Sermon delivered April 15, 2000

by Pastor Kent Crutcher

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

The Trial of Jesus

After a minute of silence... Getting a little nervous? Silence is maddening. How long was I silent? Twelve seconds. (It seemed more like two minutes to me.) To some of you it might have seemed like an eternity.

Silence can be most unnerving. Why should it be? The Bible says, "Be still and know that I am God." Sometimes with silence we have a hard time handling. You think three minutes is a long time to brush teeth. What if I had stood here for three minutes? Some of you might have already been offering prayers: "Please help him to remember what he was going to say."

I don't like standing in line, like at the post office. Watch people when they're standing in line. They're nervous. They don't want to talk because they don't know you. So, they're looking at their letters. They filled them out, they know where they're going, they don't have to look at them again. They've already put the stamp on it. But they're fidgety. "Hi, hi." They don't say much.

Even worse are elevators. Do an experiment the next time you're in an elevator. Rather than look at the numbers of the floors, because that's what everybody else is doing. You're not going to miss your floor. Watch how many are looking at their watches. See how many times they look at their watch in a minute. You'd be surprised: they forget what time it is every ten seconds. Or, they're looking at their shoelaces.

Sometimes it's a great relief for somebody to walk in with a r friend and carry on a conversation. It breaks the silence. That's why I take the steps when I come to see you at the hospital unless you're on the sixth floor or the ninth floor at Erlanger, then I ride the elevator or else I'll probably join you there.

There's a good kind of silence like when you're taking a walk at night until the dogs start barking.

Seeing how Jesus handled silence is kind of interesting. Yesterday afternoon I encouraged Pastor Gettys to not speak today because of what's going on. [Pastor Gettys' daughter-in-law was shot to death Thursday evening. Of course he is in deep mourning.] And to be honest with you, I was sitting in my office last night wondering, "Now what." We're in a series of sermons that we planned a long time ago. Last week we talked about the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus' prayers. This week, Pastor Gettys was going to speak on Barabas and the choice made there. That's going to be put off a little bit. As I was looking at the scriptures I found a lot between Gethsemane and Barabas. We have the whole trial of Jesus. So, today that's the direction I'm headed. By seeing how Jesus handled this trial, maybe we can find a way to handle the trial we're facing today and trials yet to come.

The night Jesus had been arrested had been a silent night, a holy night. It had become an unsilent, unholy night as He was bound and dragged into Jerusalem by a cheering and jeering mob. Turn with me in you Scriptures to John 18.

Have you ever tried to figure out the trial of Jesus by reading the Gospels? It's tough. You read one, and you get one account. Then you read the next one and it seems different. You realize it's just adding more facts, and trying to put them all together can be kind of challenging. But we're going to attempt that this morning. So, we're going to be jumping from text to text, Gospel to Gospel to try to figure out how this trial took place.

John 18, beginning with verse 12. Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. They bound Him and brought Him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. Why did they bring Him to Annas? Annas was actually the ex-high priest. He was head of the priestly family and they called him "high priest" in respect to his age and his experience. Maybe it was his experience they were looking for that night. Experience was needed in knowing how to handle Jesus. Maybe the new guy would fail. Caiaphas didn't have as much experience.

Verse 19: Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. Annas needed to find out two things to charge Jesus with. He needed a charge to make the Jew hate Him. And he needed a charge to make the Romans punish Him. Well, the Jews were an interesting lot. They basically loved Jesus. He had healed them. He had told them stories about heaven. And He had taught them so many things the had never heard before. So, whatever they had to accuse Jesus with had to be something that would cause them to hate Him. Nothing was worse than blasphemy. Maybe they could lay that on Him. Now, they also had to make a charge that would stick with the Romans because the Jews could not put somebody to death. The Romans would put somebody to death for sedition, which would be somebody that would use language to incite people to rebel against Roman authority. That would do it. So they had to get a charge to get the Jews to support them, and they had to have a charge to get the Romans to support them. And so, Annas started looking for evidence of sedition by questioning Jesus about His disciples and the teachings that they were promoting.

Verse 20: "I have spoken openly to the world," Jesus replied. "I always taught in the synagogue or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said."

Interesting. "I spoke openly here. I spoke openly there. Why are you speaking secretly here tonight?" Annas was silenced by this response. What a contrast to his own methods: the secret trial which was illegal. He was worried that Jesus would point this out if he continued the questioning.

Verse 22: When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby struck him in the face. "Is this the way you answer the high priest?" he demanded. being made uncomfortable by the silence of the high priest. An official broke the silence by striking the Son of God. How did Jesus react? Verse 23: "If I said something wrong," Jesus replied, "testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?" Then Annas sent him, still bound, to Caiaphas, the high priest. The experienced Annas had failed in finding a shred of evidence against Jesus, so he sent Jesus to the less experienced Caiaphas.

