Monthly Archives: September 2020

THE GOSPEL OF MARK – JUSTICE MAN’S WAY

JUSTICE MAN’S WAY

55 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any. 56 Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree.
57 Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: 58 “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with human hands and in three days will build another, not made with hands.’” 59 Yet even then their testimony did not agree. Mark 14:55-59

Here is an interesting observation. Only John records Jesus’ words, “Tear down this temple and in three days I will raise it up again,” and yet this was the charge, though misquoted, that the Sanhedrin tried to pin on Jesus. This is yet another pointer to the unity and authenticity of Scripture.

A second observation – Jesus’ arrest was purely opportunistic. The Sanhedrin had not prepared its case against Him. Once they had Him before them, their members had to think on their feet, and the whole debacle made them look like fools. Their witnesses could not agree on the evidence they were bringing and in no way could they find Him guilty of a charge worthy of the death sentence.

Thirdly – they finally charged Him with blasphemy, a crime punishable by death according to the Mosaic Law but how could He be executed for the truth? If His claim were false, their verdict and sentence would both have been just but what if He were the Son of God? That would make them all guilty of injustice and accountable for their verdict.

Both the Sanhedrin and Pilate made the error of not being transparent in their hearing of the evidence. The Sanhedrin was driven by hatred and Pilate by fear. They suppressed the truth by not hearing the evidence justly and by making their judgement driven by emotion. Pilate tried to wriggle out of condemning Him because he knew He was innocent but he was scared of the volatile attitude of the Jews.

This trial was ultimately not about Jesus. It was about them and the depth of depravity in the human heart – and these men are representative of the whole human race. Jesus was the test case for exposing what was in them! How often does this not happen. Our criticisms and judgments of others arise out of what is in our own hearts, not necessarily what is in the hearts or behaviour of others.

How would this trial have stood up in a court of law today? There is a sense in which our courts in many ways are no different from this court. How many times have the prosecutors not determined the guilt of the accused before the trial and not because of it! Let us not imagine for one moment that the sinners of today are any better than the sinners of Jesus’ day. “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”

THE GOSPEL OF MARK – GUILTY BUT NOT GUILTY

GUILTY BUT NOT GUILTY

53 They took Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests, the elders and the teachers of the law came together. 54 Peter followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. There he sat with the guards and warmed himself at the fire.
55 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any. 56 Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree.
57 Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: 58 “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with human hands and in three days will build another, not made with hands.’” 59 Yet even then their testimony did not agree.
60 Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” 61 But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.
Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”
62 “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
63 The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked. 64 “You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?”
They all condemned him as worthy of death. 65 Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, “Prophesy!” And the guards took him and beat him. Mark 14:53-65

Peter is such a lovable character; larger than life, always in the thick of things, always willing to stick his neck out, first to try anything new! He fled with the rest of the disciples but he was soon back among the servants, trying to appear anonymous but desperate to find out what they were doing with Jesus. Where were the others? Probably hiding somewhere, waiting for Peter to come back to tell them what was going on.

Meanwhile the court had assembled and the trial began. What a fiasco! According to the Jewish High Court, Jesus had already been found guilty. Now they had to dig up legitimate charges against Him to make their verdict stick so that they could pass sentence and dispatch their “thorn in the flesh”. But it wasn’t that easy. What charge could they lay against Him that would be punishable by death? Their hatred of His flawless life and His exposure of their hypocrisy by contrast, was no legal reason to have Him executed.

They tried the “pulling down the Temple and rebuilding it in three days” one but that was a pathetic charge. Jesus didn’t even bother to respond. Then the High Priest tried his biggest weapon – a charge of blasphemy. He was elated when Jesus responded in the affirmative. “Yes, I am.” What more did they need? He had condemned Himself.

But this is where their whole justice system went horribly wrong. They assumed that Jesus was claiming to be what His life did not confirm.  All their witnesses were hostile. Did they genuinely desire to find out the truth? No! Where were the disciples who could bear witness to what they had seen and heard? Where were the crowds who had listened to His teaching, eaten the miraculous meals He had provided and received a fresh start in life because they had been forgiven and healed? In this company Jesus had no chance.

But they still had a problem. How could a charge of blasphemy get past Pilate? He had no interest in their religious quarrels. It had to be something political.

Strangely enough, the charges they eventually laid against Him were actually true, confirmed by His own mouth. He said he was the Son of God – blasphemy, if it were not true. He said He was the King of Israel – treason, if it were not true but…the Sanhedrin made no attempt to test the evidence. Guilty from their perspective? Yes, but guilty from God’s perspective? No! And three days later He would prove it.

 

THE GOSPEL OF MARK – ONLY JESUS!

ONLY JESUS!

43 Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders.
44 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.” 45 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. 46 The men seized Jesus and arrested him. 47 Then one of those standing near drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.
48 “Am I leading a rebellion,” said Jesus, “that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? 49 Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” 50 Then everyone deserted him and fled.
51 A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, 52 he fled naked, leaving his garment behind. Mark 14:43-52

God’s moment is always perfect. Once His decision had been made, Jesus didn’t have to hang around waiting. The gang of ruffians, led by Judas, emerged from the shadows. Recruited from the street by religious leaders, they were lured into doing the dirty work of the so-called “holy” ones.

