Sermon on Luke 22:66-71
Midweek Lent 3
Jesus Came to Seek . . . His Jurors
Text: Luke 22:66-71
The rooster had just crowed. Peter’s cheeks were newly soaked from his sobbing over sin. As the sun slowly rose over the horizon the new Friday morning light revealed a face that was left puffy and purple from punches. The guards had their fun humiliating and hurting him, but that was only the beginning of a treacherous day of torture.
But for now, the pain was paused. “At daybreak the council of the elders of the people, both the chief priests and teachers of the law, met together, and Jesus was led before them.” This rude rabble gathered was the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin had 71 members consisting of elders, priests, and teachers (Pharisees). The high priest was president and leader of the group. This Sanhedrin had absolute power and authority when it came to religious matters in Israel. Now, Jesus stood before them—he the accused, they the jurors.
These Jews had been patiently waiting for the Meshiach, the Messiah, for ages. The Lord promised to send his chosen and anointed one, and that was for whom they still expectantly waited. At the same time, they knew the claims that this Jesus had been making. They knew the miraculous signs and wonders Jesus had performed. They knew that John the Baptist had proclaimed him to be the one. They knew that most people seemed to think he was the one. Thus, it was question number one at the trial: “If you are the Christ, tell us.”
Jesus gives a response, but only indirectly answers the question. “If I tell you, you will not believe me, and if I asked you, you would not answer.” Essentially that was a “Yes” answer, but Jesus said it in order to point out the doubt and lack of faith of these Jews. If he had said, “No, I am not the Christ,” they wouldn’t have believed him in that they were already convinced he was wrongfully claiming that title. Even if Jesus denied being the Christ, these Jews had built up enough hatred to accuse him of doing so anyways. But if Jesus plainly said, “Yes, I am the Christ,” they wouldn’t have believed that either because they surely did not believe him to be the promised Messiah. Jesus response shows he knows even the dark recesses of their unbelieving hearts!
Knowing that they wouldn’t believe he was the promised Christ, Jesus identifies himself with a different name. “But from now on, the son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.” Jesus often called himself the Son of Man—he says it 25 times in this gospel of Luke alone. That name for himself stresses his humanity—that this is true man, a son of man, standing before them. But this statement was saying so much more! “But from now on, the son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.” As if to say, “From this point on true man will be seated with the true God and have all divine power.”
The Sanhedrin understood his inference. Thus, question number two at the trial: “Are you then the Son of God?” They knew well that Jesus had alluded to such in the past. He had said things like, “I and the Father are one,” and “Before Abraham was born, I Am.” But now they got right down to the point and asked him directly if in fact he was claiming to be God.
This time Jesus didn’t answer with complex divine wisdom. He didn’t change subjects and shift attention. He answered simply and directly: “You are right in saying I am.” It was one last testimony to the truth. Jesus had taught with more authority as a 12-year-old than all the teachers in the temple. He did the miraculous. He healed. He cast out demons. He raised the dead back to life. He taught about the kingdom of God. He spoke in plain words and he spoke in parables. Everything Jesus had done in life testified to the very same truth. Yet these Jews didn’t believe it. But The Son of Man Came to Seek the Lost, even His jurors. Thus, Jesus spoke the truth in love to them one final time: “You are right in saying I am.”
His life’s testimony was overwhelming. His verbal testimony was clear and simple. But they had hardened their hearts. This statement only set them over the edge further. To them, this was the greatest of sins. This was blasphemy. The Jews held God in such high esteem—almost superstitiously—that they were afraid to even say his name YAHWEH, the LORD. For someone to claim to be God then was the most vile of all sins. So the high priest tore his clothes in outrage. They struck him. They beat him. This was enough. He must now die, they decided.
What kind of a person could be so callous? What kind of a person could be so blind? What kind of a heart could be so wicked? What kind of a heart could be so hardened? Who could be like that?
I could. I have. I am.
I have never hit the Christ. I have never purposefully mocked the Christ to his face. I have never cried out for the Christ to be crucified. Yet the root sins in the hearts of those Jews are the same sins that I commit.
