Monday, November 6, 2023

The Trial of Jesus before the Spiritual and Government Authorities

"For centuries people believed that Aristotle was right when he said that the heavier an object, the faster it would fall to earth. Aristotle was regarded as the greatest thinker of all time, and surely he would not be wrong. Anyone, of course, could have taken two objects, one heavy and one light, and dropped them from a great height to see whether or not the heavier object landed first. But no one did until nearly 2,000 years after Aristotle's death. In 1589 Galileo summoned learned professors to the base of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Then he went to the top and pushed off a ten- pound and a one-pound weight. Both landed at the same instant. The power of belief was so strong, however, that the professors denied their eyesight. They continued to say Aristotle was right." -Bits & Pieces, January 9, 1992, pp. 22-23.

And, "Astronaut David Scott performed a version of the experiment on the Moon during the Apollo 15 mission in 1971, dropping a feather and a hammer from his hands. Because of the negligible lunar atmosphere, there was no drag on the feather, which reached the lunar surface at the same time as the hammer.[16]

What’s the point? The point is sometimes we can be so convinced of something inside that even if we see something right in front of us that contradicts the truth, we won’t believe it.

The same was true for Galileo when he disproved Aristotle, those present literally refused to believe their own eyes.

Similarly, many refuse to believe we ever went to the moon despite the evidence to the contrary.

Similarly today, the leaders of Israel, the governors of the Roman province, they had seen Jesus, heard his words, many had seen his miracles, and yet their refused to believe that he was the one true messiah.

If someone can make us believe a lie, then we find ourselves in great danger. The enemy of our souls, the Satan, the devil, the adversary, is always attempting to get us to believe a lie.

If the enemy can get us to believe a lie, like, for example, there is no god, or that god is bad or god is mean, or god doesn’t really love us, well, then the enemy can destroy us. The enemy can drag us to hell with him, which is where he is going.

So when we consider the responses of three groups of people today, to the Lord Jesus, we should search our own hearts, and consider our beliefs, and how to respond to the claims of Jesus.

We’ll see how three groups respond to Jesus: the spiritual leaders of the nation, the followers of Jesus themselves, and governmental authorities.

It says this in Mark 14:53-54: “They took Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests, the elders and the teachers of the law came together. Peter followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. There he sat with the guards and warmed himself at the fire.”

Jesus has just been arrested, and he’s taken in the middle of the night to the high priest of the nation, the chief religious representative of the nation, along with all the priests, elders, and teachers. They are all gathered in the middle of the night to stop Jesus.

At the same time Peter is following from a distance.

Next, “The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any. Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree.

Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with human hands and in three days will build another, not made with hands.’” Yet even then their testimony did not agree.”

Fly by night trial is now in session. You have people perjuring themselves, giving false testimony in court.

You have different stories coming up, some say one thing, some say another. It’s a false trial. It’s a fraud and a scam.

The high priest can tell this is getting them nowhere.

In verses 60-61, “Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.”

Often this scripture is cited to say in the case of a false trial or false charges you should simply refuse to answer against any of the charges. That may be good advice sometimes to stay silent.

But in the next verse two verses we see Jesus did respond. In 61 and 62, “Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”

“I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Did Jesus ever claim to be the Son of God? Yes, he did. Right here in verses 62. He straight up says, I am the son of God, and you will see me sitting at the right of God and coming on the clouds of heaven.

Here we find an application for ourselves. We will all one day see Jesus sitting at the right hand of God, and we may yet in our lifetimes see Jesus returning from the sky, to the Earth, to bring us all to himself.

We should respond with the claim that Jesus is the Son of God, by committing our lives to serving and following Him. If Jesus really is the Son of God, then we should listen so very carefully to every word he ever said. We should shape our lives around his every word.

Let’s see how the spiritual leader of Israel respond: (verses 63-65)

The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked. “You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?”

They all condemned him as worthy of death. Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, “Prophesy!” And the guards took him and beat him.”

