Sapphire Sky

October 24, 2015

The Trial of Jesus Christ

Filed under: culture, theology — Tags: , — Steve Knaus @ 11:23 pm

The gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John tell that Jesus Christ endured a three-part Jewish trial before the High Priest and the Sanhedrin:

These four accounts describe the trial before the Sanhedrin, but they also raise a lot of questions related to the history and the culture:

What is the Sanhedrin? Weren’t the Romans in charge?

Why are there two High Priests mentioned? Who was in charge?

Doesn’t a trial require proof? Were there any laws to protect the accused?

The notes below are an attempt to address these questions.

 

The Great Sanhedrin

The ancient Jews had a very elaborate legal system. Every town, depending on its size, was ruled by one of three possible tribunals [2]:

  • Towns with less than 120 male inhabitants had the lowest tribunal, consisting of three judges. These judges had very limited power, and could not try capital offenses.
  • Larger towns would be ruled by a greater tribunal, consisting of 23 men. These tribunals had greater power and could try capital offenses on very limited occasions.
  • The highest tribunal was in Jerusalem. This group was also called the Senate, the Council of Elders, or the Great Sanhedrin. This tribunal had the highest authority and the power to oversee all of the other tribunals.

The Romans stripped the Sanhedrin of most of its civil authority during the Roman occupation. The Sanhedrin had jurisdiction over all religious matters, but they were no longer allowed to punish major civil cases. The Sanhedrin could try capital cases, but they needed to bring their conclusions to the Romans for punishment. The Romans were free to follow the recommendation of the Sanhedrin, or to retry the case themselves. The trial of Jesus Christ is an example of such a case where the Sanhedrin tried the prisoner and brought him to the Romans, but the Roman procurator (Pontius Pilate) chose to retry the prisoner himself.

The Great Sanhedrin was made up of equal parts priests, elders, and scribes. The High Priest would oversee the proceedings.

 

The High Priest

Throughout most of the first century, the Sanhedrin was dominated by one man, Annas. Annas was the high priest from AD 6-15. The Old Testament law stated that a high priest would hold his office for life, but Annas was deposed by the Romans and AD 15. The Romans saw the political importance of the High Priest’s position and wanted to ensure that the high priest would follow their lead.

Annas had a reputation of being powerful, ruthless, corrupt, and very wealthy. Annas was required to step down from the high priesthood, but he ensured that the succession of high priests who came after him included five of his sons, his son-in-law, and a grandson. The High Priest during the time of Jesus Christ’s ministry was Caiaphas, the son-in-law to Annas.

Annas was no longer the official High Priest, but he still retained the title (“High Priest”) and maintained the power to rule over the Jewish religious system.

Jesus had directly challenged the power of Annas and Caiaphas on many occasions. His most direct challenges were on the two times when He stopped Annas’ profitable business of selling animals and exchanging money in the temple (see here for the first occasion and here for the second). These challenges made Jesus tremendously popular with the Jewish people, but He was hated by Annas and his fellow priests.

It was Annas and Caiaphas who had orchestrated in AD 33 to have Jesus arrested, tried, and executed by the Romans.

 

The Laws of Justice

The Jews had greatly prided themselves in their legal organization and their laws of justice. These laws insured fairness to every individual who was tried, and would ensure that justice was served.

Deuteronomy 16:18-20

“You shall appoint judges and officers in all your towns that the Lord your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment. You shall not pervert justice. You shall not show partiality, and you shall not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of the righteous. Justice, and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

However, Annas and Caiaphas used their power and influence to bypass many of the Jewish laws in order to pronounce a guilty verdict on Jesus Christ. The following is a list of Jewish laws of justice, and how they were broken in the High Priest’s attempt to ensure that they kept their power:

 

Trials were not to be held secretly at night, but publicly during the day [4]

The Sanhedrin began the trial of Jesus Christ in the middle of the night and concluded at daybreak (Matthew 27:1; Mark 15:1).

