Online Worship for Lent Four, Sunday March 27, 2022
Sermon for Lent Four – Sunday March 27, 2022
Calvary/Marquette ● Soli Deo Gloria
Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus, the Christ. Amen.
Matthew 26:57-66 (ESV)
57 Then those who had seized Jesus led him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders had gathered. 58 And Peter was following him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and going inside he sat with the guards to see the end. 59 Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, 60 but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward 61 and said, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days.’ ” 62 And the high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” 63 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.” 64 Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 65 Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. 66 What is your judgment?” They answered, “He deserves death.” 67 Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him, 68 saying, “Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?” **
In the Name of Jesus, the Christ,
Dear Fellow Redeemed in His Blood –
So, unless you’ve been living under a rock or secretly in the church basement, I would guess that you’ve heard all that you care to about the confirmation hearings of the latest supreme court nominee – Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson. Whatever your personal political opinion about her fitness to serve on the highest court in the land, we should understand that every judge can be called to account for their record of judicial decisions.
If Joseph Caiaphas were a supreme court nominee, then he would surely be expected to answer questions like:
“Mr. Caiaphas, have you ever conducted an illegal hearing or trial during after dark on a site other than the chambers of the Sanhedrin?” Were you unaware that the hour of the hearing and trial of Jesus of Nazareth was illegal?
“Judge Caiaphas, how would you respond to the gathering of known false witnesses to testify in a trial?” We have men present here that claim you paid them to lie!
“Joseph, do you think it’s proper to arrive at a verdict before a trial begins?”
“Is there ever a time, Mr. Caiaphas, when a defendant is arraigned or put on trial without a charge registered against him?” Still, in the case of the Sanhedrin vs. Jesus of Nazareth, you arraigned and put a man on trial without charging him with anything until He incriminated Himself under oath.
“Sir, is it possible to condemn a man when the evidence brought against him conflicts?” We have troubling information that you, sir, were prepared to condemn a man after the testimony against him was contradictory.
“Finally, Sir, have you ever presided over a trial after which the defendant was spit upon and beaten by the ‘Gentlemen of the Jury’?” Do you think that this is this proper?
It surely isn’t difficult to see the miscarriage of justice perpetrated by Chairman Joseph Caiaphas and the rest of the Jewish High Court. Caiaphas and his cronies would be embarrassed if these things came to the light of day.
This morning as we follow Jesus, we find ourselves in the home of Joseph Caiaphas, the High Priest. It is very early in the morning on the day we have come to know as Good Friday. Jesus is now standing before a – hurriedly assembled quorum of the Sanhedrin. Still, despite the hour, many false witnesses have been gathered, who accuse Jesus of different crimes. Their accusations all sound bad, but if the proceeding is to have any semblance of legality, then it is necessary that 2 or 3 witnesses agree on a charge against Jesus.
But the problem is that their testimony doesn’t agree. When asked to comment on their accusations, the defendant, Jesus of Nazareth, remains silent.
So, the Chairman of the Sanhedrin solemnly rises to his feet. He places Jesus under oath and then demands that Jesus tell them if He is the Christ, the Son of God. It is a question that Jesus has answered before and proved to be true by miracles, signs and wonders.
But these men assembled in the middle of the night, don’t’ seek truth. They are looking for an excuse, for a reason to condemn Jesus.
Jesus ceases to be silent. He gives an honest answer. He tells the truth...and is condemned.
We are once again called to answer the question: “What Shall I do with Jesus, who is called Christ?” Shall I condemn Him as worthy of death or shall I acquit him as innocent? May God the Holy Spirit bless our study of these words and lead us to appreciate the ultimate justice of God that requires that Jesus be condemned.
Sanctify us by your truth, O Lord, Your Word is Truth. Amen.
Shall I condemn Jesus as worthy of death?
I would guess that for most of us, our first reaction to the question is to answer with a definite: “NO!”
It’s not surprising either, because we have been led by the Spirit of God to love Jesus. We recognize Him as our Savior from sin and from eternal death. We know that the Bible says that He was himself innocent and without sin of His own, for it is written (Hebrews 4:15):
15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
But I suppose that if we set aside the fact that we are Christians and look at the matter from a purely human standpoint, we might be able to understand how these men would want to condemn him.
The Temple Cleansing -- After all, Jesus had twice hit some of them hard in the pocket book when he overturned the money changers tables in the temple. They weren’t supposed to be selling on the temple courts, but when those who benefit from such sales are on the Jewish High Court...who is going to complain?
The Temple Itself – The city of Jerusalem must have been like a powder keg ready to explode every time that Jews from all over the world descended upon their beloved city and temple under occupation by the Roman Empire. When Jesus said something about the temple being destroyed and rebuilt in three days...it must have sounded ominous. Still, despite the false witnesses, Jesus never said that HE would destroy THE TEMPLE, but foretold that THEY would destroy the TEMPLE of HIS BODY and in three days He would raise it up (cf. John 2:3-22).