This story is told in all four gospels, each adding something to what took place. Turn with me now to Matthew 26. Who was this Caiaphas, anyway? Do you remember the story of Lazarus being raised from the dead, and how they plotted to kill Jesus afterwards? It was Caiaphas before the Sanhedron which prophesied, even though he didn't know he was prophesying, saying, "It is better for one man to die than the whole nation." He was predicting the type of death that Jesus would have. This very same Caiaphas is who Jesus is brought before now in Matthew 26:57. Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled. But Peter followed at a distance, right up to the courtyard of the high priest. He entered and sat down with the guards to see the outcome.

The chief priests and the whole Sanhedron were looking for false evidence against Jesus so they could put him to death. But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward. What a scene! Everyone excited and fidgety while Jesus stands calm and peaceful. Caiaphas had a very ticklish situation to handle. The Sanhedron was made up of Pharisees and Sadducees, and they hated each other. Jesus, here, could have easily taken the heat off of Himself by getting them started in a discussion and an argument with each other. He could have started a discussion about the resurrection. The whole house would have come down. They hated that discussion. They disagreed vehemently on the discussion of the resurrection. But, rather than take the heat off of Himself, He could have, He remained silent.

Caiaphas had to be careful of what evidence he brought against Jesus. Witnesses could have reported that Jesus had called the religious leaders, "serpents, hypocrites, etcetera." That wouldn't look too good. The Pharisees and Sadducees called each other the same thing. It carried no weight with the Romans. He could have been charged with breaking with tradition, but the Pharisees and Sadducees couldn't agree what tradition was. He could have been charged with Sabbath-breaking. But then the nature of His healing work would be shown. If you read your Gospels carefully, the only time I could find Jesus asking anybody if they wanted to be healed was on the Sabbath.

They brought in false witnesses to say something bad about Jesus, but they didn't have much time to rehearse. They contradicted each other and even contradicted themselves. Verse 61: Finally two came forward and declared, "This fellow said, 'I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.'" These witnesses even misquoted Jesus. But even so, the charge wasn't enough to convict Him of anything.

Verse 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?" But Jesus remained silent. Silent.

Keep your finger here and turn with me to Isaiah 53. Here we find the prophecy of how Jesus would react on this very night. Isaiah 53: 6, 7: We all, like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid in him (Jesus) the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. And this prophecy was coming true this very night back in Matthew, come back with me there. This very silence made Caiaphas desperate. Jesus must condemn Himself and He's not even speaking.

Verse 63: The high priest said to him, "I charge you under oath by the living God; How ironic is that. The living God was standing right before him. I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God." There's a time for silence and a time to speak. Jesus would not defend Himself, but His relationship to God was now called into question. Maybe you've done this before. You can talk about me all you want, but you talk about my family and you've got trouble. Jesus is saying, "You can talk about me. I'll stand here and take it, but don't mess with my relationship with my Father. I'll tell you about that." And that's what He does in verse 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."

The flash of Divinity through humanity in the eyes of Jesus was a look that Caiaphas would never forget. He saw God right there. The picture of this abuse man coming to be his judge was horrifying to him. He could tell that Jesus could already read his life, Jesus could already read his motive, Jesus could already read the hatred that was in his heart, and he felt like he was the one that was on trial. How does he react? It's not with silence.

Look in verse 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. What do you think?"

The high priest tore his clothes? Keep you finger here and turn with me to the book of Leviticus. Leviticus 10:. I learned something very interesting. Leviticus 10:6, Then Moses said to Aaron and his sons Eleazar and Ithamar, "Do not let your hair become unkempt, and do not tear your clothes, or you will die and the Lord will be angry with the whole community." Turn back to Matthew. The high priest tore his robe. Now, the rest of the community, when they were in grief or in shock, they would tear their clothing. They would tear the top part of their clothing down over their heart to symbolize a broken heart. And they would cover themselves with sack cloth and ashes, and they would have their hair all messed up. A priest was not allowed to mess up his hair. He was not allowed to be in ashes. He was not allowed to tear his clothes for a good reason: he was the intermediary between us and God. To do so would show that he did not agree with God's judgments. And God says that the moment my high priest does not agree with my judgments is when there's a separation. "I'll not only be angry with him, I'll be angry with the whole community. Then the high priest will die."

This was a pretty good symbolism for what took place right here. He was no longer accepted by God as high priest. It signified his separation from God. Just like the ripping of the veil in the temple when Jesus said, "It is finished."

Verse 66, The high priest continues, "What do you think?" "He is worthy of death," they answered. Then they spit in His face and struck Him with their fists. Others slapped Him and said, "Prophecy to us, Christ. Who hit you?" If it had not been for the Roman soldiers, the crowd would have ripped Jesus to shreds then and there. The solders were disgusted with the whole illegal ordeal. It was illegal to try a prisoner by night. It was illegal to try a prisoner without a full council. It was illegal to treat a person as a criminal before being found guilty. It was illegal to use a man's own testimony to condemn him to death.