 

The accused was never to be required to speak [4]

The High Priest (Caiaphas) demanded that Jesus speak (Matthew 26:62-63; Mark 14:60).

 

Two witnesses were to come forward and agree on the charges [4]

Deuteronomy 17:6

On the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses the one who is to die shall be put to death; a person shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness.

This also means that the Sanhedrin could not originate charges. The charges must be originated by the witnesses.

The witness were supposed to be the prosecution and the Sanhedrin was to be the defense. Yet the priests and the Sanhedrin were trying to find any false witness who could incriminate Jesus! (Matthew 26:59-60; Mark 14:55-56).

The accused was to be set free if the witnesses contradicted each other [1].

A false witness was such a serious crime, that the false witness would be given the same penalty as was intended for the accused person (Deuteronomy 19:16-19).

 

The accused was never to be required to have to incriminate himself in any way [4]

This is similar the American Fifth Amendment. The accused was never required to testify against himself.

The Jewish medieval scholar Maimonides said, “The law does not permit the death penalty as a sentence for a sinner by his own confession.” [3]

Yet, the High Priest demands that Jesus, under oath, testify against himself (Matthew 26:63).

 

The death penalty was to be determined only after a day of fasting [4]

All 71 members of the Sanhedrin were required to fast for a day before condemning a man to death. Yet, they respond immediately to Jesus, saying that “He deserves death!” (Matthew 26:66; Mark 14:64).

This also means that they could not try a capital case during a feast day since they would be prevented from participating in the feast  (John 18:28).

 

A unanimous vote by the court would allow the accused to go free [4]

The belief was that only a biased and unmerciful court would vote unanimously to kill a man. Yet, Mark’s account shows that the Sanhedrin was unanimous in condemning Jesus to death (Mark 14:64).

 

Capital cases could only be tried at the regular meeting places of the Sanhedrin [2]

The regular meeting place of the Sanhedrin was in the Hall of Judgment in the Temple complex [3]. The Sanhedrin tried Jesus Christ at the High Priest’s palace (Matthew 26:57-58; Mark 14:53-54; Luke 22:54) and concluded that he was guilty of blasphemy, a capital offense (Matthew 26:65-66; Mark 14:64).

 

The judges must consider the defense of the accused

Following the principle stated in Deuteronomy 13:14, the High Priest should make a diligent search in order to find out if the statements against the accused were true. Yet Jesus was never provided a defense, nor did the Sanhedrin take the time to consider Jesus’ statements. Instead, they rushed to judgment (Matthew 26:66; Mark 14:64).

 

The accused could not be physically punished before he was convicted [3]

Jesus was struck by the attendant in front of Annas (John 18:22), and the Sanhedrin members themselves stepped down to abuse Jesus Christ (Matthew 26:66-68; Mark 14:65).

 

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October 15, 2015

The Kiss

Filed under: encouragement, theology — Tags: , — Steve Knaus @ 10:57 pm

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It is the night before Passover.

Jesus had spent the last few hours in agonizing prayer (see here). He was consumed with horror and despair as he considered what he was about to face.

Slowly and painfully, He came to terms with the Father’s will. “Not my will, but yours be done”.

Meanwhile, the disciples slept.

As Jesus woke the sleepy disciples, the lanterns and torches were visible through the trees. Nearly a thousand men were converging on their small garden!

The Chief Priests and their servants were there. They had wanted to kill Jesus Christ ever since he had raised Lazarus from the dead (see here).

The Temple Guard was there. This group of men was responsible for maintaining order in the temple. They were especially busy during Passover time. These guards were not allowed to use lethal force, but were nevertheless armed with clubs.

There were six hundred highly trained Roman soldiers. These men were fully armed and stood ready to put down any kind of revolt.

Finally, they were led by one man. Jesus’ close friend, who had followed him for over three years, now led the enemy to this very spot!

Judas!

Judas walks up to Jesus, throws his arms around Him, and kisses Him. Repeatedly.

