He Has Spoken Blasphemy
4th Wednesday in Lent
Sermon on Matthew 26:59-66
He Has Spoken Blasphemy
Text: Matthew 26:59-66
Tragic Irony. “A situation in which the full significance of a character’s words or actions are clear to the audience or reader although unknown to the character.” Do you see the true life tragic irony in Caiphas’ words? He Has Spoken Blasphemy was Caiphas’ accusation about Jesus. Yet while Caiphas spoke those words, he was actually the one speaking blasphemy against Jesus. Tragic irony indeed!
To blaspheme means to speak against or speak ill or evil against. Blasphemy goes a step further than unbelief. Blasphemy ventures from simply disbelieving God to mocking or even cursing God. It was a sin punishable by death. You may recall later on when the deacon Stephen was accused of blasphemy and later stoned to death. That was a common Jewish form of execution dating back to the laws of Moses. This evening we see blasphemy in both accusation and action.
The Sanhedrin was the governing body of the Jews. There were 71 members that consisted of elders, teachers, and priests. They were responsible for some of the civil affairs of the Jews (as the Romans allowed) and the spiritual guidance of the Jews. Caiphas was the leader as the high priest.
If any group could have or should have recognized the Messiah, the Sanhedrin was it. They surely would have known the prophecies—that a virgin would give birth to a child; that a ruler would come out of Bethlehem; that one would come with great power and might; that he would be Immanuel, God with us; that he would bring real peace to the people.
Yet they connected none of the dots. When Jesus healed the sick or cast out demons, they claimed his power came from Satan. When he talked about or even proclaimed the forgiveness of sins, they doubted his power to do so. And here the Christ was standing right in front of them. They couldn’t deny the powerful things he had done. He told them plainly and truthfully that he was indeed the one they were waiting for. He even let them in on a little End Times information as he shared that soon enough he would be sitting at the right hand of the Father and returning on Judgment Day.
Our loving Lord could not have been more clear or more merciful. God only gives us his Word and Sacraments, but Jesus made a personal visit for these Jews. He showed them his power. He spoke to them clearly. Yet they were the ones committing blasphemy as they said about Jesus, He Has Spoken Blasphemy. They doubted his words. They doubted his works. In real life tragic irony, as they planned and plotted for Jesus’ death, they were the ones who should have been executed for blasphemy!
Dig through the horror of this late Thursday evening. Set aside your aching hearts over Jesus’ suffering. Curb your anger at these blasphemous Jews with their horrid accusations. Buried beneath all of the extenuating circumstances and the painful passion of Jesus and the tragic irony among the Sanhedrin you will find these simple sins: doubt and disbelief. These Jews, led by their own high priest, doubted and did not believe Jesus.
There is likely not much obvious and overt blasphemy in our lives. I have never talked one of you down from picking up a stone to hurl at Jesus. But surely our sinful lives are tempered with doubt and disbelief.
Doubt usually manifests itself when problems happen. We go through such financial troubles that we wonder whether God really will provide for us. We have so many personal problems that we wonder whether God really cares for us. We’ve dealt with so much sickness, surgery, disease, and cancer that we wonder if God really does listen to our prayers or if God really does have the power to heal or if God really loves us enough to heal.
Those are just physical problems. Then the spiritual problems assail us. We go on a really bad sin-streak. We really let them rip. But afterwards we wonder how we possibly could have done that if we really call ourselves “Christian.” Guilt gnaws at us. Our conscience burns in our minds. “How could God forgive that?” “Why would God forgive me?” “Would God really forgive that again?”
We have little questions. Our minds wander and wonder. Doubt sets in slowly, but surely. Suddenly doubt will lead to disbelief. Wondering if God will ever help us becomes stating that God probably is too busy. Wondering if God will heal or protect becomes stating that God really just doesn’t care. Rolling and reeling in guiltiness eventually becomes stating that God, “would never forgive me,” or “would never forgive him.”
I’ve even seen this happen with my own eyes and heard this with my own ears. What began as some struggles with life in this world led to some doubt about God’s guidance, control, care, and protection. Doubting God’s guidance, control, care, and protection led to less worship and Bible class attendance. Removal from regular connection with the Word of God led to greater doubt and even anger. Finally the doubt led to what is essentially unbelief. “God doesn’t care. God won’t help me. I need to help myself. I’ll take care of it myself. I don’t need God.”
God makes very clear promises to us. He promises that all things will work out for our good. He promises that he will always be with us. He promises that he will always hear and answer our prayers. He promises that all power belongs to him. He promises that forgiveness is for all and for all sins. He promises that heaven belongs to us. He promises that he will not let us be tempted or suffer beyond what we can bear. He promises that eternal life and perfect joy await beyond the sufferings of this life in his heavenly kingdom. God has spoken and acted very clearly and truthfully.
Is it not a form of blasphemy to doubt these words? Is it not a form of blasphemy to disbelieve what God has said and done? Is it not a form of blasphemy to think that God won’t really help us and that we should help ourselves? Is it not a form of blasphemy to think that God won’t follow through on his offer of forgiveness?
Caiphas and the Jews accused, He Has Spoken Blasphemy. But don’t we accuse Jesus of the same when we do not believe his words and his actions? And when we accuse Jesus of the same, is it not also real life tragic irony because we are actually the ones blaspheming? Oh how we have sinned—just as much as Caiphas and those Jews!
It’s always solemnly significant to see Jesus at this Thursday evening trial. Here his own people are hurling accusations—wild accusations—at him. They couldn’t find one thing truly bad to say about him, so they had to start making things up. They more than stretched the truth so that they could force this accusation of blasphemy. They were trying everything they could think of so that Jesus would be killed. Yet Jesus said almost nothing! Silently he stood before his accusers.
It’s not that Jesus had nothing to say. Rather, he stood there silently because he stood there willingly. He stood there without response or defense because this is what he came to experience. This was part of Jesus’ mission. Jesus allowed everything to happen—including this false trial—that would lead him to Calvary and the cross.
The tragic irony of this event was that the Jews were the ones who were committing blasphemy. But the joyous irony (if there is such a thing) was that this was the reason Jesus was there in the first place. While they were sinning against Jesus, he was there to take those very sins away! So also Jesus was there on that trial to take all of our sins away.
Jesus allowed himself to be falsely accused and prosecuted so that he would receive the death sentence that should be ours. Jesus put up no obstacle to the death that would pay for our doubt and our disbelief and our blasphemy. Jesus came to pay for all sins of all people, and he was surely going to pay for all sins of all people.
Thus he taught that he would tear the temple down and rebuild it in three days. This was part of the accusation against him. But he wasn’t speaking about the physical temple in Jerusalem. He was talking about himself. Jesus would be torn down to death as he suffered and died for all our sins. But on the third day that temple would be rebuilt so that he would rise to life again. This death and life have now become our death and life.
See Christ’s works. Listen to Christ’s words. He speaks clearly. He speaks plainly. He speaks truthfully. Believe Christ’s works. Believe Christ’s words. He came for you. He forgave you and all your sins. He saved you. That’s not irony. That’s truth.
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