I am extremely happy this morning to be able to worship with you. Every moment that brings us closer to our departure, helps me to appreciate all the more the blessings I now enjoy.
Our lesson today may seem a little delayed if you consider that last week was Easter. But since every day is a good day to talk of the death of Christ, we start dealing, today, with the events surrounding the cross of Jesus. So I invite you to turn to John, Chapter 18. Before I get into this material, I’d like to ask you this question: “How far are you willing to go, to get what you want in this life? Maybe the only way you can truthfully answer this question is by looking in your past. How far did you go, in the past, to get what you wanted? Some have worked very, very hard and sacrificed greatly to get what they wanted. Some have even gone beyond, to the point of being dishonest, to the point of stealing or killing to get what they wanted. So my question today is, “How far are you willing to go to get what you want?
As you think about the question, I want to take you to John, Chapter 18. And to make the scene complete, I will throw in, once in a while, material from Matthew and Mark and draw a lesson from all that. But, as you ponder the question, please listen to the story. For many weeks, we have pictured Jesus in that large upper room with His apostles. There were many lessons taught. Finally it comes to an end with a lengthy prayer. And in John 17, as the prayer comes to an end, Jesus takes his apostles out and they walk out across the Ecrum Valley. He enters a garden, filled with olive trees. And you know that He leaves eight of the eleven behind in a grove. He takes Peter, James and John a little deeper in that garden called Gethsemane. And in the presence of the three best friends, Jesus says, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and watch with me.” Matt. 26:38. And He goes on by Himself, a short distance away. Then He begins to pray. He falls on the ground and He implores the Father. He is crushed by the knowledge of the death He will soon endure. He is thinking of the shame, the agony and the pain. And His prayer is very intense. He says “Father, if it’s possible, let this death, or let this cup, pass from me!” Matt. 21:31. “But, nevertheless, not what I want, but what You want.” He prays with such agony and intensity that sweat, like drops of blood, fall down His brow. Soon after, He goes to James, John and Peter. He wants some friends to comfort His pain. But He finds them asleep. So He awakens them and says, “Watch and pray that you may not fall in temptation.” Matt 28:41. Then He goes off again to pray. He comes back and finds them sleeping again. So He leaves them alone and returns to prayer a third time. And while Jesus is praying like that, Judas is busy carrying out his plans. He has left the group earlier, during the meal. He has had, in his heart, a desire to get rich. So he has gone to the chief priest to sell the identity of Jesus. They probably were very surprised. They have wanted Jesus, but have lacked the opportunity for a long time. You remember, many times, they have searched for a way to condemn Jesus and take him away. They have never been successful, but now they have a way. So they call their temple guards. They even summon a detachment of Roman soldiers. The Greek work, speira, points to a maniple made up of 200 men. And Judas leads them to this garden, where Jesus is praying. It is a full moon, so they can see well, but they have torches. It points to the fact they thought Jesus would hide and they would have to search. We read about this in John 18:4-11. And you remember what He will say in Matt. 26:53. “If I wanted to fight like this, Peter, I could call twelve legions of angels. And then He does a peculiar thing. He reaches out and He touches Malchus’ ear. And the ear is restored. It is made to be well. And now, this mob takes hold of Jesus and they begin to lead Him away. Now the apostles are afraid and they turn and run. One young disciple, who is clothed only in a thin outer garment, turns and runs so quickly, he leaves his garment behind. Only Peter and John follow. But they follow from a distance. They follow all the way to the house of a man named Annas. We read about this in v. 13. Now why do they lead Jesus there? He isn’t the high priest. But you see, for years and years, he has been High Priest. He is a powerful man – a very rich man. He is probably the reason why Caiaphas is priest at this time. But with all of this power, has come corruption. He has accumulated his fortune by taking advantage of his position. All the stores selling animals in the temple and all the changing tables that Jesus had flipped really belonged to him. You remember the story, don’t you? No animal was accepted by the temple priests except the ones sold in Annas’ stores in the courtyard. Annas is a shrewd man. And even when he has to vacate the office due to new Roman laws, to weaken the Jews, his sons and sons-in-law replace each other at the helm of the ship. So everyone still looked at Annas as the one in power. So they lead Jesus to this house. And Peter follows and there he denies Jesus three times.
So in v. 19-24, it reads, “……” Now as Caiaphas receives Jesus, he quickly summons all of the Sanhedrin Council – the upper court of the Jewish system. Normally, they were 71 members in that court. It was composed of the most respected elders of Israel – scribes, rabbis and chief priest. The high priest was the one officiating. That court could decide moral matters, religious matters and could even judge civil and criminal cases. Prior to Jesus’ time, they were able to sentence a man to death. During Jesus days, Roman occupation days, they could sentence a man, but not execute him, themselves. It had to be done by the Roman authorities.
