Shocked by Silence — Trial Before Pilate
Last night Karen and I enjoyed a Christmas performance by the United States Army Field Band at the ornate Hippodrome Theater in downtown Baltimore. It was a surprising Christian and gospel oriented presentation – one of the highlights being portions from Handel’s Messiah with the ringing lyrics of “King of Kings and Lord of Lord … and He must reign forever and ever … Hallelujah, Hallelujah!” This was good preparation for our text for this morning – because you cannot fully appreciate the injustice suffered by the Lord in His trials before the religious authorities (which we covered 2 weeks ago) and here today His trial before the governmental officials – Pilate and in the other synoptic accounts, Herod until you contrast that treatment with the praise and worship He deserves as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
Parunak: The structure of 14:53-15:20 compares the trial before the Sanhedrin and that before Pilate. The one rejects Christ through deliberate malice, the other through lack of political courage.
a) In each, the Lord is confronted with two questions, one indirect (via accusers), the other direct (by the judge). In both. he declines to reply to the accusers, but does reply to the judge, and the testimony he bears in both cases is the same: he is the one to whom all dominion belongs.
b) In each, after the conclusion of the trial, the Lord is cruelly abused by the judge’s underlings.
c) In each, the condemnation by the authorities is echoed by the Lord’s denial by the common people, each time marked by three questions.
How do you respond when you are wrongly accused? We all have the identical natural response. We become extremely defensive; we seek to justify ourselves; we might lash back and attack our attackers; we marshal all the evidence that could possibly support our claims. But Jesus responded differently. He endured more intense injustice than we could ever imagine. But He never lost His poise. And He never lost His compassion.
JESUS SUFFERED UNJUST TREATMENT BY BOTH HIS HARSHEST ENEMIES AND HIS CLOSEST DISCIPLES WHILE MAINTAINING HIS COMPOSURE AND COMPASSION
Our story this morning is a very simple narrative. It is a story that we can easily jump over without stopping to grasp its significance. It is a story where preachers at a loss for how to drive home the impact can fall into the trap of vain speculation:
- Imagine you were in the Garden of Gethsemane with Jesus; how would you have felt?
Who cares? It is not always all about you.
- What does it feel like to be abandoned by your close friends?
Who cares? Not why God preserved this account for us.
- Look at all of the references to clubs and swords; what does this passage teach us about gun control today? – What?? Now we are bordering on the ridiculous
Missing the point entirely!
Structure of passage shows us the emphasis – same verb used twice – vv. 50, 52 “fled” – even though translated differently in the English
Everybody abandons Jesus; Jesus ends up standing alone to face the suffering that lies ahead for him.
Abandonment: To withdraw one’s support or help from, especially in spite of duty, allegiance, or responsibility; desert: abandon a friend in trouble
Highlights the nature of the sacrifice for sin made by our Passover Lamb:
- He is the only sinless substitute that could propitiate the wrath of the Father
- He laid down His life voluntarily; not as some victim of circumstances
- He laid down His life in complete obedience to the will of His Heavenly Father
- He shed His blood to atone for our sins and provide us with undeserved forgiveness
Contrasting responses to this account of betrayal and unjust arrest:
- On the part of Jesus
- On the part of His closest disciples
- On the part of some unidentified follower
The events culminating God’s eternally decreed Plan for Redemption are now rapidly unfolding.
ONLY THE SUFFERING SERVANT EMBRACES GOD’S PLAN FOR REDEMPTION
Our passage for this morning gives us profound insight into the humanity of the God-Man, our Lord Jesus Christ. We see the depths of His emotions as He grapples with the imminent reality of the Cross; of the sinless, spotless Passover Lamb being made sin for us and bearing our sin on the cross to accomplish our redemption. Holiness that hates sin is now going to be made sin and suffer the punishment of God for undeserving sinners. The hour foreordained by the Father is now at hand. He is preparing Himself to fully drink the cup of His Father’s wrath, to be baptized with the baptism of suffering and death on our behalf. His ministry on earth has concluded. He has reached the culmination of His ultimate purpose in leaving His Father’s heavenly home and taking on humanity in the Incarnation and coming to earth on a mission – to give His life as a ransom for many.
