A TRIAL ON TRIAL
Dr. Charles Franklin DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
April 14, 2013
53 And they led Jesus to the high priest. And all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together. 54 And Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. And he was sitting with the guards and warming himself at the fire. 55 Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but they found none. 56 For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree. 57 And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying, 58 We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands. 59 Yet even about this their testimony did not agree. 60 And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you? 61 But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? 62 And Jesus said, I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven. 63 And the high priest tore his garments and said, What further witnesses do we need? 64 You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision? And they all condemned him as deserving death. 65 And some began to spit on him and to cover his face and to strike him, saying to him, Prophesy! And the guards received him with blows.
-- Mark 14:53-65, ESV
With the proliferation of cable and satellite television, there is literally a channel for everything. Cameras cover every aspect and every room of our lives, even those that used to be private. There used to be a day when certain places were off limits to the one-eyed monster, like the sanctity of the bedroom and the seriousness of the courtroom. It may have been the soap opera that opened the door to one; and, it must have been the O.J. Simpson trial that opened the door to the other.
In the old days, if you wanted to see the inside of an American courtroom, you had to view sketchy drawings from sketch artists. Or, you could watch fictional dramas such as Perry Mason or Matlock. Now we have dedicated channels to broadcast trials live, then news shows that put the trial on trial. Imagine if this type of technology had been available in Jesus’ day! It would have been a reality show to really care about. And of all the episodes in our Lord’s life that would have been subject to review, none would have revealed more crucial errors and dramatic revelations than the Jewish trial before Jesus’ crucifixion. Well, today we are going to put this trial on trial.
Court Convenes with a Reversal of Roles
Jesus’ Jewish trial was carried out in three parts, just like His Roman trial. After He was betrayed by Judas and arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane by a Jerusalem militia, Jesus was first taken to a man named Annas, the pit boss of the priests, the past high priest, and father-in-law of the current high priest, Caiaphas. Secondly, He went before Caiaphas and the council consisting of seventy religious rulers known as the Sanhedrin. The third convening of this kangaroo court met early Friday morning to pass judgment on Jesus and send Him to the Roman governor with the sentence of death.
Mark does not mention the names and summarizes the trial’s various parts into one court brief. Our Lord Jesus Christ, being treated like a common criminal, is dragged into court and forced to sit before the standing high priest. Court convenes with a criminal reversal of rolls.
Jerry Seinfeld has a funny bit about pharmacies and pharmacists where he points out how they always stand above their clients. I don’t think this is true about every pharmacy. But it is true about every courtroom. The judge, the man or woman in charge, sits high above the accused and oversees the proceedings with authority, superiority, integrity, and righteous judgment. And in this makeshift courtroom in Mark, the cunning, corrupt high priest and religious rulers sit high and mighty in judgment over the Creator of heaven and earth, the Sovereign over Israel and the church, and the Lord and Savior of the world. It seems it should have been the other way around.
Mankind shows his sin and pride when it comes to this judgment of Jesus Christ. They judged Jesus as not worthy of being the Jewish Messiah. They judged Him as deceitful and dishonest. They judged Him as a failure and a fraud. So do most people, today. If you have not fallen down on your knees in real repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as Lord, if you are not following Him as the undisputed leader of your life, if you do not seek Him and His kingdom first, then you are sitting in judgment over Jesus, denying Him His rightful place as Lord.
Testimony is Given by Liars and the Truth
Lies and truth are like darkness and light. One overshadows the other depending upon the context, whether it be dusk or dawn. Jesus’ Jewish trial occurred mostly at night, which was most fitting. Lies and liars encircled and encompassed the Light that had come into the world for the salvation of man.
With seventy members on the council and a peck of priests in the area, many different men had arranged for many different false witnesses to give testimony against Jesus. Lies are hard to organize, though, and each one sounded a little bit different. Such is the nature of falsehood. It never quite comes into focus.
Jesus never made a statement like the one attributed to Him regarding the destruction and rebuilding of the Jewish Temple, although He did make a similar promise regarding His resurrection. This is also the nature of lying. It generally takes a half truth and twists it so many times until a stick of honesty turns into a pretzel of a lie. So it was for those who chose to tell tales about Jesus, and so it is for us when we choose to lie about anyone or anything. Eventually, the truth will show up.
When the high priest could not get a conviction due to the conflicting testimonies, he stood up and demanded the truth from the man who for three years had publicly preached and taught, helped and healed, lived and loved. “Are you the Christ?”
Then the Truth spoke up. “I Am.” You may not believe it, Jesus implied, but one day you will see it. And for those who sit in judgment over Jesus Christ, rather than relenting to His lordship over life, Judgment Day will be a day too late.
All must choose to live a lie or embrace the truth. This is true in school and work, friendship and marriage, politics and religion. You must choose to do whatever it takes to win, which will eventually include cheating and lying; or, you must look for and live within the narrow line of truth that leads to life abundant and eternal. The number of people who exercise bad judgment in this courtroom of life is unbelievable, for it consists of people who just do not believe in Jesus Christ.
The Bad Judgment is Unbelievable
At the end of the testimony of liars and the Truth, Jesus was not to be believed. Blasphemy, to this day a broad charge used by religious bullies, was the charge they stuck to Jesus in order to nail Him to the cross. Our Lord was condemned, rejected, disrespected, mocked, bullied, beaten, and put on the path to Golgotha. This bad judgment is unbelievable, for this bad judgment is unbelief.
We tend to think of unbelief as something relatively harmless. In many circles of modern society it is actually believed that unbelief is a virtue. Unbelief is a choice, a right, a way of life that is progressive, relevant, unfettered by the superstitions of the past, and unwilling to waste time dreaming of the afterlife. It is about me and it is about now, so says unbelief.
We seldom think of unbelief as blasphemy, the false charge that led to Christ’s conviction. Blasphemy means to speak a word against. They said Jesus spoke a word against God when He claimed, rightfully, to be equal with and to be God.
But the real blasphemy, the real sin worthy of death, is the sin of unbelief. It speaks a word, a lifetime of words, against God in Christ. It speaks of sin against God, selfishness against the will of God, sarcasm against the word of God, and serious attacks upon God, like the false trial, the false charges, and the very real crucifixion and resurrection.
And if you don’t believe, truly believe from the heart, really believe unto a life lived under the lordship of Jesus Christ, then you will not sit in judgment upon Jesus one day. He will sit in judgment upon you. And your fate will be the same as His, only worse, and permanent.
Let us put this trial on trial. Moreover, let us put ourselves on trial and see what we have done with the Lord Jesus Christ. Are we high priests of our own lives? Are we idle talkers whose tales don’t match? Are we the accusers and blasphemers? Or, are do we confess the Truth, and have the Life, where Jesus is the judge and Lord of our lives?
Dr. Charles F. "Chuck" DeVane, Jr., is the Pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs, Arkansas. His weekly sermon article, "The Gospel Truth," has been published in newspapers in Arkansas and Georgia. Dr. DeVane is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and has served in the pastorate for over 20 years. Contact Pastor Chuck at PastorChuck@lakehamiltonbaptistchurch.org