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Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on June 25, 2017 under 2017 |

Preached Sunday, June 25, 2017 from Mark 14:53-65

Theme: The ultimate question has been answered; but it’s up to each one of us to respond to that answer rightly.

(Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version; copyright 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc.)

I invite you to turn with me to Mark 14. And let’s jump right in at verse 53—right into the middle of history’s greatest courtroom drama. We’re told …

And they led Jesus away to the high priest; and with him were assembled all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes (Mark 14:53).

It’s with those words that we’re introduced to a very serious and sobering portion of Mark’s Gospel—the story of our Lord’s trial in which He was condemned to death and then sent away to Pilate to be crucified.

* * * * * * * * * *

By this point in Mark’s Gospel, our Savior had been betrayed by Judas into the hands of wicked men, and had been arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. And now, we’re told of how He was brought before a very important assembly. Later on, in verse 55, they’re called “the council”. In the original language, this is called the Sanhedrin. This is the highest ruling council of the Jewish people. It was composed of the highest ranking members of the priestly order, the ruling elders of the people, and the most esteemed of their scholars in the law given to Moses—in other words, the religious leaders, the civil leaders, and the intellectual leaders.

And by the way; do you recognize that this group has been mentioned before? These are the very same rulers who had begun to oppose our Lord when He had come into the Temple in His triumphant entry a few days before. In Mark 11:27-28, we’re told that these same leaders approached Him after He had cleansed the Temple of money changers and merchants; and demanded of Him, “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority to do these things?” They were jealous over how the people were listening to Him as He taught about the kingdom of God; and they were angry at the way He had been shining the spotlight on their superficial ritualism. By the first verse of Chapter 14, they had already begun to plot together how they might kill Him. And now—at last—He was being brought bound before this hostile assembly for trial.

But in the very next verse, Mark suddenly shifts our focus for a moment from our Lord and turns it to Peter. While in the garden with Jesus, Peter had boasted of how he would never deny Him—how, in fact, he would even die for Him. But at Jesus’ arrest, Peter—just like all the others—forgot about his boastful promise and fled away from the Lord. But it seems that he could not flee away entirely. Mark tells us in verse 54;

But Peter followed Him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. And he sat with the servants and warmed himself at the fire (v. 54).

Peter ‘followed’; but in a way that we might call ‘spacial’ rather than ‘spiritual’. He was near the Lord in terms of location, but not near enough to be identified as a devoted follower. In fact, as Jesus was suffering the indignity of His trial, Peter was pursuing his own comfort, crouching down by the fire, warming his hands in the midst of our Lord’s enemies. What a sad picture!

Mark, I believe, just lets us know for the moment where Peter was. He’ll take up the full, tragic story of Peter’s denial after the passage we’re studying this morning. But for now, he turns our attention back to the trial itself. And what a trial it was! Look at what we’re told in verse 55;

Now the chief priests and all the council sought testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, but found none (v. 55).

Just think! What kind of a trial is it in which a court gathers and works to try hard to find testimony in order to put the accused to death? Many books have been written by many outstanding legal scholars about the corrupt nature of our Lord’s trial; and this is but one demonstration of its complete injustice and illegality. This trial was not about establishing the truth of the case. This was about justifying a sentence that had already been decided. In the end, it was nothing but a well-formulated, carefully orchestrated, premeditated act of murder.

And yet, the leaders in this council were being utterly frustrated in their efforts. They sought sound testimony against Jesus in order to give their murderous intent the outward appearance of legitimacy; but they could not find any. Mark tells us why in verse 56;

For many bore false witness against Him, but their testimonies did not agree (v. 56).

They apparently didn’t have any difficulty securing people to testify against Him. But they couldn’t get any of these various testimonies to be consistent with one another. They couldn’t be made to agree. This was particularly important; because as it says in the Old Testament law, “One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established” (Deuteronomy 19:15). And it seems that, no matter how they tried, they couldn’t even put two testimonies together in a way that made a consistent case against Him. If this had been a truly legal and just proceeding, the whole matter would have had to have been dropped then and there! But this was not intended to be a legal and just trial.

We’re told further, in verses 57-58;

Then some rose up and bore false witness against Him, saying, “We heard Him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands’” (vv. 57-58).

