No claims of absolute originality are made for this material. As one man said, "I milk a lot of cows, but I churn my own butter." Please use these sermons as the Lord leads, but nothing on this site may be used for profit without my expressed, written permission!
ISRAEL AT THE JUDGMENT SEAT
Intro: It has been a night of highs and lows for the Lord Jesus Christ. First, there was the high of observing the Passover with His disciples in the upper room. There was the low of Judas Iscariot abandoning the Saviour to go and betray Him to His enemies. There was the high of His ministry to His disciples as they walked from Jerusalem, across the Kidron River to Gethsemane. There was the low of His spiritual agony as He prayed in the garden. There was the high of His total and absolute surrender to His Father’s will. There was the low of Judas kissing Him and His arrest by the soldiers.
In spite of all the activity, this night was far from over. Before dawn came, Jesus had many more difficulties to face. The passage we are studying today tells us about one of those difficult times. In these verses, we have the details of our Lord’s trial before the Jewish Sanhedrin.
In this trial, Jesus is accused and condemned by the very people He came to this world to save. They arrested Him, arraigned Him, accused Him and condemned Him, they believed that they were judging Jesus that night. In reality, He was judging them!
In truth, this text does not show Jesus on trial as much as it shows Israel on trial. In a very real sense, Israel is standing at the judgment seat. They are in the presence of their Messiah, their King, their God, and their Judge, but they are too blind to see Him for Who He is. The nation of Israel was on trial that night. They were judged by the Lord of glory and they were declared guilty.
I want to preach about Israel At The Judgment Seat. I want to show you the areas in this trial where they stood guilty before the Lord. They Were Guilty In Their Convocation; They Were Guilty In Their Confrontation; and They Were Guilty In Their Condemnation.
Let’s study these areas of the Lord’s trial together today. In these verses we see the judgment of a nation, but we will also see what takes place when an individual rejects Jesus Christ. Notice with me the areas of Israel’s guilt as I preach on Israel At The Judgment Seat.
I. v. 53-59 THEY WERE GUILTY
IN THEIR CONVOCATION
(Ill. When Jesus was arrested in the garden of Gethsemane, He was first taken to the home of Annas, John 18:13. He was the father in law of the current High Priest Caiaphas, and apparently a man of considerable influence among the Jews. After Annas was finished questioning Jesus, he sent Him bound to Caiaphas, John 18:24.
Our text deals with the Lord’s trial before Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin was the 71 member supreme court of Israel. The word “Sanhedrin” literally means “to sit together”. They were the official rulers of the nation. The members of the council were chosen for their maturity and their wisdom. They were expected to be utterly fair and impartial in all their rulings. The High Priest was in charge of the proceedings and thus he took center stage in the Lord’s trial.
We can only speculate, but it seems clear that when the word went out that Judas was leading the soldiers to Jesus’ location, the Sanhedrin began to gather together. These powerful, religious men could smell blood. They had wanted to destroy Jesus for some time, and this was their chance. So, they came together to judge Him.
Their little convocation was illegal on several levels. The illegal nature of their proceedings would have invalidated any rulings they might have issued, but the wheels of divine sovereignty are in motion and they will not stop until Jesus is dead on the cross.
I want to take a moment to share with you the reasons why this trial was illegal.
A. It Was Illegal Because Of When It Was Held – The Jew’s own laws, that regulated their court system, prohibited them from having a trial at night or on a feast day. Having a trial at either of these times would prevent the entire council from gathering, and it would prevent the accused from mounting an effective defense, since it would make it more difficult for witnesses to come to the trial. This trial obviously violated these provisions, since it was held at night and on the Passover.
B. It Was Illegal Because Of Where It Was Held – The same Jewish law mandated that all trials conducted by the Sanhedrin were to be held in The Hall Of Hewn Stones, which was located on the Temple grounds. This rule was violated because the trial was held in the private residence of the High Priest.