But this is no kiss of love or affection. Judas holds on to Jesus until the soldiers come to arrest him. Jesus responds to Judas, “Would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss? Do what you came to do.”

The time in the garden was terror for Jesus, but now he is calm. He confronts the crowd, asking, “Whom do you seek?” They answer Him, “Jesus of Nazareth”, to which he replies, “I AM”.

He calls upon the name of God and the entire crowd falls to the ground!

But Jesus does not fight nor does he run away. They pick themselves up and Jesus repeats the question. They reply again that they are looking for Him, and he commands them to let his disciples go.

Peter is far from calm. In a rush of bravado, he charges into the crowd swinging a sword. He tries to act like a Roman soldier, crashing his sword down on the head of the High Priest, but misses terribly. Instead, he cuts off the ear of the priest’s servant.

Instead of being the hero, Peter gets yelled at by Jesus, “Stop it!”. Peter would be the guilty one if he killed someone that night.

Peter’s action was also futile. Jesus could call on an army of angels if he wanted, but this arrest is necessary. The Old Testament scriptures predicted this event must happen.

“Why did Peter fail so miserably? For one thing, he had argued with the Lord when Jesus warned him that he would deny his Master that very night. Peter had slept when he should have been praying, and he talked when he should have been listening.” – Warren Wiersbe [3]

Even during His arrest, Jesus shows compassion to his enemies. He touches the injured servant and heals his ear.

Jesus had commanded the officers to let his disciples go, and now they all run away. Jesus is left alone, but the Father is with Him (John 16:32).

The soldiers seize Him and take Him away.

 

Remember!

Prayer is critical! Jesus struggled through prayer, yet was able to meet his attackers with calmness and compassion. Peter slept through prayer, responded with foolish bravado, and then ran away in terror.

God is not hidden, even through the worst of times! The disciples were overwhelmed, but God was still in total control. Trust in God’s sovereignty.

Don’t fight for God! Don’t be like Peter, and run off on foolish bravado when we should be still.

Friends may fail, but God is always with you! Judas betrayed the Lord Jesus Christ. Peter failed Him. All of the other disciples deserted Him. But the Father was with Him!

 

Previous post: The Garden

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October 10, 2015

The Garden

Filed under: encouragement, theology — Tags: , — Steve Knaus @ 10:12 pm

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The garden.

Gethsemane.

There were moments in the life of Jesus Christ when he suffered greatly, but this was total agony!

Here, in the garden, is the greatest struggle that Jesus will face. He will endure hardship, torture, and death at the hands of men on the way to the cross. But there was no struggle as he went to his death. The great struggle for Jesus Christ was here in the garden, in Gethsemane.

At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus said, “my food is to do my Father’s will” (see here). But now the horror of the cross draws near and it terrifies Him! It is not the physical pain that Jesus Christ fears, but the separation from His Father. He, the one who knew no sin, will take upon himself the guilt of all the sins of the world!

Jesus contemplated his upcoming death on Tuesday. The thought about what he was going to suffer horrified him, but Jesus refused on Tuesday to ask the Father to save him (see here).

But now it is Thursday night. The horror is so intense that Jesus struggles in anguish. He drops to his knees. He falls to the ground. He picks himself up, only to fall again. His blood vessels burst, and the blood mixes with sweat. God the Father sends an angel to comfort Him and keep Him alive.

Jesus refused to pray for deliverance on Tuesday, but now He asks for it three times! “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me!” He cries out to the father was a plea of a child, “Abba, father!” That is to say, “Daddy help me!”

You may have seen the popular pictures of Jesus in the garden. In the pictures, Jesus is gently kneeling next to a large boulder with a serene look on his face. A ray of light illuminates Jesus and the ground around Him. Jesus looks sorrowfully and wistfully at the sleeping disciples in the background. In some pictures, he even has a halo on his head.

