Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Man Judges – God Rules (John 18:24, 28; Matthew 26:57–68; Luke 22:63–23:1; Matthew 27:1–2)

“Annas then sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.” (John 18:24, ESV) … “Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor’s headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover.” (John 18:28, ESV)

“Then those who had seized Jesus led him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders had gathered. And Peter was following him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and going inside he sat with the guards to see the end. Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward and said, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days.’ ” And the high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your judgment?” They answered, “He deserves death.” Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him, saying, “Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?”” (Matthew 26:57–68, ESV)

“Now the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking him as they beat him. They also blindfolded him and kept asking him, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?” And they said many other things against him, blaspheming him. When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people gathered together, both chief priests and scribes. And they led him away to their council, and they said, “If you are the Christ, tell us.” But he said to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I ask you, you will not answer. But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” So they all said, “Are you the Son of God, then?” And he said to them, “You say that I am.” Then they said, “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips.” Then the whole company of them arose and brought him before Pilate.” (Luke 22:63–23:1, ESV)

“When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death. And they bound him and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate the governor.” (Matthew 27:1–2, ESV)

Whereas Annas questioned Jesus about His disciples and His teaching to which Jesus pointed Annas back to the witnesses to what He had said, with Caiaphas the situation was radically different. It seems as if Annas was merely buying time until the real trial could begin. John tells us that Jesus was brought to Caiaphas and then to Pilate, but the other gospels fill in what happened in between. Luke tells us that prior to Jesus being presented to His accusers He was held captive by men wo mocked and beat Him, even blindfolding Him and taunting Him by telling Him to tell them who it was that had hit Him. Evidently this continued for some time, as the passage goes on to tell us that this continued until morning (when day came) when He was brought before he council of chief priests, scribes, and elders who “took counsel against Him.”

While Jesus had told Annas to go ask those who had seen and heard Him as He publically taught and worked miracles (not doing anything in secret), the council had sought out those who would bring false testimony against Him so that they might have cause to find Him guilty and sentence Him to death. But even with the false witnesses coming forward they were struggling with finding any that would say anything satisfactory to find Him guilty. Then they found two men that admitted to hearing Jesus say, “I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days.” To this the high priest asked Jesus if He had anything to say. As much as he pushed Jesus for an answer we read that Jesus remained silent. Pressing on the high priest asked the very pointed question, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” To this Jesus finally responded, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Using words pointing to those of David and Daniel, Jesus answered the high priest by first telling him that he (the high priest) was the one who made the association between Him and the Christ, the Son of God. The high priest asked Jesus if He was the awaited Messiah, and Jesus told him, “You have said so.” Then Jesus went on to say of Himself in the third person that the high priest would see Him, first, as the Son of Man. Daniel had said hundreds of years before, ““I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” (Daniel 7:13–14, ESV) They understood this to be a picture of the Christ being given kingdom dominion, and for Jesus to refer to Himself as the Son of Man was to claim for Himself the vision of Daniel.

Jesus also said that the high priest would see Him seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven. David wrote in Psalm 110:1, “The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”” (Psalm 110:1, ESV). Not only did Jesus ascribe to Himself the power of the Christ, He also ascribed to Himself the position of the Christ by saying that He would be seated at the right hand of the Father. There could be no doubt that if the high priest believed Jesus was speaking of Himself that He also believed Jesus claimed for Himself the position and the function of the Christ who came from heaven in the form of man and returned to rule at the right hand of the Father. There is so much more in these few words of Jesus, and every one of them screams loudly that the Son of Man indeed had come and by their own words He was Jesus.

Finally the high priest heard the words He wanted to hear. He heard Jesus say that He was one with God and that He was the Christ. Luke tells us then that he then tore his robe and said that Jesus had committed blasphemy, asking the others what further evidence they needed. They had heard enough. For the high priest to tear his robe was a big deal. His priestly robes were special and not to be treated in this way. In fact he was specifically prohibited from doing so as we read in Leviticus. “The priest who is chief among his brothers, on whose head the anointing oil is poured and who has been consecrated to wear the garments, shall not let the hair of his head hang loose nor tear his clothes.” (Leviticus 21:10, ESV; see also Lev. 10:6) There was, however, an exception added in the Talmud or Rabbinic instruction in the event that the high priest witnessed a blasphemy (i.e., insulting the honor of God). Having heard the words of Jesus that he wanted to hear, the high priest took the dramatic action of tearing his robe and declaring Jesus to be a blasphemer. Having made a claim of blasphemy he asked the others, ““What is your judgment?” They answered, “He deserves death.” Then they spit in his face and struck him.”

After all of their failed attempts to apprehend Him and bring Him to trial, the chief priests and others finally had Him in their midst because as Jesus had said before, “His time was at hand.” They were committed to an outcome before they ever asked the first question, and having heard what they wanted to hear they had their opportunity to pronounce the death penalty on Him. Everything was set for them to carry it out except for one critical factor. They were under Roman rule and they did not have the authority to do what they wanted to do. They needed now to get the Roman government to agree with them, so their next step was to usher Him off to the Roman governor at the time, Pilate.

What an amazing length they went to in order to get rid of Jesus and the message He came to proclaim. They thought they had finally come to a point where they had Him and were able to silence Him forever. In doing this they surely thought they would silence His followers as well. But what they were doing was exactly what the Father had intended. For man to be forgiven Jesus had to die, and these religious hard-hearts were exactly the wiling pawns that the Father planned to use to accomplish this end. And of course, where they were expecting Him to remain dead, Jesus knew that He would take His life back up again, proving His power over sin and death, and return to the right hand of the Father where He would reign forever.

In the press recently has been a lot of coverage of the government’s efforts to silence a couple who have been judged guilty of violating the state’s rules. This couple, and many others, have committed their lives to living according to God’s standard, but the voices of evil have so clouded God’s standard and have even pressed it to the point of having laws changed or getting judges to rule with them just as the high priest knew his power rested in getting the government on his side. Where once the laws of our country have protected those who lived right according to God’s Word, now they have been made criminals and enemies of the state for living by those same standards and refusing to embrace the powerful voice of the world.

The evil one cannot get to Christ so he continues his efforts against Christ’s followers. But as hard as this battle with spiritual forces gets nothing can shake God’s unchanging truth or cause His love to falter, and He will not lose a single one of those who believe. We have enjoyed a lot of freedoms in this country and many people have died to defend them. Even in the midst of all that is going on that flies in the face of God’s standard we still enjoy a great amount of freedom, and it is my hope that it continues and that there is a revival. But I am not going to live under the delusion that this country or any other is the source of my hope or help. Reading the end of the book (the Bible) I know that this place will get much worse and that my real hope is in the faithfulness of my God.

“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed. Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.” (2 Peter 3:10–13, ESV) 

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