C. It Was Illegal Because Of The Way It Was Held – There are many problems with the trial of Jesus that night. Among the illegalities of His trial are the following:
1. Trials were illegal on the eve of the Sabbath because Jewish law required a one day adjournment in the event of a conviction.
2. A guilty sentence could only be handed down the day after a trial.
3. The Sanhedrin could not bring charges against a defendant, they could only investigate charges that had been made by others.
4. The charges against Jesus were changed during the trial. He was first charged with threatening to destroy the Temple. Later, He was charged with blasphemy. Then, when He stood before Pilate, His charges were changed again. This time, He was charged with claiming to be the King of the Jews and of forbidding the paying of taxes to Rome.
5. Jesus Christ was allowed no defense before the court. All charges against Him should have been thoroughly investigated and He should have been allowed time to call His Own witnesses.
6. The Sanhedrin pronounced the death sentence. By law the Sanhedrin could not convict or pass down a death sentence.
D. It Was Illegal Because Of Why It Was Held – This trial was not about seeking the truth of a man’s guilt or innocence. This trial was over before it started! In the eyes of the Sanhedrin, Jesus was guilty before the trial ever began. He had no chance of leaving this trial with anything but a guilty verdict and a sentence of death!
E. It Was Illegal Because Of The Witnesses They Called – As you read the text, you can see that the Jewish leaders have a problem. The men actually went out and “sought” witnesses to testify against Jesus. The word “sought” means “to hunt, to seek, to crave”. These men were desperate to anyone who would come forward and make some accusation against Jesus.
Verse 56 tells that “many bare false witness against Him”. There were many who came forward that night willing to lie for the Jews. They lied against the One Who had done nothing but good, and Who had said nothing but the truth.
The problem with their witnesses was that none of their testimonies agreed with one another. According to the Law, the testimony of witnesses in a trial had to be in perfect agreement, Deut. 17:6; 19:15; Num. 35:30.
Finally, according to v. 57-58 and Matt. 26:60-61, two of these false witnesses got their stories somewhat straight. They told the court that Jesus had threatened to destroy the Temple and to built it again in three days. Even their versions of what Jesus said didn’t agree, v. 59.
The word “temple” in verse 58 refers to the Holy Place, not the entire Temple grounds. They are accusing Jesus of threatening to demolish the holiest place in all of Israel. To their ears, it was pure blasphemy. Add to that the ludicrous claim that He would rebuild the Temple in three days when it had already been under construction for nearly 50 years.
The fact is, Jesus did not say what they claimed He said. In John 2:19, Jesus did say this, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” When He said that, He was not referring to the Temple grounds in Jerusalem. He was referring to His own body that would be destroyed on the cross and raised from the dead three days later, John 2:21. And, if you go back and read the words of Jesus, He never said that He would destroy anything. He said, and I paraphrase, “If you destroy this temple, I will raise it up in three days.” Their accusations were a total fabrication!
(Note: I find it very discouraging that not a single person came forward in the Lord’s defense that night. They were not looking for His friends, they were looking for those who would testify against Him, but there were some there who could have stood up for Jesus. For instance, John is there, John 18:15. Why didn’t John come forward and speak up? Simon Peter was there, v. 54. He stayed by the enemies fire and kept his mouth shut. We will look at Simon Peter in detail next week. Had they searched, they would have found many that would have stood with Jesus. People like, Lazarus, Zacchaeus, former lepers, Jairus, the widow of Nain, the Gadarene Demoniac, the woman with the issue of blood, etc. But, they weren’t looking for support; they were only interested in finding fault and ridding themselves of Jesus once and for all.
It is a shame that with all the people Jesus Christ helped, ministered to, fed, healed, blessed and taught, no one was willing to come out an stand with Him on that terrible night. While many were willing to put their lives on the line to falsely accuse Jesus, Deut. 19:16-19. If a man was proven to be a false witness, he was to receive the same punishment that would have come to the man he lied against. In all fairness, we do not know the circumstances surrounding the trial. Perhaps no one, even John and Peter, knew exactly what was happening during the trial.
