Making a Messiah, Good Friday

March 25, 2016

It had been a full
week, it had started with the crowds on the streets of Jerusalem and now here
they were, just the thirteen of them in a private room celebrating the
Passover. 

And only two people in
that room knew where the night would lead.

Jesus, because he was.
. . Jesus.  And Judas because he had put
the wheels into motion, the day before, when he had agreed to betray his friend
for thirty pieces of silver. 

And Jesus knew that he
had been betrayed, and yet in this amazing display of grace he still invites
Judas to celebrate with them.

And that is the
invitation that continues to be extended by Jesus, even knowing all that we
will do, and all the ways that we will betray his love and name he still says,
come. 

Communion
Celebration

Last week we
celebrated Palm Sunday and we looked at the dark side of the celebration and
how it was after Jesus had entered into Jerusalem riding on a donkey while the
crowds praised him and waved palm branches that the religious authorities felt
that they had no option but to take matters into their own hands.  It was at the point that they decided, that
Jesus must die.

And that decision has
led us to this point only five days later.

It was a perfect set
up, it had to be this way.  During the
day Jesus was surrounded by crowds of sympathetic people who had come to hear
him preach.  People whose lives had been
impacted by Jesus.  Perhaps they had been
healed by him, or maybe because of his teaching on forgiveness they had seen a
relationship restored, or perhaps they had been part of the multitude he had
fed by the shores of Galilee.  Regardless
of the how and why, those who gathered around him during the day would pose a
considerable problem for the authorities, and so they came for him under the
cover of night.  

But even then they
were taking no chances.  And so to arrest
the man who had spoken so much of love, forgiveness and grace a crowd was
sent.  Three of the gospels simply
identify them as a crowd of men armed with swords and clubs, however John gets
more specific and tells us in John
18:2-3
 Judas, the betrayer,
knew this place, because Jesus had often gone there with his disciples.
 The leading priests and Pharisees had given Judas a contingent of Roman
soldiers and Temple guards to accompany him. Now with blazing torches,
lanterns, and weapons, they arrived at the olive grove.

I don’t know if they expected Christ to
fight or run, but either way they came prepared, what they didn’t prepare for
was for him to simply surrender.  And
Jesus asked them in Luke 22:52-53  Then Jesus spoke to the leading priests, the captains
of the Temple guard, and the elders who had come for him. “Am I some dangerous revolutionary,” he asked, “that you come with swords and clubs to arrest me?
 Why didn’t you arrest me in the Temple? I was
there every day. But this is your moment, the time when the power of darkness
reigns.”

And in that one statement Jesus was letting
them know that he knew.

You see even though the night arrest made
for good strategy and good theatre it was the beginning of the flawed
prosecution of Jesus. And Jesus knew what they knew and that was if they
couldn’t prove a case against him then they would fabricate a case against him.

And it started with the reality that The Arrest Was Flawed Historical we are
told that there were two problems with the arrest, the first was that it was
performed at night.  There were all kinds
of guidelines and regulations in place for the Jewish judicial process and one
was that neither arrests or trials were to conducted at night. 

Two thousand years ago in Israel justice
was under the authority of the Sanhedrin, they were the supreme religious
authority at the time, and functioned kind of like a supreme court.   And
there would have been no discussion about the separation of religion and state
then.  While Israel may have been under
Roman rule they still considered themselves a Theocracy. 

In Canada we enjoy a Democracy and that
word can be traced back to two Greek words: 
“Demos” meaning “People” and “Kratia” 
meaning “Power”.  2000
years ago Israel was a Theocracy. 
“Kratia” still meant “Power” but “Theos” meant “God”.  And so in manners of religious and civil law
you had a religious court, the Sanhedrin, comprised of members of the
Pharisees, Sadducees and the Priest Hood. 
The Grand Sanhedrin had 71 members and was only convened for matters of
national security and then you had a cabinet of 23 that was probably the group
that conspired against Christ.

And they functioned, just like courts
everywhere, under restrains.  And one
those constrains was that justice would be performed in the daylight
hours.   And there was a symbolism wrapped up in that,
justice was all about being transparent and was about light being shone into
the darkness and that justice should be able to bear up to the scrutiny that
would come on it in the light of day.

But here they are with their torches
seeking him out after dark. The arrest of Jesus happened somewhere between 1
and 2 o’clock in the morning.  And that
was wrong.

