From the Pastor’s Pen

Final thoughts on Mark 14:53-65

And they led Jesus away to the high priest; and with him were assembled all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes.  But Peter followed Him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest.  And he sat with the servants and warmed himself at the fire.  Now the chief priests and all the council sought testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, but found none.  For many bore false witness against Him, but their testimonies did not agree.  Then some rose up and bore false witness against Him, saying, “We heard Him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.’”  But not even then did their testimony agree.  And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, saying, “Do You answer nothing?  What is it these men testify against You?”  But He kept silent and answered nothing.  Again the high priest asked Him, saying to Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?”  Jesus said, “I am.  And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”  Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “What further need do we have of witnesses?  You have heard the blasphemy!  What do you think?”  And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death.  Then some began to spit on Him, and to blindfold Him, and to beat Him, and to say to Him, “Prophesy!”  And the officers struck Him with the palms of their hands.                  NKJV

Throughout all of Christian history there have been countless volumes written regarding Jesus’ trial before the Sanhedrin.  Eighteen Jewish laws were broken by the Sanhedrin which made Jesus’ trial illegal: trial for a capital offence could not be conducted at night, a trial could not be conducted on the day before the Sabbath, the members of the Sanhedrin had to be in unanimous consent, the use of false witnesses whose accounts contradicted one another, etc…  There is no lack of historical evidence that put Jesus at odds with the Jewish religious leaders of his day.  And we have been told throughout his ministry that many of them plotted to get rid of him.

Focusing on the legal issues of Jesus’ trial may be interesting, but they are not extremely important to one’s faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  To understand that Jesus was innocent of any sin or charges against him is, of course, extremely important to know.   However, to use the gospel records of his trial to affix blame and punishment for his death to the Jews alone is ridiculous.  This focus on blame has been one of the chief causes of anti-Semitism in the world.  It has labeled the Jewish people as “Christ Killers.”  These texts and others like them were used to support the Holocaust, during which approximately six million Jews were killed in state sponsored violence.

All four gospels agree that Caiaphas, the high priest and the Sanhedrin ultimately condemned Jesus for the religious crime of blasphemy.  Blasphemy is the act of showing contempt or lack of reverence for God.  If Jesus’ was guilty of blasphemy, how did His trial become a political issue requiring Roman involvement?  If blasphemy is a lack of reverence for God, is Jesus guilty?  How did He show a lack of reverence for God?

In Exodus 3:14, God give his name to Moses as “I am.”  It is rendered in Hebrew as יהוה (YHWH) without the vowels, so that it cannot be pronounced.  (Most scholars believe that when the vowels are added it is pronounced YaHWeH).  In most English translations it is shown as LORD (in all capital letters).  In New Testament Greek the name of God would be rendered as ἐγώ εἰμι (I am).  Caiphas “the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”  “‘I am’ said Jesus.” (ἐγώ εἰμι).  Jesus is doing much more than pronouncing the name of God: He is claiming to be the name.  He is saying that He is God (John 8:58-59).

Jesus not only answers in the affirmative when asked whether or not he is the Messiah, but He goes further and explains exactly who and what the Messiah is.  Not only did Jesus admit that he is the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One and the Son of Man, he also claimed to be God.  This was more than they could bear to hear.  The title of Messiah can be interpreted in a political way (King of the Jews), so in this case it was easy to translate the religious charge of blasphemy into a political charge of treason against Rome.  From this point the crucifixion was a done deal.

The most amazing thing about what Jesus said at his trial is that IT IS ALL TRUE.  The trial was really about who Jesus is.  It cannot be blasphemy to utter the name of God when you are God. Something that we need to bear in mind is that the trial and passion of Jesus was the means by which God procured our salvation.  Everything that transpired was for our sake, and because of our sin.  If we want to cast blame for the trial and passion of Jesus, we need to stand in front of a mirror and take a good long look.             David Winkle

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