Still, it breaks my heart to think of the Lord Jesus standing there, among His enemies, all alone. As I think about what He endured that night, I wonder what I would have done had I been there.)
(Note: What we see in these verses is a clear portrait of the human heart. These men did not care that Jesus was innocent. They did not care that He had done nothing wrong. They did not care that He was their Messiah and that He was the Son of God. They hated Him because He was a threat their way of life. They hated Him so much that they were willing to lie, to break their own laws and to condemn an innocent men to death.
It is still the same today! There are still people in our world who hate the name of Jesus so much that they will do anything in their power to destroy Him and all those who follow Him. We are seeing that hatred manifested in our society, and things are only going to get worse. Ill. John 15:20, “Remember the word that I said unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also.”
I. Guilty In Their Convocation
II. v. 60-62 THEY WERE GUILTY
IN THEIR CONFRONTATION
A. v. 60 Caiaphas And His Shame – As the trial continues, Caiaphas has a real problem. It is impossible to convict Jesus with the testimony of conflicting witnesses, so he changes tactics. He is frustrated with the proceedings thus far, so he assumes the role of prosecutor and goes on the attack. He is mystified by the fact that Jesus has not opened His mouth to refute the lies the false witnesses have told about Him. So, he calls on Jesus to defend Himself.
B. v. 61a Christ And His Silence – In response to Caiaphas’ demands, Jesus remains silent. He refuses to dignify the lies of His enemies. In this passage, Jesus is fulfilling the ancient prophecy of the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah 53:7, “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.”
C. v. 61b Caiaphas And His Solution – To get around the refusal of Jesus to speak, Caiaphas changes tactics again. He places Jesus under oath before God. In Matthew 26:63, Caiaphas said, “I adjure thee by the living God...” this was an attempt to force Jesus to answer. Caiaphas is finished with witnesses who can’t agree. He is finished with the trial. He is finished with Jesus. So, he gets right to the heart of the Sanhedrin’s problem with the Lord.
He asks Jesus point blank, “Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” This question is designed to make Jesus incriminate Himself and say for the record things they have heard about Him. Now, it would not be blasphemy to claim to be the Messiah, but it would be blasphemy in their eyes to claim to be deity. By asking this question, Caiaphas hopes to get Jesus to condemn Himself.
By the way, Caiaphas is a hypocrite! Here is a man who is so unscrupulous and wicked that he has no problem seeking our false witnesses to lie about Jesus, but at the same time, he professes to be so holy that he will not even say the name of God. He won’t even use God’s name, but calls Him “the blessed”. There is no more dangerous person to the cause of Christ than the religious hypocrite. The person who claims to love God on the one hand, while working against God with the other is someone to avoid at all costs!
D. v. 62 Christ And His Statement – Jesus doesn’t disappoint Caiaphas. Jesus opens His mouth and says two words that condemn Him to the cross. He utters two words that identify Him to His enemies. The two words Jesus said were words that had not been uttered by Jewish lips in hundreds of years. When Jesus opened His mouth, He said “I AM”.
Need I remind you that this is the covenant name of God? When Moses asked the Lord who he should tell them send him, he was told to tell them, “I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you,” Ex. 3:14.
This was a clear claim by Jesus to be God in the flesh. It was clear statement to the Jews that He was God. He went on to tell them that one day, they would face Him in judgment!
Those puny Jewish leaders thought they were in control that night. They thought they had Jesus right where they wanted Him. Nothing could have been farther from the truth! They did not believe that He was Who He claimed to be, but their lack of faith did not change the truth of Who He was and is. He could have judged them right there. He could have destroyed them with His Words. He could have caused the earth to open up and swallow them alive. He did not judge them, however. He is reserving His judgment for a future day!
