I. Caiaphas, the Judge
Caiaphas slammed his hands on the podium.“Quiet! Quiet in the courtroom!”
As he looked around the room, he could feel the stress pulsating throughout popular – A late night, illegal trial was the only way they could convict him without drawing the ire of the masses.
But it wasn’t working.
Witness after witness had approached the stand. Each had attempted to pin a crime on Jesus. And each – sounded as stupid and false — as the last one.
“I saw him spit on an old man’s eyes….although I’m pretty sure the blind man was able to see after he did this.”
“I heard he performed a heist and stole thousands of loaves of bread from a local bakery to feed some hungry people.”
“I heard he beat up that demon possessed guy – Legion?” “Really? Cause I heard that he helped him.”
Not even two of the witnesses agreed on what the charges against Jesus should be and their statements were quickly devaluing into arguments.
Caiaphas was losing control. If they didn’t speed things up, it would be daylight. Then, their secret attempt at rescuing the people of Israel from this lunatic would fall apart. They crowds were surround the building. They would demand Jesus to be released. Caiaphas will have missed his moment to save his people from this foolishness.
Then two scoundrels came forward with a story that might work. “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days. (v.61) ”
Caiaphas raised his eyebrows. This could work. A plot against the community of Israel. Nevermind that the temple was made with beautiful stone ornaments making it difficult to perform such a task before the age of ‘explosives.’ Nevermind that Jesus had spent most of his days peacefully preaching and teaching in the temple. Nevermind that a few days earlier Jesus emotionally cleaned out the temple in order to bring it back to its former glory.
Caiaphas had two colluding stories. He had to use this on Jesus. But so far, Jesus hadn’t said anything in response. So Caiaphas growled at him, “Aren’t you going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?”
63 But Jesus remained silent.
Caiaphas glared at him. He stared at this sad looking carpenter. He thought of how Jesus had been single handedly ripped away following from their religious leaders for weeks, how he had called him – the high priest – out for hypocrisy, how Jesus had claimed a special connection with God. Caiaphas stopped. He smirked. That was it.
Caiaphas said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: tell us if you are the Anointed One, the Son of God.”
The crowd was silent. They knew what this meant. If Jesus admitted to being the Savior, they had him. He will have committed blasphemy. He will have claimed to be God – when they could plainly see he was not! Better yet -- this was a terrible offense in the Jewish world. An offense punishable by death.
Jesus looked up from his focus on the floor. He breathed deeply. He stared Caiaphas directly in the eyes.
“You have said so,” Jesus replied. “Yes.”
But before Caiaphas could high five the lawyers at the clever way that he had just tricked Jesus into exposing himself, Jesus continued his speech. “But I say to all of you: You will see the Son of Man, me, sitting at the right hand of the Mighty one, God and coming on the clouds of heaven, to judge you."
Caiaphas chuckled. Time for the show. He tore his clothes. He wailed out loud. “He has spoken blasphemy. Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?” The jury’s response was music to Caiaphas’ ears; “He is worthy of death.”
At that pandemonium broke out. Dignified priest after dignified priest took turned slapping Jesus. They conjured up some spit in their throats and sprayed it all over Jesus’ face. They spewed forth every cruse they could think of and directed them at Jesus.
As blood fell from Jesus’ lip, Caiaphas smiled. It was only a matter of time. Soon – he would silence Jesus.
Stop for a moment and evaluate Caiaphas' decision.
Do you think it's wise to put the Son of God on trial?
Is it wise to argue with the One who controls storms?
Is it wise to condemn the one who condemns demons?
Is it wise to drive out the one who drives out disease?
But understand why Caiaphas did what he did. He did not believe that Jesus was the Son of God. Even though he had heard of the miracles -- and maybe even saw them -- he refused to believe that Jesus was the Son of God. His jealousy for Old Testament law took over. His desire to impress God with that jealousy motivated him.
He put the Son of God on trial, because he did not believe the Son of God to be the Son of God.
...what does that say about us? What does that say about us when we put the Son of God on trial knowing full well that He is the Son of God?
Now you might be thinking, “Pastor, I don’t own a gavel. I don't have a long judge robe. I don't have my own court and I don't even know where I would find the physical apparition of Jesus to put on trial. How could I put Him on trial?"
That last one was easy to write. It's a thought I have all too often. Maybe you have had a similar thought or one similar to another one. GET THIS: When we do, we are doing exactly what Caiaphas did. Only worse! We had the knowledge that He is the Son of God!
II. Jesus, the Judge
Here’s why judging Jesus is a terrible idea: Remember what Jesus said at the end to Caiaphas? Caiaphas probably laughed it off. You probably just thought it sounded strange. But – look at it one more time: “You will see me sitting at the right hand of the Mighty one and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
This is truth. When Jesus returns with the ethereal clouds of heaven with a gavel of lightning and his courtroom officials that are none other than angels who fly from the front of the courtroom to back, not holding nightsticks, but swords of fire -- What do you think his reaction will be to all those who judged him and condemned him?
What do you think his reaction will be to you if you judge and condemn him?
