On Trial

Mark 14:55-65 (3/25/16)

In the name of  Jesus…

Mark 14:55-65 Now the chief priests and all the council sought testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, but found none. 56 For many bore false witness against Him, but their testimonies did not agree. 57 Then some rose up and bore false witness against Him, saying, 58 “We heard Him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.’” 59 But not even then did their testimony agree. 60 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?” 61 But He kept silent and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked Him, saying to Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” 62 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.”  63 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “What further need do we have of witnesses? 64 You have heard the blasphemy! What do you think?” And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death. 65 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.

What?!?  Did we not just hear that the chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin could not find any evidence against Jesus in order to put Him to death?  And yet they ALL condemned Him as worthy of death?  I know I am not the first pastor nor will I be the last pastor to say that this has to be the most corrupt, one-sided, profane, railroaded “trial” that ever has been conducted.  Even by today’s standards this three-ring circus of a trial makes all other miscarriages of justice seem like a walk in the park.

Let’s see, what do we have here.  V. 56: Many testified falsely against Him, but their statements did not agree.  Setting aside for a moment the fact that all those who testified that day LIED and were therefore guilty of perjury, the sickeningly comical thing is that none of them agreed with each other.  At best it was a shoddy and haphazard attempt to send a man to his death, an attempt that should have failed miserably.

According to Deuteronomy 19:15 – the “bylaws,” if you will, by which this trial was supposed to be governed – “one witness is not enough to convict a man accused of any crime or offense he may have committed.  A matter must be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.”  Certainly any jury assembled today would be able to find sufficient reasonable doubt to have this case dismissed.  This kangaroo court could not even produce two, let alone three people to agree about the accusations against Jesus.  It was not fair!

What else do we have?  Ah, verses 57-59: Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against Him: “We heard Him say, ‘I will destroy this man-made temple and in three days will build another, not made by man.’”  Yet even then their testimony did not agree.  There is, of course, no such statement by Jesus exactly like this in the Gospels.  The closest we can get is way back in John 2 where Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”  But even from the context of that statement it is obvious He was not referring to the temple made by stone that took 46 years to build.  But, no matter; to those who wanted Jesus out of the way, it was good enough.  And it was not fair.

The high priest grew increasingly frustrated at Jesus when He would not answer any of the charges brought against Him.  And of course, the assumption is that a person who does not defend himself against such charges MUST be guilty of them, else what possible other reason would he have for remaining silent?  The assumption of guilt was made.  And it too was not fair.

Then came the straw that broke the camel’s back.  Vs. 61-64: Again the high priest asked [Jesus], “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?”  “I am,” said Jesus.  “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”  The high priest tore his clothes.  “Why do we need any more witnesses?”  he asked.  “You have heard the blasphemy.  What do you think?”

We can understand Jesus giving no thought to wasting His quickly-waning physical strength in order to responding to false accusations; why waste His breath?  But here was something He could not resist saying “Amen” to.  As to whether Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One, the response by our Lord was, “I am.”  He simply said, “Amen: yes, it is so.”  And then He gave a little color commentary on what He meant.

Whether it was the phrase “I Am” which the high priest and others would understand as being the Old Testament title for God, or whether it was Jesus referring to Himself as the “Son of Man” which brought together Daniel 7:13 and Psalm 110:1 – passages that spoke of the coming Messiah – these words of Jesus were simply too much for the ears of those who heard them.  The charge was now blasphemy – lying about God – and tearing his clothes in a display of great grief and shock the high priest gives evidence that the trial, such as it was, was now over.  And “They all condemned Him as worthy of death.”  It just was not fair.

But if we want to speak of “fairness” we do well to agree that God Himself does NOT play fair; He never has, He never will.  In fact, we do well to INSIST that God not play fair with us, for if He does play fair, we lose eternally.  If God is fair with us, He must treat our sins and sinfulness as they deserve – by punishing the sinner fully and completely and forever in hell.  Besides which, even our accusations against God for “not being fair” are arrogant and blasphemous in themselves, for who are we to tell God how to be God?

No, dear fellow redeemed, God does not play fair – at least not by our standards.  So great are your sins and so inept are your own efforts to make yourself right with God, this is what absolutely had to happen.  Was it fair that the sinless, perfect, Son of God – even our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – was allowed to be tortured, accused falsely, tried, convicted, sentenced, killed, and buried in the place of every sinful, imperfect person ever to walk the earth including you?  No, it wasn’t.  But it was absolutely necessary in order that you be set free from your sins and the eternal torment those sins deserve.

And that is exactly what has happened.  For far from being “unfair” God has indeed been MORE than fair with you, for in the death of Jesus Christ you have life.  In the punishment of Jesus Christ for your sins you have freedom from the eternal consequences of your sins.  And in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave – the re-building of His temple – you have the sure and certain hope of eternal life with Jesus and the promise of spending eternity with Him who has bought and paid for all your sins in His own body.

St. Paul says it best: “God made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) The verdict against Jesus who bore our sins is: guilty; worthy of death.   And in His death, you are worthy of life.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.