In His darkest hour of preparation for what lies ahead, He turns to His Heavenly Father in heartfelt prayer in the isolation of the Garden of Gethsemane. He only asks that His band of disciples (minus the traitor Judas who has departed to betray Him) offer Him companionship and support in this time of preparation. He charges them to watch and to wait as He goes off to pray alone to His Heavenly Father. These disciples who have made such presumptuous claims of their unwavering loyalty and support; these disciples who have pledged to follow Him even to death, prove to be an utter disappointment as Jesus must grapple alone with His Father over embracing God’s will for what lies ahead.
In the intensity of warfare there is nothing more disturbing and discouraging than to have a comrade in arms turn tail and become a deserter in the face of the imminent danger. Warfare forges a bond with deep roots where every soldier has the back of every other soldier. I was just watching a Mel Gibson film about the Vietnam War – We Were Soldiers – and thankful that I did not have to serve in that bloody conflict. Jesus and His disciples were united together in a far more dangerous and far more significant warfare – that between the kingdom of God and the domain of Satan. As the intensity ratchets up with Jesus just hours away from going to the cross, there never was a time when loyalty and courage would be more in demand. Sadly there never was a time when Jesus would end up being more alone on the battlefield.
John Mark knew what it was like to be labeled a “deserter” and a “failure” in Christian ministry. After he had left the Apostle Paul and Barnabas in the lurch and run back home from Pamphylia (Acts 16:36-41), he was later rejected by Paul for inclusion in the next round of missionary visits. Barnabas was more forgiving and encouraging … so there was a split between Paul and Barnabas and two different teams were formed – Paul and Silas and Barnabas and Mark. Subsequently Mark proved his loyalty and devotion to Christ so that even Paul approved of him in the end.
Certainly Peter also knew what it was like to be labeled a “deserter” and a “failure” in Christian ministry as we are reminded in our present passage in Mark’s Gospel. Remember: Mark got a lot of his material from Peter who was the actual eyewitness to these events of Christ’s earthly ministry. It must have been crushing for Peter to go through the embarrassing episodes of denying Christ – as we will study in coming weeks.
But both Mark and Peter also knew what it was like to be forgiven and restored to positions of ministry and influence by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. They had not been permanently cast aside because of their failures. But their faith had actually been strengthened and they were able to minister even more effectively after they had come to grips with their weakness. They understood that reliance on Christ alone and boasting in him proved the sufficiency of His grace – that His power is actually perfected in our weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).
WE CANNOT GUARANTEE UNBROKEN LOYALTY TO OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST
In this key passage as we transition from the celebration of the Passover Feast to the institution of the Lord’s Supper, we are moving from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. This is a watershed moment in human history. We are looking at the events on the Thursday evening before the Friday crucifixion of Jesus Christ – the central event to which all of the types and prophecies of the Old Testament pointed. Christianity is all about the Person of Jesus Christ. And Christianity is all about the Cross of Christ.
“We preach Christ crucified” proclaims the Apostle Paul to the believers at Corinth – “to Jews a stumbling block and to Gentiles foolishness, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” (1 Cor. 1:23-24)
A lot of people claim to believe in the inerrancy of the Scriptures and own Jesus Christ as their Savior. But they still have a huge problem trusting the Lord because they fail to appreciate His sufficiency. So they read their Bibles to look for words of wisdom and yet still find themselves caught in the bondage of temptation and sin. To understand their behavior they turn to secular psychologists and counselors in hopes of closing that gap between their Expectations and their Experience. They fail to appreciate the sufficiency of Jesus Christ because they fail to grasp the significance of the Cross. What actually did Jesus accomplish on the Cross? What did He mean when He cried out “It is finished!”
Our passage this morning walks us through three very critical events in the final hours of Passion Week:
1) Preparation for Eating the Passover
2) Prediction of Betrayal at the Eating of the Passover
3) Institution of the Lord’s Supper – providing a Pattern for our celebration of it
THE SUFFICIENCY OF CHRIST AND THE CENTRALITY OF THE CROSS ARE ANTICIPATED IN THE CELEBRATION OF PASSOVER BUT REALIZED IN THE INSTITUTION OF THE LORD’S SUPPER –
TRANSITION HERE FROM THE OLD COVENANT TO THE NEW COVENANT
Remember the most important commandment – love the Lord your God with your whole being; What does that look like in real life? In Mark 14, as Jesus is just a couple of days away from His death on the cross, we get a vivid picture of what it looks like to be broken and poured out in our love and devotion and worship of our Savior.
