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Seeking Testimony Against Jesus

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INTRODUCTION

Vigilantes were self-appointed law enforcement groups which sprang up on the American frontier. One writer says that “vigilantism was [often] carried out by citizens who were moderate and orderly in their application of force,” but he notes that the danger of mob rule was also present. Just ask the poor fellow whose grave at Boot Hill Cemetery in Arizona bears this epitaph: “Lynched by mistake.”

You’ve probably heard of the term “vigilante justice.”
Vigilantes were self-appointed law enforcement groups created on the American frontier due to the lack of paid law enforcement professionals. Sometimes vigilante justice was moderate and orderly, but the danger of mob rule was always present. A tombstone from the era of vigilante justice at Boot Hill Cemetery in Arizona reads, “Lynched by mistake.”
We loathe mistakes in justice. We hate to see the wrong man or woman spend years of life in prison for crimes they didn’t commit.
One writer says that “vigilantism was [often] carried out by citizens who were moderate and orderly in their application of force,” but he notes that the danger of mob rule was also present. Just ask the poor fellow whose grave at Boot Hill Cemetery in Arizona bears this epitaph: “Lynched by mistake.”
However, we also loathe breaks in justice. We hate to see someone get away with a crime. We hate to see someone dodge justice.
Sadly, we see both mistakes in justice and breaks in justice in our judicial system, but not so with the justice of God.
His justice never makes a mistake and it never takes a break.
The justice of God means that God always does what is right. says...
Deuteronomy 32:4 ESV
“The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.
The holiness of God means that God is without sin, separate from it, but the justice or righteousness of God means that God cannot tolerate sin and must punish sin.
When some people hear that God has said that they are sinners or that the price for sin is death, they ask, “Hasn’t God made a mistake?”
No, he hasn’t. God’s perfect justice means that he cannot make a mistake in justice. We are sinners and the price for sinning against an infinitely holy God is infinite death. There’s no mistake in the perfect justice of God.
But when some people hear that there is no mistake in the perfect justice of God, they ask, “Can’t God just give me a break?”
No, he can’t. God cannot shrug off sin. He cannot overlook it forever. He must do what is right, and the right thing in response to sin is punishment. Because God is just, he must punish sin.
But if God hasn’t made a mistake regarding our sin and he won’t give us a break regarding our sin, then what can be done? How can God be just and not sentence us to eternal death because of our sins? How can God be righteous and welcome and us into his holy presence when we are so unrighteous?
The answer is, of course, Jesus Christ on the cross.
The Bible says in that Jesus’s death on the cross “was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” As one writer put it, “When Christ died to pay the penalty for our sins, it showed that God was truly righteous, because he did give appropriate punishment to sin, even though he did forgive his people their sins,” (Grudem, Doctrine, p. 93).
God has not made a mistake in condemning us as sinners.
God will not give us a break regarding our sin.
He has made his Son, Jesus, become sin on the cross to pay the price for our sin in his death, so that through his death and resurrection God’s justice is upheld and those of us who have faith are justified by his grace.
This is amazing grace. It’s also perfect justice.
The perfect justice of God stands in stark contrast to the corrupt justice of the religious leaders as Jesus stands trial before the Sanhedrin in . Because he is perfectly just, he demanded that his people do justly (). In God said to his people...
Deuteronomy 16:18–20 ESV
“You shall appoint judges and officers in all your towns that the Lord your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment. You shall not pervert justice. You shall not show partiality, and you shall not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of the righteous. Justice, and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
As we’ll see, the corrupt religious leaders ignored God’s command to follow justice as they tried Jesus and then condemned him as deserving death.
But don’t forget what is really going on as we study this passage. In the sacrifice of his Son, our perfectly just God is making a way for sinners to be justified through faith in his Son.
[CONTEXT] The trial of Jesus was actually like two trials in one. There was the Jewish trial and then the Roman trial.
During the Jewish trial, Jesus was...
...first brought before Annas, the former high priest and current father-in-law to Caiaphas who was the high priest at the time ().
Then Jesus was brought before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin, the ruling body in the Jewish temple (; cf. ; ).
And then Jesus was brought before the Sanhedrin a second time after dawn ().
Mark skips past Jesus appearing before Annas, the former high priest, and goes right to Jesus appearing before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin.
[CIT] In this passage Jesus is unjustly tried and unjustly condemned by unjust men, [PROP] but this was the perfect justice of God making a way for the unjust (people like you and me) to be justified through faith in the Son of God.
[TS] We want to talk about this passage in four PARTS tonight...
Part #1 - vv. 53-54
Part #2 - vv. 55-59
Part #3 - vv. 60-61a
Part #4 - vv. 61b-65