Why didn’t they believe that Jesus was the Meshiach, the Messiah promised long before? They had lost track of Christ’s purpose. Over the years they twisted the notion of a deliverer into someone that was going to save them politically. They had been oppressed by the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, and now the Romans. They wanted a Messiah who would come and restore power to the land. They wanted a Messiah who would have a vast empire of wealth and power like David or Solomon. They wanted Mercedes chariots parked in their garage and Wonderbread on their table and hordes of livestock in their backyards. They had enough of suffering and slavery and manna from heaven in their past. They didn’t believe Jesus was the Messiah because he wasn’t the kind of Christ they wanted.
Don’t we do that too? The fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. But why can’t the fruits of the Spirit be power, wealth, fame, glory, honor, respect, and luxury? When will Jesus come to deliver me from this dismal life? When will the Messiah show his power and finally destroy all these terrorists? When will the Christ allow me to live comfortably and not worry about money so much? Maybe I would be a more faithful Christian if I didn’t have to work all the time or worry about money. When will I finally stop suffering? It’s the same despicable sin that was deep in the heart of the Jews—wanting a Messiah for earthly good and not spiritual good. We do it too.
And why didn’t the Jews believe that Jesus was the Son of God? They watched when the paralyzed walked. They saw the sick healed. They knew the dead were raised. They heard him preach. They heard from his mouth the very plain and clear testimony: “You are right in saying I am.” But they simply doubted the works and words of Jesus. The evidence was overwhelming. His words were overwhelming. Yet they still doubted and did not believe.
Don’t we do that too? The words and testimony about Jesus are overwhelmingly clear. Four gospel writers corroborate the works and words of Jesus. Peter writes as an eyewitness of all the things that Jesus did. They saw the Son of God perform miracles. They wrote down what he said. They saw him risen from the dead. But at times we doubt, too. We wonder in the back of our minds if the Bible is really true. We wonder how those miracles could have really happened. We wonder if maybe we’ve just been fooled into believing a lie. What if Buddhists are right and we’re wrong?
We read about the power of the Son of God. Then we read his promises to us. He promises to be with us always. He promises to be our strength and courage. He promises to work things out for our good. But the first moment that something bad happens we wonder if God really does love us. We wonder if he really knows what he is doing. We wonder if Jesus really does have power as God. All of this amounts to the same deplorable sin that was deep in the heart of the Jews—doubting Jesus’ works and words. It’s a doubt that Jesus is true God and that as God he is what he says and will do what he says.
After the Sanhedrin had confirmed their doubt and disbelief in the Lord they said, “Why do we need any more testimony? We have heard it from his own lips.” His Jurors had pronounced their sentence. Jesus was guilty and ought to die. The only problem remaining is that they didn’t have the power to execute him. So they led him off to Pontius Pilate, the governor of Judea. There the mad mob used forceful words and threats to convince Pilate to sentence the innocent to death. They finally got their way. Pilate “washed his hands” of the act, yet was the one that sent him off to be crucified. The Jewish scheme was now in Roman hands.
Both taunted Jesus on the cross. They divided up his clothes. They inflicted immeasurable pain. Yet the greatest wound that he received was the blow that sin delivered. The weight of my doubts and my denials was immense. The weight of my wrongs and my wretchedness was immeasurable. Carrying my sin and suffering my hell was the true pain of the cross.
But Jesus is the Christ, he is the Anointed and Chosen One of God. He is both man and God in one. Thus, as he was man gasping for breath and writhing in pain he was at the same time God paying for sin and conquering Satan. The very thing the Jews doubted about Jesus was the very thing they sentenced him to do—be the Savior of all.
He didn’t come to save us from terrorists. He didn’t come to fill our wallets. He didn’t come to make life comfortable. Jesus came to atone for sin. Jesus Came to Seek the Lost. Jesus even came to seek and save his jurors. And if Jesus even paid for their sin, then surely he has paid for ours. The evidence is overwhelming. The testimony is clear. Hear it even from his own lips. Jesus is the Christ. Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus is your Savior. Jesus Came to Seek and Save you.
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