Well, the little kids with their buckets and bags are gone, so it looks like we got through another Halloween celebration. It's one time of year people come to our front door all on their own, so The Lovely Joanne and I do our best to love on them. The "trick or treat" chant the kids used came back at me this morning when I was reading through Mark 14 and Mark 15, the account of Jesus' trial and crucifixion. There's an element here of trick AND treat in this story that has
profound meaning for us and all of humanity. Will you look at it with me?
First, Jesus suffered through the "trick" part, all on his own. The leaders of his own people -- even the high priest, who really should have known better -- hired false witnesses to testify against him, hoping to get Jesus convicted of blasphemy that would earn the death penalty under their law. Finally they ask Jesus flat-out if he is the Messiah, the Son of God, and he tells the truth (14:61-62) -- and for that, they condemn him to death.
When they bring Jesus before Pilate in chapter 15, it's on trumped-up charges: they accuse Jesus of being a rival to the Romans, an alternate "king of the Jews." When Pilate tries to have Jesus released anyway, the crowd calls for a convicted murderer and a true leader of sedition, Barabbas, to be released instead. And to top it off, when Jesus is crucified, the sign above him says "The King of the Jews" -- more true than they know, but again, an ironic reason to condemn someone to death.
But wait, there's more! Jesus is resurrected, appears to the disciples, and then the day of Pentecost comes and Peter begins his now-famous sermon in Acts 2. In verses 22-23, he says "God publicly endorsed Jesus the Nazarene by doing powerful miracles, wonders, and signs through him, as you well know. But God knew what would happen, and his prearranged plan was carried out when Jesus was betrayed. With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed him to a cross and killed him." Well, that explains the "trick" part directly to the crowd (some of them, the same ones who had called for Jesus' blood, without a doubt). "So let everyone in Israel know for certain that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, to be both Lord and Messiah!" (verse 36). Bummer! This Jesus, on whom they played the cruel trick of betrayal, is now revealed as the true Messiah -- the prophesied king and savior -- the one they had waited for. Surely now he's going to be really mad and get back at them.
Then Peter explains the plot twist that turns this into a "treat": "Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (verse 38). Instead of anger and retribution, the Jesus they killed gives them the free gifts of forgiveness, eternal life and the Holy Spirit. See, God isn't out for revenge, and he's not angry with you; all that is taken care of in the death and the resurrection of his Son. He invited that crowd, and he invites you now, to accept that free gift he's given you (like all that free candy the other night, only much better for your teeth!).
Trick? Or treat? Now it's your choice. What's not to like about the treat?