After all this illegal stuff going on, what hurt Jesus the most? Was it the slap? Was it the spit? No. What hurt Jesus the most was that He knew at this point Peter had already denied Him. Of all that was going on, that mattered more than anything.

Now turn with me to the gospel of Luke. We'll continue the story where this one leaves off. Luke 22:63-65, The men who were guarding Jesus began mocking and beating him. They blindfolded him and demanded, "Prophecy! Who hit you?" And they said many other insulting things t him. The same scenario. "Who hit you?" Jesus could have not only told them who hit Him, He could have told the man his lineage all the way back to Adam. He could have told him how many hairs were on his head today and how many had been on there the day before. He could have told him how many times he had hurt other people in his whole life. But He remained silent. But I guarantee you that the angels recorded it faithfully.

Verse 66, At daybreak the council of the elders of the people, both the chief priests and teachers of the law, met together, and Jesus was led before them. Why? Why was it going over again? They had to go through it all over again because everything up to this point had been illegal, and all had to hear the blasphemy from Jesus' lips. And this would be turned around to be sedition for the Romans. If He's claiming to be king, that means he's going to try to usurp the Roman power too. And only the Romans could put a man to death. So they had to be in on it.

Verse 67-71, "If you are the Christ," they said, "tell us." Jesus answered, "If I tell you, you will not believe me, and if I asked you, you would not answer. But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God." They all asked, "Are you then the Son of God?" He replied, "You are right in saying I am." Then they said, "Why do we need any more testimony? We have heard it from his own lips."

Luke 23:1..., Then the whole assembly rose and led him off to Pilate. Why? Up to now, it had been merely a religious thing. Now it was having to become a public thing, a political thing. "Take Him to Pilate." And they began to accuse Him saying, "We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Christ, a king." Well, some of that was accurate. He did claim to be Christ. He did claim to be king, but a different kind. So, Pilate asked Jesus, "Are you king of the Jews?" "yes, it is as you say," Jesus replied. Then Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, "I find no basis for a charge against this man." He saw through what they were trying to do.

Verse 5..., But they insisted, "He stirs up the people all over Judea by his teaching. He started in Galilee and has come all the way here." Pilate says, "Aha! I can get rid of this." On hearing this, Pilate asked if the man was a Galilean. When the learned that he was under Herod's jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time." He's been to Annas. He's been to Caiaphas. He's been to Pilate. And now He's being sent to Herod. It kind of reminds me what's going on in Miami right now with that little boy, Ilain Gonzales. Which court is going to handle this? Everybody is passing the buck here.

Verse 8, When Herod saw Jesus he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see Him. From what he had heard about Him, he hoped to see Him perform a miracle. He plied Him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer. Mrs. E. G. White bears out that he was looking for a way to release this man because he suspected it might be John (the Baptist) coming back, who he had had beheaded. He wanted to do something to make penance for his own past. But Jesus remained silent.

Verse 10, The chief priests and the teachers of the law were standing there, vehemently accusing Him. Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked Him. Dressing Him in an elegant robe, they sent Him back to Pilate. That day Herod and Pilate became friends--before this they had been enemies.

What a situation! People that were once enemies joined forces when it came to persecuting Jesus. It has become easy to see how quickly the time of religious persecution can come. Are you prepared? Not by stockpiling weapons or sarcastic retorts, but with a relationship with God such as Jesus had, a relationship that must be defended when the persecution of self must be met with silence. Silence to man, but not to God. Jesus must have been in continual prayer to have the strength of will that He showed. We know that he had already spent the previous night in prayer in Gethsemane and He had to be in continual contact with His Father to be able to remain silent through this trial. Some people say, "When the trials come, that's when the prayers will come." Jesus prayed before-hand that He would be ready to meet it when it came. We need to be in prayer now so that we can be in prayer then. Now we can see His support and strength today.

Today, our church is facing a trial. We are hurting. But we have to remember He hurt more than we ever will. Between us and Him there should never be silence. To get rid of the trial of today and this week, to get through the trials that become worse as time goes on, we need to be praying now and praying then. We need to have that strength now so we can have that strength then. We should meet adversity with silence. Except between us and God where we should not be silence.

Jesus died on the cross to do away with the priestly system. He became the Lamb of God so that we didn't have to go to a priest, so that we could go directly to God: "This is the way it is, God. This is the way I see it. You see it better than I do. Take charge." Let's be in contact with Him. Never silence between us and God. He died to make that possible.

Hymn of Praise: #154, When I Survey the Wondrous Cross
Scripture: Matthew 27:20-26
Hymn of Response: #159, The Old Rugged Cross 

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