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March 12, 2017
Pastor Jeff Struecker
If this is your first Sunday in church or if you’re just reading the Bible for the first time, you have an advantage on most of us today. If you’re like me, you’ve heard the story that we’re about the study from the book of Luke today over and over again. If you’re not careful, you can focus so much on the details that you can miss the greater picture of the story. You can focus on the trees so much that you miss the forest. Today we’re looking at a trial. Before the day is over with we have to answer the question, why did this happen the way that it happened? Now in order for us to really to step back and look at it like it was the first time we’ve ever heard this story in our life, maybe I can help set the stage with a video of what it would be like to sit in the jury box in a capital offense trial.
I. The King is arrested
We’re going to look at chapter 22 like it is a court case. The King of kings the Lord of all creation was arrested the night before he went to the cross. Luke has already told us that the guys who arrested Jesus are cowards. They’re not necessarily afraid of Jesus. They don’t really believe Jesus is the real deal. They are afraid of the crowds that are following Jesus. They’re afraid, if they take him in broad daylight, there’s going to be a riot. So, they come at night. They grabbed him and they arrested him. Here’s how the trial of Jesus went.
The guards in charge of Jesus began mocking and beating him. 64 They blindfolded him and said, “Prophesy to us! Who hit you that time?” 65 And they hurled all sorts of terrible insults at him.
Now I want you to just picture in your mind that you’re a spectator watching this whole thing happen. What you’re going to see is that Luke is telling us only a part of the story. I don’t think we have the full picture of the suffering that Jesus went through this night. We do learn a couple of things from Luke today. We learn that they’re mocking him and making fun of him. They’re calling him a prophet but they really don’t believe that this guy is a prophet. If they believed that he was a prophet, they would be terrified about the way that this is going down. Later on today read Second Kings chapter 2 and find out what the prophet Elisha did when a couple of young boys were mocking him about being a bald man. If these guys really believed Jesus to be a prophet, they would not be mocking him or making fun of him. Bible commentator Earl Ellis says they started to play a game called Blind Man’s Bluff except for Jesus this game is no fun.
Not only are they mocking him but their insulting him, speaking bad about him, criticizing him, dishonoring and disrespecting him. Luke also tells us that they’re beating him. This is the word that you would use in Luke’s day to refer to the way a master treated his slave. Jesus Christ the Master of all is being beaten by his own subjects and servants. The Master is being beaten by the slaves in this passage. They’re torturing him for sport. In order to do this, they put a blindfold over him. Let me tell you something about torture from a personal experience of having been through the most extreme torture that the military will allow service members to go through. Often times when you torture somebody you’re going to put a blindfold across their eyes or a mask that covers their whole face. Did you know that when you torture somebody that blindfold or mask is not for them, it’s for you? There is something deep inside the human psyche that knows what you’re doing is hurting another human being. In order for you to be able to lay down at night and go to sleep after having hurt another human being that much is that you have to hide their eyes. If you can’t see their eyes, you can’t see the hurt that you’re doing to them. It’s in the eyes that you can see it most clearly and those eyes will haunt you when you lay down to bed at night. In order for those guards to not see Jesus’s eyes, they put a blindfold over his face and they beat him the way a master would beat a slave in Jesus’s day.
They caused him immense suffering. I don’t think we have a full picture of the suffering that Jesus went through on the night this trial began. I want to ask you to begin a habit between now and Easter Sunday. I want you to start to meditate on the suffering of Jesus. If you’re not in the habit of private meditation let me tell you what I mean by this. I am not talking about twisting yourself into a pretzel and saying “Om”. What I’m talking about is quite the opposite. In Christian meditation you’re not trying to clear your mind. In Christian meditation you’re trying to focus your thoughts on one thing. Would you make it a habit over the next several weeks to get up a few minutes early each morning and focus on the suffering of Jesus Christ? Would you spend a few minutes every day focusing your thoughts on the scourging, the suffering, the slapping, and ultimately the stabbing that Jesus would go through? While you’re doing this, would you remind yourself that he did it for you? This innocent man stood trial in your place. He who knew no sin became sin. He who was not guilty took on my guilt and took on your guilt. As you meditate, would you remind yourself of the great love of God? It was that love that caused Jesus to stand there and to take it like a man.
II. The charges brought against the King
First the King is arrested. Next they bring the charges against him. Luke tells us now they’re no longer slapping him around and beating him. Now the real court case begins and it is a travesty of justice. What we’re going to read next even to this day among many Orthodox Jews is hotly contested. It’s very sensitive because they would say, “You cannot possibly believe that what Luke records for you really happened. It couldn’t have happened that way. If it happened that way, it was a violation of Old Testament law.
