Summary: A Good Friday sermon adapted from a sermon by James Montgomery Boice
The eighteenth and nineteenth chapters of John’s Gospel deal with the trials of Jesus of Nazareth beginning with His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane and culminating in His crucifixion. Who is this One on trial? Who is this One soon to give His life on Calvary? This question is important because the value of His death depends entirely upon who He was. If He was a criminal and deserved to die, His death means nothing, at least no more than the death of any one of the thousands of other criminals who have been executed down through the long centuries of human history. If He was an innocent man, His death speaks to us merely of the miscarriage of justice; His deportment, only of how a strong man can bravely bear misfortune. On the other hand, if He was God, as He claimed to be, His death has monumental significance.
It was on the ground of insurrection that Pilate conducted the trial. Imagine his surprise then when, after having acquitted Jesus of this charge, he suddenly hears the real charge mentioned. Pilate had said, “I find no basis of a charge against him” (John 19:6). Now His accusers reply, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God” (v. 7). Up to now Pilate had been conducting the trial as if Jesus were only a man and the issues merely human issues. Now the ground is shifted entirely, and Pilate must face the entirely new question as to whether Jesus is actually the Son of God.
Was His claim to be the Son of God factual? It is not only Pilate who is forced to face this question. You must confront it too. Many witnesses are available to help you reach your verdict.
THE SUPERNATURAL WITNESSES
The most important witness to any fact is GOD HIMSELF. So, although there are many witnesses to be considered, we should begin with Him. Does God Almighty bear witness to Christ’s deity?
We turn to the testimony of God given on the day of Christ’s baptism. Here we see the Holy Spirit of God descending upon the Lord Jesus Christ, like a dove from heaven. And we hear God speak. He says, “This is my Son, whom I love; in him I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17). Has such a testimony ever been given to another? We do not know of any. God called Abraham His friend, and David was called a man after God’s own heart. But these were nevertheless still men. Here is One called God’s Son. The testimony is powerful.
This was at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry, before the temptation, the public acclaim, the rejection, the disappointments. What about later, after these things? Perhaps the One in whom God was “pleased” at the beginning will not be so pleasing at the end. We turn to that moment toward the end of Christ’s ministry when Jesus stood on the Mount of Transfiguration and was changed from His earthly into His heavenly appearance. In this moment He was clothed with light as with a garment, and in the hearing of Peter, James, and John, God Almighty spoke again from heaven, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; in him I am well pleased” (Matt. 17:5).
God the Father testifies to Christ’s deity.
The second witness to be summoned is JESUS OF NAZARETH. Any court should be willing to hear a man’s testimony about himself. So we turn to Jesus and ask Him: “You’re name is Jesus of Nazareth?”
“What do you say for yourself?”
The Lord replies, “I have already given my testimony. On one occasion the leaders of Israel challenged me to reveal my true identity, and I did this so clearly that they immediately took up stones to throw at Me. I said, ‘Before Abraham was, I am’ (John 8:58). On another occasion I taught the people in the temple and said to them, ‘I am my Father are one’ (John 10:30). Just this week in my final moments together with My disciples I answered a question raised by Philip, saying, ‘Whosoever has seen me has seen the Father’ (John 14:9). Last night the high priest asked me the question, ‘Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?’ and I replied, ‘I am; and you will see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven’ (Mark 14:61-62). It is for this claim that I am being tried and for which I will be executed.”
The testimonies of God Almighty and of Jesus of Nazareth agree.
We have heard the witness of two members of the Holy Trinity. What about the third member, THE HOLY SPIRIT? Before He was crucified the Lord said of the Holy Spirit, “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me” (John 15:26). This He has done. The entire New Testament is the Spirit’s witness to Christ’s deity.