Now when the Chaldean army had withdrawn from Jerusalem at the approach of Pharaoh’s army, Jeremiah set out from Jerusalem to go to the land of Benjamin to receive his portion there among the people. When he was at the Benjamin Gate, a sentry there named Irijah the son of Shelemiah, son of Hananiah, seized Jeremiah the prophet, saying, “You are deserting to the Chaldeans.” And Jeremiah said, “It is a lie; I am not deserting to the Chaldeans.” But Irijah would not listen to him, and seized Jeremiah and brought him to the officials. And the officials were enraged at Jeremiah, and they beat him and imprisoned him in the house of Jonathan the secretary, for it had been made a prison. Jeremiah 37:11-15 ESV
Teach me your way, O Lord,
and lead me on a level path
because of my enemies.
Give me not up to the will of my adversaries;
for false witnesses have risen against me,
and they breathe out violence.
I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord
in the land of the living!
Wait for the Lord;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the Lord! Psalm 27:11-14 ESV
In Chicago in the late 1800s many workers were banding together to form unions. They were working long hours under some terrible conditions, and they wanted safer places to work with fewer hours and better pay. Sometimes things got violent, and that’s what happened one evening when a crowd of union workers gathered in Haymarket Square to hear a speech. The police came, and then someone threw a bomb into the square, and after that a riot started. In the end seven policemen and at least four other people were dead. Who was responsible for this bomb? Eight labor leaders were arrested and convicted of murder. There was no evidence that any of these eight men had thrown the bomb, and only three of them had even been at the rally. But they were convicted anyway, because people were angry and fearful about union activities. Three of them were executed, but later three of them were pardoned and released from prison when the governor of Illinois looked over the notes of their trial and saw that it hadn’t been fair or just.
The same kind of thing happened to Jeremiah. The Babylonian army had come to Jerusalem to attack, but then there was a pause in the fighting when the Egyptians moved their armies toward the city against the Babylonians. While things were quiet for awhile, Jeremiah went to the land owned by his family to receive an inheritance, but a sentry saw him and accused him of being a deserter. He had heard Jeremiah’s warning that God’s judgment was going to fall on his people, and the sentry’s anger and fear made him believe that Jeremiah was going to betray his people and join the Babylonian army. This wasn’t true, and Jeremiah told him it was a lie, but still he was beaten up and thrown in jail.
Anger and fear can make people do terrible things to others, and this is what happened to Jesus. He came to teach the people God’s ways, and he did many good things. He healed the sick and did many other good things, but some people became jealous and afraid of him. They had him arrested and rushed him through a trial that wasn’t just or fair, and he was beaten and whipped and put to death on the cross. But God used this great injustice to bring people back to him. Jesus died to pay the penalty for all the sins of the world, and because of him God forgives us all our sins. We are God people forever, and will someday live with him in his heavenly kingdom, a kingdom that won’t ever come to an end.
Dear Jesus, thank you for suffering anger and injustice for our sake. Please forgive our sins and keep us close to you. Amen.