MAJOR IDEAS

Jesus was first taken to see Annas who was, as I said, the former high priest (A.D. 6-15) who had been removed by Rome for unknown reasons. In any event, he still held influence because of his previous position and because Caiaphas, his son-in-law, currently served as high priest (A.D. 18 to 36). Annas was also personally affected by Jesus because on two occasions (one just earlier that week) Jesus had put to stop the irreverence and greed of the temple market place, which was known as the “Bazaar of Annas,” (; ). records Jesus’s encounter with Annas...
John 18:19–24 ESV
The high priest then questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me what I said to them; they know what I said.” When he had said these things, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” Jesus answered him, “If what I said is wrong, bear witness about the wrong; but if what I said is right, why do you strike me?” Annas then sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.
Jesus’s words were a rebuke to Annas because they revealed that Annas wasn’t really interested in the truth. If he was, he could have asked the thousands of people who had heard Jesus teach. Jesus’s words also reminded Annas that he needed to call witnesses if he wanted to do things according to God’s commands.
This brings us to Jesus before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin here in . Like Annas, they aren’t interested in the truth, but why this bit about Peter in v. 54? Why do you think Mark would include this information about Peter following, sitting, and warming himself?
Because Mark’s gospel is based on Peter’s testimony, v. 54 states the facts of the matter. This is where Peter was and this is what Peter did, but surely its more than that.
Verse 54 is a reminder to the reader that Mark, the narrator, hasn’t forgotten that Jesus said Peter would deny him. Mark was definitely setting the stage for Peter’s denial, which is still to come in the next passage.
Verse 54 is also an invitation to sit down and ponder this scene, one in which the perfectly just Son of God is subjected to the unjust actions of the chief priests, elders, and scribes. Like Peter, we will perhaps first shake our heads at how unjust these religious leaders are, but then like Peter as the chapter goes along we too realize that we are equally unjust. Only God is just and only God is justifier.

Mark 9–16: The MacArthur New Testament Commentary Chapter 29: The Ultimate Miscarriage of Justice (Mark 14:53–65)

A local council, or court, could be established in any town with at least 120 men who were heads of their household. Each council, known as a sanhedrin (from the Greek word sunedrion, meaning “sitting together”), provided legal governance to its community. These local councils were composed of twenty-three men, often drawn from the leadership of the synagogue. An odd number of council members ensured that, whenever they voted on an issue or determined a verdict at a trial, there would always be a majority decision.

The supreme court of Israel was located in Jerusalem and met daily in the temple, except on the Sabbath and other holy days.

Notice they were not trying to obtain impartial testimony, but testimony of a certain kind and to a certain degree; they sought “testimony against Jesus to put him to death...” (v. 55).
Notice they were not trying to obtain impartial testimony, but testimony of a certain kind and to a certain degree; they sought “testimony against Jesus to put him to death...” (v. 55).
They could not witnesses that agreed with one another as to what Jesus did or said that was worthy of death and that was a problem because , which says...
Deuteronomy 19:15 ESV
“A single witness shall not suffice against a person for any crime or for any wrong in connection with any offense that he has committed. Only on the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses shall a charge be established.
The best accusation they could come up was something that Jesus said three years earlier, something they (perhaps willingly) chose to misunderstand. In Jesus said...
John 2:19 ESV
Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
What did the false witness say Jesus was talking about and what was he talking about in John 2:19?
Jesus was, of course, referring to his body and not the temple made of stone in Jerusalem.
What was the penalty for testifying falsely against someone in ?
Deuteronomy 19:16–19 ESV
If a malicious witness arises to accuse a person of wrongdoing, then both parties to the dispute shall appear before the Lord, before the priests and the judges who are in office in those days. The judges shall inquire diligently, and if the witness is a false witness and has accused his brother falsely, then you shall do to him as he had meant to do to his brother. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.
Mark 9–16: The MacArthur New Testament Commentary Chapter 29: The Ultimate Miscarriage of Justice (Mark 14:53–65)

Based on the stipulations articulated in the Old Testament, the Jewish legal system provided those accused of a crime with several protections: a public trial held during daylight hours, an adequate opportunity to make a defense, and the rejection of any charge unless it was supported by the testimony of at least two witnesses.