At daybreak all the elders of the people assembled, including the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. Jesus was led before this high council, 67 and they said, “Tell us, are you the Messiah?” But he replied, “If I tell you, you won’t believe me. 68 And if I ask you a question, you won’t answer. 69 But from now on the Son of Man will be seated in the place of power at God’s right hand.”
Jesus’s trial took place before some elders. This is a phrase that you used to refer to all of the prominent leadership of Israel. The teachers of the law are there. The religious leaders are all there. Then Luke tells us that is the high council. Dr. Robert Stein, the imminent theologian and probably one of the world’s greatest students of the book of Luke, says of this high council, “The Sanhedrin was the highest Jewish ruling body in Israel and was granted control by Rome over virtually all internal Jewish matters. It contained seventy men and a president, who was the high priest.” Jesus was standing trial before the most powerful men in all of Israel and they were trying to get him to admit his guilt.
Notice the titles in this passage. They were asking him, “Jesus, are you Messiah? Are you the Son of God?” Jesus is pretty clear about this, “You’re not interested in the truth. In fact, if I told you the truth, you wouldn’t believe me anyway. If you believed it was even possible, I wouldn’t be having this trial. I will tell you this. I am the Son of Man.” What Jesus said next caused the crowd to go berserk. Their idea of Messiah is a political revolutionary, this Che Gevarra kind of person, who’s going to cause Israel to rise up, overthrow the Roman occupiers, and take over the throne of Israel. They were asking Jesus, “Is that you? Is that who you are?” Jesus said, “If that’s what you’re looking for, that’s not me. I have a throne that stands over all human beings for all of human history. My throne is not in Rome or Jerusalem. My throne is on the human heart. I command the human soul. If you’re looking for a political rescuer or for the Messiah, I am the Son of God.”
What Jesus said next sent the crowd into a frenzy. He said, “When you see me next I will be seated with all power at the right hand of God.” In Jesus’s day, the Jews believed no one sits in God’s presence. To sit in God’s presence is to make yourself equal in importance and prominence with God. When Jesus said the right hand of God, this is the position of power and influence. This is the most prominent position in God’s throne room. Jesus said, “When you see me next I’m going to be seated with my Father in Heaven and I’m going to be sitting at his right hand.” The crowd went nuts when he did this. Something dark, sinister, and evil is happening with this trial. Luke tells us only part of the story today.
Here is what I want you to hear from the book of Luke because the Old Testament is very clear about this. The way that this trial started and the way that the proceedings went was completely illegal. You could not begin trial proceedings at night because it was against the Jewish law. You could not hold a trial outside of the official court chambers. You couldn’t hold a trial on the holy day because it was against the Old Testament law. You couldn’t charge somebody with blasphemy as there had to be more than one witness who would make the claim. Most importantly you couldn’t sentence somebody without waiting a day for him to have the opportunity to defend himself. This is Old Testament law. What these Jewish leaders were doing was violating their own law but they hated this man so much they wanted him out of their hair. They wanted to kill him.
The trial is a travesty of justice. The charge against Jesus was ultimately claiming to be God or claiming to have the same authority as God. No one in the room was willing to ask the question, “What if it’s true? What if he really is the King of kings?” I want to ask you, who is the King of your life? Who calls the shots over every area of your life? I want you to be honest with yourself. This is you being honest with God and you being honest with yourself. If you claim to be a follower of Jesus Christ, does he have control over every area of your life? Or, does he just have control over many areas of your life but there’s still one or two areas that you’re not ready to give over? Are you holding on to some areas of your life? Are you really calling the shots and not Jesus? The reason why Jesus was willing to go through the trial and ultimately to go to the cross was so that he would have control over every area of your life. He declared himself to be Lord over all, which means over all areas of your life. Are you holding an area of your life back? Have you really given it all over to the King?
III. The King pleads guilty
The last part of the case that we’re going to see from Luke chapter 22 today is that the king ultimately plead guilty. For Luke this whole story today is about one question. This whole court case is asking one question. The question is, who is Jesus? Luke doesn’t answer that question for you. Luke allows the story to answer the question, “Who is this man Jesus?” I think Luke also expects you to answer the question, who is this guy Jesus. Is he who he claimed he is or is he a fraud? Listen to their reaction when Jesus said, “You will see the Son of Man seated next to God at his right hand with all of the power and all of the authority of God.”
They all shouted, “So, are you claiming to be the Son of God?” And he replied, “You say that I am.” 71 “Why do we need other witnesses?” they said. “We ourselves heard him say it.”