EXTRAVAGANT DEVOTION VS. OPPORTUNISTIC TREACHERY —
BROKEN AND POURED OUT
Edwards: This is a classic Markan sandwich, . . . As in each sandwich technique, the middle story provides the key to understanding the whole. The bracketing of the devotion of the woman, who remains an unnamed outsider [John identifies her as Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus], by the betrayal plot of an intimate insider, creates an acid contrast between faith and treachery.
Markan Sandwich — like a:
- Rose between two thorns
- Pearl placed in between the 2 ugly shells
- Blazing Light offset by pitch blackness
HOW EXTRAVAGANT IS YOUR DEVOTION TO JESUS CHRIST?
Everybody understands the principle of accountability. We grow up in school facing many days of accountability. I might be caught unprepared by a surprise quiz . . . but when it comes to the Final Exam in a class, I can’t imagine not being prepared. We enter the work force and understand that we carry out our responsibilities under the constant evaluation of our supervisor. There may be scheduled Performance Reviews but there certainly is ongoing accountability. We aren’t left alone to simply do as we please.
Yet when it comes to living our life, the world would have us to believe that we are only accountable to ourselves. “Do what pleases you.” Of course Christians know better. We understand that as James puts it, the judge is standing at the door and can return at any moment. A good way to evaluate my present behavior is to keep in mind how Jesus would evaluate what I am watching on TV; what I am scanning on the internet; what I am reading; what I am thinking right now; what I am saying to others; what I am doing right now.
But as we anticipate the return of Christ, it is not just from the perspective of future accountability but also from the comfort that we derive in our ultimate deliverance from this evil age. We face tribulation and suffering of many varieties; but as God gives us the grace to persevere we anticipate the joy and victory of our ultimate glorification.
As Jesus prepares to depart this world, He wants His closest disciples to live in anticipation of His return. So he takes the occasion of a simple question regarding the coming destruction of the temple to telescope together both the near term historical events that will happen surrounding the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD and the eschatological ultimate events of the end times.
ISRAEL (WHO WAS ASLEEP AT THE SWITCH FOR CHRIST’S FIRST COMING) HAD BETTER BE ON THE ALERT FOR CHRIST’S SECOND COMING —
7 REASONS TO BE ON ALERT IN ANTICIPATION OF THE END TIMES
Chapter 13 needs to be treated in its entirety despite its length of 37 verses. Therefore, it will take several weeks for us to work our way through the chapter. But we must always have the full context in view. Commentators differ widely on the interpretation of much of this material. We will have to consider the parallel accounts in Matthew 24-25 and Luke 21 as well where there are differences in order to get the full picture.
We will start by reading the entire chapter – but this time with a few comments interspersed so that I make sure that I don’t lose you. Still separate in your minds the inspired words of scripture from my attempts at explanation.
You can see that the occasion of leaving the temple complex where Jesus had just been interacting with the Jewish religious leaders and exposing their hypocrisy and failure to grasp both the teaching of the Scripture and the power of God sparked a question from one of His disciples. The response of Jesus was the gateway to delivering what has been called the Mt. Olivet Discourse because of its setting.
The first thing I want you to focus on is the overall tone … the theme … the main emphasis of the exhortations and warnings here. There is no disagreement on this point. This is a call to Be On ALERT. To accentuate that, I will ring a bell every time we read a phrase that communicates that tone.
In today’s Christian culture there seems to be a reluctance to speak against specific false teachers and to expose and condemn them as religious frauds. It is part of our acquiescence to the political correctness of the ultimate virtue of Tolerance. Jesus certainly had no qualms about calling out the scribes and other religious leaders of his day for their hypocrisy and pride and selfish ambition. He labeled them as blind leaders of the blind – they not only are headed for eternal damnation themselves but they are trying to get everyone to accompany them to that ultimate lake of fire.
We have seen Jesus patiently responding in Wisdom and Authority to the attacks leveled against him by the various groups that came to him with tricky questions to try to trip him up and discredit him. He turned around all of their arguments and made them all look silly in front of the general public – who were reveling in such exchanges. Now having finally silenced them, Jesus turns on the offensive and levels some scathing critiques of these religious frauds.
Matt. 7:15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”
Still the third day of Passion Week.
FALSE TEACHERS MUST BE EXPOSED AS RELIGIOUS FRAUDS
3 FATAL FLAWS OF THE SCRIBES (OR ANY FALSE RELIGIOUS TEACHERS)