Online Worship for Ash Wednesday, March 2, 2022
Sermon for Ash Wednesday/First Midweek Lenten Service
Numbering the Passion of our Savior #2
Calvary/Messiah ● Soli Deo Gloria
Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus, the Christ. Amen.
John 18:12-14 (NKJV)
12 Then the detachment of troops and the captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound Him. 13 And they led Him away to Annas first, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas who was high priest that year. 14 Now it was Caiaphas who advised the Jews that it was expedient that one man should die for the people.
In the Name of Jesus, the Christ,
Who willingly went the way of the Cross,
Dear Fellow Redeemed in His Precious Blood –
How did we get here?
The most effective teachers for me as a student were those that began each class period with a review of what we had discussed the last time. I remember that Professors Gurgel and Nolting were especially good at reviewing and recapping the previous period to allow us to connect the dots.
How did it happen that Jesus of Nazareth found Himself arrested and bound? How did we get here?
Jesus wasn’t the first traveling teacher or rabbi to come to Jerusalem...but He was the first to call out the religious and secular powers of the day for their sinful thoughts and actions. The Pharisees didn’t like the dirty laundry of their self-righteous hearts hung out before the people. The Sadducees, the more earthly-minded sect didn’t like Jesus for another reason – He curtailed their sales in the temple. Jesus rebuked the Teacher of the Law for their hypocrisy. All the ‘big wigs’ in Jerusalem felt threatened by Jesus...but what could they do about him?
It was the High Priest – Joseph Caiaphas – who suggested a plan to deal with Jesus. He hinted that Jesus of Nazareth was a revolutionary who might call for revolt against the Romans resulting in trouble for the entire nation. The Spirit of God sets us in the gallery as the matter was discussed by the Jewish High Court, the Sanhedrin (John 11:47-50, 53):
47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs.
48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” 49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. 50 Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish...53 So from that day on they made plans to put him to death. (ESV)
In time, Satan filled the heart of Judas Iscariot, to betray Jesus for a sum of money (Luke 22:3-6). Judas looked for an opportunity to make it happen...on the day that the Passover Lamb was killed and consumed during the festival of Unleavened Bread...Judas made plans to spring the trap on his master, Jesus.
They obtained a band of soldiers from the Governor, Pontius Pilate, commanded by what was likely the highest-ranking Soldier in Jerusalem (Chiliarch, man who commanded an entire cohort or 6,000 men). The officers of the Jews, the temple guard also accompanied them to arrest Jesus of Nazareth.
It was early in the morning on the day we know as Good Friday when they came to the place called Gethsemane where Jesus was praying as his disciples slept.
It didn’t go like they expected it to go. Jesus of Nazareth didn’t run...he came out to meet them. He asked them, “Who are you looking for?” They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” He said simply, “I myself am He.” But when He spoke, they all stepped back and fell down. They dusted themselves off and got up and did it again. “Who are you looking for?” “Jesus of Nazareth.” “I myself am He.”
When they stepped forward to arrest Him...one of His disciples tried to intervene and managed to hack of the ear of a servant. Jesus fixed the man’s ear and then rebuked his disciple. Then they all ran away.
12 Then the detachment of troops and the captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound Him. 13 And they led Him away to Annas first, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas who was high priest that year.
Our Lenten Series this evening asks us to focus on two evil leaders...and Annas and Caiaphas certainly fit the bill. They were instrumental in greasing the wheels of injustice to have Jesus arrested and put to death.
Annas had been High Priest (High Priest, 6-15AD) in Jerusalem until he was deposed by Pontius Pilate’s predecessor according to the Jewish historian Josephus. It was a family affair for Annas as his son was High Priest after him and his son in law after him...followed by three more sons and a grandson.
As we call men who have held the office of President ...president even after they leave office...so also the Jews held Annas in high esteem and he was a powerful man even though no longer officially High Priest.
Joseph Caiaphas (High Priest, 18-36AD) was elevated to High Priest by the same Roman Governor who deposed Annas. He married into one of the richest and most influential of Jewish families, that of Annas. It was Joseph Caiaphas who suggested Jesus be killed and he arranged for Jesus to be brought to his father-in-law... so he could assemble the Sanhedrin in the middle of the night...and in hope that He might obtain something from Jesus’ mouth to use to condemn Him.