Did you know that in Leviticus 21:10 it says that the high priest should never tear his garments? You could say the high priest by tearing his garments was really saying that Jesus was holy and he was not.

But he didn’t mean to say that. He tore his clothes to express how angry he was. They believed Jesus was just a man who was pretending to be a god. They charged him with blasphemy.

They struck him with their fists and blindfolded him. And then took him away.

This is what you call a sham trial. You see it in third world countries, where corruption reigns. You see it increasingly more often in the united states as well, where corrupt authorities harass citizens and throw them in jail for extended periods.

We saw this recently with pro-life activists being condemned for many years in prison, or supposed hate crimes, where people are sent to prison for years because of an act supposed considered hateful. We’ve seen police officers receive harsh sentences for simply trying to do their jobs. We’ve seen protesters arrested and thrown in jail for extended periods as well.

But this incident with Jesus isn’t the government. These are the spiritual leaders of the nation. So the struggle starts in the religious body. But they know the next step is to turn Jesus over to the government authorities, the romans.

Meanwhile in our second section today we see Peter who is following all that’s happening.

In verses 66-68 it says, ““While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him.

“You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus,” she said.

But he denied it. “I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about,” he said, and went out into the entryway.”

Are you one of those Christians? What if Christianity became illegal. What if being Christian became a hate crime in the USA? What if being a Christian which is already often considered bigoted and hateful, actually became a crime? You see your friends and fellow Christians being put in jail for 10, 20, 30 years.

And someone comes up to you on the street, and says, in front of others, aren’t you one of those Christians?

What would you say?

Oh no, I’m not one of those Christians. I would never do that.

Well you’ve just denied Jesus your savior.

Then it says in verses 69-71: "When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, “This fellow is one of them.” 70 Again he denied it.

After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, “Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.”

He began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about.”

What would you do? They keep demanding an answer from him.

He literally starts swearing. And then he declares on oath, he swears by God, I don’t know this man you’re talking about.

Three times Peter has denied Jesus the one he loves most in the world.

It reminds each of today to pose the question: Who am I? What would I really do?

Know yourself. Conquer yourself. That is the great challenge for the Christian.

Can you conquer yourself?

Or will you let your emotions control you? Will you let your hunger control you? Will you let your desires control you? Will you let pride and sin control you? Or will you conquer yourself by the power of the Holy Spirit.

That is the question I have to ask myself. I’m sometimes tempted to sin. Who am I? Who am I really?

When it comes right down to it, what will do I?

Often times friends, we are a lot like Peter. We fail. But learn from our failures, and then we move forward. And we make sure it doesn’t happen again. God helps us to repent, and we ask forgiveness, and then we grow.

But sometimes we’re also like John, who stayed with Jesus to the very end, the disciple whom Jesus loved.

But we want to avoid being like Judas, who betrayed Jesus, and turned on Jesus, and was rightly condemned by God for it.

When Judas wanted to repent, it was too late for him. So he hung himself.

Sometimes though, God has to simply look us in the eyes and tell us we’ve done wrong.

Maybe you can sense that in your own heart today: I’ve done wrong. The Lord is telling me I’ve done wrong, and I need to pray right now, and ask God’s forgiveness and by the Holy Spirit, change my behavior.

It’s so very humbling, because it can happen to the best of us. Even the super spiritual types. We find ourselves in a weak moment, and we stumble.

It says in verse 72: "Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.” And he broke down and wept.”

Peter is devastated. He breaks down and cries. And peter doesn’t immediately repent either. He goes into hiding with the rest of the disciples. He did not eventually go to the crucifixion. It took time for him to turn and repent.

But Jesus predicted all of this, Jesus even said in Luke 22:32, “But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

And I’m sure we can all relate to the words of Elijah in 1st King 19:4, “I have had enough, Lord,” he said. “Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors.”

