Dr. Charles F. “Chuck” DeVane, Jr., Pastor
Lake Hamilton Baptist Church
Hot Springs, Arkansas
JUNE 5, 2016
57 Then those who had seized Jesus led him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders had gathered. 58 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. 59 Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, 60 but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward 61 and said, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days. ’” 62 And the high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” 63 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.” 64 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.” 65 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. 66 What is your judgment?” They answered, “He deserves death.” 67 Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him, 68 saying, “Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?”
— Matthew 26:57-68, ESV
In order for the plot to play out in Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the court system had to be corrupted. Lies had to trump the truth, false accusations had to stick, and unjust punishment had to be meted out. Though she never intended her prolific story to be a parable of the gospel, it certainly is, at least in part. For the same kind of conspiracy and corruption it took to kill a mockingbird is the same malice and meanness it took to kill a king, namely the King of kings, our Lord Jesus Christ.
The backdrop for this courtroom scene described in Matthew’s Gospel is a colossal failure on the part of just about everybody involved in the final days of Jesus’ life. Our Lord’s closest friends either betrayed Him, abandoned Him, or denied Him. This Jewish court (and eventually the Roman court) terribly misjudged Him. Why wouldn't anyone, like the old hymn says, “Stand Up, Stand Up, For Jesus?”
It seems they all had a predetermined agenda. Judas’ motive was mixed with unbelief and greed, a bad combination, and like Haman’s gallows it hung his own head. The disciples’ aim was to save their own skin, which is why they scattered in the garden and uttered denials in the courtyard. “The chief priests and the whole counsel,” Annas and Caiaphas and a quorum of the Sanhedrin, had already chosen not to be followers of the Messiah, for that would have kept people from following them. Now, they determined, the King had to be killed.
A Corrupt Court
Instead of open-minded jurors, the members of this kangaroo court were hard-hearted judges. They were envious of Jesus’ godliness and gentleness. They were fearful of losing their religious authority, which they wielded for graft instead of good. They predetermined to convict Jesus of some crime so heinous that the Lord would lose in their court, lose in the court of public opinion, and eventually lose in a Roman court. So here is what they did:
The looked for lies to suit the desires of their heart. “They were seeking false testimony,” the antithesis of what a true court would do. “Many false witnesses came forward,” and eventually their corrupt testimony was cobbled into a charge against the Lord.
They ignored the truth, even though it, or He, was standing right there in front of them. To up their anti, clever Caiaphas commanded Jesus to state, for the record, His true identity. Messiah means King, and Christ’s rightful claim of Lordship would put Him on the losing side of a Jewish and Roman court. Jesus told the truth, because He is the Truth, and this corrupt court would not believe.
They made false accusations to garner a guilty verdict. Instead of acknowledging Jesus as Savior and Lord, they labeled Him a fraud and a blasphemer. They mocked Him, spit on Him, beat Him, and then turned Him over to the Romans to kill.
At the end of the trial they made a flawed, fatal judgment. It was as flawed as their hearts, and fatal to their own souls. Like the all white jury in the “Mockingbird” trial, they had already made up their minds before hearing any testimony. They refused to change their mind, otherwise known as repentance, and they would all go to their graves one day having killed the King of kings.
By the way, the world will often do this to you if you are a Christian. You will likely do it to others if you are not. For while this corrupt court is no longer in session, corrupt and unrepentant hearts abound everywhere.
A Corrupt Heart
This corrupt court proves to be a picture of a corrupt heart. The human heart, depraved as it is, apart from grace, will always insist on “my way” instead of God’s way. It is self-centered and bent on self-gratification, and the lengths we will go to get what we want is parallel to the corruption we see in the Jewish court that rejected Jesus. Remember what they did? Well, here is what we tend to do:
To get what we want, we listen to the lies of the world. If we want money, we can find a bank that’s too big to fail. If we want sexual freedom, we can find the academy, the media, and the courts on our side, no matter what God has said. If we want power, we quote Invictus and crown ourselves as the captains of our own ship and masters of our own fate.
To keep what we want, we ignore biblical truth. Most of us prefer the silent Jesus, the closed Bible, and a society that seeks to keep God out of our lives. We don’t want Him in the public school or the public square. We don’t want Him in our bedrooms, governing our sexuality. We do not want to acknowledge Him as Creator, Savior, and Lord, and prefer the total separation of church and life.
To clear our consciences, we call good people bad things. Young people who abstain from sex, drugs, and alcohol are called nerds, while adults who cheat and change spouses are called swingers. Those who believe the Bible are derogatorily called fundamentalists, or extremists, or religious zealots, which these days are all synonyms for terrorists. Those who belittle or deny the truths of Scripture are called sophisticated, intellectual, and open-minded, when their minds are actually closed and prejudiced against biblical Christianity. “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil” (ref. Isaiah 5:20).
To remain in control, we reject the Lordship of Jesus Christ. At the end of the day, like in that Jewish courtroom, it is all about control. If Jesus is who the Bible says He is, then He must rule and reign as King over our hearts. But the human heart does not want to bend or believe, because the human heart does not want to surrender its ways to God, to the Messiah, to the King. We’d rather He be dead.
It is fair to say we all killed the King that day. And in our present day, He is still on trial. Now, let those of us who are here take our seats on the jury.
Your Seat on the Jury
If Christ had a lawyer on that fateful day, someone of integrity and intelligence like Atticus Finch, here are a few of the facts that would have come out:
According to Jewish law (the Old Testament), the Messiah was to be born of a virgin, in Bethlehem, of the tribe of Judah and the lineage of King David, preceded by an Elijah-like figure, perform many signs and wonders, and ride into Jerusalem on a donkey. Jesus, who in this trial merely acknowledged He is the Christ, or Messiah, had the evidence to back it up.
According to Jewish law (the Old Testament), the Messiah was to be betrayed by a friend, sold for thirty pieces of silver, despised and rejected by His own people, beaten and crucified as the spotless lamb and scapegoat, in order to provide an atonement for sin. Jesus, who made claim to His messiahship in this trial, because of this trial, would experience all these things.
Jesus had no lawyer but He has commissioned Christians and preachers to speak in His defense. The world is a prejudiced and hard-hearted jury, and we sit in its midst. But when a word of truth is spoken, grace dawns and faith breaks, and a heart is changed.
Jesus should not have been on trial, we should. Jesus should not have been killed for sins He did not commit, we should face the Judge of all the earth for our own sins. But if you believe in Jesus’ innocence, because you believe He is Lord, then you can be forgiven of killing the King, and the King Himself will set you free.