Title: Losing your awe: when Jesus threatens your religious traditions.
Text: John 18.12-27
Introduction: I’m in the midst of a sermon series on the characters we meet while on a journey to the Cross with Christ. As I was reviewing the previous two characters, Peter and Judas, I was overcome with emotion. I want to present these next two characters without the emotion that overcomes me. I can’t promise I won’t struggle, but I do promise to do my best to avoid being emotional. I just want to give you a heads up if I you sense me struggling.
I guess I’ve been emotional about it because it’s pretty overwhelming. The context of this passage is set in the final hours of our messiah’s life. Over the next several hours, Jesus will be betrayed into the hands of evil men, judged unfairly, he will be severely beaten, and then crucified. The time is in the late hours of the night. So late, that it’s probably after midnight. It’s probably the earliest of hours on the day of his death.
What will happen in the next several hours is that Jesus will stand in 6 mock trials. It will go like this: Jesus is arrested, he is bound and then carted off to stand before
- Annas, the High Priest
- Caiaphas, the High Priest – it is while he is with Caiaphas that the charges against him will be manufactured. Once that happens, they wait for the sun to come up and convene a formal gathering of the
- The Sanhedrin. They’ll be unable to kill Jesus, because the Roman govt. will forbid it by their laws. So, to get rid of him, they’ll need to take him before
- Pilate, will not find any fault in him and will send him off to
- Herod, who had jurisdiction over Galilee, the area of Nazareth. Herod will be entertained by meeting this popular man, Jesus. However, in the end, he will decide not to deal with Jesus and send him back to Pilate, where the Jews will pour on the pressure.
- Pilate will have to bend to the pressure he’s facing from the Jewish leaders. He will come up with a solution to have Jesus released, but it back fires on him. Extra biblical literature gives us some great insight into the many problems he had with the Jewish Leaders and he just couldn’t have them going over his head to complain again. We’ll look at that when we get to Pilate.
Transition: In week 1, I preached on Judas, Iscariot. He lost his awe. Then Peter, who, in some sense, lost his awe, too, when he denied Christ. He was in the courtyard near Jesus watching all of this transpire. Today, we’ll focus on Annas, Caiaphas and the men of the Sanhedrin. These are the religious leaders. How does one become a High Priest or any other important leader in the affairs of God and lose their awe of God? How can someone be so wrapped up in God’s Kingdom work and miss the very King in their midst? How does one become an expert in the Law, the Word of God and miss the living Word of God in their presence? Ladies and Gentlemen, may I propose to you this morning, that you and I are in the very same danger? You and I can become so focused on our religious traditions, on our power and prestige, on our position and popularity that we’ll lose our awe of God – that you and I can become so worried about facilities and programs that those things will actually become more important to us than Christ himself.
Today, We’ll look at the 1st three trials: Annas, Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin. Now, to get all of this information, we have to go to all 4 gospels. Bookmark John 18.12; Matt 26.57; Luke 22.63; Mark 15.1. Each writer recorded what he thought was pertinent to his telling of the story. We pick up in verse 12, this morning, as a way of introduction. I’ve entitled this intro: Jesus is Arrested and Bound.
exp.: rd v 12; arrested, or seized; and bound; aorist active; aorist tense shows simple past.
app.: What does this have to do with the high priest? I think it shows us the kind of men they are. We begin to see a bit of their character. Let’s meet Annas first….
t.s.: rd v 13a
1. Jesus is Questioned by Annas, the High Priest (13-14; 19-23)
exp.: So Jesus is arrested and then, he’s carted off to visit with Hannas. Who is Annas? Rd 13b; he is the father-in-law of Caiaphas. All cleared up? Verse 19 continues; rd v 19; Sounds like Caiaphas is there asking questions, but no. Read v 24; 2 High priests? Answer, simply is yes. Here’s what we know about Annas from the Bible and extra biblical literature.
Annas became the High Priest around 6/7 AD. He served until 14/15 AD. Afterward, his son took over. As a matter of fact, 5 of his sons eventually became high priest, and as you’ve just read here, so does his Son-in-law; How is this possible to have two High Priests?
- Most likely, it was because the Romans appointed and deposed High Priests; Jews, however, felt the high priest position was served for life as a part of the Mosaic Covenant. Even though he was deposed by Rome, the Jews would continue to look to him as their official high priest. Luke 3.2: during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, that word, one word, high priesthood, is singular, with two names, Annas and Caiaphas.
- There was a tradition of what we might call: High Priestly families. Once a man was high priest, his sons and their families would keep that title and that position within the family. Ill.: Aaron was high priest and his son, Eleazar to his place in Deut. 6.10; Josh 24.23, Eleazar died and his son Phineas became the High Priest. There is actually a place where a bunch of these men are mentioned: Acts 4.5-6; γένος – the generation, descendants of the high priest.
- It might just be that his sons respected him, as did his son-in-law, and so out of courtesy, they asked his opinion before moving forward. Ill.: Pastor Lyle Skeels; His name isn’t listed in the records of the SBA or the SBTC, but I still refer to him as pastor.