Now; this false testimony was somewhat based on something that Jesus actually said. Perhaps you’ll remember it. It was found near the beginning of John’s Gospel. It was when He first cleansed the Temple at the beginning of His earthly ministry. The Jewish leaders were angry at Him for doing this; and they demanded that He show them some sign that He had the authority to do what He did. John 2:19-22 tells us;

Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Then the Jews said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?” But He was speaking of the temple of His body. Therefore, when He had risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this to them; and they believed the Scripture and the word which Jesus had said (John 2:19-22).

These false witnesses, then, were testifying to something that sounded remotely like what Jesus actually said; but they were taking it out of context, and were adding words to it, and were actually changing His words, and were completely misrepresenting the meaning of His words in order to twist them toward their sinful purpose.

But even then, their efforts did not succeed. Mark tells us in verse 59 of our passage;

But not even then did their testimony agree (v. 59).

In God’s universe, there is only one “truth”. But there are countless forms of “falsehood”; and statements of falsehood just can’t be made to be consistent with one another in the way that only the truth is consistent with itself.

Well; this whole affair was becoming desperate by this point. And that’s when the high priest arose. His name was Caiaphas. Perhaps you’ll remember that he was mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament. Not too long before this trial, when the Jewish council had met together because of our Lord’s miracles—seeking together a way to stop Him—Caiaphas was the one who said to them,

You know nothing at all, nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.” Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad (John 11:49-52).

Caiaphas was hard-hearted in his unbelief. And yet, on that occasion, he spoke more truth than he could possibly have understood. He unwittingly testified—by the power of God overruling him—that Jesus, indeed, is the Savior of the world. But neither Caiaphas nor the council grasped the truth of those words. We’re told that, from that day on, they began to plot together how to put Jesus to death.

So; that man—Caiaphas—was the high priest in our passage this morning; the man who officiated at our Lord’s trial. And Mark goes on in verses 60-61 to tell us;

And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, saying, “Do You answer nothing? What is it these men testify against You?” But He kept silent and answered nothing (Mark 14:60-61a).

This was an attempt on Caiaphas’ part to get Jesus to say something in His own defense—anything at all—that they might be able to twist and contort and use against Him. But even in this, they were still frustrated. Jesus would not give them what they wanted.

Now, please consider this with me dear brothers and sisters; that even in this dreadful and unjust trial, our Lord remained absolutely sovereign and in control. And I believe that our Lord was intentionally ‘bottle-necking’ this court; and forcing these hard hearted and evil men to the point of getting down to the real issue. He was ‘funneling’ the discussion, if you will, down to the ultimate question. It was the only question, in fact, that our Lord would answer.

And that ultimate question finally came in verse 61;

Again the high priest asked Him, saying to Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” (v. 61b).

What a question! It truly is the question of all questions! And why would Caiaphas ask such a thing? Did it just come to his mind then and there, in an impulsive way? Certainly not! I believe that the subject of Jesus’ identity had been on his mind for some time. Throughout His life and earthly ministry, our Lord had been making it abundantly clear who He truly was. His birth, His sinless conduct, His miracles, His teaching, His fulfillment of Scripture, His clear Old Testament qualifications, His authority over the demons, His command over the wind and the waves, His raising of the dead—all these things made it obvious that He truly was the promised Messiah; the Son of God in human flesh.

Caiaphas knew that people were believing this about Jesus. And he knew that Jesus was claiming this about Himself. This clever high priest was obviously seeking to force Jesus to admit publicly that it was so—and to make Jesus say what he already knew He would say—so that our Lord could then be charged with the crime of blasphemy against God in the court of men. But I think there was another reason Caiaphas asked this. Already, we’ve seen that, being the high priest, God made Caiaphas His unwitting mouth-piece; causing him to utter things that God wanted uttered. And so; I believe God made this hard-hearted man, who was the high priest, ask this question in a profoundly official way—so that it would receive the most official answer it could possibly receive … and for all time.

In verse 62, we read of the answer to this ultimate question, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And our Lord’s answer could not have been clearer:

Jesus said, “I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven” (v. 62).

And after that, the whole courtroom broke out into a diabolical uproar. Verses 63-65 tell us;

Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “What further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy! What do you think?” And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death. Then some began to spit on Him, and to blindfold Him, and to beat Him, and to say to Him, “Prophesy!” And the officers struck Him with the palms of their hands (vv. 63-65).