The evil deeds of Annas and Caiaphas aren’t difficult to see...and neither are the foibles of Pontius Pilate, the Roman Soldiers and the mob assembled to call for Jesus’ Death. There is a danger though in focusing upon these two evil leaders that we slide down the slippery slope of self-righteous hypocrisy. The Spirit of God does not reveal the sins of these men so that we can point the finger and imagine that we are better people.
There is in each of us the same wicked, fallen nature. There is in us the same capacity for evil. People may suggest that “Good things happen to good people and bad things to bad people” but the Savior Himself warns us about reaching that conclusion. Earlier in His ministry, Jesus addressed this hypocritical tendency in human beings.
After hearing about two recent tragedies, one including Pilate’s killing of Galileans, Jesus asked (Luke 13:2-5):
“Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? 3 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? 5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”
Rather than attempt to ascertain the reason why God allowed some event to take place...or patting ourselves on the back because we imagine we are better people...surely not as evil as these two Jewish power brokers...we ought to concern ourselves with what goes on in our own hearts and minds...and seek God’s forgiveness in Christ.
It was not merely the command of Annas and Caiaphas that led to Jesus’ arrest. It was not the bonds fastened on his wrists that confined him in Gethsemane and while He stood before Annas, Caiaphas and Pilate. The Roman Soldiers and their own guards couldn’t even stay upright when Jesus spoke, saying: “I myself am He.” If it were not His hour...He might have walked through the midst of them...and they could have done nothing to stop it.
It was Jesus’ obedience to the Father’s plan to save sinners that kept Him bound. For after restoring Malchus’ ear, the Savior Jesus asked Peter (John 18:11):
“...shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”
It was not the ropes, but Jesus’ love for sinners, for you and me, that moved Him to humbly submit to this indignity. For the same Jesus said beforehand (John 10:11, 17-18):
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
It wasn’t merely the will of Annas and Caiaphas that led to Jesus’ arrest and death, but His own refusal to disobey even a single commandment of God. When Jesus later stood before Pontius Pilate the Roman Governor, He recognized Pilate’s God given authority, saying (John 19:11a):
“You would have no authority over me at all
unless it had been given you from above.”
It would be a terrible mistake to look at these words and see only Two Evil Leaders...named Annas and Caiaphas! It was God the Father who sent his Son to do this for you...to humble Himself...to submit...to be obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
There is something much larger going on here...than a pair of Jewish High Priests...arranging for soldiers and weapons to arrest a teacher from Nazareth.
In the shadows behind these two evil men and their accomplices hides a fallen angel, named Satan, the ruler of this fallen world, who is quick to oppose all that is good. He is delighted to smear the good name and reputation of the One who time and again exerted power over him and his host. But in seeing to the death of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, he seals his own fate. There is something much larger than two evil leaders.
For bathed in the Light of Eternity, far above all principality and power watches the Father...who allows this evil to befall His Son...to serve the greater cause and greater purpose that His Love and mercy have chosen. He pays for the sins of Annas and Caiaphas and indeed those of all of humanity with the blood of His Son.
All this takes place to save sinners...and not just one or two. This takes place so that where two or three are gathered together in His Name...they may be certain He is present with them though unseen.
All this takes place so that when you must stand before the Just Judge of All on the Great Day of Judgment...and the books are opened and your name is found in the ledger of all who have lived...that it will be declared of you that there is nothing for which you may be charged. The debt of your sin and guilt have been expunged from the record forever. Thanks to a God-given faith, there will also be there evidence of that living faith.
Then will the One who once humbled Himself and was bound for your sake will invite: “Come blessed of my father...inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”
There is much more here than two evil leaders named Annas and Caiaphas. There is more here than Pontius Pilate and the mob. Here is God’s love and mercy for you and for every sinner.
Even in Gethsemane, God prepared to choose you, Barabbas...to go free...and sent His Son to the cross.
Paschal Lamb, by God appointed, All our sins on Thee were laid; By almighty love anointed, Thou hast full atonement made. Every sin may be forgiven Thro’ the virtue of Thy blood; Open is the gate of heaven, Peace is made ‘twixt man and God. (TLH 367:2). Amen.