It was called “ditching.” When I was about 10 years old, I had a group of kids in my neighborhood and most of the time we played together pretty well. However, occasionally my neighbor Steve would get mad about something and we would butt heads. Usually we would just yell at each other and then ignore each other for a while. A few times I got ditched. The group would all be doing something and suddenly on cue, they would all take off for some place and leave me behind. Steve had convinced them that they would have more fun if they got rid of me.
Are there times you’d like to get rid of Jesus just for a bit? For example, maybe as we file our taxes in the next few days, we want to claim something or put something down we know isn’t quite right. We want to do something we know God would not approve of and so we would like to get rid of Jesus just for a bit. That way we can do what we want.
Today we read of an extreme example of that. Through a sham trial the Jewish leaders try to get rid of Jesus. From their perspective it ended up not working. From God’s perspective, it worked out just as he had planned because through this instead of being rid of Jesus, what is gotten rid of is our sin and guilt. Let’s read Mark 14:53-65.
I. Let’s look first at the false accusations against Jesus.
After being betrayed Jesus is brought to the house of Caiaphas, the High Priest. Mark briefly mentions the fact that Peter was there in order to highlight that while Jesus is saying he is Messiah, Peter is denying Jesus, which is what we will look at next week.
The first witnesses began to tell the court all kinds of things that would prove that Jesus deserved the death penalty but their stories did not back each other up. We do not know what things these first false witnesses were telling. But we can rightly assume that they had little or no basis in truth.
It was kind of like the four high school boys who skipped their morning classes. After lunch, they reported to the teacher that their car had had a flat tire. Much to their relief, she smiled and said, “Well, you missed a test this morning, so take your seats apart from one another and get out your notebooks.” She waited for a moment and then said, “First question. Which tire was flat?” That is what happened with these witnesses; their stories didn’t match up! So these witnesses were dismissed without accomplishing anything.
Next some other witnesses came forward and charged that Jesus had said that he would destroy the temple and build another in three days, something Jesus had never said. Jesus had said in John 2 that if it was destroyed, he would rebuild it in three days. The temple would in fact be destroyed by the Romans but the witnesses made it sound like Jesus was going to destroy something very special to the Jews. However, these witnesses as well said things that contradicted each other and this charge too had to be thrown out.
On the surface, the Jewish leaders appeared to follow the prescribed procedures. They called witnesses and they threw out the charges that could not be backed-up. But Mark makes it clear that from the very beginning of this trial they had already decided that they were going to kill Jesus. They needed to find something that would technically justify their killing Jesus.
But why were the Jewish leaders so intent on this purpose? Simply, Jesus was a threat to them. Jesus’ teaching went contrary to their whole set of beliefs. Jesus called them to live in a way that they did not want to live.
It is easy to condemn the Jewish leaders, but again we have to be careful. What if Jesus didn’t hang out with church people like us and instead hung around prostitutes or with drug dealers or with others in bars? Would we like it? What if he questioned all the pious things we were doing? Would we like that? What if he said we were more concerned about money than the things of God? We might not like it either and might too want to get rid of Jesus. We must ask ourselves if we are doing things that Jesus would not approve of as well.
II. Let’s look next at the High Priest’s interrogation.
At this point things were going badly for the Jewish leaders. So Caiaphas tries to intimidate Jesus into some sort of confession. An accused person was required by law to answer questions in this setting. But when Caiaphas questions Jesus, he refuses to answer. He did not want to contribute anything to this trial that could be twisted around.
So Caiaphas decides on the direct approach and asks Jesus if he is “the Messiah.” Jesus had made some hints to being the Messiah before. Caiaphas may be thinking this is one place they could pin Jesus down. The question is simply, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?”
Now the whole trial hinges on Jesus’ response. If Jesus says that he is not the Messiah, then the Jews have no case against Jesus and they would have to look for a new approach. But if Jesus says that he is the Messiah, then they have him. For Jesus to claim that he was the Messiah would be blasphemy for he would be saying that he was the Son of the Blessed One, the one sent by God to save his people.
In the eyes of the Jews, Jesus was obviously not the Messiah. He had made no attempts to save the people or nation from Rome. Anyone who claimed to be the Messiah under such circumstances could only be a blasphemer who was making a mockery of God and His promises.