The Man Jesus – Finally, the man Jesus didn’t look the part of the Messiah that the Jews were expecting to deliver them. Jesus was the son of a carpenter from Galilee, they all knew it. When this man...said that He was the Christ and that He was the Son of God...it’s no wonder that they concluded that Jesus was blaspheming, telling a lie.
I suppose that if we set aside all that we know about Jesus and simply look at this from a human point of view we might be able to see how a kangaroo court might condemn him as worthy of death.
If some upstart teacher did something that did damage to our business, we might just conclude – that guy has got to go! So, what if it’s borderline illegal...it’s my business! In the court of human opinion people have been ruined for less!
But...it wasn’t just what Jesus said...it was also what Jesus had done (in Jerusalem, Judea, Galilee and parts surrounding). How could a court condemn a man on the basis of a few words (taken out of context) and completely ignore the fact that Jesus had done things...that NO ONE had ever done, things that the Prophets of Old foretold the Christ would do (e.g., Isaiah 35:1-6)!
I suppose that if we forget the miracles that Jesus accomplished throughout his ministry...to say nothing of the miracles He accomplished before them that VERY NIGHT...we might conclude that Jesus was dangerous, a threat, perhaps even worthy of death.
Frankly, if we were pressed in public and asked if we believe that the miracles of the Bible actually happened the way the Bible says they did.... would we say: “Yes, absolutely...as they are described.” Would we back down and hem and haw?
Therefore - Ladies and gentlemen of the Jury – You decide: “What Shall we do with Jesus, who is called Christ?”
Shall we condemn Him as worthy of death?
Shall we throw out the charges against Jesus and reprimand the chairman of the Sanhedrin? Shall we wag our finger at Caiaphas and apologize to Jesus for the embarrassing proceedings?
Now before you answer, before you hand your verdict to the foreman of the jury...there is one more witness. Let’s do due diligence and hear all the testimony before we render a verdict.
Who is this final witness? It is the one who sent this Jesus on His Mission in the first place. It is the one who has appointed him (Acts 17:31) to serve as the Judge of All on the Last Day (2 Timothy 4:1, 1 Peter 4:5, 2 Corinthians 5:10) before the Highest Court of All.
How will he help us to determine whether or not Jesus should be condemned? Well, listen to what He has to say about this Jesus of Nazareth. He tells us that Jesus is worthy of being condemned because He bears the sin and the guilt of all...willingly. While Jesus himself is without sin of his own...all sin has been laid upon Him by this final witness.
For it is written (2 Corinthians 5:21):
21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin,
so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
This final witness determined in eternity to curse this Jesus, who is also the Son of God, that we might be redeemed. He determined to condemn Him so that we -the guilty- might never be condemned. The testimony has been taken down and verified so that all can read it (Galatians 3:13, Isaiah 53:5-6):
Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”...
But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
Why didn’t Jesus cry out in His own defense? He was standing in our defense. He was burdened with our sins. He was committed to taking their weight to the Cross and then to the Grave. In love for you, that’s exactly what He did.
So, it is also written (1 Peter 2:21-24):
21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury...here is the conundrum we face:
Jesus is Himself Innocent...for He is himself sinless, perfect and pure. He was not planning to destroy the temple of the LORD and then rebuild it in three days. He did not instruct people to evade taxes, but pay them. He did not call for rebellion, but obedience to the governing authorities. He does not deserve to be condemned...and yet He does.
Jesus is also guilty...for our sins and our guilt have been laid upon Him. For every time we gossiped and hurt the good name and reputation of another...Jesus goes to the Cross. For every time we harbor thoughts of lust...Jesus goes to the Cross. For every time we shirk our God given duties in favor of things of lesser value...Jesus goes to the Cross.
The Truth is...ladies and gentlemen...we don’t deserve to be on the jury. We should be defendants. We should be standing trial for our sins. We should be overcome with fear, knowing that we deserve the death sentence.
It sounds self-serving and we may feel dirty inside, a bit like Barabbas, but here’s the deal:
If Jesus is acquitted...then we will reclaim our sin and guilt and all that comes with it.
If Jesus is condemned...then we are set free from fear of death eternal.
What then shall we do with Jesus, who is called Christ?
Shall we condemn Him as worthy of death?
It’s not really our decision to make, is it? We may pretend that we can decide...but the decision has already been made by our gracious God. He determined to condemn Jesus as worthy of death...because He bore our sin.
Thus might I hide my blushing face while His dear cross appears,
Dissolve my heart in thankfulness, and melt mine eyes to tears.
But drops of grief can ne’er repay the debt of love I owe;
Here, Lord, I give myself away, Tis all that I can do.