Last week my family and I were at a friend’s new business celebrating the “grand opening”. It was just a few close friends that had come together to celebrate God’s goodness in this new chapter for their lives. As the handful of us stood around the reception desk drinking wine and eating cheese and kibitzing (talking) our conversation had turned to God and I love how simple and yet profound these conversations are with my bffs (yes you can have more than one bff). This moment in time reminded me of when Jesus would go and eat dinner and teach around the table, drinking wine and eating food. Relaxing and teaching. I loved this moment. It will take me two blog posts to complete this conversation with you because I will have to start from the end to get to the beginning. If you have not read The Unforgivable Sin you will need to start there. That is a foundational teaching for this one. It will help you put into perspective what I am going to share today.
When I first met my husband Bryan he had told me that a sin is a sin is a sin. There are no greater of lesser sin. It is just simply sin to God. I believed him. It made sense even though I had been raised Catholic and my understanding was that some sins had to be atoned for more than others. Yet, this is completely human thinking not God’s. I believed this for years and it actually was one of the stumbling blocks, for me, which had needed to be removed for me to come back to God. Many years later I had told this to a female pastor who corrected me and told me there is a ‘greater sin’ and I needed to go look it up. I did and as I read that verse in John 19:11 completely in my human eyes and mind I thought, “Oh no! I have thought wrong for my entire Christian life.” But that night as we stood around the reception desk I knew I was going to have to dig into this verse for myself and others who may also believe incorrectly because the revelation we all got that night was huge. We had already known it but couldn’t put our finger on it but God put His finger on it for us and all of a sudden everything made sense and for me the puzzle pieces fit together perfectly as one of my friends said….oh Darlene you are going to need to write a blog about this. So here it is.
John 19:11 is when Jesus is standing before Pontius Pilate the second time, after He had been scouraged. Let’s look at the scripture:
“Therefore when Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid; and he entered into the Praetorium again and said to Jesus, “Where are You from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. So Pilate said to Him, “You do not speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?” Jesus answered, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.” As a result of this Pilate made efforts to release Him, but the Jews cried out saying, “If you release this Man, you are no friend of Caesar; everyone who makes himself out to be a king opposes Caesar.”” John 19:8-12 NASB
When we read this it looks like there is such a thing as a “greater sin” yet, this is only the surface of our English rendering of the Greek word meizona (3171). Meizona is adjective describing hamartian (266). In my blog post “The Fight” I talk about the Greek word hamartia (266). Below is the excerpt:
- sin (noun)= hamartia 266 = (ha) not and (3313 meros) a part or share of; no share (“no part of”) loss (forfeiture) because not hitting the mark. Every action or decision done apart from faith.
I have written about sin before in the New Testament in the blog Horizontal and Vertical (Part 4). I have questioned: How could Jesus say, “Go and sin no more.” When He said to go and “sin” (verb) no more it was so much more than their behavior, as we might think of it. We need to remember that Jesus is the “mark” we do not want to miss in the New Covenant. Jesus came onto the scene here on earth proclaiming, “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” And He was truly desiring for people to look at things or see things as God sees them. Jesus also clearly noted that their faith healed them not their behavior. The definition of hamarte (noun) also describes every action/decision done apart from faith; this is a heart condition which then can convert into a mind decision. I make a decision or choice of faith in God in the very beginning (faith as small as a mustard seed). In this faith (trust/belief) I also believe that all my sins (transgressions=hatah, iniquity=avon, and sin=peshah) have fully been cleared by Jesus’ payment on the Cross. When we see the word sin in the New Testament we think behavior instead of looking deeper and actually understanding the Hebrew word Peshah. Peshah means to make a counter covenant and to clearly, of your own free will, choose to identify with the principles of evil.
When we make a counter covenant this means we don’t believe in God’s covenant His Son sealed with HIs blood on the Cross. We free willingly choose to not accept Jesus’ free gift and choose instead to not believe He is the Son of God. This is the same thing I talk about in the The Unforgivable Sin. It is the only thing God can not forgive, unbelief in His Son.
