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Do You Only Love Those Who Love You? - Part 1

Tom Pennington • Matthew 5:43-48

  • 2012-11-04 AM
  • The Sermon on the Mount
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If you're familiar with the Bible at all, you know that the promise of a Messiah, the promise of a Redeemer began very early in the history of the Scripture. In fact, in Genesis 3:15 immediately following the fall, God, I believe in the person of God the Son, told the serpent, Adam and Eve that someday a unique human person would enter the world to ultimately and finally deal with sin. As we follow the Old Testament record, the identity of that person becomes more and more clear. He, we learned would be a descendant of Abraham and then of Isaac and then of Jacob. Then we learned that He would be from one of the sons of Jacob, the tribe of Judah. Later we learned that He will come from one family in the tribe of Judah, the family of Jesse. He will be a direct descendant of King David through the line of Solomon.

But as the Old Testament unfolds for us, it becomes clear that the Messiah will not only be a uniquely human person; He would also be divine - passages such as Psalm 110:1 where David writes: "The Lord (Yahweh) says to my Lord: 'Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.'" And then the record becomes even clearer when we come to Isaiah

7:14 where we're told that a virgin will conceive and bear a son and He's to be called

Emmanuel, which means 'God with us' - a virgin bearing a human child and yet at the same time a child named 'God with us'. In chapter 9 of Isaiah, Verse 6, we're told that He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, the Father of Eternity – not an ordinary human child at all, but divine. Micah 5:2 tells us that this son of David, this son of Abraham will be born in a little city called Bethlehem and His goings forth are from eternity.

When we come to the New Testament, the historical record makes it clear that that Old Testament promise of a divine Messiah was fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth. The testimony of the gospels concerning the deity of Jesus Christ is patently clear. You can look at the testimony of the forerunner, the testimony of John the Baptist, and it is crystal clear. Look at John 1 with me. John Chapter 1:19: "This is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, 'Who are you?'" Verse 23: "He said, 'I AM A VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS (quoting Isaiah the prophet), 'MAKE STRAIGHT THE

WAY OF THE LORD.''" I'm here to prepare the way for Yahweh Himself, for God. It becomes clearer down in Verse 26: "John answered them saying, 'I baptize in water, but among you stands One whom you do not know. It is He who comes after me, the thong of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.'" That's a remarkable statement. John was the greatest prophet and yet he says as the greatest prophet, 'there's someone here whom I am not worthy to untie His sandal. I'm not worthy to be His lowest slave'. He goes on in Verse 30: "This is He on behalf of whom I said, 'After me comes a Man who has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.'" Now if you know the gospel records, you know that from a human standpoint, that's not true. John was born before Jesus. Elizabeth was already pregnant when Mary got the news that she would give birth to a son. But this one existed before me. "'I did not recognize Him, but so that He might be manifested to Israel, I came baptizing in water.' John testified saying, 'I have seen the Spirit descending as a dove out of heaven, and He remained upon Him. I did not recognize Him, but

He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, 'He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.'" Now look at Verse

34. Here's John's testimony: "I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God." John's testimony is unequivocal.

What about the testimony even of Jesus' enemies? On several occasions, it's clear that even

Jesus' enemies understood His claims. Even if they rejected them, they understood that this in fact was what He claimed to be. Look at John Chapter 5. John 5:18: "For this reason (Jesus in Verse 17 had said, "My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.") For this reason, therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own (unique) Father (in a special sense), making Himself

equal with God." His enemies understood this claim and desperately wanted to kill Him because they rejected those claims.

Look at Chapter 8:56. Jesus says to the leaders of the nation, "'Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day; he saw it and was glad.' (Now remember, that's twenty-one hundred years before Jesus.) So, the Jews said to Him, 'You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?' Jesus said to them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born (twenty-one hundred years ago), I am.'" He uses that name of God, that God declares to Moses is the name by which

He's to be known. They got it. Verse 59: "Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple." They understood what He was claiming.