The high priest’s act of tearing his priestly tunic was an act by which he displayed an official verdict of shock and repulsion at what was said. But it was just for show—a pretense of outrage; because this was what he really wanted to have happen all along. And the same was true of the whole court. They began immediately to demean our Lord and strike Him and mock Him in a way that would never have been acceptable in a real court of law. Literally, Mark tells us that the officers who led Him away “received Him with blows of the palm of the hand.”

And with that, our Lord was taken away to Pilate; who would then give the order for Him to be crucified … where He would die for you and me.

* * * * * * * * * *

And now, dear brothers and sisters; consider the ultimate question that Caiaphas was provoked to ask—and which our Lord answered with such bold clarity. There really can be no greater question.

Is Jesus the Christ?—that is to say, is He truly the long-awaited, long-promised Messiah; the one sent by God to suffer and atone for sin?—the one that God has destined to be the Ruler of the nations of this earth?—the one who is appointed to be the Judge of all humankind? Is Jesus the Son of the Blessed?—a that is to say, is He the only begotten of the Father?—is He the sinless, virgin-born Son of God in human flesh?—is He ‘God with us’?

I suggest to you that if He is not these things, then the past two-thousand years of Christianity have been the greatest waste of time in all of human history; and you and I have made a terrible mistake in calling ourselves Christians. In fact, all the rest of human history would then basically be meaningless and without purpose, because it would mean that God has done nothing for us; and there will eventually be no justice in the universe; and we all have no hope—nothing to look forward to but an eternally meaningless emptiness. If Jesus is not the Christ, the Son of the blessed, then there is no hope; because there has been no other than Him.

But look again at Jesus’ answer to that question. You’ll find it in verse 62. “I am!” In the original language, it’s egō eimi. It’s emphatic; and can be translated, “I—even I am!” And do you remember that those were the very words that God used to introduce Himself to Moses at the burning bush?—”I AM”? In the Greek translation of the Old Testament, in fact, it is put in those very words: egō eimi. There could be no mistake about His bold answer. It is ‘yes’!

And did you notice what else Jesus then went on to say? He told the high priest—and because He spoke in the second person plural, He also told everyone in that court—“And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” Do you realize what He was doing? He was, right then, quoting one of the most remarkable Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah. It’s found in Daniel 7:13-14; where we’re told;

“I was watching in the night visions,

And behold, One like the Son of Man,

Coming with the clouds of heaven!

He came to the Ancient of Days,

And they brought Him near before Him.

Then 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 the one

Which shall not be destroyed (Daniel 7:13-14).

In other words, not only did Jesus affirm that He was indeed the Christ, the Son of the Blessed; but also that Caiaphas, and all the chief priests present, and all the elders of the people, and all the scribes—and truly all people—would one day bow the knee to Him and confess Him as Lord of all. As it says in Revelation 1:7, “Behold, He is coming with clouds, and every eye will see Him, even they who pierced Him. And all the tribes of the earth will mourn because of Him. Even so, Amen.”

What a question! What an answer!

* * * * * * * * * * *

And that leads me to one more thing, dear brothers and sisters; and that’s to examine the responses of those who were present—not only to the direct words of our Lord, but to all that had already been implied about Him throughout His life and ministry.

The apostle John had something to say about the reason why people’s response to Jesus’ self-testimony is what it so often is. In John 3:18-21, he wrote;

He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God” (John 3:18-21).

Doesn’t that pretty much explain it all? Light has come into the world in the Person of Jesus—the Christ, the Son of the Blessed. But people who are devoted to sin don’t want Him. They won’t come into the light, lest the truth of what’s in their heart become exposed.

Just think of the groups that were represented in that courtroom. Don’t they, to some degree, represent the various kinds of people in this world—and the various ways that they respond to Him? Think at the end of that story, and of the response of violent aggression from people who are committed to the love of their sin. It wasn’t enough for them that they tried Him, and condemned Him as guilty, and sent Him away to be executed. No! In a passion that can only be described as devil-inspired hatred, they began to spit on Him, and beat on Him, and slap Him. They blindfolded Him, and then struck Him, and then teased Him to ‘prophesy’ and declare who had hit Him.