The true picture of Jesus Christ in the garden is anything but placid and serene. The Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is subjected to more suffering and conflict in that garden than we will ever understand. His struggle is filled with stumbling and falling, with loud wailing and tears, and sweat that was mixed with blood!

Hebrews 5:7
In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence.

Gone is the eloquent prayer that he prayed as he left Jerusalem (see here). Matthew and Mark show that Jesus was filled with dread as he approached the garden. He left eight of his disciples and continued deeper into the garden with Peter, James, and John. He leaves those three and continues on alone.

He commanded his disciples to “watch and pray”. If there was a time when He needed companions, it was now. But as He goes on alone, the weariness and the sorrow of the day have taken their toll on the disciples. They fall asleep. Jesus is alone.

After struggling in prayer for an hour, Jesus returns to his sleeping disciples. He wakes them up and rebukes Peter, “Couldn’t you watch with me for one hour?” He then warns the disciples to be alert and pray so that they do not enter into temptation. He knows that they want to follow him, but they do not know their own weakness. “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak”.

Jesus returns to His struggle in prayer, only to come back to find the disciples sleeping again. Leaving again, He returns for a third time into the garden to pray. His prayer is now complete and the struggle has ended. He returns to the sleeping disciples.

The time for sleep has come to an end. The time for prayer has ended. The enemy is at hand.

“But in that night the fierce wind of hell was allowed to sweep unbroken over the Saviour, and even to expend its fury upon those that stood behind in His Shelter.” – Alfred Edersheim [5]

“He disarmed Death by burying his shaft in His own Heart.” – Alfred Edersheim [5]

“The whole of the tremendous debt was put upon his shoulders;
the whole weight of the sins of all his people was placed upon him.
Once he seemed to stagger under it: ‘Father, if it be possible.’
But again he stood upright: ‘Nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done.’
The whole of the punishment of his people was distilled into one cup;
no mortal lip might give it so much as a solitary sip.
When he put it to his own lips, it was so bitter,
he well nigh spurned it—’Let this cup pass from me.’
But his love for his people was so strong, that he took the cup in both his hands, and
At one tremendous draught of love He drank damnation dry, for all his people.
He drank it all, he endured all, he suffered all;
so that now for ever there are no flames of hell for them, no racks of torment;
they have no eternal woes;
Christ hath suffered all they ought to have suffered, and they must, they shall go free.”
– C. H. Spurgeon [9]

 

Previous post: The Lord’s Prayer

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October 1, 2015

The Lord’s Prayer

Filed under: encouragement, theology — Tags: , — Steve Knaus @ 11:18 pm

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We know that Jesus spent a lot of time in prayer to the Father.

He spent all night in prayer before choosing the 12 apostles (see here).

As his popularity grew, he would withdraw to desolate places to pray (see here).

He spent at least nine hours in prayer before coming down to rescue the struggling disciples on the Sea of Galilee (see here and here).

We know that Jesus spent a lot of time in prayer, but we have only brief excerpts of his words. John 17 has the longest recorded prayer from Jesus Christ, and it shows His heart as he comes to the Father on behalf of his disciples.

What does Jesus Christ pray for?

 

He prays for his glory

First, he prays for his glory. As the cross is rapidly approaching, Jesus is comforted by the fact that the cross will bring glory to Him and to God the Father (see here). He also looks past the cross to when He will return to the Father. Jesus Christ has been the focus of total glory and honor since before the world began. He now looks ahead to his return to glory with the Father.

It is all about God’s glory. Jesus is about to endure the agony and the separation of the cross, yet he looks forward to the glory that will come through it. With this in view, Jesus says, “It is time. Let it come.”

1 Peter 3:18,22
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, … who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.

Colossians 3:1
​If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.

 

He shows a new relationship with God

Jesus showed the world a different relationship with God. Faithful Jews throughout the Old Testament knew of God as someone to be revered and worshipped, but Jesus introduced something new. Never before in history had anyone addressed God as “Father”.

