Luke 22 verse 66-71
Sermon preached at Poole High School for Poole Christian Fellowship on 17 April 2016
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Having told us the story of Peter’s betrayal of Jesus, Luke now returns to the main narrative. Jesus is on the way to the cross. We will go through this brief narrative in detail, but the big point that emerges from this is that in the darkest of dark events, God is at work working out his purposes. What looked like the worst of all possible news, was in fact the best of all possible news.
We need to remember that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him” (Rom 8 v 28)
At daybreak the council of the elders of the people, both the chief priests and the teachers of the law, met together, and Jesus was led before them. 67 “If you are the Messiah,” they said, “tell us.”
Jesus answered, “If I tell you, you will not believe me, 68 and if I asked you, you would not answer. 69 But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.”
70 They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?”
He replied, “You say that I am.”
71 Then they said, “Why do we need any more testimony? We have heard it from his own lips.”
1. The Prequel
Ever since the fall of man in Eden it had been God’s express intention to bring a deliverer into the world, the serpent-crusher, who would destroy the work of Satan. For centuries God’s people had been looking for the Messiah – and now he had arrived. What very few of them understood though was that this Messiah would be a suffering saviour who would take his people’s sins on himself by dying a death in their place. That plan has almost reached its conclusion. God was at work in this trial, through the evil deeds of men to bring about His purposes.
What implications does this have for the difficult things that happen in your life?
The gospel writers have made no secret of the growing resentment of Jesus by the religious authorities, culminating in the decision that Jesus had to go.
We know that when he had arrived in Jerusalem the authorities were scared to arrest him because they knew that the crowds would riot. They have no mandate to execute Jesus lawfully. So they bribe one of Jesus’ closest followers to betray him in the middle of the night, with a view to getting him executed by breakfast time before people are around. And that is exactly what happened.
By the time we reach this story there are two more things that have to happen to get Jesus out of the way: there has to be a religious trial which results in Jesus conviction, and the decision to execute him has to come from the Roman governor himself. The religious authorities are doing terrifyingly well. Why did they want to do this? We can only speculate, but there are plenty of clues:
- Jealousy – it cannot be easy for those who are meant to be the spiritual shepherds of Israel to see the crowds going over to a young upstart preacher from Galilee. Even Pilate could see that envy was a part of the picture here.
- Religion – Jesus challenged everything that these people stood for – the Law, the Sabbath, their religious traditions. Nothing fuels anger than the belief that their cherished customs, their power base is under threat.
- Patriotism – this is where we can have a certain amount of sympathy for the Sanhedrin. There is plenty of evidence that where someone in Israel turned up claiming to be the Messiah, the Romans would step in and raze the offending village to the ground. What if this happened in Jerusalem?
John writes in John 11
Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.
“What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”
49 Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year,spoke up, “You know nothing at all! 50 You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”
51 He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 52 and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. 53 So from that day on they plotted to take his life.
You can see the problem! The nation of Israel is under threat if this man continues unchecked. And incredibly, that view is fuelled by a prophecy given to the High Priest that says that Jesus will die to make God’s people one. Work that one out! But the overall point is that God’s plan is carried out and works through the worst excesses of man’s sin. Think through the implications of that, and you may not get so depressed about what you see happening around you.
As Peter said in Acts 2:
“This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men,[d] put him to death by nailing him to the cross.”
2. So now we move onto the drama that is before us
1. A totally Illegal trial
We have before us a mockery of a trial. There are so many things wrong with it that it’s hard to know where to start! Here are some of the irregularities:
- It’s illegal to have a trial at night – they cover themselves on this one by waiting for the crack of dawn.
- It’s highly unlikely that all the Sanhedrin were there – out of 71 members, 23 was the minimum required for a quorum – but for a capital trial?
- There was a Parliament building where the Sanhedrin met – but here they are crowded into Caiaphas’s living room for secrecy
- No defence lawyer
- Contradictory witnesses – Jewish law would require either the trial to be abandoned, or for the case to be adjourned whilst they got their witness statements together.
- No appeal allowed – would be automatic in capital cases
- Sentence should never be passed on the same day as the verdict.
In other words this is a completely fake trial to get rid of someone who was a problem.
The Sanhedrin had to go through the legal motions in order to present the case to Pilate and to make sure that Pilate understood that they were interested in supporting Rome and getting rid of anyone who appeared a threat to the Roman regime.
What a shambles!
2. A Totally Innocent Man
It hardly needs saying, but Jesus is a totally innocent man here – the only innocent man to ever stand trial. His innocence is key to our salvation. Someone who himself deserved to die would not be able to pay the price for your wrongdoings.
3. A Totally Desperate Measure
With every tactic having failed, Caiaphas is running out of options, so he resorts to a desperate measure. If He puts Jesus on oath and asks him a direct question, Jesus is obliged to answer. But this violates a principle of law that no one must be forced to testify against themselves, and they cannot be convicted by words out of their own mouth. By the High Priest is now running out of time. If he can get Jesus to utter something that sounds like blasphemy, and get the Sanhedrin to agree, then he can be handed over to Pilate.
Jesus doesn’t say exactly what Caiaphas want, but Jesus gives him enough to continue.
So the die is cast…only Pilate stands between Jesus and death. That’s where we pick up the story next time.
3. Lessons to Learn
1. Beware of Envy – one of the most destructive forces in fallen human nature is the emotion of jealousy. Not without reason did Shakespeare refer to it as “the green- eyed monster”
2. Beware of Religion – these are the top spiritual leaders in Jerusalem, and they conspire to crucify the Son of God. Religious bias and prejudice makes you blind. Beware of it.
3. Imitate Jesus – One of things we can overlook in the drama of the cross, is that Jesus is a model of how to react in the face of injustice:
As Peter wrote:
When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.
But the big lesson today is:
4. God is in control. What circumstances in life are occurring…Jesus is in charge. Let’s never forget it.