Now Jesus finally speaks. And it is glorious.
The Glorious Confession
Church history is full of epic declarations by Christians on trial for their faith.
- Standing trial the famous begetter of the Protestant Reformation Martin Luther is said to have declared “It cannot be right for a Christian to speak against his conscience. Here I stand, I cannot do otherwise”
- Polycarp, the aged and magisterial Bishop of ancient Smyrna was brought into the arena to die a martyrs death. The Proconsul said, “Polycarp, renounce Jesus and say “down with the atheists” [a reference to Christians who rejected the gods of Rome] Polycarp looked at thousands of people cheering for his death in the stands and said “Down with the atheists” [for they rejected Christ]. Then the Proconsul said, “Polycarp, I have wild animals I will throw you to if you do not repent and renounce Jesus” and the Bishop said, “Then call them” The Proconsul said “Polycarp I will have you burned” to which Polycarp said, “You threaten me with fire which burns for an hour, and is then extinguished, but you know nothing of the fire of the coming judgment and eternal punishment, reserved for the ungodly. Why are you waiting? Bring on whatever you want.”
Sooner or later many Christians will “be on trial” for the truth of Jesus Christ. Yet the privilege to testify for Christ before men is the chance to give witness to the truth. That confession, like all in Church History, is merely an echo of the Glorious Confession our Lord gave on His trial.
OUr sermon title today is THE GLORIOUS CONFESSION. The Glorious Confession is the confession of Jesus Christ our Lord when He was on trial when He declared openly, clearly and directly that He was the Christ, the Son of God. We will work through the text under 4 headings: 1) Incognito, 2) Innocence, 3) Identity, 4) Indictment
The great hymn “Stricken, Smitten & Afflicted” says in the 2nd Stanza, “Tell me ye who hear him groaning, was there ever grief like his, friends through fear his cause disowning, foes insulting his distress.” “Friends through fear His cause disowning”.
So after Peter abandons Jesus he goes incognito. Jesus is arrested, Peter along with all the others flee, but then Peter follows from a safe distance, careful not to be seen by anyone. According to John’s Gospel both John and Peter were together. John knew the high priest, which gave him access into the high priests house. Then, John was able to get Peter in as well. Once Peter was in, John left him in the courtyard and went to where Jesus was. Now this explains why John gives specific details of the conversation not in any other Gospel: John was in the room watching and hearing everything they said to Jesus.
Meanwhile, Peter was out in the courtyard gathered with the guards warming himself by the fire and trying his hardest not to be noticed. And this is what stands out to me about this scene: Peter is trying to blend in with the enemies of Jesus. He is trying hard not to be noticed. Peter is giving it his all to remain incognito. He heard Jesus say “You do not light a lamp and put it under a basket”, yet, Peter was concealing his light. Jesus said, “Let your light shine before men”, but, Peter tried to hide it in the midst of men. Philippians 2 says you should “shine like stars shine in the universe”. Stars don’t try to blend in to the night sky. Because the night sky is so dark the light of stars seems so bright. There was Peter in the dark – in more ways than one.
Fear is winning with Peter, not faith. Fear will make you conceal your relationship to Christ. But faith will make you stand with Jesus. And if you stand with Jesus you will stand out. “Anyone who is ashamed of me before men I will be ashamed of him before my Father in heaven.” Despise the opinions of men. Despise whatever is in you that would make you feel embarrassed of Jesus Christ. The key here is love. You will never be ashamed of what you love. And if you love Christ with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength and all your mind then there neither a little girl nor Goliath will ever scare you into being ashamed of your Savior.
Next we see the Innocence. The Innocence of Jesus. Read 55-59.
The Sanhedrin was like the Supreme Court in Israel. This group of 70 men ruled Israel’s religious and civil affairs. Some of them were high priests, some elders, some scribes, some Pharisees, some Sadducees, etc. Each member was appointed for life and had to be a full-blooded Jew. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea (Mk 15) were members of the Sanhedrin.
