Life is a matter of choices. There is no way to avoid choosing because not to choose is to make a choice. Victor Frankl, a German Jew and psychologist, was placed in one of Hitler’s worst concentration camps during World War II. He wrote after the War, in his book Man’s Search for Meaning, that the one thing that the concentration camp could not take away from the inmates was their power to choose what attitude they would have.
All of us have been created by God and given the power and ability to make choices: We can:
- Choose to love—rather than hate.
- Choose to smile—rather than frown
- Choose to build—rather than destroy
- Choose to keep going—-rather than quit.
- Choose to heal—-rather than wound.
- Choose to give—rather than grasp.
- Choose to act—rather than delay.
- Choose to forgive—rather than to blame.
- Choose to hope—rather than despair.
Each of us bear the consequences of our choices. In the long run, we shape our lives and we shape ourselves by our choices. The process never ends until we die; and the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility.
In addition, our choices affect others in various ways. We can see this as we examine the events of “Holy Week”—–the final week that Jesus was in Jerusalem before his crucifixion, and the choices that were made and their consequences:
- Jesus made choice. He chose to ride into Jerusalem on a donkey as a symbol of peace in direct contradiction to Pontius Pilate riding into Jerusalem the same week with horses and soldiers. He chose to teach in the temple and to challenge the religious authorities of the day—the priests and scribes who cooperated with Rome to rule the Jews and extend their power and their wealth. Jesus chose to drive the money changers and sellers of sacrificial animals out of the Temple. This choice cost him his life. His actions in “cleansing the temple” were an economic threat to the power of the chief priests and scribes who profited greatly from the business in the Temple. At this time they began to plot how they could kill Jesus.
- Judas made a choice. We have no way of knowing what the motives were for his choice, but he chose to betray Jesus to the authorities for 30 pieces of silver. It was a choice he later bitterly regretted, but once made it could not be undone. He ended his own life because of that choice.
- Peter made a choice. While waiting by the fire in the courtyard of the high priest, Peter was identified by a servant girl as “the man that was with Jesus”. Peter chose to deny that he even knew Jesus three times. Peter went out and wept bitterly after he made the choice..
- Pontius Pilate made a choice. Although his examination of Jesus found no reason for him to be executed, Pilate chose to give in to the demands of the religious authorities and the mob of people they had gathered to support them.. Matthew tells us that he took water and washed his hands saying “I am innocent of this man’s blood. It is your responsibility”. His choice led to the crucifixion and death of Jesus.
- The religious authorities and their supporters made a choice. Pilate offered to release one person. Barabbas or Jesus was the choice they were asked to make. They chose to crucify Jesus and to release Barabbas.
We also have choices. On what basis do we make them?
- Do we, like Jesus, choose according to what we discern is God’s will?
- Do we like Judas, choose what is most monetarily rewarding to us immediately?
- Do we, like Peter, let the fear of the crowd influence our choice?
- Do we, like the chief priests, choose to maintain our power and our economic well-being even if someone dies?
- Do we, like Pontius Pilate, choose to “wash our hands” of the choice and let others make our choice for us?
Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethesemane the night before his death that the “cup” of his looming crucifixion might be removed from him. He ended the prayer with, “nevertheless, not my will but yours Father.”
Choices made on the basis of prayer and the discernment of God’s will will be good choices!