MAY 15, 2016
MAIN TEXT: MARK 14:53-72
And they led Jesus to the high priest. And all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together. And Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. And he was sitting with the guards and warming himself at the fire. Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but they found none. For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree. And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying, “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’” Yet even about this their testimony did not agree. And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” But he remained silent and made no answer.Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need? You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death. And some began to spit on him and to cover his face and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophesy!” And the guards received him with blows.
And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway and the rooster crowed. And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.
Our text has us in the middle of the last week of Christ’s life here on earth. Chapter 14 focuses on the passion (intense feelings of agony felt in Jesus’ soul and body) – also referred to as suffering. Over the last few weeks, we have read the foreshadowing of Christ’s sacrifice as Jesus celebrated the Passover with His disciples and instituted The Lord’s Supper. Jesus foretold Peter’s denial that we see happen in our text today. We read that the disciples slept during a crucial prayer moment. We have examined the betrayal of Judas a disciple that led to the arrest of Jesus.
Mark has continuously made the readers of His gospel account wrestle with who Jesus is and what He did. Today’s text continues to drive this message home.
Following His arrest, Jesus was taken before the most powerful Jewish leaders of that day (verse 53). It is unthinkable that mere men would subject the Messiah, the Ruler and Sustainer of the universe, to a trial – but it occurred in the good providence of God.
Peter, trying to stay safe, followed Jesus at a distance into the courtyard of the high priest. He was an observer seeking to remain anonymous. He is hoping to preserve his life; he did not want to be executed along with Christ. Just hours before, Mark wrote of Peter, “But he said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same (verse 31).
A Rigged TrIal
Verse 55 shows us that the Jewish religious leaders were not on a truth-seeking mission. They were not interested in the facts. Instead, they were intentionally trying to find something by which they could convict Jesus of an offense deserving death. It was a witch-hunt.
There are many violations (more than one can count) of Jewish law, due process, and fair trial.
- The trial was at night.
- It was not at the normal location.
- A guilty verdict required a second day and session to avoid rash injustice – it didn’t happen.
- A trial could not be conducted on the Sabbath or during a festival or feast – it was.
- There had to be two eyewitnesses that agreed – they didn’t agree (verse 56).
The leaders bore “false witness” against Jesus violating the ninth commandment (Exodus 20:16).
The High Priest’s Questions
Finally, the high priest stood up and asked Jesus a question (verse 60). Jesus remained silent (verse 61a) fulfilling Isaiah 53:7. The high priest was agitated and pressed the issue (verse 61b). “Blessed” was used to avoid saying the name of God. There is irony in the question. There is a confession of Jesus being the Son of God from the mouth of Jesus’ arch-prosecutor. Jesus’ identity has been woven into the fabric of Mark’s account. Demons confess who He is. At times Jesus told those that He healed to be silent concerning His identity – now there is no more need for secrecy.
Jesus directly and openly affirms, “I am” (verse 62). The rest of Jesus’ answer ties Daniel 7:13-14 and Psalm 110:1. In essence, Jesus is letting them know that this would not be the last time they would meet in the context of a trial. He would be back with all of the authority of heaven, and He would judge them. In effect, Jesus was saying, “Today I stand before you, but there is coming a day when you will stand before Me in judgment”. A great reversal is coming!
The high priest (Caiaphas) loses his composure (verse 63-64) – he is furious and full of rage. Things move from unjust to shameful (verse 65). Centuries before, Isaiah 50:5-6 described God’s Suffering Servant. Jesus was beaten and spat upon and endured it.
Peter’s Denial of Jesus
While Jesus is facing trial, Peter is facing a trial of his own. A servant girl with no status, power, or authority is the one asking questions and accusing downstairs in the courtyard (verse 66-71). Irony hits again as Jesus is accused of blasphemy upstairs while Peter is committing it downstairs.
In Verse 72 Peter remembers the words of Jesus and he is sick to tears. Judas had betrayed Jesus but was filled with regret, try to make amends, and hung himself. Peter later repented, turned to Christ for forgiveness, and received a full pardon. Judas could have discovered the great grace of God that was larger than his sin. Peter was remade into a great Apostle and would later disciple and mentor Mark, our writer.
Application to Us
When we read of the trial, we can place blame on the Jews for crucifying Jesus unjustly. I doubt that we would have done much differently had we been in their position. We may feel more comfortable finding a scapegoat to blame for the great evil committed against God’s Son, but we cannot evade our own guilt. The cross reveals that all humankind is guilty. We must be conscious of our own disobedience, our negligence of Scripture, our failure to love, and our complacency of heart. We cannot escape our responsibility before God for Jesus’ death by fixing blame upon another person.
Sins of omission lead to sins of commission. Three times Peter failed to heed Jesus’ urgent appeal to watch, stay awake, and pray. Three times he denied Jesus. Peter’s boastful rivalry led him to think that he was different than the others – “Even though they all fall away, I will not” (verse 29). He relied on his own strength and he fell farther than the other disciples (1 Corinthians 10:12).
Our denials today may take more subtle forms – such as timid silence. We do not want to be identified as Christians. We may try to blend into the crowd so we are not different and don’t rock the boat. Let this evoke us to greater and increased witness for Christ!
“I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”
APPLY TO LIFE
This week, as you reflect on the message, utilize this section to help you apply what has been taught to your life. Think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing as you open God’s Word together.
This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the expression of that commandment in loving your neighbor (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.
DISCUSS THE MESSAGE
Read: Mark 14:53-72
Have you ever been in a situation where normal procedures were set aside for the sake of expediency? When is this warranted? How was the Sanhedrin reasoning with regard to expediting Jesus’ trial?
Have you ever trusted a friend to defend you and then been disappointed? Were you able to forgive that person and restore the friendship?
In what situations are you tempted to make excuses in order to avoid being identified as a Christian? Are there other situations where you tend to simply lie low and avoid the subject?
How did Peter’s experiences on that night prepare him for his ministry? What experiences have you had that help you communiate grace and compassion for others?