The Sanhedrin hated Jesus so much they violated every legal procedure in Jewish law in order to kill him. Here are 6 procedural rules they were supposed to follow that they broke:
- First, Jesus was condemned before He had a trial (John 7:50-51; 11:53). In other words, they determined he needed to die before they had any evidence. Notice the wording in verse 55: “looking for evidence so they could put him to death.” Before his arrest, when the Sanhedrin was plotting to kill Jesus, Nicodemus protested in John 7:51 and said, “Does our law condemn anyone without first hearing him to find out what he is doing?” Guilt should be determined after evidence is produced, not before. But as Jesus said, “This is your hour, when darkness reigns.
- Second, according to Jewish Law, no trial was to take place at night, and, trials were to take place in public. Yet, Jesus was arrested and stood two trials at night and both in private (Annas and Caiaphas)..
- Third, Jesus could not be arrested and interrogated first, before any witnesses were produced. Every case must be built on the testimony of witnesses. The witnesses were actually supposed to go to the Courts with the case. The Court was not supposed to go accuse and then look for witnesses. Yet, there was Jesus, arrested and standing trial and now the leaders were scrambling to find witnesses. They had the verdict they wanted, now they just needed to get some witnesses. None of this was about justice, it was about power.
- Fourthly, no one could be abused who had not been convicted. According to John 18:22, a guard struck Jesus in the face before he was convicted.
- Fifthly, the sentencing to convict Jesus on the same day as His trial was illegal. Acquittal’s could be pronounced the same day, but, convictions had to be pronounced the day after the trial. Jesus was condemned, tried, sentenced, then crucified and dead within a matter of 12 hours.
- Sixthly and finally, the Courts were not allowed to try and get Jesus to say something that they might use against Him. It would be similar to our 5th amendment that protects us from being witnesses against ourselves. By interrogating Jesus the Jews were breaking their own law because the evidence against Jesus was to be built on the testimony of witnesses. Not on the testimony of Jesus.
This brings up two things: the silence of Jesus and the sort of witnesses the Jews had against Jesus.
First, the silence of the Lamb. The silence of Jesus is a loud feature of his trials. “When he was oppressed and afflicted” Isaiah 53:7 says, “he did not open his mouth.” He is silent before Caiaphas, Annas, Pilate and Herod. He does not answer them. This silence can partly be explained by the legal protection he had that he did not have to testify against himself. But Peter explains the silence of Jesus differently, theologically: he says it is due to the fact that he had entirely put himself in the hands of his heavenly Father:
When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” (1 Pet 2:23)
Secondly, we should pause and look at what sort of witnesses they actually had. According to the text they had false witnesses (“many testified falsely against him…then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him….yet even then their testimony did not agree).
And apparently they were lined up out the door. Verse 56 says, “Many testified falsely…”All kinds of people were eager to help put Jesus to death.
Well who could all these witnesses be? Certainly they didn’t go round up a bunch of regular Joes off the street – it was the middle of the night and everyone was in bed! No, these were pre-arranged witnesses. No doubt these included teachers of the law, Pharisees, guards who had a vendetta against Jesus. They would have been the type of guys who had come to Jesus over the last few years interrogating him, trying to trap him in his words with their crafty questions. You remember the kinds of questions:
- “This woman was caught in adultery Jesus, the law says to stone her. What do you say?” (John 8)
- Should we Jews pay taxes to Caesar or not Jesus?
- Jesus, if a woman was married to 7 brothers and they all died, then which one of them will she be married to at the resurrection? (
- Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?
- Why don’t your disciples wash their hands before they eat?
- Who does this Jesus think he is acting like he is God and can forgive sins?
Remember all those? Yeah, they thought they were clever and could catch Jesus, but, they always ended up with mud on their face. How do people handle getting publicly humiliated in their arrogance? Not well. Now was their chance for revenge
So colored with Schadenfreude they all gleefully told the Jewish leaders things Jesus did and said hoping their testimony would be the silver bullet to get him killed.
But one after another testified and it only made things worse because all of them gave confusing and contradicting testimony.