When Jesus made the statement ‘seated at the right hand of God’ they knew exactly what this statement meant. They just ask him directly, “Are you claiming to be the Son of God?” Jesus made it absolutely clear here, “If you’re asking am I God made into flesh, then yes that’s me. Yes, I am who you say that I am. If you’re looking for some ruler who’s going to overthrow Rome, that’s not me.” When Jesus made this claim it sent the people into a frenzy. They even say, “We don’t need to bring these other two witnesses in.” Where did these two witnesses come from? Other contrived witnesses are there to accuse Jesus of something that he is not guilty of. They stand there and they say, “We’ve heard it with our own ears. Jesus is claiming to be God made into flesh.” This statement is absolutely blasphemy. The Old Testament is clear on the responsibilities of the Jewish leaders. If somebody claims to be God, they have blasphemed God and the punishment against them is death.
Here’s what blows my mind about the story from Chapter 22. At no point in the story does anyone in the room speak up and say, “Wait a second. I have a question. We all saw the miracles. We all watched him cast out demons. We all saw him cure disease. We all watched him bring the dead back to life. What if it’s true? What if he really is God? No one can do the kind of stuff that we’ve seen him do. If he really is God, then we are sentencing an innocent man. If the charge against him is claiming to be God, then we’re about to send an innocent man to die. If he really is God, we’re about to sentence God to the electric chair.” Nobody in the room says, “Wait a second. What if it’s true? What if he really is who he claimed to be?”
Jesus Christ, the King of kings and the Lord of lords, allows his subjects to sentence him, crucify him, and ultimately to kill him. You have to ask the question why? Why would he allow himself to go through this? Best we can tell in human history this has only happened one other time. It happened in England in the mid-1600s with the English King Charles I.
Now remember, if you’re stepping back and looking at the story for the very first time, you have to now ask the question, “Dow did Jesus allow this to happen? Doesn’t this guy have power over demons? Doesn’t he have authority over disease? Can’t he bring the dead back to life again? Surely he has the ability to defend himself. Surely he has the ability to fight for his freedom. Of course he would be able to just march out of the courtroom, if he wanted to. Why is Jesus standing there in this travesty of justice in this kangaroo court and allowing this to happen?” The answer according to Scripture is that he’s doing it for you and me. Jesus stood there and took it like a man because God’s plan from the beginning was that his Son would suffer and die in exchange for our sins. The guilty verdict that Jesus took was actually that we are guilty of sin and sin deserve death. The death that Jesus endured was on your behalf because the wages of sin is death and somebody is going to have to die for your sin. Jesus stood there and though he was innocent he was willing to take the guilty verdict. Though he was the only sinless man, the Bible tells us that he who knew no sin became sin so that you and I could enjoy the righteousness of God. And, so that you and I could experience Jesus’s righteousness when we stand before God. Rather than calling for a mistrial or putting his own power on display Jesus allowed this to happen for my freedom and for yours. Every Sunday we stand before you and say Jesus came to earth to free you from yourself. He and only he can provide this kind of freedom for you. He was willing to take the guilty verdict and go to the cross on your behalf.
Today I’m going to ask us to pray. Maybe somebody in this room has never really found freedom. Maybe you’ve never really surrendered your soul to Jesus Christ. Today is an opportunity for you to do that. For those of us in this room who claim the name of Jesus, my prayer for you today is that you would make a commitment to start to meditate on the suffering that your Savior went through because he went through every bit of it for you. If you’ve been holding on to an area of your life and holding it back from Jesus, maybe today the Holy Spirit is prompting you the let that area go, to leave it with Jesus, and to say, “Jesus, you really do have control in every area of my life.”
• Today, I realize that the King died in my place. I am committing my life to Jesus for the first time.
– I have been living like I’m king of my life. This week, I will submit every area of my life to the leadership of the Holy Spirit.
+ I will remember the sacrifice of Jesus this week and meditate on his great love for me.
- Have you ever been called as a witness in a trial? Have you ever been on jury duty?
- Would you be willing to serve on the jury of a case that could end up sentencing someone to death?
- If you are united with Jesus as his follower, and he is convicted to die, doesn’t that mean that you should be convicted to die along with him?
- Read Galatians 2:20. What does it mean to be “crucified with Christ”? Is it possible to have life in Christ, if you are not willing to be crucified with Christ? Explain your answer.
- If Jesus was innocent, why didn’t he defend himself?
- Who has the power to sentence God to die?
- Meditate on God’s love and Jesus’s sacrifice this week.