It’s not good.
So what do you do if you have judged God? What do you do if you’ve put the son of God on trial?
1) Appeal to His Mercy.
If you ever get bored during the day, you can always check out daytime judge shows. The CW has about 8 in a row. Judge Mills Lane. Judge Judy. Judge Joe Brown. The People’s Court. Each judge has specific qualities that make them fun to watch. Some are hard-nosed. Some are intelligent. Some are funny.
What makes Jesus special as a judge? Ephesians 2:4 tells us, “God is rich in mercy.” There’s the key characteristic of Jesus. He is merciful. Even though He has all the evidence in the world to condemn you – every last sin you’ve ever done, every last sinful word you’ve ever said, and every last sinful time you’ve put him on trial – Jesus is a merciful judge.
Scripture says as much. It says, “We have been justified – that means “declared innocent” through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:1)
That means that when you stand before Jesus, your judge, your defense will be really simple.
Don’t say, “But this is really your fault.”
Don’t say, “But I didn’t really mean it.”
Don’t even say, “But this other guy is much worse.”
Simply say, “Because you're merciful.” I did wrong, but you Jesus, are merciful. Pardon me.
Jesus will lift his gavel. He will smile. He will slam it onto his eternal gavel stand. He will look you straight in the eye – and say, “Innocent.”
2) Think Twice about Judging Jesus.
Maybe you’ve got a friend who’s kind of a know-it-all. The thing about know-it-all friends is that after a while, you stop challenging them. Otherwise, you have to sit there patiently and wait as Google searches for and confirms that Alan Alda is indeed the name of the actor who played Hawkeye on M.A.S.H and that Saturn has officially 8 moons, if you count the curved one that falls near the bottom.
It’s not wise to question your know-it-all friend, it’s infinitely less wise to question Jesus. So when you have a dispute with Jesus – “Why don’t I have more money? Is that really a sin? Does God really love me?” Pause for a moment before you put him on trial. Because maybe – just maybe – it’s sinful you who is wrong. Not non-sinful, perfect, all knowing, loves you more than you know -- Jesus.
3) Give Thanks (a lot).
Considering what Jesus has done for us – forgiven us for our attacks on him AND freed us from an inevitable condemnation in the fiery jail cell of hell – saying thanks seems more than appropriate.
Instead of figuring out ways to complain against him, think of ways to say thanks to him.
· Start a journal and keep track of all the blessings he gives you each day.
· Send an email invite to your friends inviting them to church
· Grab one of the Preserve our Missions jars and put a few extra coins aside to say thanks.
· Resolve to love your spouse all the time
It’s in our text too! What did Jesus say when Caiaphas questioned him about being the Son of God? Jesus knew the law. He knew it better than Caiaphas. He knew that blasphemy – saying you are God when you aren’t – was punishable by death. He knew that when he admitted to being God’s Son the jury before him would not believe Him and would convict him of death.
But Jesus still said YES. He let them convict him. Even though he had stopped storms, walked on water, driven out demons, and conquered death – he let some measly, angry human beings crucify him.
Because He is merciful. Amen.
During midweek Lenten services we will be having some guest speakers come and visit. What would you do if I told you that next Wednesday Stephen Hawking – professed atheist and extreme evolutionist were leading worship here. Then, a week later the highest ranking ISIS officer we could get a hold of would be preaching. Finally, to wrap up our series Ozzy Osbourne – the self professed “Prince of Darkness” would come to challenge your minds.
Some of you are shaking your head. The people I just mentioned are enemies of Christianity. They are enemies of Jesus. They don’t agree with his theology. They don’t believe in him. They don’t want his message to succeed. An enemy of Jesus would make for a bad sermon…
Over these coming weeks we will have guest speakers and they will not be enemies of Jesus. They will be fellow Christian pastors. However in our sermons we will be examining a few key statements of Jesus’ enemies. Statements that unwittingly and unbeknownst to them made for some great sermons in Jesus’ favor.
The first sermon we’ll look at took place in bad guy headquarters. The Pharisees, Sadducees, and all the Teachers of the law – a collection of men who hated Jesus -- had gathered together to plan evil things. They were like the Secret Society of Supervillains that used to fight against Superman, Batman, and the Justice League.
Now these groups of people didn’t normally get along. The Pharisees believed in a resurrection of the dead. The Sadducees did not. Often they would quarrel about who was right.
Not on this day. On this particular day they gathered together with one express purpose. They only had one item on the agenda –Jesus.
Jesus had been significantly weakening their religious status. The people were listening to Him and not them. Each one of their groups saw less and less people gathering for their Thursday night Rabbinical studies.
But it was more than that. Jesus had been embarrassing them. He had embarrassed them with his knowledge of the Sabbath. He had pointed out where they were wrong in Scripture. He had called them sinners –perish the thought – and then went to spend time with dirty thieves and prostitutes. Real “sinners.”
Jesus had been making them look bad. But that wasn’t what bothered them the most. Take a look at John 10:47-48 “The chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. “What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”
Do you see the problem? It wasn’t just that Jesus was speaking a message opposed to the message that they promoted. They had dealt with that before. It was that Jesus’ message was accompanied by signs.
