Summary: This is the third in a series on the most important day in the most important life ever lived; we walk with Jesus to Calvary!
¡§The Most Important Day In the Most Important Life Ever Lived!¡¨
¡§God in the Dock¡¨
Matthew 26:57-68; 27:1-2
February 24, 2002
Every time I am reading C.S. Lewis, you ought to expect that you will hear me talking about him, and this is no exception, as I am currently in the middle of reading one of his shorter works, The Abolition of Man. Another of his works toward which I am looking forward to reading is one from which I drew my sermon title today, God in the Dock, a collection of essays which examines our relationship to God, ¡§the dock¡¨ referring to the chamber of justice. While Lewis takes a different path than I in using this term, I have borrowed the term to consider with you this morning the trial of Jesus Christ, God in the flesh.
You know, if you¡¦ve attended FCC for any length of time, that I¡¦m a bumper-sticker reader. That isn¡¦t always good; the continual coarsening of our society is reflected in the increasingly awful things people feel at liberty to say to perfect strangers by means of bumper stickers. Many of the things, then, that I read are things which I¡¦d not repeat, but I¡¦m going to give you one that I used to see a lot, though it¡¦s been some time since I¡¦ve seen it. If I never see it again, it won¡¦t bother me. Ready? Try God. That¡¦s all it says; ¡§try God¡¨. I want to speak with you today about why that is one of the very last things you ought to ever do; please, whatever you do in relation to God, don¡¦t try Him!
There were some men who tried Jesus, who on their terms and for their own purposes put God on trial. Actually, the Bible records not a single trial, but a six-fold examination of Jesus Christ. We read in the parallel account in John 18 how Jesus was taken to Annas, who had been the previous high priest, father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest at the time. Annas was a patriarch, a godfather of sorts, a man who enjoyed much dignity and stature. Jesus was taken there first by the religion boys so that they might assure themselves of Annas¡¦ blessing. They also, no doubt, wanted to relieve themselves quickly of the contingent of Roman soldiers who¡¦d been involved in Jesus¡¦ arrest. Annas¡¦ home was close by the Garden of Gethsemane, and so He was taken there. After a brief examination, Jesus was transferred to the palace of Caiaphas, the high priest. The Bible tells us that some of the chief priests were involved in His examination there; later, in the third stage of Jesus¡¦ trial, He appeared before most of the assembled Sanhedrin, the ruling body of the Jews. It is this trial which is referred to in our passage, in Matthew 26:59, and we immediately are given to understand that this was not a trial about justice, but rather an old-fashioned lynching instead.
„h The manner of Jesus¡¦ trial went against the Law that Jewish leaders were ostensibly supposed to uphold;
„h The verdict in this sham trial was decided beforehand¡Xthe religion boys had made an a priori judgment of guilt, so that they could kill him¡Xthis trial was about seeking to build a case to justify their foregone conclusion;
„h Many false witnesses were called, but their testimony was contradictory¡Xthe priests sought to quell the tempest of their own consciences, and thus they tried¡Xin vain¡Xto find reliable witnesses whose testimony they could call upon to buttress their conviction of Jesus.
„h Finally, Caiaphas became exasperated by the whole procedure¡Xsince the witnesses who came forward gave dubious testimony¡Xcame out and asked Jesus if He were the Christ, the Son of God.
„h Jesus¡¦ response they regarded as blasphemy. And here is the point on which the story turns¡Xthis question as to the identity of Jesus is the dividing line question of all eternity!
What we learn from the trial of Jesus:
I. The identity of Jesus Christ: He is either God, or He is a blasphemer!
The chief priests were faced, in essence, with that defining question. Jesus had asked it of Peter, and Peter replied that, yes, Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. The chief priests came face to face with that question; on it hinges the souls of men; on it hinges your soul. We must acknowledge Christ as God the Son, come in the flesh; failing to do that is to miss salvation and Heaven.
Jesus is no figure to admire as merely a great teacher, as some would have it today. A common misconception of New Age teaching is that Jesus is One who can be revered and drawn from, but should not be considered God come in the flesh. This is poppycock, an impossible option.