So, what does Annas want to know? Rd v 19; which High Priest? Rd v 24; so, it’s still Annas; rd v 19 again;
- His disciples
- His teaching
This would be easy to overlook, but my understanding is that Annas is hinting that Jesus is planning a rebellion, a revolution. He’s got Judas, Simon, the Zealot, Matthew, the Tax Collector; maybe, just maybe he’s gathering around himself some men who are going to start a revolution. I don’t know if that’s true, but in order to carry out their plan to kill Jesus, they’ve got to have some strong evidence with witnesses. Or, Jesus could be convicted by his own testimony. So, Jesus answers him very simply; rd v 20-21; Look at the response; rd v 22; Wow! What was so offensive about the Messiah’s response? I wonder:
– Jews; 5.1; 10*, 15, 16, 18;
– Were there some present in this mock trial who had been present in the synagogues and in the Temple when Jesus had been teaching? Did he recognize any of them? Many times during the course of Christ’s ministry, we see the Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes, elders and members of the Sanhedrin coming to see him, and hear him and test his knowledge and theology. Maybe some of those very guys were standing there at that moment. Is v 21 a reference to them?
– That just might be clarified in v 23; rd v 23; as if to say, if I’m lying or wrong, there are those here who can speak up now and prove me wrong! Obviously, someone could ‘bear witness’, testify to this fact if Jesus was indeed lying. This is interesting, because in the coming hours, these Jewish leaders will find some folks to ‘testify’ against Jesus
app.: Annas, doesn’t seem to get anywhere. Maybe he was just buying time until Caiaphas could get set up and have the other men, probably asleep, get to Caiaphas’ courtyard.
t.s.: So, Jesus is arrested, bound and spends some time before Annas, probably the most powerful religious man in Judaism. However, with the Roman appointed High Priest probably being the one with the power over religious matters, Caiaphas would need to weigh in. So, rd v 24;
2. Jesus is Questioned by Caiaphas, the High Priest (24; Mt 26.57-68)
exp.: a couple of notes about the verbs in these passages; the word bound in v 24 is a pft passive; pft is a present state based on a past action. He was bound in the past and is still bound. Now, v 25-27 is about Peter, whom we look at last week, so we won’t rehash that. Just one note though: Luke tells us that roughly an hour passed between the 2nd denial and 3rd denial of Peter, when the rooster crowed (Lk 22.59). So, we get the idea from the Gk text that Jesus is already being physically mistreated. Rd v 28; What we’re not seeing here is two other mock trials not recorded by John. For some reason, John didn’t record the other events. Obviously, Jesus is escorted to the court of Caiaphas, but the particulars are not mentioned. He must have felt those details were covered by Matthew, Mark and Luke, and possibly other writers who had written about those events. So, let’s look at the synoptics for these other mock trials – turn to Matthew 26; rd v 57
- Caiaphas confronts Jesus; we read about this encounter in Matthew 26.57-68; rd 57-59;
- The ‘whole’ Sanhedrin “Council” (to sit with) has gathered for this encounter, many scribes and elders have gathered to observe this mock trial; well, it’s more than just observation; vs 59a tells us they’re looking for evidence. A 2nd note on these verbs: were seeking false testimony is an imperfect verb; the imperfect tense demonstrates continuous action in the past. In other words, this isn’t something they started doing when they were awakened in the past hour. They’ve been at this for weeks, months or even longer!
- Others have gathered, too, like Peter and John; the purpose of this gathering is to gather evidence; rd 59b-61; With Jesus not incriminating himself, they get false witnesses to testify against him. Mark tells us in 14.59: Yet even about this their testimony did not agree. And, with the testimonies against him not being in agreement, they’re forced to try to get Jesus to incriminate himself again; rd 62-66; he deserves to die!
At this stage, they’re ready to convene and convict him. While he is being held, awaiting this 3rd mock trial, he is harshly mistreated. The synopitcs record the same account: Rd vs 67-68 shows how they mocked our Lord. He’s the Messiah? This one bound before us? How could someone so weak be the Messiah? So they spit upon him and mocked him. “Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?
Rd Lk 22.63-65
app.: The real irony in it all, is that he knows who is hitting him. He not only knows the man’s name. He knows that man even better than that man knows himself. He knows his deepest thoughts and secrets – just like he knows our deepest thoughts and secrets.
t.s.: Now, you’d think that would be enough, but what they’ve been doing is trying to establish some evidence to present to themselves officially. You see, what they’ve been doing is against their own law. So, to make it legal, they’ve got to wait until the sun comes up. So, now they have the third trial; He’s been presented to Annas and Caiaphas, but now, they Sanhedrin gathers for an official judgment.
- 3. Jesus is given a mock trial before the Sanhedrin (Matthew 27.1)
exp.: You’re in Luke 22? Rd v 66; when day came; 66-71; Skip over to Matthew 27.1; So, the Sanhedrin, as individuals have already been there, but as the sun rises, they need to officially convene to pass judgment on Christ. Rd Mt 27.1a; note they first convene when morning has officially come. Rd 27b; all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death. This word “took counsel” is different than the word Sanhedrin. The difference in English is Council and Counsel; Counsel here means they met officially to press formal charges and render a judgment.
ill.: Listen to Craig Blomberg: (These) verses can stand alone as a short passage reflecting a brief daytime reenactment by the Sanhedrin of the nighttime proceedings. This hearing may have functioned like a ‘rubber stamp,” but at least it would have brought the proceedings more into conformity with the letter of the law.