There are some who treat Him the same way today, if they could. His very life—the very testimony of who He is—condemns the sin they love; and so they hate Him and violently attack those who love Him and proclaim Him. We’re seeing it all over the world today. And we’re even seeing more and more in our own homeland, and in the midst of our own culture.

Well; that’s one way people respond wrongly to Jesus answer to that great question. But Caiaphas demonstrated another. In him, we see the response of outrage from the religiously prideful. Caiaphas was moved unwittingly to ask the ultimate question of who Jesus truly was. And when Jesus answered—rather than remember all the promises of Scripture about the Messiah, and remember all that He had seen and heard of Jesus, and putting ‘two-and-two’ together and humbly receiving Jesus for who He clearly was—Caiaphas rebelled against the truth and rejected Him. Caiaphas loved his position as ‘the religious leader of the people’ too dearly. He held too tightly to his pride; and clutched all the tighter on to the robes of superficial ‘ritualism’ that the people under him had admired so much.

That’s yet another way that people respond wrongly to Jesus’ self-testimony—even today. How dare anyone suggest that all of the years of service they performed in a church, and all the good deeds they did for the community or for the environment or for social justice, and all the religious acts they faithfully performed are, somehow, not enough!—and that they need the atoning blood of a Savior to make them right with God!

And there’s yet another way people respond wrongly. Think of the false witnesses who arose against Jesus with their inconsistent testimonies. They represent to us the response of distortion from the people of this world who think themselves ‘wise’. These witnesses sought to interpret the things of Jesus that they heard and saw; but did so from a standpoint of unbelief. And so; all they did is misrepresent and misinterpret and misunderstand the things they saw—giving constructions of things in ways that could not be made to make sense.

And again; don’t we see that today? People who so love the darkness cannot accept the light of Jesus’ self-testimony—even when it is shown as clearly as possible to them. And so, they distort it and misrepresent it and make it say things through various sophistries that it doesn’t say; and thus make fools of themselves.

And sadly, there’s one more wrong way the bold testimony of Jesus’ identity can be responded to. It hits home, because it is typically found in those who profess the most to love Him and believe on Him. And that is shown to us in the response of compromise from the disciple. Both before and after that clear answer was given by our Lord, Peter was hiding from it all. Faithfully adhering to Jesus’ self-testimony would cost too much. And so, Peter was found blending in with the enemies of our Lord. He was seeking his own comfort rather than following His Lord. It wasn’t too long before He was found denying that he even knew Him.

That is a way that many—and let’s be honest; even many of us—respond to Jesus’ bold answer to the ultimate question that was put to Him. We hide from it and seek our own safety and comfort instead.

* * * * * * * * * *

What a challenge our Lord’s clear answer presents to this world—and even to those who say they are His followers! Our Lord’s self-testimony caused turmoil then, and it causes turmoil today.

Just quote the question to people—’Is Jesus the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?’; and then give His own clear answer—that ‘yes, He is; and that every eye will see Him sitting at the right hand of power, and coming to this earth with the clouds of heaven’; and you’ll receive a variety of responses. Some who are committed to their sin will attack you for it. Some who are committed to their own religious works, and to the vagueness of ‘religion’ in general, will be outraged and offended that you would dare say it aloud. Some who are prideful in their own intellect will distort it, and twist it, and seek to explain it away, and rationalize their unbelief. And even some who profess to be His followers will back away from it, and will blend in with this world, and will seek to protect their own safety and comfort.

But what is the right way to respond? I believe that the Lord Jesus Himself would say, “Confess it.”

To ‘confess’ means to ‘say the same thing’; and that’s what we must do. We must ‘say the same thing’ in this world as Jesus said. He put it this way in Luke 12:8-9;

Also I say to you, whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God. But he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God” (Luke 12:8-9).

May God give us—by the Holy Spirit in us—the courage of faith and the love for others, in our time, to say with Jesus what He Himself testified in His own trial: that, yes, He truly is the Christ, the Son of the Blessed; and that every knee will bow to Him, and that every tongue will confess Him as King of kings and Lord of lords; and that every man and woman is now called to believe on Him, and trust in His cross, and yield their lives to Him in loving obedience.

That was His answer to the ultimate question. Shouldn’t it also be ours?

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