When Lot lived in Sodom, the word of God says he was tormented daily by their sinfulness in his righteous heart, 2 Peter 2:8, tormented by the things he saw and heard. And just as much we in the USA are tormented in our righteous hearts by what we see and hear in the United States, all the multiplied evil, crime, theft, debachauery, sexual immorality, consumerism, corruption, human trafficking, and poverty. We’re tormented in our righteous hearts.

But I think one of the hardest realizations is when we fall into sin as well, and we realize, wait, I’m not any better than any of this, Lord, take my life. But God says no, repent, seek forgiveness and you’ll be righteous anew. Don’t give in to the flood of sin around you, stand above it, on the rock of Christ.

The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

Always remember that. And stand firm. If you fall, get up quickly.

Third section today, Jesus brought before the roman authorities.

Mark 15:1, "Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, made their plans. So they bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate.”

Here you see Jesus in an all-night ordeal. No sleep, up all night, and now brought before the authorities in the morning. That’s one of the worst things, when you haven’t slept, all night, then have to face some great trial the next day. Because you haven’t slept, you have no energy or strength or emotional reserves for it.

I’m sure that’s all by design. There’s a been a few times in my life where I’ve had all night ordeals. Once before a court date, terrified. Another time, in the hospital. It’s ugly.

Pontius Pilate, the roman governor of the area, comes to Jesus and asks him a question: (v.1)

“Are you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate.

“You have said so,” Jesus replied.

Again Jesus confirms that he is the Lord, the son of God, to both the spiritual authorities and the government authorities. He doesn’t hide or deny anything.

In verses 3-5: "The chief priests accused him of many things. So again Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.” 

But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.”

Pilate was amazed at Jesus. In fact, Pilate’s wife had had dreams of Jesus, and had told Pilate not to hurt Jesus.

Pilate isn’t sure what to do next. So he brings Jesus before the crowd.

It says in verses 6-11: "Now it was the custom at the festival to release a prisoner whom the people requested. A man called Barabbas was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising. The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did.

“Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate, knowing it was out of self-interest that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead.”

Over the Passover it was customary for Pilate to release a prisoner from custody as part of the festival apparently.

Pilate is scheming to try to find a way to release Jesus. So he offers the crowd to release Jesus. But instead the religious leaders stir up the crowd to call for the release of Barabbas a man who had led an insurrection against the roman government.

Once again we see the nation of Israel getting what they want, they want to overthrow the romans. So they ask for the release of Barabbas instead of Jesus.

Lastly, in verses 12-15 we see the final fate of Jesus being played out: “What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked them.

“Crucify him!” they shouted.

“Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.

But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”

Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.”

Pilate feared the crowds, and he feared Rome, so in the end he released Barabbas and handed Jesus over to be crucified.

All of this plays out so that Jesus Christ can go to the cross and die for our sins. The time of evil’s triumph seems to have come. They’ve arrested the son of God and are taking him to kill him.

You’d think all is lost. It’s over. Evil has prevailed. Satan has won the day. But it’s not true.

Sometimes in our darkest trials and difficulties, it isn’t really the end, it’s just the beginning. But it feels like the end at the time. It feels like it’s never going to get back. It feels like evil reigns. It feels like it’s too late. You’ve felt that way in your life. I can’t handle this. I can’t go on.

But the story isn’t over yet. If you’re still breathing there is still hope.

So let us consider this, the words of Samwise from the Lord of the Rings to Frodo, as we conclude today, which I think fits this dark moment of good vs. evil:

"By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are.
It’s like in the great stories.
The ones that really mattered.
Full of darkness and danger they were,
and sometimes you didn’t want to know the end.
Because how could the end be happy.
How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad happened.
But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow.
Even darkness must pass. A new day will come.
And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer.
Those were the stories that stayed with you.
That meant something.
Even if you were too small to understand why.
But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand.
I know now.
Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back only they didn’t.
Because they were holding on to something. That there’s some good in this world. And it’s worth fighting for." -J.R.R. Tolkien (abridged)