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Worship Message - Trials, Lent 2015 Message #6

Trials
Lent 2015 Message #6

The week before the death and resurrection of Jesus started out on a very high note. On what we know as Palm Sunday, Jesus entered the city of Jerusalem.

Along the road Jesus traveled, thousands and thousands and thousands of people gathered. Just about all of them excitedly asked Jesus to save them. They asked Him to do that because, that day, they proclaimed He was a Savior. A Savior who did have and would have a wonderful kingdom. A kingdom they, by their actions, declared they wanted to be part of.

What a high note marked the beginning of the week. But as the week began to draw to a very tragic close, the happiness turned to betrayal. The betrayal was an act by one of Jesus’ disciples - Judas Iscariot. A betrayal in the Garden of Gethsemane that resulted in Jesus being arrested, which was followed by a number of trials before He was taken away to be crucified.

Friday evening we will think about the crucifixion of Jesus. Thursday evening we will think about what happened during the last meal Jesus had with His disciples.

In this message we are going to consider the trials that led to Jesus being condemned and sentenced to the penalty of crucifixion. There are seven trials to be covered, some of them real trials, others meetings with an official or in front of crowds of people. People who on Sunday had cheered Jesus, but who by the end of the week had turned against Him

To set the stage, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus had prayed three times to be relieved of what He knew was coming, that being great suffering, both physically and emotionally. But each time, Jesus had agreed to follow God’s will, no matter what. It was God’s will that Jesus be arrested and that He face a number of trials.

The first of which - this reported in chapter 18 of the Gospel of John - was in front of Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas.

Caiaphas was the Jewish High Priest at the time. It is suspected by some that Caiaphas was kind of a puppet. That Annas, who had been in that position previously, was the real power behind the office of High Priest. That was the case, not only with Caiaphas, but also with four sons of Annas who also had their turns as high priest.

It was to Annas Jesus was taken first.

Here is what happened. Those who arrested Jesus bound Him. That in itself is interesting. I mean, Jesus Himself had not resisted arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane. In fact, when one of His disciples had grabbed a sword and cut off an ear of one of the men in the crowd that had gathered to arrest Jesus, Jesus had not taken that opportunity to flee. Instead, He told the disciple to put the sword down. Jesus then picked up the man’s ear and put it back on the man’s head.

Jesus had given no indication He was a risk in any way. But He was bound in the Garden of Gethsemane. He stayed bound as He was taken to Annas, who questioned Jesus, asking Him about His disciples and His teaching.

Jesus answer? “Why do you ask? I have spoken openly to the world. I have been doing that for three years, including in synagogues and in the Temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing secretly. Why do you ask Me, especially about My teaching? Ask those who have heard Me. Ask them what I have said. They know.”

I think one of Jesus’ intentions in His response was to criticize Annas. Which makes sense. If Annas had really wanted to know about Jesus, He had had ample opportunities to learn long before this trial. All that would have been required was that he listen to any or all of the teachings for the past three years.

Jesus refused to answer Anna. By refusing to answer about His disciples, Jesus helped protect them. By refusing to discuss His teachings, He made it clear He knew Annas did not really care to know. Both questions were simply attempts to trap or trick Jesus. Which, by the way, was not allowed back then. It is kind of like the fifth amendment we have in our Constitution - the right that we cannot be forced to answer a question if doing so might incriminate us. But that was Annas’ intent. He wanted Jesus to condemn Himself.

And there is this. Remember the first thing Jesus did after entering Jerusalem a few days earlier? He had gone into the Temple and thrown out people doing business there. It is believed Annas might have been the one in charge of the businesses that were disrupted. If that was the case, what Jesus did hurt the profits Annas and his family were in the habit of making. That just increased the hatred Annas had for Jesus.

Jesus appeared before Annas. Annas asked Him two questions, both of which Jesus refused to answer.

That caused one of the officers in Annas’ court to strike Jesus with his hand. The officer rebuked Jesus, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?”

Jesus challenged the officer that if He had spoken wrongly, the officer should bear witness to the wrong. If not, Jesus asked, “Why did you strike Me?”

The officer did not answer. He had no answer to give. And Annas was making no headway against Jesus, so He was released from that court and taken to Caiaphas, that told in chapter 26 of Matthew.

Before Caiaphas - during the second trial - the chief priests, the elders, and other leaders of the Jews sought witnesses against Jesus. The wording is that “false witnesses” were sought. That is an indication the leaders, even though they hated Jesus, knew they had no case against Him. False witnesses were sought. Witnesses who could convince Caiaphas to declare that Jesus should be put to death.

Interestingly, though, such witnesses at first could be found. And yes, there were many who were willing to speak against Jesus, but at least two had to agree before guilt could be declared. It took a while to reach that standard.

Even then, what the two said was not accurate. Yes, as they reported, Jesus had said He was able to destroy the temple of God and to rebuild it in three days. But He had not been speaking of destruction of property. His meaning had had spiritual significance.