The fact is, He is God. He is the only way of salvation. He is the Righteous Judge who will judge the world some day, John 5:22. One day, every lost person who has ever lived, including the ungodly men in these verses, will stand before Jesus in judgment, Rev. 20:11-15. He will send them all away into Hell because they rejected Him.
Don’t let that be your fate. You might be lost today, but you do not have to remain that way. Come to Jesus and believe on Him and He will save your soul and turn away the wrath of God from your life. You do not have to be like blind Caiaphas, you can be saved, if you will come to Jesus Christ, Rom. 10:9.
I. Guilty In Their Convocation
II. Guilty In Their Confrontation
III. v. 62-65 THEY WERE GUILTY
IN THEIR CONDEMNATION
A. v. 63-64a Their Drama – When Caiaphas hears the words of Jesus, he has heard all that he needs to hear. In his mind, there is no more need for witnesses. There no more need for trials. There is no more need for evidence of the Lord’s guilt. Caiaphas believes that he has heard blasphemy, when in fact, he has heard the truth!
Caiaphas rips his clothes. This was a dramatic reaction to what he considered blasphemy. It was a symbolic display designed to convey horror in the face of a terrible crime against God. Caiaphas thought he was being dramatic, in truth, he was doing far more than that!
Leviticus 21:10 says, “And he that is the high priest among his brethren, upon whose head the anointing oil was poured, and that is consecrated to put on the garments, shall not uncover his head, nor rend his clothes.” When Caiaphas ripped his garments, he was disqualifying himself from his office. He didn’t realize it, but he had just stepped aside in the presence of One superior to himself. Caiaphas had declared his own unworthiness to remain the High Priest of Israel.
The One standing before him was qualified for that office! This High Priest would make atonement with His Own blood on the cross. He would rise from the dead, ascend back to Heaven to redeem His bride, and He would ever occupy a throne at God’s right hand to intercede for His people. Caiaphas was merely stepping aside to make way for One Who is vastly superior and qualified to be our great High Priest! Listen to what the Bible says about our High Priest, “For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people's: for this he did once, when he offered up himself. For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore,” Hebrews 7:26-28.
B. v. 64b Their Decision – The whole council renders their verdict, “Guilty!” They declare Jesus to be worthy of death and they condemn Him to that fate. These men are nothing more than hypocrites, feigning indignation even as they employ underhanded tactics to condemn Him. But, such is the way of wicked men!
C. v. 65 Their Damnation – After Jesus is condemned the true nature of these men comes out. These educated, refined, religious leaders turn on Jesus like a pack of rabid dogs. These men spit in the Saviour’s face! They covered His head and hit Him, demanding that He tell them who had done it. When the leaders attacked Jesus, the servants followed suit, slapping Him in the face with the palms of their hands. What a horrible sight! It makes me angry every time i read it!
But, it is the fulfillment of prophecy!
· Isaiah 50:6, “I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair: I hid not my face from shame and spitting.”
· 1 Peter 2:23, “Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously:”
By their open rejection of the Lord Jesus, and by the cowardice of their attacks against Him, these men condemned their nation to the judgment of God, and they condemned their own souls to the flames of Hell!
Conc: Israel stood at the judgment seat and they came up short. They were weighed in the balances and found wanting. The nation rejected Jesus, and as a result, they came under the awesome judgment of God. Israel paid a heavy price for their rejection of their Messiah.
Whether you know it or not, you also stand before Jesus in judgment. Like those religious Jews, you must decide whether you will believe Him or reject Him. If you believe Him, He will save your soul. If you reject Him, He will condemn your soul to Hell.
What’s it going to be for you? When you see Jesus one day, and you will, will you see Him as your Lord and Saviour? Or, will you face Him as your Judge?
Will you embrace Him in gratitude for the price He paid to redeem sinners? Or, will you spit in His face like the Jews did?
You’ve heard the message, now it is time for you to decide where you stand in regard to Jesus. Is He a liar to be mocked and killed? Or, is He the Lord Who is to be loved and obeyed?