Now that Sanhedrin, upper court, had always prided itself on being extremely fair, extremely just. They said, “We meet only in the daylight so everyone can see!” And for a long, long time, they had held this rule.” If anyone of the court members is prejudiced in a certain case, he must remove himself!” And they said, “The high priest should be quiet during every trial because the high priest is so powerful; he can influence the other court members. So he can be quiet.” And they said, “Every time we have a case, we must have at least two witnesses. And then two witnesses must agree on every, single detail.” And if there was ever a doubt, in a case, the benefit of the doubt, went always, to the one who was accused. But now, Caiaphas calls these people together at nighttime when normally it was always in the daytime. And normally, they will hear the case and won’t make a decision until the next day, to think clearly and prevent the emotion of the moment from clouding their mind. That’s why they never met on the day before a holy day or before a Sabbath day. But something is going wrong on that night because they meet in the blackness of the sky. And not only that, they bring before their council false witnesses, which they know are false witnesses and they encourage the lies that are told. Only they have a problem. According to Mark 14:21, the witnesses can’t agree on what they testify. So finally, the high priest, who is supposed to be quiet, jumps up and he says to Jesus, in v. 61 (Mark 17) “Are you the one?” And Jesus says, “I am!” In Mark 14:62, we read “…..” And the high priest, Caiaphas, in the most dramatic way, takes his clothing and tears it and exclaims before all the other council members, “Why do we need more witnesses. This man has blasphemed. What do you want to do with him?” Now there is a technicality here because, really, He has not blasphemed at all. To blaspheme means that you destroy the majesty of God – that you discredit God. And Jesus was not doing that. He had never done that. And yet, the emotional tide is swinging. And they all begin to say, “He ought to die!” But they hold off to one point of order. They dismiss for the rest of the night and Jesus is left in the hands of the soldiers, who abuse Him. V. 65 “….” (Mark 14) The next morning, they come back and they say, “We pass the sentence of death.” And now, all that remains is to take Jesus to Pilate to get the Roman approval. But I want to stop there in this portion of the trial of Jesus. And I want to ask each of you, “How far are you willing to go to get what you want in this life?” While you are thinking about this, remember how far the Jews were willing to go. The priests wanted to maintain their social position. What they wanted was to maintain their religious hierarchy. They wanted it so badly they were willing to go all the way to the point of crucifixion. They wanted it so badly they were willing to go all the way to the point of lying, of breaking all their rules. They were willing to even ignore the laws of God. You see, they knew what Moses had presented about how in all matters of law, they needed two witnesses. But I don’t think that should really surprise any of us today. Why? We and many others have often gone very far to get what we wanted. In fact, if you think about it, every lie we have said has been done for that. You see, you only lie for one or two reasons. Either you tell a lie to get what you want or you tell a lie to cover up when you got what you wanted. And sometimes we not only lie, but we go so far as breaking the rules and the traditions we have held onto for years and years. Haven’t we seen that in our lives? Haven’t we seen people go so far to get what they wanted that they went against all they were taught in childhood by mum and dad or in the Bible class?
These Jewish leaders, that night, wanted this so badly. They were prepared to ignore obvious wisdom and obvious truth. Hadn’t they seen Lazarus raised from the dead and the other miracles? What had happened that very night? Didn’t the high priest’s servant get his ear chopped off? Didn’t they all see that ear being made well again? They even fell to the ground. And yet they still bind him; they still abuse him; and they still deny He is God. He has just done something no man could ever do except God be with him. And yet, they close their eyes to the evidence and they continue to what they want.
But why would it surprise me? Have I not seen many people so captured, so enamored by desires, that they close their eyes to the facts of this life, to the advice of reliable people to get what they want?
These Jews were even willing to run right against God to get their way. They were running at great risk. If Jesus was really who he claimed to be, they would nail the Son of God to a cross. And how can you nail God’s Son to a cross and survive? You can’t. But they are willing to run that risk, in order to get what they want. But we see it all the time. We see people so filled with lust and desire, for things in this world; they are willing to crucify the Son of God all over again by way of their sins. And they are willing to tread under their foot the Son of God again, in order to get what they want. They understand, intellectually, that no person can ever stand in opposition to God and win. But they still do it. But God cannot be mocked.
So they lie, they break the rules and traditions of a lifetime and ignore the facts and even fight against God. They go that far to get what they want. But I am wondering, today, how far you will go to get what you want! I’m not here to condemn what you want, but listen to this. If what you want right now, in this world, is causing you
So we offer you today this chance at repentance while we stand and while we sing.