The other issue is he was arrested on the
information of Judas and under the law of the day someone who was a criminal
associate could not provide the evidence needed for an arrest in a capital case,
because of the conflict of interest. 
They would be as guilty as the accused.

And yet the story here revolves around the betrayal
of Jesus by Judas, one of his closest associates.  And when the crowd came to arrest him, Judas
steps forward embrace Christ and kisses him. 
And that was done to ensure that in the darkness of the night, lit only
with flickering torches that no mistake would be made, that the right man would
be arrested.  Because the one thing that
those who conspired to end Jesus’ ministry agreed on was “Jesus must die.”

Music

But it wasn’t only the arrest that was
flawed, The Trials Were Flawed.  And notice that I said trails, not trial. 

What happened after
the arrest of Jesus would have been considered a travesty by today’s legal
standards. From his arrest, to his interrogation, to his conviction to his
sentence things were done differently than we would do them today.

And that is to be
expected, we often watch as historical figures are judged by today’s standards,
and very seldom do they fare well.  And
so we can’t expect that a trial held in an occupied country 2000 years ago
should be held to the same standards as the same trial would be today in
Canada.  But we would expect that it
would be held to the standards of that day and time.

In 1948 British Judge
Frank Powell wrote a book called “The Trial of Jesus Christ”  and it looks at the trial of Jesus in light
of the historical standards of the day, that is the way that a capital case was
supposed to be tried under Jewish law. 
And what he discovered was that there was nothing fair about the trial
of Jesus and very little was done properly in the trial of Christ.

Around the same time
American Lawyer David Breed wrote “The Trial of Christ” and found a number of
errors that under Jewish and Roman Law would have been considered serious
breaches.  Today they would be considered
reversible errors, and would be the basis of a new trial.  And not just one or two, Breed identifies 17
different issues that contravened the trial laws of that time.  

From his first
appearance in front of Annas we see that nobody is really interested in justice,
they are interesting in ridding themselves of Jesus.  John
18:13
 First they took him
to Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest at that time.

Annas had no legal
standing in the Jewish community.  He had
been the High Priest but now he was retired and he was the father in law of the
man who was now High Priest, Caiaphas. 
So why would Jesus have first been taken into the home of this man?

I would suspect it
goes back to an event that happened earlier in the week, when Jesus cleansed
the temple courts. You might recall how Jesus had come into the courts and saw
the money changers and vendors who were taking advantage of the pilgrims who
had come for the Passover celebration. 

The story is told in Mark
11:15-17
 When they arrived back in Jerusalem,
Jesus entered the Temple and began to drive out the people buying and selling
animals for sacrifices. He knocked over the tables of the money changers and
the chairs of those selling doves, and he stopped everyone from using the
Temple as a marketplace.  He said to them, “The Scriptures declare, ‘My
Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations,’ but you have turned
it into a den of thieves.”

Well here is an interesting tidbit from history,
the man who was in charge of what happened in the temple courts, the man who
profited from the extortion, was none other than Annas.  The temple courtyards were even referred to
by the Jews of the day as “The Bazaars of Annas.”  Hmmmm. 

And so Annas demanded the names of Jesus’
followers and what he had been teaching them. 
When Jesus didn’t give the answers that Annas was looking for, he was
beaten.  And in turn Jesus responds by
saying John 18:23  Jesus
replied, “If I said anything wrong, you must prove it. But if I’m speaking the
truth, why are you beating me?”

And so it was at that point that Annas had
Jesus bound like a criminal and sent to his Son-in-law, Caiaphas.  You remember Caiaphas. 

We read about him last week, in the Gospel
of John in reference to Jesus, Caiaphas told his colleagues  John 11:50  “You
don’t realize that it’s better for you that one man should die for the people
than for the whole nation to be destroyed.”

And two days later we read this account Matthew 26:3-4  At
that same time the leading priests and elders were meeting at the residence of
Caiaphas, the high priest,  plotting how to capture Jesus secretly and
kill him.  So the next person that
who is involved in Jesus’ trial has already stated publically his intention to
have Jesus killed.  I’m thinking that
Caiaphas might have had a little bit of a problem being unbiased.