So, what about different levels of sin? Is that how God sees it? Is murder the same as lying to Him? As humans, I see ourselves with the predisposed idea of different levels of sin. We do this, I believe, to make ourselves feel better about ourselves, or as my other friend said to hold something over others ie: I am more holy than you because I didn’t do such and such but you did. When we have a view of God that is incorrect than I believe it is more difficult for us to love ourselves or love others. Plus I do know the religious spirit loves when we have this viewpoint. This is not God’s viewpoint at all. Sin is a level playing field and we ALL have fallen short. But we have a Redeemer Who has helped us with this problem.
Now back to the Greek word meizona which is translated as greater in English. The word meizona means:
(3173) megas: large, great, in the widest sense.
And a little deeper:
Things to be esteemed highly for their importance, equivalent to Latin “gravis” (heavy, serious, important); of great moment, important.
For a moment I had a difficult time understanding what Holy Spirit was trying to show me, because of past teaching, but then He gave me a picture with understanding. I saw Pilate standing feeling quite in power with the ability to choose life or death for a person and lauding this over the head of Jesus. As the human race we see and understand hierarchy in family, public life, in the world, we categorize everything. So when we read something like what Jesus said back to Pilate we interpret it through our human lens and will probably believe there are levels to sin. Yet, God in the New Testament created a New Covenant with all of humanity through His Son Jesus and in this New Covenant there is either belief in Who His Son is or no belief in Who His Son is. There is nothing in between. All sin for the entire world, but one, was placed on Jesus, God’s Son, when He choose to get on the Cross. Remember the only unforgivable sin is when you do not believe in Who Jesus is. This is the one thing that can not be forgiven. Pilate believed he held all the power in this moment but Jesus made it very clear in His full statement to him he really did not have any power except what was given to him by Jesus’ Father in heaven. Jesus then went on to let Pilate know he didn’t have the most important, weightier action or decision done apart from faith. Judas’ betrayal was of much more significance. The English word “because” in John 19:11 is dia (1223). It is the root of the English term diameter literally meaning “successfully to the other side’. God gave authority over Jesus (this would be the only time this occurred) which allowed the rest to take place successfully. There was one who had made the weightier or more important choice of delivering Jesus to them which brought them all to this place at the other side of the diameter or circle. Jesus was letting Pilate know three things: 1) Pilate wasn’t as important as he thought himself to be, he only played a small part in history, 2) In this moment the realization hit Pilate that he was not as in control of this historical moment as he perceived himself to be. 3) Pilate needed to know Who Jesus really was. God always goes to the furthest star to reach each and everyone of us exactly how we need to be reached. Right after Jesus’ statement, Pilate decided that it was not such a good idea to crucify Jesus and left it up to the people to decide. Here let’s read it here:
“As a result of this Pilate made efforts to release Him, but the Jews cried out saying, “If you release this Man, you are no friend of Caesar; everyone who makes himself out to be a king opposes Caesar.” Therefore when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out, and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha.
So they cried out, “Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” So he then handed Him over to them to be crucified.” John 19:12-13, 15-16 NASB
I honestly believe Pilate believed in Who Jesus was in this very short exchange between him and the Son of God. This is why Pilate wrote the inscription in Latin, Hebrew and Greek and had it placed on the Cross which read:
“JESUS THE NAZARENE, THE KING OF THE JEWS.” Therefore many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Latin and in Greek.” John 19:19-20 NASB
Just like with Pilate Jesus comes to each of us in our own individual way and lets us see Him and know Who He is. Each of us is on our own individual journey and on that journey we will all have the opportunity to choose to believe in the Son of God or not. As humans we need to not look at a persons journey and judge it but instead embrace them where they are at right now. Each journey is important and different yet beautiful even in the midst of some ugly. Because God is the only One Who makes beautiful what looks ugly to the human eye.
Let’s move forward understanding there is no greater sin in the sense of hierarchy of sins (or one sin is worse than the other). Let’s see it as God sees it:
- A sin, is a sin, is a sin. His Son has taken care of sin on the Cross.
- When we have made choices outside of faith Jesus has covered that, taken it on Himself and paid our price….it is finished.
- No sin is too big or too consistent or too bad for Jesus’ blood.
- Enjoy the journey with God, it might not look like others which is good because we are each individuals and God truly is the only One Who knows best.