(Written by Pastor Redfield)
Matthew 26:57-68 Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled. 58 But Peter followed him at a distance, right up to the courtyard of the high priest. He entered and sat down with the guards to see the outcome.
59 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. 60 But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward.
Finally two came forward 61 and declared, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’”
62 Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” 63 But Jesus remained silent.
The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.”
64 “Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
65 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. 66 What do you think?”
“He is worthy of death,” they answered.
67 Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him 68 and said, “Prophesy to us, Christ. Who hit you?”
The trial of Jesus was a mockery of justice. It is the only time in the history of the world that a completely innocent man was sentenced to death. Not only was he not guilty of the crime that he was accused of, but he also was not guilty of any sin ever. Sometimes in our world there are people who are wrongly accused of certain crimes. But those people have still sinned in other ways. That was not the case with Jesus. He was perfect in every way. He certainly wasn’t guilty of blasphemy like the high priest claimed. Jesus always told the truth and he was absolutely telling the truth when he told them that he was the Christ, the Son of God.
Earlier in his ministry, Jesus plainly said why these Jewish leaders did not want to listen to the truth that he was speaking. Jesus had said, “Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God” (John 8:46-47). The Jews could not prove him guilty of any sins. They could not prove that he had ever told any lies. Even at this trial, they had to try to get false witnesses in order to invent some story which would lead to the death of Jesus. The reason that they did this is that they did not belong to God. They did not believe in God even though they claimed to be following God.
The Jews thought that they were looking for the true Messiah. They thought that they were following the true God. But the fact that they turned away from Jesus is the greatest evidence to show that they were unbelievers. They had heard the words of Jesus and they dismissed them. They misunderstood the truth. They thought they had him when someone said, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days’” (Matthew 26:61). They misunderstood what Jesus had been referring to. Jesus was not talking about the temple building. He was talking about the temple of his body and his resurrection on the third day.
Even when Jesus spoke clearly in response to a question they did not believe him. The high priest asked if he was the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Jesus replied, “Yes, it is as you say. But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matthew 26:64). Then they were outraged. Jesus had clearly told them who he was. Jesus had even talked about the fact that he would return to judge. These Jewish leaders thought, “How dare he claim to be the Messiah? Who does he think he is? Does he think that he will stand in judgment over us?”
The Jewish leaders didn’t want to hear the truth. Sure these leaders knew their Scriptures well but they didn’t listen to every word of Scripture. They only listened to what they wanted to hear. They liked the parts that made them feel like they were earning their salvation through their works and they ignored the parts which talked about the Messiah being their Savior from their sins. People haven’t changed all that much. There are still plenty of people today who pick and choose what they want to follow from the Bible. People latch on to the passages that talk about God being loving and they like to ignore the passages which speak about God’s judgment against sin.
People can readily quote passages like “Do not judge, or you too will be judged” (Matthew 7:1) and “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone” (John 8:7). But usually when they quote those passages they are simply trying to excuse their sinful lifestyle. They want to do whatever they want and they don’t want to hear that God’s law condemns their sinful living. They can quote those passages while ignoring the context. The context of “Do not judge” shows that we need to humbly acknowledge our sin before we can speak to others about their sin. In the context of not casting stones against sinners, Jesus also says this to the woman who sinned, “Go now and leave your life of sin” (John 8:11).
God’s love and forgiveness do not permit us to ignore what his law says. There are times that we are tempted to turn away from all of God’s Word because we don’t like what certain portions have to say. We might be tempted to ignore or simply down play the portions that talk about tough topics like Church Fellowship, Close Communion, or the roles of men and women. Sure, when the pastor’s eyes are on us we might talk like we agree with these topics but what do we say about these topics to our friends and family. Do we actually point out the differences between our church and other churches or do we just ignore that topic? Sure we don’t commune people from other Christian churches here, but what do we do when we attend another Christian Church? The Scriptural teaching of close communion means that we should not attend communion at a church that teaches differently.
Or what about when it comes to our sinful thoughts, words and deeds? Do we always listen to God’s law and make every effort to conform our life to his commands? What is our reaction when our friends or family commit sins? Think about the rampant sin of our society – men and women living together without being married. How do we react to such things? Do we stand up for God’s Word or do we just ignore God’s plan for marriage? Do we think that somehow because God is a loving God, he will be OK with the fact that many people are blatantly living in sin? Or perhaps there is some other sin that we gloss over and ignore.
Think about what Christ says or even what he does not say. At first, Jesus remains silent when he is misquoted. He doesn’t reply to the accusation that he will destroy the temple. The reason that he is so often quiet during this trial is because he is allowing this event to happen. He is allowing them to torture and crucify him. He could have stopped it. He could have used the power of his words to stop everything. But he wasn’t going to do that. He knew that the only way to save us was by allowing this to happen. Even later on when they told him to prophesy about who struck him, he didn’t say anything. He didn’t want his words to stop any of this from happening.
We know that he did testify that he is the Christ. That is one of the few times that he spoke while this trial was going on. He clearly testified about who he is. And we know how that went. The high priest and those who sided with him did not listen to this testimony. The truth that Jesus is the Christ is what accomplished our salvation. If he was not the Christ then he would have been a foolish man for claiming that he was. But because he is the Christ, his death paid for all the sins that have ever been or will ever be committed. He is our Savior.
The reason that it is so important to not pick and choose what we want to follow from Scripture is this – God’s Word is either ALL true or NONE of it is true. When it comes to the testimony of Scripture, it is all or nothing. The Bible testifies over and over that it truly is God’s Word. So therefore if even one portion of it is false, then none of it can be true. Everything is interconnected. God does not lie and he has told us that the Bible is truly his message to us.
The only way that we can be certain of the plan of salvation is if all of the Word is true. How could we doubt for example what God tells us in the commandments but then believe what he tells us about the death of Christ on the cross? We might have questions about certain passages that are hard to understand. But to outright claim that they are false is to claim that God lied to us. That would be what the high priest claimed when Jesus said that he is the Christ. We don’t do that. Through faith we trust all of God’s Word.
The ability to humbly listen to the message of Scripture, even when it is hard to understand, is truly a fruit of faith. We certainly can have questions about difficult to understand passages but through faith we lay those questions at the feet of Jesus. We accept that we may not fully understand those things this side of heaven. What a blessing it is that the Holy Spirit leads us to humbly accept all of God’s Word. Our sinful nature continues to fight against the Holy Spirit but the Holy Spirit has worked a heart of faith in us.
We listen to every word of God because through the message we have life. Through the testimony of Scripture we see exactly what it is that our Lord Jesus has done for us. He loved us so much that he allowed that sham of a trial to take place. He suffered for us so that we would have life forever with him in heaven.