Following Judas’ pre-arranged signal, they pounced on Jesus as though He were some dangerous criminal. Jesus protested but they ignored Him and “roughed” Him up just to warn Him not to try anything.

The disciples were stunned. What was all this about and what was Judas up to? They always knew there was something strange about him. He was never really one of them – always cagey, always aloof.

In a vain attempt to do something, Peter unsheathed his sword and took a swipe at the nearest guy, cleanly slicing off his ear. That didn’t work. The disciples, realising that any resistance was hopeless, took off and fled into the darkness, leaving Jesus at the mercy of ruthless men.

An anonymous young man got mixed up in this. Who was he? Most likely the one telling the story, otherwise why the detail?

One thing stands out clearly in this whole story; no other religious book relates the price the originator had to pay to provide the benefits of his life and death for those who follow him. Buddha? Mohammed? Sun Myung Moon? You can think of the religious system of any other initiator and you come up empty. They can tell you what to believe (on whose authority?) and what to do (to gain the god’s approval) but only Jesus, the Son of God, died for the benefit of the whole world to reconcile mankind to the Father!

THE GOSPEL OF MARK – ONE MAN – ALONE!

ONE MAN – ALONE!

32 They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 34 “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”
35 Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 36 “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
37 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour? 38 Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
39 Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. 40 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him.
41 Returning the third time, he said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer Mark 14:32-42

What did this time Jesus spent in the garden mean to Him and what could a time like this mean to us? He did not plunge into His agony and suffering unprepared. Just as it was His custom to spend time with the Father at the beginning of each day to prepare for His day, so now how much more did He need to be prepared for what lay ahead.

How hard it must have been for the Father to remain resolute in the face of His Son’s anguish! To remain silent to His Son’s plea and to allow Jesus to reach His decision alone and to determine in His heart to obey the decision they had made before the foundation of the world, must have wrung the Father’s heart out as well.

This had to be Jesus’ choice without argument or persuasion. He knew what the Father wanted. He understood the bigger picture. To refuse to comply to save His own skin was unthinkable because it would cost everything He had come to do – no family for God, no-one upon whom to lavish His love and generosity; all His dreams for the human race and for His eternal kingdom up in smoke. There was no plan B. Everything hung on this one decision and its consequences.

But Jesus’ heart was tender towards the Father. Above everything else He chose to be one with Him. But Jesus, like us, was not alone. He offered Himself as a sacrifice through the Eternal Spirit. He lived His entire human life in the environment of the Holy Spirit, in His company, in His power, under His guidance and in fellowship with Him. Not even on the road ahead would He be alone. Once the decision was made, He would carry it out in the power of the Spirit.

He could not continue unless and until He had made His choice. In that instant the camera began to roll on a most astonishing drama – the Son of God striding out to do battle with the enemy, not cringing in fear but resolute in faith and courage because He was already the winner. In His heart He challenged the devil to do His worst, to deluge Him with everything hell could muster to get Him to break rank with the Father. His choice would stand, and it did!

From that moment human beings revealed what they really thought of God; they ridiculed, insulted and humiliated Him; they spat in His face, pulled out His beard, beat Him almost to death, stripped Him naked, nailed Him to a cross and left Him there to die under the boiling midday sun. The only words He had for them were, “Father, forgive them. They do not know what they are doing.”

Jesus showed the world what it is like to protect love and unity at any cost and to emerge the winner over both man and Satan. And He paid for man’s failure to do just that. He put the record straight, once and for all. One man obeyed God – completely!

THE GOSPEL OF MARK – PRESSED TO DEATH

PRESSED TO DEATH

32 They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 34 “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”
35 Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
37 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Couldn’t you keep watch for one hour? 38 Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
39 Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. 40 When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him.
41 Returning the third time, he said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. 42 Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer Mark 14:32-42

At this moment, Jesus and His disciples were functioning in two different worlds. Somehow these men, companions of Jesus though they were, seemed oblivious of what was going on in His soul. They acted like disinterested spectators, sitting idly by while the greatest drama in history was unfolding. Over and over again Jesus pleaded with them, “Keep watch with me.” Surely, if they loved Him and even if they did not understand what was going on, they could have stayed awake to “sit shiva” with Him.

Was Jesus wrestling with the injustice and sense of outrage at having to pay for the sin of the world? Something rises up from deep within, something inside protests loudly when we are unfairly treated, when we are rejected, ridiculed or punished for something we have not done. How much more Jesus who was innocent of any sin of His own, let alone the terrible weight of the world’s sin, beginning with Adam.

What was this cup from which He was turning with such vehement distaste? Was it the cup of God’s burning anger against sin? Was it the full weight of the broken law that He would bear? Was the physical agony He was about to endure only a fraction of the cup He had been asked to drink?

To Jesus, the cup was both a cup and a baptism. This symbolised something that had to happen both inside and outside. He who was holy, a God who hated and abhorred sin, had to endure both drinking and being immersed in its filth and its consequences until His body and His heart could no longer endure its weight. Sin literally squeezed the life from Him until He relinquished His spirit to the Father.

The human Jesus had been so identified and so saturated in the sin of the world that it was impossible for Him to remain alive in that condition. He was willingly reduced to nothing, a lifeless shell that could only be shut away in a tomb to rot and return to dust.