Look at Chapter 10:30. Jesus has an interchange with, again with the leaders of the nation and He says: "'I and the Father are one.' And the Jews picked up stones again to stone Him. Jesus said, 'I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?' And the Jews answered Him, 'For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy; because You, being a man, make Yourself out to be God.'" They understood His claims of deity.

But you also have in addition to those the testimony of God Himself. This is remarkable. At

Jesus' baptism, if you look at Mark Chapter 1, you remember at the baptism in Mark chapter 1:11, "A voice came out of the heavens and said, 'You are My beloved Son, in You I am wellpleased.'" That's recorded in all three of the synoptic gospels. God Himself testified that this was His Son in the presence of many witnesses. And in the presence of Peter, James and John, He testified at the transfiguration over in Mark Chapter 9:7: "A cloud formed, overshadowing them, and a voice came out of the cloud and said, 'This is My beloved Son, listen to Him!'"

So the evidence of both the Old Testament in prophesying the Messiah who would come and the

New Testament confirms the fact that Jesus is both Israel's Messiah and God's unique Son. That is what He claimed to be. Nowhere, however in the entire Scripture is Jesus' claim clearer than in the passage that we come to tonight. It is the center of Mark's gospel. Let's read it again together.

Mark Chapter 14, beginning in Verse 53:

"They led Jesus away to the high priest; and all the chief priests and elders and scribes gathered together. Peter had followed Him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest; and he was sitting with the officers and warming himself at the fire. Now the chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, and they were not finding any. For many were giving false testimony against Him, but their testimony was not consistent. Some stood up and began to give false testimony against Him, saying, 'We heard Him say, 'I will destroy this temple made with hands, and in three days I will build another made without hands.'' Not even in this respect was their testimony consistent. The high priest stood up and came forward and questioned Jesus, saying, 'Do You not answer? What is it that these men are testifying against You?' But He kept silent and did not answer. Again the high priest was questioning Him, and saying to Him, 'Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?' And Jesus said, 'I am; and you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of

Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.' Tearing his clothes, the high priest said, 'What further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy; how does it seem to you?' And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death. Some began to spit at Him, to blindfold Him, and to beat Him with their fists, and to say to Him, 'Prophesy!'

And the officers received Him with slaps in the face."

This is the trial of our Lord Jesus Christ, and it was a gross miscarriage of justice. The Jewish leaders held this mockery of a trial in order to establish Jesus' guilt, but instead for all time this trial became the eternal proof of Jesus' spotless innocence.

Now let me remind you of the territory we've covered so far the last time we looked at this together. We started by looking at the setting of the Jewish trials. Verse 53: "They led Jesus away to the high priest…" As I reminded you, that night there were three Jewish trials. The first two took place during the early hours of the morning and the third after the break of light as Friday dawned. The first Jewish trial was the, the arraignment of Jesus before Annas. Annas was the father-in-law of the high priest that year, Caiaphas. Around 12 or 1 a.m., John records that the Roman soldiers delivered Jesus first to Annas. When Annas was done questioning Jesus, he sent Him to the house of his son-in-law, Caiaphas, which was probably just across the courtyard from his own home. Annas in essence arraigned Jesus and then he transferred Jesus' case to the Sanhedrin as if there was plenty of evidence to indict Jesus - when there was absolutely none.

Then came the second phase of the Jewish trial. It was a hearing before a quorum of the Sanhedrin at the house of Caiaphas. Caiaphas had hastily assembled at least a quorum and perhaps the larger part of the Sanhedrin in his upper room; and there was a hearing. In Jesus' three Roman trials before Pilate and Herod on Friday morning, He was found completely innocent of the charge of sedition, the charge the Jewish leaders leveled against Him before the Roman officials and the Roman governor. So Jesus was executed not because of the accusation in the Roman trials, but because of what happened in the Jewish trials. In His arraignment before Annas, really nothing happened. He was questioned about His disciples and His teaching. In the third trial which happened just after daybreak, the Sanhedrin merely formalized the decision they had already made earlier that night. So it is the record of the second Jewish trial that Mark records for us here in which we discover the real reason Jesus was executed.