This sham-trial was a mess and it was failing to establish the guilt of Jesus. Really it was only serving to make the innocence of Jesus even more apparent.
There is theological irony here: In order to convict truly the most innocent person in history by the law, they themselves had to become guilty by breaking that very law. They displayed the real corruption of their own souls in order to condemn the righteous One of God. And yet, God was making use of their evil ambitions for His own purposes. The only man who was ever innocent of sin had to be condemned. The only way an innocent man could be condemned was if evil men did what was evil and condemned him. They thought they were ridding themselves of a blaspheming insurrectionist. While they thought that, God was using that very death of Jesus for His own purposes to transfer the sins of mankind from man to Jesus. He was stripping the guilt off of man and laying it all on the head of the Innocent One. Jesus became a man, a sinless man, to bear the guilt for sinful man.
Next we see the IDENTITY, read verses 60-62.
The High Priest apparently gets fed up as the crowd of false witnesses is getting him nowhere. So he stands up, fixes his stare on Jesus and point blankly asks Him if He is the Christ, the Son of God.
And now Jesus finally speaks. And it is glorious. I call it His Glorious Confession. He was silent when they asked about His miracles. He was silent when they asked about His public statements. He was silent when they asked Him about his preaching. But when they ask if He is the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One, He answers. And how glorious it is.
It is important that the only time Jesus speaks on trial is to answer about His identity. Who He is. “Who do the people say that I am?” He asked the disciples around the fire. “Who do you say that I am?” He then asked them personally. Everything – EVERY THING – boils down to what you say about Jesus. Jesus was the faithful witness, testifying to the truth when He declared who He is that night on trial. And what Jesus says about Himself is what we must say about Him. He has given us the measure by which we will be judged: Will we declare that He and He alone is the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One, Who sits at the right hand of the Mighty One in heaven, and who will return in power and glory with the Holy Ones from heaven? Do we declare that His cross, His death, His resurrection is the one and the only way in which the sins of man have been paid for? Do we declare that it is not by works but by faith in this Gospel: the finished work of Jesus in offering Himself in our place to pay the penalty for our sins? Do we declare who Jesus is and what He did for us that day? That is the test. What do you say about Jesus? There is no question of greater importance for you. No question about your financial situation, about your marital situation, about your children, about your employment situation or about your health. What you say about Jesus will determine, after all these things have passed and your life is over, where you will spend eternity. And that matters. Don’t let any fool minimize in your eyes this.
Jesus is the Christ. The Greek word “Kristos” which means “Anointed One”. It is the equivalent of the OT Hebrew word Messiah, also meaning anointed one. Anointing referred to rubbing something with oil. The purpose was to signify that something or someone as having been set aside by God for His sacred purposes. Kings were anointed, prophets were anointed, objects were anointed. Jesus, however, is THE Anointed One, “chosen before the creation of the world” 1 Peter 1:20 says. He is the consecrated of all consecrated. His is the sacred of all sacred purposes. Jesus is the Anointed One, and rather than oil He was anointed with the Holy Spirit. This is why 1 John 2 says that every one of us Christians are anointed: we belong to the Anointed One, and, we have the same anointing Holy Spirit that rested on Him.
Jesus is the Son of the Blessed One. The Jews had a custom where they never say the name of God. He is the “Ineffable One” whose name is too holy to be uttered by man. So here the High Priest calls God “The Blessed One”. The word blessed refers to one who is worthy to be lauded, or praised or spoken well of. The Blessed One therefore is a name for the God who is worthy of praise and worthy to be spoken highly of. It’s ironic that to respect God extreme care was taken not to say His name and to use exalted appellations instead, while at the same time these same men would trash justice, truth, and righteousness without any thought to how that reflected on the God of justice, righteousness and truth.
The thing here is that Jesus is the Son of the Blessed One. When He was baptized by John the Baptist, the Voice of the Blessed Father spoke from heaven affirming Jesus as His Son: “This is My Son” his voice thundered. Now, at the end of His ministry, Jesus affirms that He is God’s Son. “Are you the Son of the Blessed One?” I am.