Myron Augsberger agrees: The Sanhedrin held a second very brief meeting early in the morning. They had charged Jesus with blasphemy (26:65–66), but they needed a charge by which they could secure the death penalty by Pilate. Matthew doesn’t tell us what the additional charge was, but Luke gives us three elements of their charge before Pilate: (1) national subversive activity, (2) teaching against paying taxes to Rome, and (3) claiming to be a King, the Christ (Luke 23:2). This charge, according to Luke, followed their bringing Jesus out of the dungeon to Caiaphas’ court, and then bringing Him a second time before their council for questioning and mocking. They fabricated the charges, giving them political meaning to influence Pilate’s judgment, passed their own sentence on Him, and led Him away to Pilate.
app.: isn’t it funny, not funny, but ironic that they have this meeting, when they’ve already had two others? Isn’t it ironic because they want to be obedient to the law? In just a moment, they’ll take Jesus to Pilate; Go back to John 18.28; they are so legalistic, that they won’t enter into a Gentile’s quarters so as to not become unclean; and yet, they can justify their actions in murdering a man.
Transition: How does someone get there? How does someone get to a place where they’re legalistic about worship, but can murder someone?
The Preacher’s Commentary records: Studies have shown that the trial of Jesus was illegally conducted according to Jewish law. The Talmud says, “The Sanhedrin is to save, not to destroy life.” The illegalities in the trial of Jesus were:
(1) Capital crimes were to be tried during the daytime only.
(2) They were not to be tried during festival times.
(3) They were not to be dealt with at a single sitting of one day.
(4) They were not to be tried with immediate appearances of witnesses for the prosecution, for this was a breach of law.
(5) There was no precedent or a single evidence for a person claiming to be the Messiah being accused of blasphemy and being sentenced to death.
(6) If a man stood accused of blasphemy in relation to the name of God, Jewish authorities could have him stoned, but they must hand him over to the governor.
(7) The priests were to have judgment in the charge, but they presented Jesus to Pilate, making Him a political suspect in a strategy to rid themselves of the prophet of Nazareth. Yet they asked for the release of the political criminal Barabbas, who was guilty of the very thing they were attributing to Jesus.
(8) The temple guard could not act for the high priest in an arrest charging blasphemy unless they themselves were witnesses to the blasphemy. Finally,
(9) when witness breaks down, the accused could not be cross-examined by the judges.
app.: These guys didn’t just bend a law, they broke multiple laws to commit murder! Which by the way, is also against the law!
Conclusion: how does someone get here?
Observations & Implications:
- Religion had become their God. This is hard to observe because when religion becomes your God, you do many of the same things you do when you God is your God.
- They thought that doing was more important than being. Jesus called them white-washed tombs because on the outside (doing) they looked great. But, on the inside (being) they were dead spiritually. They didn’t understand when Jesus said clean out the inside of the cup. They looked like the crystal classes up on top of the china cabinet. Somewhere back in my life, I think it was in Cotulla, Lisa had some nice glasses up above a cabinet. I pulled one down once, I don’t remember why, I guess I was gonna use it. It had dust, dirt, spiderwebs and a couple of June bugs in it! It’s not the beauty or value of the outside that matters, but the cleanliness of the inside!
- Jesus threatened their way of practicing their religion. What do you do when your religious practices don’t jive with the word of God. I once was confronted by a deacon about a decision I had made. His goal was to get me to change my mind. I outlined for him what Scripture said. His response was: I don’t care what Scripture says, you’ve got to do the right thing. They had power; he threatened that. They had position; Jesus threatened that. They had prestige; Jesus threatened that, too. They didn’t want to give up anything they had. They didn’t want to give up all that they knew about their religion.
What’s truly scary, these men thought they were doing the right thing – all in the name of God.
What about us, today? Are we ever in danger of religion becoming our God? Are we in danger of worshiping our traditions over our God? Are we in danger of judging our people and ourselves by what we do and don’t do? Do we have ministries and projects that are more important to us than Jesus is to us?
And what about politics? Are we in danger of politicizing our religion? Do we sometimes confuse the two? Do we use politics when it’s in our favor and makes us comfortable with our religion, but moan and grumble and complain when it doesn’t? Litmus: How do you feel when you hear the term Gay Republicans? Or, a democrat who is Southern Baptist? Be careful… you might be confusing the two!
And what about the inside of a person? What do we think about? What do we dream about? Power? Position? Prestige? Are we white-washed tombs? Beautiful on the outside; grass cut and trimmed, no weeds, all green; no bird poop on our polished, shinny, granite; and yet, filled with death, stench and decay? Inside are there are worms and maggots feasting on our spiritual carcass?
Today, only you plumb the depths of your soul. You know the darkness. You know the stench. You know your thoughts and secrets. No one else here does.