III. Jesus’ royal claim makes it clear that he is indeed the Messiah.
Prior to this, Jesus had been careful not to make claims about being the Messiah. If Jesus had said that he was the Messiah, many would have proclaimed him king. However, Jesus did not come to be an earthly king. Now the time has come for Jesus to make it clear who he is and why he came.
Now let’s think about this for a moment. If Jesus had simply remained silent, they would not have been able to sentence Jesus to death. Yet Jesus did not remain silent but gave them exactly what they wanted. Why would he do that? He did that for you and for me so that he could die for us.
Jesus answers Caiaphas’ question affirmatively and boldly by saying, “I am,” a title for God himself. He also calls himself the “Son of Man,” the Messiah found in Daniel. The Son of Man is the one who will come as ruler of the world and bring all nations under the control of God himself. Jesus also says He is the one sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One. Psalm 110:1 describes the Messiah as the one who will sit on God’s right hand which is the place of power and authority; the highest place of honor in heaven. Moreover, Jesus will be coming on the clouds, which describes the judgment of God. Jesus says he is the one who will come to judge everyone, which only God can do.
Jesus’ answer makes it very clear that he is the “I AM”, the Messiah, the Son of God. Jesus is the one sent by God to save his people! Jesus is the royal King who sits at the right hand of God. Jesus is the judge who will come again on the last day to bring all those who believe in Him to heaven with Him and punish all who have rejected him.
IV. This is the Jesus that the Jewish leaders find guilty and condemn to death.
Caiaphas tears his clothes, typically a sign of sincere sorrow and remorse. In this case, it was more an expression of relief and joy. They finally got their confession from Jesus. So Caiaphas asks them, “Why do we need more witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?” Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah was all they needed to condemn him.
Then their relief of finally getting Jesus comes out and they begin to abuse him. Perhaps Jesus was made a public example of what happens to blasphemers! But they were also getting even for the times that Jesus had embarrassed them. So they spit at him and beat him.
They blindfolded him and hit Him, saying “Prophesy!” This likely comes from a prophecy in Isaiah 11:2-4 which says that the messiah would be able to judge without the need of sight. They were testing him to see if he was the Messiah but fact only mocking him. Here is the true Messiah, and they are beating him, spitting on him and mocking him.
So how do we respond to Jesus the King? We certainly don’t mock Jesus as these people do. Even non-Christians will treat Jesus with some semblance of respect. Moreover, we really believe that He is the Messiah, the true King! But the problem is that we often do not treat him as King in our lives either. We fall in the middle area where we accept Jesus as the King, but we don’t really accept Jesus fully as our King in our lives; we want to occasionally get rid of Jesus.
How should we treat our King who suffered such humiliation in order to save us? First, believe in him. Accept what Jesus has done as being done for YOU! Jesus’ death is not just a fact of history, but necessary because of our sins; all those sins that we want to get rid of Jesus for in our lives now.
Then really live your life with Jesus as King! Think of how you spend your time at home with your family. When you are at work, remember that you do not serve yourself or your boss; you serve the Living Lord Jesus who is king. Who is King when it comes to your inner thoughts? What motivates you: your desires or the desire to serve your King?
“May I sit on the bench?” That request of the stranger was also refused by the sexton. “What if the organist came in and found you sitting there? I would probably lose my job!” But again the stranger was so persistent that the sexton gave in. “But only for a moment,” he added. The stranger seemed very comfortable at the organ and then asked to be allowed to play the organ. “Definitely not!” said the sexton. “No one is allowed to play it except the cathedral organist.”
The man’s face fell. He reminded the sexton how far he had come and assured him that no damage would be done. Finally the sexton relented and told the stranger he could play the instrument, but only a few notes and then he would have to leave. The stranger pulled out some stops and began to play. Suddenly the cathedral was filled with the most beautiful music the sexton had ever heard in all his years in that place. In what seemed all too short a time, the stranger stopped playing and slid off the organ bench. And started down the stairway. “Wait!” cried the sexton. “That was the most beautiful music I have ever heard in the cathedral. Who are you?”
Each one of us has the opportunity to have a relationship with the risen Lord of all the universe, Jesus. Let’s not keep Jesus from “playing His music” and being Lord of our lives!