Jesus is the Son of Man. We’ve seen Jesus referred to as a Son in multiple ways: the Son of David, the Son of God, (the Blessed One). But the most common way Jesus referred to Himself was as the Son of Man. Jesus no doubt was identifying Himself as Messianic figure in Daniel 7 so familiar to Jews: “I saw one like a son of man approaching the Ancient of Days…”
This “Son of Man” title for Jesus should be very personal to each of us. It is a title that captures His humanity, His taking on human flesh, His becoming part of our human race. He is, like us, human. Certainly more than human, we never lose sight of that, but, certainly human. As the creeds declare: “perfect in Godhead, perfect in manhood, truly God and truly man, of a reasonable soul and body, consubstantial with us according to the manhood, in all things like us without sin.” Jesus, as the Son of Man, was a man, so that He could save man. When you hear Son of Man, think of Jesus in the flesh. “Anyone who denies Jesus came in the flesh is of the antichrist” John the Apostle said in his first epistle.
Jesus sits at the Right Hand of the Mighty One. The right hand is a sign of strength, power and honor. Ever since His ascension Jesus himself is honored in that heavenly location, and has all divine power in heaven and on earth.
But, Jesus also came to earth to express the power and honor of God among men. Through Jesus God was giving expression to His power, being honored by Jesus. So when you think of Jesus think of Him as Ephesians says, “seated at God’s right hand…far above all rule and authority, power and dominion and every title that can be given in this age and in the age to come” Think of Him as Philippians says “God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name that is above every name”. Set your hearts on things above Colossians 3 says where Christ is seated at the right hand of God
The contrast of Jesus on earth and in heaven is incredible. On earth He wasn’t considered fit to tie the sandals of the lowest slave, but, in heaven He is exalted to the right hand of God. On earth they were only going to lift Him up to put Him on a cross, but, in heaven He was lifted up to the throne of God. With their feet they trampled all over Him on earth, but in heaven it is at His feet that all bow.
Application: How man treated Jesus is different than how God treated Jesus. Remember that is true for you too if you follow Jesus. “Do not be surprised, Christians, at the painful trials you suffer for being Christians, as though something strange were happening to you.” 1 Peter 4 says, “But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when His glory is revealed.” Remember how God sees you and it won’t matter how man sees you. Remember what God is going to do for you and it won’t matter what man does to you.
Jesus will come in Glory
You will see, Jesus tells them. You will see. You will see too, did you know that. If you are a believer, Oh you will see Him exalted to the highest place and you will see every knee bow (Php. 2:10) You will see Jesus in all His glory (Jn 17:24). You will marvel as you see Him in all his glory (2 Thess. 1:10)
If you do not believe you too will see. Although unlike the joy of the believer you will see with terror because you did not believe. You will see Him seated at the Right Hand of the Mighty One. You will see Him coming on the clouds of glory. You will hear His voice and bow your knee and you will weep and mourn that you despised the Son of the Blessed One.
Jesus answers them. And its all they need. They all condemned him as worthy of death. The Author of Life is sentenced to death.
God is on trial. They made their judgment. What about you? What will you do with Jesus? What will man do with Him? You have to do something with Him. If you reject Him your fate is the same as theirs. If you “put Him off” that is just another way of rejecting Him today. The only decision today is that you accept Jesus’ testimony. He is the Christ, He is the Son of God, He can forgive your sins, He died to pay the debt for your sins, you can do nothing to make God accept you.
Notice that immediately the abuse begins. And they take Him away. There goes Jesus. There go your sins
CLOSING: TAKE AWAYS
- Don’t blend in with the world. You can’t stand with Jesus and not stand out
- Remember Glory follows Shame. If we want to taste the glory of Jesus we have to taste his shame
- Thank Jesus for what He went through for you.
- Suffer for Him as He suffered for you. If persecution comes wear it like a badge of honor.
- You are the judge of God. What will you choose?