by works.  One day, “he was devoutly climbing these steps, when suddenly a voice like thunder seemed to say to him:  ‘The just shall live by faith.’  Romans 1:17.  He sprang to his feet and hastened from the place in shame and horror.  The text never lost its power upon his soul.  From that time he saw more clearly than ever before the fallacy in trusting to human works for salvation, and the necessity of constant faith in the merits of Christ.  His eyes had been opened, and were never again to be closed, to the delusions of the papacy.  When he turned his face from Rome, he had turned away also in heart, and from that time the separation grew wider, until he severed all connection with the papal church.” 

Before his revelation, “Luther was still a true son of the papal church and had no thought that he would ever be anything else. In the providence of God he was led to visit Rome.”  However, once he received the unvarnished truth, Luther could no longer remain loyal to the church which promised indulgences to those climbing the staircase on their knees or whose clergy he found profanation instead of sanctity.  His disillusionment with the church led to his part in the Protestant Reformation.  He was declared a heretic and excommunicated from the church.

In Jesus’ time, the religious leaders trusted in the traditions of men instead of the Word of God.  Today, where are you placing your faith?  In the teachings of men or in the teachings of God?

Sources:  Bible Gateway; Great Controversy; Wikipedia

Dealing With Our Enemies

The angry voices in the crowd rose to a crescendo, “Crucify Him!” drowning out Pilate’s protest.  They wanted Him dead.  They had delivered Him up and denied Him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go (Acts 3:13).  Yet, this was all in fulfillment of God’s plan of salvation.  The innocent was put to death for the guilty. The people had asked Pilate to put Him to death although they had no legitimate cause to do so (Acts 13:28).  They were motivated by envy (Mark 15:10).

He hung on a cross like a common criminal and they mocked Him, urging Him to save Himself.  “If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross” (Matthew 27:40). Little did they know that it was because He was the Son of God, that He didn’t save Himself by coming down from the cross.  He stayed there for their sake and ours.  He took the punishment we deserved.

It must have wounded Him to hear the jeers but the same love that made Him willing to lay down His life was the same love that infused Him when He cried to the Father, Fatherforgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34).  He was not overcome by their evil but He overcame it with good (Romans 12:21).

Jesus is our perfect example of how to deal with our enemies.  We don’t let their insults or wrongdoing get the better of us.  We rise above their evil intentions and follow Jesus’ advice “whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them” (Matthew 7:12).  He never said that it was going to be easy but as His followers and the children of God, we must make the effort.   And the Holy Spirit is there to help us.

The apostle Paul tells us how to deal with our enemies by quoting Proverbs 25:21, 22. “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.”  In acting contrary to what your enemy expects such as showing them love and kindness, it will stir feelings of shame and remorse. As Christians, we don’t treat people as the world does.  We treat them as Jesus would.

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Sources:  Blue Letter Bible; Bible Gateway; Bible Hub

Pilate’s Wife

She is mentioned once in the entire Bible–in a sentence, thanks to Matthew.

While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent to him, saying, “Have nothing to do with that just Man, for I have suffered many things today in a dream because of Him”  (Matthew 27:19).  A simple but profound request.  We never learn about the contents of her dream but it disturbed her so greatly that she was compelled to warn her husband not to get involved in the plot to have Jesus crucified.

A while ago while attending one of our pre-marital sessions, the pastor explained to my fiance and me the woman’s purpose in a marriage.  She is to help her husband; encourage him to go in the right direction; build him up.  Pilate’s wife was divinely warned that her husband should leave Jesus alone and she made sure that he knew this.  Her words compounded what her husband already knew.  He knew that Jesus was innocent and that He was being unjustly accused by men who envied Him.  Jesus had done nothing deserving of death.

Unfortunately, Pilate did not do as his wife warned.  Pressured by the mob who called for Jesus’ death, Pilate he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, “I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it” (verse 24).  He basically handed Jesus over to His enemies.

Pilate’s wife did her part.  She warned her husband.  It was up to him to do what was right.  If you have information that you need to share with someone share it.  You are not responsible for what the person does with the information.  You did what you needed to do–the rest is up to them.  If you see a loved one heading in the wrong direction, speak up.  It’s for that person’s good.  Pilate’s wife spoke up.  If she had kept silent, she would have been as guilty as her husband who would never be able to wash his guilt and responsibility from his hands.

If God gives you the opportunity to do what is right, grab it.  Be like Pilate’s wife who did what she believed was for her husband’s good.

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