A man with a shriveled hand had it restored to full health by Jesus.
A man who couldn’t see had his sight restored by Jesus.
Most recently a man who had died – Lazarus – had his life restored by Jesus.
Note this – these leaders don’t question whether these miracles happened. They don’t gather together to send out a task force investigating whether these were real or not. They believed they were. They believed the miracles had happened. They knew Lazarus had died and they had heard solid evidence that he was alive again.
They didn’t disbelieve the miracles. They just didn’t believe in Jesus.
“If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”
It was becoming chaotic in the room. Sniveling. Whining. Anger. Everyone talking at once. Everyone offering their concerns. No one knew what to do? How could they stop this Jesus!
Then, one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up.
Caiaphas was not your run of the mill temple officials. He garnered respect. He had earned respect. His position as high priest warranted respect. When he spoke, picture the whole room quieting down. He had something important to say:
“You know nothing at all! 50 You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”
Everyone quieted down. Everyone nodded. They agreed.
From that time on they plotted to kill him.
But the other teachers weren’t the only ones who agreed with what Caiaphas had to say. Take a look at these Old Testament passages:
“He was led like a lamb to the slaughter…He was cut off from the land of the living…He was assigned a grave with the wicked. He poured out his life.” (Isaiah 53)
"And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced…" (Zechariah 12:10)
"(The Messiah will be) poured out like water, and all (his) bones are out of joined….God lays (him) in the dust of death.” (Psalm 22:14-15)
Caiaphas, who taught Old Testament, didn’t believe that Jesus was the fulfillment of the Old Testament, was now agreeing with the Old Testament about Jesus’ death on earth?
It wasn’t just the Old Testament that agreed with Caiaphas. Jesus himself had spoken similarly.
1 He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. (Mark 8:31)
Jesus was teaching his disciples. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” (Mark 9:31)
33 “We are going up to Jerusalem,” Jesus said, “and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, 34 who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.” (Mark 10:33-34)
Caiaphas, who hated Jesus, was now in complete agreement with Jesus on what should happen to Jesus next.
But it wasn’t just Jesus.
Remember what the Jewish people referred to the Old Testament as. They called it the Word of God. Remember what God the Father had spoken from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. With him I am well pleased!”
If God the Father was the ultimate author of the Old Testament and He had spoken from the cloud approval with Jesus, then it was his plan too. It was God the Father’s plan that Jesus would die in place of many people!
But while Caiaphas was in agreement that one man should die for the people. His reasoning was much different than God’s reasoning. Caiaphas thought they needed to kill Jesus to keep him from stirring up the people more. If they got too stirred up, the Roman government which was in control at the time would certainly put a stop to his rebellion. They would send soldiers. They would send more soldiers. They would slaughter the rebellious Jews. Caiaphas wanted Jesus dead before that could happen.
But God the Father wanted Jesus to die for an altogether different reason:
Scripture says this:
“The Wages of sin is death. (Romans 6:23)
“The one who sins is the one who will die.” (Ezekiel 18:4)
“All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)
God wasn’t concerned with the Romans killing the Jews. God was concerned with sin killing them. Eternally.
God wasn’t just concerned with the Jews either. God was concerned with all people. He was concerned for you and me.
God wasn’t just concerned about a physical death. But an eternal death. A forever death in hell.
So God planned it as Caiaphas said it, “It is better…that one man die for the people…”
If you had a chance to go back in time and kill Hitler as a young man, would you do it? You’d probably save hundreds of thousands of lives. How about Osama bin Laden? What if you could prevent 9/11?
Do you understand God’s reasoning for killing Jesus? This is exactly what John explains about Caiaphas’ statement. 51 "He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 52 and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one.”
It wasn’t as if Jesus was an enemy who would kill me. It wasn’t as if Jesus needed to die because he was bad.
Jesus needed to die because he was good. He was the only one who was good. He was the only one who didn’t earn a punishment in death and therefore was the only one who could be a substitute in death.
· Jesus died as a ransom to set them free from sins. (Hebrews 9:17)
· God made (Jesus) who had no sin, to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor. 5:21)
· He died for sins once for all. (Hebrews 7:27)
God’s plan worked. God’s plan was better.
Do you question it?
If it wasn’t for God’s plan and Jesus’ death, then what?
You’d gather to confess your sins tonight and I’d say, “Too bad.”
You’d pray to God for forgiveness and search the Bible only to find, “God hates you. There’s nothing you can do.”
You’d turn to me in counseling, confess a sin, and I’d say, “Here’s a bottle of Scotch. I don’t know what else might make you feel better about your impending doom.”
But Jesus did die.
He did die for your sins.
You gather to confess your sins tonight and God says, “You’re forgiven.”
You pray to God for forgiveness and find in the Bible, “You are my child.”
You turn for help from a Christian friend and hear, “Jesus died for you. Your sins are forgiven. You will not die, but live.”
That’s better. Better by far.
Thanks be to Jesus for making it so. Amen.