When Religion Is the Problem


November 12, 2020

John 18:28-36

28 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.29 So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?”

30 “If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.”

31 Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.”

“But we have no right to execute anyone,” they objected. 32 This took place to fulfill what Jesus had said about the kind of death he was going to die.

33 Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

34 “Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”

35 “Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”

36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”


Jesus is a problem for religious people. He is a nuisance, an irritant, in the way, a problem. He does not fit because he will not get with the program. He is a threat to the status quo not because of anything he does but by the sheer fact of being who he is. This is why the seven I AM declarations of Jesus figure so prominently in John’s Gospel.

Religious people want Jesus to fit into and serve their religion, which is to say the particular set of beliefs, values, practices and programs they turn to to bring order to their chaos, make sense of their existence and otherwise enhance their lives. Religion and religious systems have a way of fitting God into the boxes and spaces we create in our lives to contain him—only God will not be contained.

We see this at work in one of the supreme ironies in Scripture in today’s text.

28 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.

It didn’t start this way. It never does. We are talking about the Passover for crying out loud—which prior to the resurrection of Jesus was the single most cataclysmic, defining event in the history of the world. The miraculous deliverance of the households marked by the blood of the lamb. The enormity of Egyptian agony over the defeat of Pharaoh and the death of the first born. The frantic panicked escape in the middle of the night only to meet their apparent end with their backs against the wall of the sea.

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.

Sometimes, in order to have a nice Passover party we need to get Jesus out of the way.

Sometimes profundity can only be expressed through profanity. It’s why I’m stopping now. This is one of those times.


Abba Father, thank you for your son, Jesus, who is not only our Passover, but who is THE PASSOVER. Deliver us from the vanity of our rites and rituals that we might be awakened to the vileness in our souls which led to the violence of the Cross. We pray in Jesus name. Amen.


1. How does this strike you—dispensing with Jesus in order to get to the Passover celebration? Can you see how our own religious ceremony can actually obscure Jesus?

2. Has faith become a project for you? A life-enhancement or self-improvement program? What will it take to break free from this?

3. Has church and the way you “do church” become something of a box or compartment for God in your life? What can be done about this?

For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt

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Comments and Discussion

3 Responses

  1. I believe that with the inauguration of Christendom the people of God have tried to fit Christianity into a form where the kingdom of God is compatible with the kingdom of Western culture. The blood and testimony of the martyrs which led to the conversion of the Roman Empire is finally exhausted. This is the only form of “church “ most of us have ever known. I came to the conclusion some time ago that it would require some sort of cataclysmic sort of event to trigger the next great awakening. Let’s be real; none of us really look forward to suffering, especially when the majority of Christianity in America has bought into the theology of glory as opposed to the theology of the cross. I firmly believe that much of how we currently have been “doing church “ will soon change out of necessity. Many mature believers I’ve spoken to can since the the same “stirring “. I feel that a proliferation of small group, maybe even underground, class/band type fellowships are right over the horizon.

  2. I was not raised in church; therefore I did not have to unlearn many things, moreover my first church taught me how to study my bible and to that I am thankful.

  3. I unintentionally started breaking out of the box several years ago and it has been hard. I am a true “cradle Methodist” with immediate family who dedicated their lives to the service of the Methodist/United Methodist Church. Furthermore, the Methodist/United Methodist Church still managed to be a significant means of grace throughout most of my life. As a result, I am still not entirely comfortable with where I am. But along the way I learned the truth about the United Methodist Church and was stunned that it was nothing more than an experiment in theological plurality that had inadvertently been designed to fail. I also finally encountered the truth about who God is and who I am and realized that the good news of historic Christianity has been the best kept secret of Mainline Protestant Christianity for a long time. I am now finding my spiritual footing running an antique mall and encountering and listening to a wide variety of people; it has all been a journey of encountering people from the communion of saints past and present who, by my understandings are “the wrong everything”; but yet it is from them that i have learned the most. :0)

    The church needs to become something more than it was.

    Antagonism towards historic Christian belief definitely exists. Unfortunately, I first encountered it cruising the internet listening to every United Methodist voice I could find. I could not believe that the strident angry voices I heard inside the church sounded just like those outside the church.

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