That, however, was the charge against Jesus. The charge brought against Him to Caiaphas, who was stunned that Jesus did not answer the charge. “Nothing to say?” Caiaphas asked. “No defense that You want to pursue?”

That did not make sense to Caiaphas, who demanded Jesus answer the question, “Are You the Christ, the Son of God?”

That Jesus answered, saying, “You have said so.” He then said that He would soon be seated at the right hand of God. At the place of power. That was, to Caiaphas, words of blasphemy. Caiaphas tore his robes. He asked what the others gathered there thought. They responded Jesus deserved death. That was the result of the second trial Jesus faced.

By the way, both these trials - the one before Annas and the one before Caiaphas - were illegal because they were held at night. Night trials were not allowed according to Jewish law. But they occurred anyway. That is an indication of the hatred felt against Jesus. The feeling against Jesus - the drive to eliminate Him - was stronger than normal, legal protocol.

After the trial before Caiaphas, physical mistreatment began to increase. Jesus had been hit during the trial before Annas. Now He was struck some more, including after being blindfolded. Then when Jesus was hit, He was asked who it was who had struck Him. That was part of the mocking Jesus endured, which was emotional mistreatment.

Jesus was then, according to chapter 22 of Luke, taken to the council - to the Sanhedrin, which was the Supreme Court of the Jews, a group of 71 leaders that had complete jurisdiction over all religious and theological matters.

There, in the third trial, Jesus was questioned some more, the main question again being, “Are You the Christ?” Specifically, “If You are the Christ, tell us.”

Remember what Christ means. It means “the anointed one.” The one, in this case, anointed to be the Messiah. The Savior. That is what Jesus had claimed to be. That is what some had said He was. The council said to Jesus, “If You are the Christ, tell us.”

That, as before, was an attempt to trick Jesus. If He acknowledged He was the Christ, Jesus would again be accused of blasphemy, this time by the Jewish Supreme Court.

Jesus, knowing the intent, skirted the question by saying, “If I tell you, you will not believe,” which means He once again refused to answer a question presented to Him.

And actually, the council and everyone else already had the answer. It came through all the miracles Jesus had performed for three years. But Jesus knew if they did not yet believe, they were not going to believe if He admitted He was the Christ. So He added that if He asked the council to explain what about the proofs of His position they would not accept - if He asked why, in the face of the miracles, they did not already know He was the Christ - neither would they answer.

But He then made an important statement. It was this. “But from now on [He was referring to what would happen after His death and resurrection], the Son of man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.”

The council members knew Jesus was referring to Himself. They knew that being at the right hand of God was the position of authority.

They responded, “Are You the Son of God, then?” Jesus answered, “You have said that I am.” Then they said - they all said - “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from His own lips.”

What they heard - His claim to be the Son of God - was, to them, blasphemy, which was punishable by death. However, the Jews were not allowed to issue a death sentence. That was up to Roman authorities. So it was that the entire Supreme Court rose up and took Jesus to Pilate, the Roman governor of the area.

Trial #4. Before Pilate - this in Luke 23 - those who took Jesus to him made accusations. As before, the accusations were not accurate. But they accused Jesus, saying they had found Him perverting the nation, forbidding people from giving tribute to Caesar, and calling Himself Christ a king.

Those were very serious charges. Perverting the nation was sedition. Refusing to pay taxes was a type of rebellion. Claiming to be a king would be very close to calling for revolt against Rome.

Of course, none of the charges was true. Jesus had no political ambitions, and in one of His teachings, He had taught that what Caesar was due ought to be given.

The charges were false, but that is what was brought against Jesus when He was on trial before Pilate.

Pilate asked the same question Jesus had been asked before. “Are You the King of the Jews?”

Jesus again responded, “You have said so.” Pilate’s reaction, though, was not like the ones before. Pilate was a civil authority. He said to the crowd of leaders and common Jewish people that he found no fault in Jesus, which should have ended things right there. However, the crowd became more urgent. They added that Jesus had been stirring up everyone everywhere, not only there in Jerusalem. Not only in that province of Judea, but also in the province of Galilee, the northern part of Palestine, which is where Jesus had grown up.

That gave Pilate an idea. It seems Pilate wished to excuse himself from the proceedings, but the crowd was reluctant to allow Jesus to go free. The idea Pilate had was to send Jesus to Herod, a fellow Roman official. An official over an area that included Galilee. Again, Jesus had grown up in that district. Pilate referred the case to Herod, who was in Jerusalem at that time.

When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad. Herod had for a long time desired to see Jesus. He had heard a lot about Jesus. Herod hoped to be shown some kind of sign. Some miracle. The sense is Herod hoped to be entertained.

During this trial - the fifth trial - Herod asked Jesus many questions. But Jesus answered none of them. And listen to this, a wonderful example of the patience of Jesus. Chief priests and scribes were also there. They stood by, vehemently accusing Jesus. Herod and his soldiers treated Jesus with contempt. They mocked Him. Jesus said not a word.

Wow. What patience and self-control was shown in not responding. There was no contempt on Jesus’ part. No attempt at retaliation. No self-defense. Jesus endured it all in silence.