We need to revere and worship God, yet we can also know Him closely. We can have a close relationship with Him so that we ourselves can call him Father.

There is a special significance to the name of God. In the Jewish culture, the name of a person meant much more than simply a way to identify him. A person’s name expressed the nature and character of that person. A man’s name was his essence. [5]

Romans 8:14-15
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

 

He prays for His own – “Father, keep them”

Jesus prays for His own. These are the eleven disciples who are standing with him. Jesus recalls the following about them:

  • The Father gave them to him out of the world
  • They believed the words of God
  • They obeyed God
  • They know that Jesus Christ was sent by God the Father
  • They know that Jesus Christ was empowered by God the Father
  • Jesus taught them the Father’s character (his name)

God the Father had given these eleven disciples to Jesus Christ. But His own are much more than these eleven. This prayer and these promises are for all who have believed in Him. We became part of His own when we believed in Jesus Christ.

Jesus asks the Father to preserve us. He does not ask on behalf of the world that is rebelling against God, but he asks to preserve the believers who live in this world.

Remember again who is preserving us. We are being preserved based on the character and nature of the Holy God. Jesus kept every one of his disciples when he was on earth, and now he has committed us to the Father.

None of Jesus’ disciples were lost except for Judas, who never had believed in Him (see also here).

He left us this promise that the Father will keep us. We will not be lost. Through this promise we can have complete joy, even in severe trouble (see also here).

“But He says…I’m leaving. I’m leaving and the glory display of My presence and their surrounding that presence will change and they will remain. O Father, keep them.” – John MacArthur [5]

John 10:27-29
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.

Romans 8:38-39
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

He prays for His own – “Father, set them apart”

Believers in Jesus Christ are left in a world that is hostile to God and hates any who represent Him. Jesus does not pray for us to be taken out of this world, but that God would protect us through this world. His prayer is to protect us from the devil.

Jesus prays that God would sanctify us in this world. Literally, the word “sanctify” means to “set apart”. The truth of God’s word sets us apart from this world. We are in this world, but we are set apart to be used for God’s special purpose.

Ephesians 1:3-4
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.

2 Thessalonians 2:13-14
But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

He prays for His own – “that they be one”

Jesus prays for all believers, that we be one. We have different cultures and different gifts, but we have a common Father. We are kept and set apart by the same God. We have the same hope, that we will be reunited with Jesus Christ.

Jesus prays three times that “they be one even as we are one”. Our unity is patterned after the unity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. We are united because we have the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit dwelling in us.

We are given close fellowship with the Holy God. As we have this close fellowship with God, we will be united with the other believers in Jesus Christ who share this same fellowship with God.

One of the results of our unity is that we show Jesus to the world. We show the world that Jesus is from God and that we have the love of God.

In the second century, Tertullian wrote that even the heathen exclaimed with admiration, “Behold how these Christians love one another.” [9]

1 Corinthians 12:12-13
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit.

Ephesians 4:4-6
There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

 

He prays for His own – “that they be with me”

Jesus prays that we would be with Him. When we are with Jesus, we will see his glory. As Jesus promised earlier (see here), He will come back for us. We will be with him for eternity.

2 Corinthians 5:6-8
So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

 

Remember!

Jesus brought these requests to the Father before he finished his time on earth. These are not goals for us to achieve, but requests to God on our behalf. We know that all prayers by Jesus Christ are answered (John 11:42), so we can be sure that these have been done!

We know that the Lord Jesus Christ has returned to Heaven and is seated on the right hand of God the Father.

We know that we have a new relationship with God – he is now our father!

We know that the Father will keep us — nothing will separate us from him!

We know that the Father has set us apart — we are separate from this world and holy to Him!

We know that we are one in Jesus Christ — we all are one body!

We know that when we leave this mortal body, we will be with Jesus Christ!

Jesus did not pray for our action. All action in this prayer is by God the Father.

This prayer is not for what we will do. This prayer is for who we are!

 

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