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Tongue Taming

Walking with Jesus  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  38:24
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Your tittle-tattlers, and those who listen to slander, by my good will should all be hanged -- the former by their tongues, the latter by the ears.” --PLAUTUS, Pseudolus

According to the Chicago Tribune, on May 9, 1994, a group of fourth graders at Fuller school on the south side of Chicago accused their substitute teacher of sexually molesting them. By that afternoon the school board promised to bring in counselors for the children. By evening the story was all over the news broadcasts.

But the next day police investigators came and interviewed fourteen of the children, and authorities determined the charges were false. Apparently the children made their false accusation because the substitute teacher threatened to report their unruliness.

One radio announcer reported that one child had promised to give classmates a dollar if they would join in the lie.

Speaking to this problem, Jackie Gallagher, a spokeswoman for the teachers union, said, “[Sexual abuse charges] are one of the hazards of the profession—a new one. Kids get sharper. It is akin to putting glue on a teacher’s chair twenty years ago.”

The teachers union president said that exonerating the teacher doesn’t always make everything better. “What usually happens,” he said, “when a person is accused of this kind of thing, is they’re exonerated by the board publicly but then later, quietly, they’re let go.”

Slander is a vicious crime that does lasting harm.

EST - Our text coveys Jesus’ mock trial at that hands of the ruling elite.
ESS - Today’s message reminds us that Jesus wants his followers to speak words that build up others.
OSS - At the end of this message is opportunity to consider how we speak to and about others.
TRANS - The time is just following the betrayal of Jesus by Judas leading to his arrest. Jesus is before the high priest and the gathered religious elite.

What does it say?

Mark 14:53–65 ESV
And they led Jesus to the high priest. And all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together. 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. Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but they found none. For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree. And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying, “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.’ ” Yet even about this their testimony did not agree. 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?” But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” 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.” And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need? You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death. 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.

What does it mean?

Leaders Lacking Lawfulness

Who was the high priest present at Jesus’ trial, and what do we know about his character?
Matthew tells us the name of the high priest:
Matthew 26:3 ESV
Then the chief priests and the elders of the people gathered in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas,
BAK - Caiaphas held office AD 18-36.
As we see in John, he is the son-in-law of Annas:
John 18:13 ESV
First they led him to Annas, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year.
He was a sly opportunist who didn’t care for justice of fairness.
Consider how Matthew describes Caiaphas’s leadership leading to the arrest of Jesus:
Matthew 26:4 ESV
and plotted together in order to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him.
He has no problem shedding innocent blood if it forwards his person ambition.
He attempted to justify his position by making appear to be an action good for the people.
Jesus provoked his envy, so Caiaphas cleverly brought about the condemnation of Jesus to his own desire.
Who made up the Sanhedrin in Mark 14:55?
According to Josephus, the three levels of person mentioned:
Mark 14:53 ESV
And they led Jesus to the high priest. And all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together.
These made up the group of 70, the supreme Jewish court of law.
In addition to the 70, was the high priest who presided over the group.
While Mark says “all” of the Sanhedrin were present, the Mishnah says 23 members constitutes a quorum.
The elders were primarily wealthy lay landowners.
The elders and the chief priests made up the ruling class with Sadducean leanings.
The scribes were Pharisaic and drawn from the middle classes.
The Mishnah tells us they’d sit in a raised semi-circle arrangement with two court clerks to their right and left.
Seats for the accused and witness were placed in the center.
Was this late-night meeting of the Jewish Council illegal?
It’s possible the late-night meeting was illegal.
The Mishna, not completed until AS 220.
It’s unlikely the Mishna was in force during the time of Jesus.
It’s possible this trial did involve some illegalities.
Even today we allow time from the police inquiry prior to the sentencing.
What Mark describes is an informal hearing not a formal trial.
There is too much uncertainty about the historicity of the account and the information regarding the laws of the day
As such, we can’t make any absolute statement based on today’s knowledge.

Liars Lacking Legitimacy

Did Jesus say what the witnesses claim He did in Mark 14:58?
No, the problem with the witnesses was they said:
Mark 14:58 ESV
“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.’ ”
See, there is nothing in Scripture that says the Jesus said he’d destroy this “man-made temple” and rebuild another “not made by man.”
There is no statement like this made in any of the Gospels.
Most likely it alludes to the statement in John:
John 2:19 ESV
Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
Two years prior, Jesus did say that, but he didn’t predict that he’d be the demolisher.
That reference is to his body, not the Temple in Jerusalem.
Perhaps Jesus’ prediction of the Temple destruction was combined with John’s gospel to fabricate the charge against Jesus.
Even with the hint of truth, in the end, the charges were insistent and invalid.

Legitimate Labeled Liar

What did Jesus’ words in Mark 14:62 say about who He is?
Jesus says “I am” and then goes on to describe the enthronement and parousia of the Son of Man, the presence of Jesus in heaven, in his kingly position, returned to the kingdom.
Power, is a way to refer to God. So, when Christ says Power, and coming in clouds, there is no mincing words; He clearly makes himself known.
Also, we have evidence that tells us the contemporary Jews thought of the Messiah as sitting at God’s right hand and coming in the clouds of heaven.
The Sanhedrin understood Jesus’ messianic claim.
We speak of veals, the curtain of the tent and the obscured identify of Jesus during most of his ministry.
Here the veil of Jesus’ identity is removed and his Lordship is fully conveyed.
Still, some didn’t believe; one day all will kneel and see He is Lord.
What did the tearing of clothes signify?
To us this may sound like an act of rage.
The Bible notes Reuben, Jacob, David, and Job tearing clothing.
However, in those instances they were moved by grief.
In this account, it’s not grief.
The laws of the Sanhedrin were in effect in Jesus’ day.
This was the action of the high priest when rendering a verdict.
Tearing clothing was part of their judicial practice.
Now, this was not the liturgical clothing, but the high priest’s personal attire.
Keep in mind that this was a ruse as they group had already decided to kill Jesus.
They just needed to make it appear legal.
What is blasphemy?
The root of the word carries the idea of dishonoring God.
Instead of honoring God, blaspheming curses or reviles God.
OT Israelites noted the pagans as revilers, blasphemers.
God’s people blaspheme when fell to idolatry.
In the NT, even a word spoken against the Lord Jesus or his representatives (Moses, Paul) is considered insulting toward God and is blasphemy.
In a weaker sense, the word is considered slanderous language addressed to other people.
The great paradox hear is that the ones claiming that Jesus blasphemed are guilty of that very same crime against God.
The are the ones reviling, insulting, and putting themselves above God.
Their sin truly is idolatry; they ascribe more worth to themselves, their desires, their view, and take great measures to have Jesus sentenced to death.
ILL - A “Truth in Government Act” proposed by Representative Donald M. Fraser (D-Minn.) would make it illegal for federal officials to lie to private citizens. Right now, Fraser says, honesty is a one-way street. “Under current law, it is a crime for a private citizen to lie to a government official, but not for a government official to lie to the people.” Perhaps officials should take an oath of honesty when they are sworn in.
I did a quick Internet search for “truth in government” and was surprised. The US, Britain, and I’m sure many others have to appeal to leader for them to be honest.
See, slander with leaders is nothing new. It’s part of the problem of sin.
At that level, we do need law to regulate leadership.
But, what about us?

What is God saying?

We note that people slandered him by providing false testimony.
James says the tongue is evil:
James 3:8 ESV
but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.
Words can cause much damage.
Are you careful with your words?
Let’s make a point of only speaking wholesome words that encourage and extend grace to those who hear.
Ephesians 4:29 ESV
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.
That’s my life verse and I hope it means as much to you.
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