Verse 53 says: "They led Jesus away to the high priest; and all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes gathered together." This verse is referring to the second phase of the Jewish trial in the upper room of the home of Caiaphas. There's a quorum, if not all of the Sanhedrin, that has been hastily assembled there. By the way, Peter and John are also there. We learn about John

being there from John's gospel. But here in verse 54, we learn that Peter's there: "Peter had followed Him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest; and he was sitting with the officers and warming himself at the fire." That's the setting for the trial.

Secondly, we learned the purpose of the Jewish trial. Look at verse 55: "Now the chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain testimony against Jesus to put Him to death…" This is remarkable because although the charge against Jesus has not yet been decided, the verdict already has been. This was a mock court. It was set up in violation of established first century

Jewish legal procedure and it is characterized by complete dishonesty. Jesus' trial was absolutely nothing but a farce, an intentional miscarriage of justice. Jesus was going to die with or without due process. That was the purpose.

Thirdly, we looked at the failure of the Jewish trial. Notice how Verse 55 goes on to say "and they were not finding any"; that is, any testimony that would indict Him and enable Him to be, if convicted, put to death. You know the amazing thing to me in this farce of a trial was the hypocrisy of it all. I mean, these men trampled all the rules and process of law in first century Israel. They arrested Jesus without any accusation of a crime. They arraigned Him without witnesses. They tried to get Him to incriminate Himself. They paid false witnesses to give testimony against Him. And they had already determined they were gonna kill Him before the charge had even been determined. No witnesses were presented in His defense. But in spite of all of that, these hypocrites decided that they could not move forward because their false witnesses

didn't agree on the details of their false testimony. Because after all, they didn't want to be guilty of violating the ninth commandment and bearing false witness or approving false witness.

Legalism and hypocrisy are such deadly sins.

Verse 56 says there were, there were many that they trumped up to give false testimony, but they couldn't get two to agree. Then eventually two men according to Matthew's gospel, two men stood up and they rehearsed something that they said they had heard Jesus say from early in His ministry. They misquoted it. They distorted what Jesus said. That was their accusation. The leaders of the nation had watched and scrutinized Jesus for three years, looking for something that would incriminate Him. And when it came to that Thursday night, they had Him in their hands. This was the best they could do. This was the best case they could build – the complete misrepresentation of something He had said three years before. That underscores Jesus' absolutely spotless life of integrity.

Now that brings us to where we left off last time and let's begin tonight by looking at the illegal conviction of Jesus. Verse 60: "The high priest stood up and came forward…" Now Matthew tells us that the high priest that year was a man named Caiaphas. You've heard his name before. Josephus tells us that his full name was Joseph Caiaphas. Caiaphas was an unusually longstanding high priest. The average term for a high priest in the first century was four years, but Caiaphas served not for four years but for 19 years. To hold his office that long in Israel required that he be pragmatic and devious and scheming and ruthless. Caiaphas had the reputation of being the consummate politician. He was a power broker. This was the man who oversaw the trial of our Lord. When you hear high priest, you think of someone deeply spiritual. Don't think that at all. This man was a Sadducee. He embraced only the first five books of the Old Testament

– didn't believe in the spirit world, didn't believe in the resurrection. And he was a ruthless politician.

When it became apparent that they were making no progress in arriving at an accusation that would stick against Jesus, Caiaphas takes charge. Now at this point, or I should say to this point, Caiaphas has given every appearance that he's simply the presiding officer, the presiding judge of this hearing, simply hearing testimony against a man who's been brought before him. But at this point, he becomes instead the prosecuting attorney. He stood up from his seat and literally the Greek text says 'he came into the middle'. Perhaps at this point, he enters into the middle where Jesus was standing, encircled by this crowd of Sanhedrin members in his upper room there in his home. He walks to the middle and likely comes nearly face to face with Jesus of Nazareth, who would have been standing before him as the accused.