I think Caiaphas knew the truth about Jesus,
because we read in Matthew 26:59-61  Inside, the leading priests and the entire high council
were trying to find witnesses who would lie about Jesus, so they could put him
to death.  But even though they found many who agreed to give false
witness, they could not use anyone’s testimony. Finally, two men came forward
who declared, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the Temple of God and
rebuild it in three days.’”

 Understand that under
Jewish law a capital trial could only happen during the daytime, they are still
under the cover of dark. And criminal cases weren’t permitted to be held during
the religious celebrations and the Passover celebrations had started the day
before.  The trial had to be held in the
meeting place of the Sanhedrin, but they were meeting in the home of
Caiaphas.  At least two witnesses had to
be examined separately, yet here the witnesses were examined together after
being coached to twist the words of Christ. 

And under Jewish law, only a not guilty
verdict could be delivered the same day as the trial.  When the verdict was guilty at least one
night had to go by before sentencing, so the tribunal would have time to
reflect and perhaps consider mercy, and Jesus’ trail was finished in hours.

These were the Sanhedrin’s own rules and in
their rush to be rid of Jesus they, were prepared to make a mockery of a legal
system that was admired in their day.

The charges that
Caiaphas and his cronies finally settled on was the charge of blasphemy.  That Jesus had claimed to be God.

The problem for them
was that 300 years earlier they might have had the authority to have Jesus
executed, but not under Roman law.

And so we pick up the
story in John 18:28  Jesus’
trial before Caiaphas ended in the early hours of the morning. Then he was
taken to the headquarters of the Roman governor. His accusers didn’t go inside
because it would defile them, and they wouldn’t be allowed to celebrate the
Passover.  Well
at least they were conscientious about that.

The problem was that blasphemy was a
religious charge and Pilate couldn’t have cared less.  And so we read in Luke
23:2
 They began to state their case: “This
man has been leading our people astray by telling them not to pay their taxes
to the Roman government and by claiming he is the Messiah, a king.”

So the charge has changed from blasphemy to
treason.  And when Pilate said that he
didn’t see any evidence of that they up the ante and tell him Luke
23:5
 Then they became insistent. “But he is
causing riots by his teaching wherever he goes—all over Judea, from Galilee to
Jerusalem!”   Riots?  Seriously? 
Riots?   

But it was here that Pilate saw an out, he
didn’t want to execute the carpenter but he didn’t want to alienate the
religious leaders.  And he responds Luke 23:6-7  “Oh, is
he a Galilean?” Pilate asked.  When they said that he was, Pilate sent him
to Herod Antipas, because Galilee was under Herod’s jurisdiction, and Herod
happened to be in Jerusalem at the time. 
The old pass the buck trick.

This was the same Herod who had John the
Baptist killed, it was his father who had tried to kill Jesus when he was a new
born.  We are told that Herod had heard
about Jesus and wanted to meet him and see him perform a miracle.  Comedians often tell how annoying it is when
they meet someone and are asked to say something funny, and magicians say that
they are often asked to perform a trick for people.  Very seldom does the preacher get to eat in a
group without being the person who is asked to say grace. 

And so in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Jesus
Christ Super Star” Herod sings
So You are the Christ
You’re the great Jesus Christ
Prove to me that You’re divine
Change my water into wine

That’s all You need do
And I’ll know it’s all true
C’mon King of the Jews

But we are told that Jesus doesn’t even
grace Herod with an answer, and so Herod puts a purple robe on Christ and sends
him back to Pilate.  Saying that he just
found Jesus annoying.

So what is Pilate to do?  He has the religious leaders and the mob they
had incited demanding that Jesus be executed, but he can find no evidence to
support a case against Jesus and neither can Herod.   His wife has shown up in the middle of
everything, telling him about a dream she had about Jesus and how Pilate should
release him.

And Pilate tries, he tells the crowd that
as a gesture of good will because it’s the Passover he will release one
prisoner.  And he stands Jesus up next to
a known murderer named Barabbas and offers the crowd their choice of who should
go free, he figured it was a no brainer. 
And the mob egged on by the authorities yelled, “Free Barabbas, crucify
Jesus.”

Things are getting out of control and so Pilate
has Jesus flogged with a steel tipped whip, but even that doesn’t satisfy the
bloodlust of the crowd.

 And finally in frustration Pilate turns to the
crowd and says:  “I am
innocent of this man’s blood. The responsibility is yours!”

“The responsibility is yours, what will you
do with this innocent man?” he asked.