That must have frustrated Herod. He had not the satisfaction of any answers. He was not shown a miracle. The frustration resulted in Herod dressing Jesus in a gorgeous robe, which was another bit of mockery, and sending Him back to Pilate.

And one more thing to mention about this trial. Up until this time, Herod and Pilate had been at enmity with each other. They did not like each other. It had been difficult for them to work together. But they now had common ground. They had both had a trial concerning Jesus. Because of that, that day they became friends.

For the second time, Jesus was on trial before Pilate. But this time, as reported in Mark 15, it was not Jesus who was questioned, but the people. The common people and the leaders - an ever-increasing crowd - was questioned about another idea Pilate came up with to end the trouble. Sending Jesus to Herod had not helped. This was another idea Pilate had in an attempt to get himself out of trouble.

The idea was to take advantage of a custom of releasing at that time of year one criminal from prison. Knowing there was no valid charge against Jesus, Pilate asked if He should be released.

The answer should have been approval, which would have ended things. But a cry started to rise. A cry that not Jesus, but a man named Barabbas, be released.

That confused Pilate. Again, he knew Jesus was innocent and Barabbas was a criminal. Some say he was a revolutionary. Others say he was a murderer. He may have been guilty of both those things.

“Barabbas?” Pilate asked. “Then what should happen to Jesus?” “Crucify Him,” the crowd shouted.

“Why?” Pilate asked. “What evil has He done?” The only answer was, “Crucify Him.” The shouting increased in volume and intensity.

Matthew 27. Pilate knew there was no legitimate charge against Jesus. That was confirmed in a message from Pilate’s wife, who had had a dream that warned her husband to have nothing to do with Jesus, identified in the dream as a righteous man.

Pilate’s wife shared the dream with him. However, things had gotten out of hand. The tide had turned against Jesus. It was clear that if Jesus was not condemned, a riot would break out. So Pilate did an interesting thing. He took water and washed his hands before the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. See to it yourselves.” In other words, “Do whatever you want with Him.”

That was actually a display of cowardice on the part of Pilate. He knew Jesus was innocent. Pilate should have spared Him.

But listen to what the people in the crowd said in what was the seventh trial. This brings chills to me. The people said, “Let His blood be on us and on our children.”

The people in the crowd were willing to condemn themselves and their families. That was how great the hatred of Jesus was that day. The day we know as Good Friday.

The result? After that, Barabbas was released from prison. Jesus was taken to be scourged. And yes, this is pretty gory stuff, but we need to remember what Jesus suffered.

Scourging was done with the victim stripped, his hands tied behind him. Jesus was then tied to a post and whipped with a leather strap studded with pieces of bone and pellets of lead. Straps used were long enough to affect not only the exposed back, but to wrap around and hit the chest.

Jesus was then taken by soldiers to their barracks, where a scarlet robe was put on Him, along with a crown made of thorns. The crown was slapped on His head. It was pushed down. The thorns added to the pain He was already experiencing.

The soldiers put a reed in Jesus’ hand, which added to the mockery. The robe, the crown, the reed were not what Jesus deserved. They were meant to humiliate Jesus. He had claimed to be a king, but He certainly did not look like a king.

The mocking continued as they called Him “king.” The mockery was them not meaning what they said. They also spat on Him and hit Him some more. They did all that before taking the robe off, giving Him back His own clothes, as dirty and tattered as they were. The soldiers then led Jesus away to be crucified.

* * * * *

At the start of this message, I made the comment that the last week before Jesus’ death and resurrection had started on such a high note, but that the week, on Thursday night, began to draw to a very tragic close. Let me amend that just a bit.

For Jesus, it was a very tragic ending of the week. The arrest, the trials, the mocking, the suffering, the crucifixion were horrible experiences for Jesus. He suffered greatly, both physically and emotionally.

But for us, all that tragedy was for our benefit because all of it was for the purpose of doing what needed to be done for us to be offered salvation. All of it was done so we, by accepting Jesus, could and can have forgiveness of our sins.

Throughout this upcoming Holy Week, let’s remember what Jesus suffered. Let’s remember that He died. And may we make sure we personally have made all that worthwhile. May we make sure we have accepted Jesus so His tragedy will be for us, now and in Heaven, a wonderful blessing of salvation.

This service will close with two verses of I Surrender All.


all to Jesus I surrender, all to Him and freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him, in His presence daily live.
I surrender all, I surrender all,
All to Thee, my blessed Savior, I surrender all.

All to Jesus I surrender, Lord, I give myself to Thee;
Fill me with Thy love and power, let Thy blessing fall on me.
I surrender all, I surrender all,
All to Thee, my blessed Savior, I surrender all.

Lord, thank You for doing what needed to be done to be the perfect sacrifice for our sins. Thank You that simply by accepting You as that sacrifice - by accepting You as the Savior - we can be saved. Salvation that brings with it blessing after blessing after blessing now. Salvation that assures Heaven later. Help each of us to either accept You for the first time for those who have not, or to live in ways that show our acceptance if we have. Thank You. Amen.

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