Verse 60 goes on to say: "The high priest stood up and came forward and questioned Jesus, saying, 'Do You not answer? What is it that these men are testifying against You?'" Now Caiaphas asked Jesus two questions really. The first is: Are You really not gonna speak in your own defense? Of course, Jesus knew that the purpose of this trial was not justice, so He remains quiet. His other question is: What do You have to say about these specific accusations, these bought, trumped-up charges about Jesus saying He's gonna destroy the literal temple and rebuild another one? No doubt, Caiaphas hoped Jesus would speak and in speaking somehow incriminate Himself.

Verse 61 says: "But Jesus kept silent and did not answer." Mark is making two separate points about how Jesus conducted Himself during His trial. He remained completely silent and He did not answer the accusations that were made against Him. This had been prophesied of the

Messiah, hadn't it? Isaiah Chapter 53:7 says: "He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open his mouth." The difference being that the sheep may very well not know what's coming; Jesus knew exactly what was coming and yet He maintained His silence.

Now in the face of Jesus' silence, Caiaphas became increasingly frustrated. Jesus was in charge in that room and make no mistake about it. Caiaphas isn't used to having his own plans and his own desires frustrated and so he has one last attempt. Perhaps he had held this last question as a sort of trump card in case all else failed. Or perhaps the thought just occurred to him – in the moment of desperation, he decided to risk everything on this one occasion. He decides to make a full frontal assault: "Again the high priest was questioning Him (verse 61 says), and saying to

Him, 'Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?'"

Now Matthew tells us that before Caiaphas asked that question, he first put Jesus under oath.

Listen to Matthew 26:63: "But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest said to Him, 'I adjure You by the living God…'" That was a formal statement putting Jesus under oath. It's like, it's the equivalent to our - Do you solemnly swear (as you put your hand on a Bible) to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you God? He was saying: By the living God, I adjure you, I command you to answer this question: Tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God. Now the emphasis in the Greek text here in Mark's account is on the pronoun 'you'. We could translate it like this: Are You Yourself the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One? Is that what You are claiming? Now again, there are two separate questions here from Caiaphas. Do you claim to be the Christ? The word Christ is the word in Greek - Christos. It is the Greek equivalent of the Old Testament Hebrew expression - Hamashiach, the Messiah. Are you claiming to be the Messiah, the Anointed One? The second question: do you claim to be the Son of the Blessed One? That's a Jewish euphemism. They don't like to pronounce the name of God and so that's a shorthand for - Do You claim to be the Son of God?' And Matthew by the way makes that clear that that is what he was asking.

Now that is the question, folks, to which everything else in the gospel of Mark has been pointing.

We have reached here the climax of, of Mark's gospel. Caiaphas here thinks he's putting Jesus into a corner, he's painting Him into a corner, but in reality he has created a platform for Jesus to officially affirm His true nature. Notice Verse 62. In response to those two questions - Do you claim to be the Christos, Hamashiach, the Messiah' and do you claim to be the Son of the Blessed One, the Son of God – "Jesus said: 'I am.'" Jesus' answer is without hesitation, and it is unequivocal. In the Greek text, 'ego ami'- I myself am.

Now readers of Mark's gospel are not surprised by this because they had known who Jesus is throughout this book. Go back to Mark Chapter 1. This was where Mark began: "The beginning of the good news of Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God" – Jesus Christos, the Son of God. But those are not Jesus' words. Those are Mark's words. Verse 11: God speaks out of heaven and says, "You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased." Verse 24: The demons called Jesus

"the Holy One of God." Chapter 3:11: "Whenever the unclean spirits saw Him, they would fall down before Him and shout, 'You are the Son of God!'" Chapter 5:7 - the demoniac of, of Gerasene, "seeing Jesus from a distance, ran up and bowed down before Him, and was shouting with a loud voice and he said, 'What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God?'" Chapter 9:7. God, the Father speaks out of heaven at the transfiguration and says: "This is My beloved Son, listen to Him!" Mark chapter 12:6 - as Jesus tells the parable of the vine-grower describing Himself and the Father, He said the "The father had one more (the vineyard owner had one more) to send, a beloved son; he sent him last of all, saying, 'They will respect my son.'" Chapter 13:32 - in the Olivet Discourse as He talks about the future, He says: "Of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone."