As we have seen and will continue to see, all this will be denied to Jesus.

Because even the false witnesses couldn’t agree on testimony against Jesus, the high priest stepped in hoping to provoke Jesus to say something incriminating. Initially, however, Jesus remained silent.
Why do you think Jesus remained silent when first questioned by the high priest?
Jesus didn’t want to dignify this mock trial with a response.
More importantly, Jesus wanted to fulfill the prophecy of , which says of the promised Messiah...
Isaiah 53:7 ESV
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.
How difficult is it for you to stay quiet when you are unjustly accused? How difficult do you think it was for Jesus in this moment?
We are usually very quick to defend ourselves, but there are times when we too won’t dignify an accusation with a response either because the (1) accusation is ridiculous or because (2) those making the accusation is ridiculous.
I don’t think that it would have been difficult for Jesus to remain quiet in this because he knew what was happening. (1) God’s just and justifying purpose was being fulfilled in these unjust accusations. (2) Jesus was fulfilling yet another of the prophecies concerning the Messiah.

According to , Caiaphas invoked God in his demand that Jesus tell him the truth. says...
Matthew 26:63 ESV
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.”
Ironically, Caiaphas demanded truth from Jesus after trying to fabricate lies against him. Even so, Jesus was silent no more and answered Caiaphas’s question in a straightforward manner.
What parts of Jesus’s answer to Caiaphas in v. 62 stand out to you and why?
“I am” -
Exodus 3:14 ESV
God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I am has sent me to you.’ ”
“Son of Man” -
Daniel 7:13–14 ESV
“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.
“Seated at the right hand of Power” - (cf. Acts 2:33,7:55)
Psalm 110:1 ESV
The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”
“coming with the clouds of heaven” -
Daniel 7:13 ESV
“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him.
Tearing garments was a symbol of righteous indignation.
Caiaphas said in v. 64, “You have heard his blasphemy.” What is blasphemy and what does the Bible say the price for it is?
Blasphemy is a “deviant irreverence for God” (MacArthur) and certainly an individual claiming to be God counted as deviant irreverence for God.
says that the punishment for blasphemy is death.
Leviticus 24:16 ESV
Whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall stone him. The sojourner as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.
Why wasn’t Jesus actually guilty of blasphemy?
Because he was telling the truth about who he was.
“And they all condemned him as deserving death,” (v. 64).
Mark 9–16: The MacArthur New Testament Commentary The Illegal Sentence (14:61b–65)

Normally, a decision in the Sanhedrin followed an orderly process, in which members cast their votes one at a time, starting with the younger members so that they would not be unduly influenced by the older members. The votes were carefully tabulated by a scribe. But on this night, the council was characterized by a mob mentality in which they all condemned Him to be deserving of death.

What does v. 65 reveal about these religious leaders and this “trial” they’ve put on?
It reveals that they hated Jesus and that the trial was somehow, someway going to end with and expression of that hatred.

CONCLUSION

Galaxie Software. (2002). 10,000 Sermon Illustrations. Biblical Studies Press.
Mark 9–16: The MacArthur New Testament Commentary The Illegal Sentence (14:61b–65)

The Sanhedrin knew they would need to elicit Rome’s help to execute Jesus. Because a claim of equality with God was not a crime the Romans deemed worthy of death, the Jewish leaders had invented new charges about which Rome would be concerned. When they later brought Jesus to Pilate, they alleged that He was guilty of fomenting an insurrection against the empire. They told the governor, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, and saying that He Himself is Christ, a King” (Luke 23:2). Once again, they invented a bald-faced lie in order to see Jesus condemned and executed.

The trial of Jesus before these Jewish religious leaders was an absolute sham. It was a complete injustice, but one necessary for our just God to justify us through faith in his Son.
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