So the readers of this gospel have already been very well acquainted with the fact that this is who Jesus is. And the Sanhedrin knew of this claim I think before this, but at least they knew of this claim a few, a few days before because when Jesus told on Tuesday the parable of the vineyard and the tenants as I just read in Chapter 12, He presents Himself as the Son and they got it; they wanted to kill Him as a result. But just in case there was any chance of Jesus being misunderstood, He doesn't stop with the affirmation, 'I Myself am.' Notice what He goes on to say in Verse 62: "and you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power and coming with the clouds of heaven." Here Jesus pulls together two of the great Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament. The first half of this quote comes from Psalm 110:1, I quoted it earlier where David says, "Yahweh says (to my Adonai) to my Lord: 'Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.'" The high priest and the Sanhedrin may dishonor Jesus now, but the Father will ultimately vindicate Him over all of His enemies. He will be seated at the right hand of God.

The other quote, the other half of the quote comes from Daniel 7, a Messianic prophecy as well.

Daniel writes: "I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before

Him. (Now watch the honor and glory and worship that's given to this person). And to Him was given dominion, glory (who alone is deserving of glory? God, who says He won't share His glory)… that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away; and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed."

Both of these passages are clearly Messianic and make it clear that the Messiah would be more than merely human; He would be divine. He is higher than David although his descendant and He is to be worshipped and served and given glory that belongs to only God Himself.

But you know what's most frightening about what Jesus said to these men? Look again at how He begins. This isn't in the Old Testament text. This was Jesus directly to them: "and you will see", and "you will see". Jesus tells these men that are gathered around Him in the upper room of Caiaphas: The day is coming when you will have no doubt about the truthfulness of My claims. In fact, the roles of this night will be completely reversed. You now sit as My judges, but one day the roles will be reversed. This is both a warning and I believe a last appeal of grace from our Lord calling for their repentance.

One commentator writes this: "Mark's trial scene is profoundly ironic. The Sanhedrin stands on the law and Jesus sits in the dock. But in reality, the Sanhedrin breaks the law and Jesus upholds it. The testimony that the Sanhedrin seeks against Jesus is in the end not provided by the false witnesses, but by Jesus Himself in the claim to be God's Son. Jesus stands on trial before the

Sanhedrin, but the Sanhedrin will stand trial before the Son of Man when He returns in glory.

Above all, it is the high priest, not Jesus, who blasphemes because Jesus is God's Son."

In the third phase of the Jewish trial in the formal session of the Sanhedrin in their official chambers at daybreak, Jesus was asked this question again. In front of the entire Council, He was asked (Verse 70 of Luke 22): "They all said, 'Are You the Son of God, then?' (They come back to this issue. Are You the Son of God, then?) And He said to them (this is in the morning at daybreak, the third trial in the official session - He said to them), 'Yes I am.'"

Often when I talk with people about Christ, they will say something to me like: 'You know, Jesus was a wonderful person and I think we can learn so much from Him, but He never claimed to be divine. He never claimed to be God.' In fact, I had a conversation like that with someone just this last week. Listen. Someone who tells you that has never carefully read the gospel record because nothing could be farther from the truth. Here in Mark 14, Jesus is placed under oath by the ruling high priest of Israel. And in front of the entire Sanhedrin of the nation, he asks Jesus point blank if He claims to be Israel's Messiah and the Son of God. And Jesus' response was:

"Yes, I am." I Myself am. Listen. You can accept Jesus' claims or you can reject them, but don't come up with any ridiculous nonsense about His not claiming to be the Son of God. His claims are clear.

And in light of the clarity of His claims, there are only three options. Can I just challenge you? If you're here tonight and, and you would not say at this moment that you are a follower of Jesus

Christ, you've never come to the place of humbling yourself before Him, let me just challenge you to realize what your choices are. He made crystal clear claims. You think about it. See if I'm not right. This has historically been true. We've looked at this earlier, even in the gospel of Mark. There are only three options. Either Jesus was a liar; that is, He made these claims knowing in His heart of hearts they were not true, or He thought they were true because He was on the level of, as C.S. Lewis says, a poached egg – somebody who thought He was God but wasn't, or He was in fact what He claimed. You think about it. There are no other options. His claims are clear. So either He was lying or He was a lunatic or He was all that He claimed.

Just like Caiaphas, the high priest, and just like the Sanhedrin, listen carefully, it's your responsibility to come to a verdict about Jesus' claims. Do you believe? Do you believe that Jesus was a fraud and a liar? Does that really do justice to the majesty of His person, that even people who don't believe in Him have seen in Him through the ages? Do you believe Jesus was a lunatic, a troubled man who was deeply self-deceived? Or are you willing to acknowledge that

His claims are true and to bow before Him like Thomas did and say, 'My Lord and my God.' Those are your only three options and everybody here has made and right now is making one of those three choices. That's it.

Tragically, Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin were not even willing to consider the third option. Look at Verse 63. As soon as Jesus makes this claim: "Tearing his clothes, the high priest said, 'What further need do we have of witnesses?'" Now this is so hypocritical. Inwardly, Caiaphas was absolutely delighted at what had just happened. This was exactly what he wanted. This was what he set out for. But as further evidence of his extreme hypocrisy, he tears his clothes in this sort of outward show of extreme grief and sorrow. And he says there's no further need to look for additional witnesses. Verse 64: "You have heard the blasphemy…" This quorum of or perhaps most of the Sanhedrin – you have all heard it. We all are witnesses of His blasphemy. We don't need more witnesses. The law established the standard of two or three witnesses and here is a roomful of men, the leaders of the nation.

And then Caiaphas calls for a vote. The language that he uses in the Greek text was the formal language for calling for an official vote in the Sanhedrin. Verse 64: "You have heard the blasphemy; how does it seem to you? (That was the call for the vote). And they all condemned

Him to be deserving of death." We know that at least one member of the Sanhedrin was absent that night because here we're told all condemned Him, but we're told in another place in Luke 23 that a man named Joseph of Arimathea, who was a good and righteous man, did not consent to

Jesus' death. So he was not a part of that meeting that night but for those who were there, the vote was unanimous. All who were there agreed that Jesus was guilty of blasphemy. And according to the Old Testament law, blasphemy was a crime deserving of death. Leviticus 24:16 says, "Moreover, the one who blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death; all the congregation shall certainly stone him. The alien as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death." And so they decided Jesus was guilty of a crime that called for the death penalty.

But what's wrong with their verdict and their sentence? It would only be blasphemy if Jesus' claims were investigated and found not to be true. What I don't want you to miss is Mark's main point here. This was the real reason Jesus was crucified. This was the real reason Jesus was executed. Pilate found Jesus innocent of the charge of sedition so Jesus wasn't crucified for breaking any Roman law. And Pilate agreed just to go along with the extortion of the Jewish leaders against Him. And so the real charge against Jesus, the charge that stuck, was blasphemy because He claimed not only to be Israel's long-awaited and promised Messiah, but He also claimed to be the Son of God in the sense of Daniel 7 and Psalm 2 and Psalm 110. And because

Jesus' claims were true, He was not guilty of blasphemy. No evidence was considered. No witnesses were called. They refused to consider the miracles that they themselves had seen Him accomplish. Jesus was illegally convicted of the crime of blasphemy and it was for that charge that He would be crucified.

But what really motivated the Sanhedrin to find Jesus guilty? There are a couple of passages that make it clear. John 11:48 – this was about a month before, excuse me, four to eight weeks before. After the raising of Lazarus, they held a meeting of the Sanhedrin. And in that meeting, Caiaphas says, "If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our position and our nation." It was all about power.

Mark gives us another hint in the parable Jesus told of the, the vineyard owner. This is how He describes the motives of Israel's leaders. Jesus says, "Those vine-growers said to one another, 'This is the heir (speaking of the son); come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours!"

Pilate understood. In Mark 15:10, Pilate was aware that the chief priests had handed Him over because of envy. They were envious of the fact that they were losing power, they were losing their control over the people to Jesus. This was the illegal conviction of Jesus Christ for blasphemy because He said He was the Messiah, the Son of God. And that on the trial level would be the reason Jesus would die.

That brings us to the final part of this trial – the illegal treatment of Jesus. Look at verse 65:

"Some began to spit at Him, and to blindfold Him, and to beat Him with their fists, and to say to

Him, 'Prophesy!' And the officers received Him with slaps in the face." Notice the contrast in verse 65 between the 'some' at the beginning of the verse and 'the officers' at the end of the verse. That may imply that the ones spitting and blindfolding and beating and saying 'Prophesy' were some of the members of the Sanhedrin who were personally involved in abusing Jesus.

That's possible. Or it may be, as Luke seems to imply, that it was the guards and servants who physically abused Jesus, but under the full approval of the members of the Sanhedrin. Either way, Jesus was abused. And He had prophesied that this is exactly what would happen. Back in

Chapter 10:33, He said to His disciples, "We're going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered to the chief priests and the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and hand Him over to the Gentiles. They will mock Him and spit on Him, and scourge Him and kill Him, and three days later He will rise again."

Notice what Mark says happened to Jesus in the upper room of Caiaphas in the presence of the members of the Sanhedrin. First of all, he says they began to spit at Him. Matthew says they spat in His face. This has always been and continues to be the grossest insult of another person. They blindfolded Him; that is, somehow they covered His eyes, and then they beat Him with their fists. And they said, 'Prophesy!' Matthew makes it even clearer what they were implying. He says: Prophesy to us, You Christ, You Messiah! Oh, You're the Messiah? Well, the Messiah can prophesy, so tell us who hit You? Verse 65 ends: "And the officers received Him with slaps in the face." Emboldened by the actions of their leaders perhaps, the temple guard take up where apparently some of the members of the Sanhedrin had left off. And they took Jesus into custody with continuing slaps and abuse.

Now I don't know about you but when I read that, it's really easy to look with utter disdain on Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin because of their absolutely reprehensible actions. And to some extent, that's true. Sadly, too many Christians in the history of the church have even become anti-Semitic. If that's your response, you've missed the whole point. This is how all unregenerate humanity responds to the true Jesus. In reality - listen carefully to me. In reality, the Jewish leaders, later the Roman leaders and the crowds that called for Jesus' death were our representatives. In reality, think about this, you too heard the accusations against Jesus. I was there. We too were faced with the evidence. And because we loved our sins and we loved our power and our control, we rejected Him. And left to ourselves, just as they did, we would have kept on rejecting Jesus throughout this life and throughout eternal hell. We convicted Jesus by our verdict and by our sins. We sing a song that I think encapsulates it so well: "Behold, the man upon a cross, my sin upon His shoulders. Ashamed, I hear my mocking voice call out among the scoffers. It was my sin that held Him there until it was accomplished. His dying breath has brought me life; I know that it is finished. How deep the Father's love for us." That's the story that unfolded in that upper room that night. Let's pray together.

Our Father, we are humbled by what we have read and studied together, especially as we consider that we are every bit as guilty as Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin for the rejection of Jesus, for His conviction and for His death. It was our sins that held Him there. Father, we thank You for Your love to us in Christ. May we respond to that love with lives of loving obedience. May we open our lips and talk about such a magnificent Savior.

And Father, I pray for those here tonight - I know some and have prayed for some here in this very room - whom I know have never bowed the knee to Jesus Christ. Father, I pray that tonight would be the night when they would look at the evidence, look at His clear claims and realize that like Caiaphas and like the Sanhedrin, they too are faced with a choice. What will you do with Jesus who is called the Christ? Father, I pray that tonight, before they lay their head on their pillow, they would find themselves on their knees acknowledging their sin, acknowledging Christ as Messiah and Your Son and claiming His death for sin as their hope for forgiveness. O God, may You work in their hearts through the testimony of our Lord in this passage tonight. We pray it in His name. Amen.

The Sermon on the Mount