Commentary by Walter Albritton
Mark 14, 15
Key Verse: Again the high priest asked him, and said unto him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? And Jesus said, I am. – Mark 14:61, 62.
The trial of Jesus was a mockery of Jewish law; the cowardly religious leaders conducted it swiftly at night. The Sanhedrin, the ruling council of the Jews, was so eager to have Jesus put to death that they ignored their own legal standards. It was the court’s own rule that no trial would be held at night.
There is no doubt about the intent of the Jewish leaders. For weeks they had “plotted” ways to have Jesus killed. They wanted him out of the way because he was horning in on their territory. He stirred up the people by questioning both the righteousness and the authority of the Pharisees. Money was a big issue. The priests could not tolerate Jesus interfering with their excessive profiting from the sale animals used for sacrifice in the temple.
Mark tells us the members of the Sanhedrin were already
“assembled” when Jesus is brought in, clearly revealing that this trial under
cover of darkness had been well planned. His arrest in the garden was carried
out at night because the Pharisees feared an uprising of the people who had
cheered Jesus’ entry into
The mock trial of our Lord bogged down quickly when several “false witnesses” could not agree on their accusations against Jesus. The Sanhedrin needed more than one reliable witness for a death penalty conviction (Deuteronomy 17:6), and no such witnesses surfaced. Those who did bear “false witness” against Jesus spoke in ignorance; they did not understand that when he spoke of “the temple,” he was speaking of his own body, not the sacred temple of worship.
Initially, Jesus refuses to speak. He remains silent, refusing even to defend himself against the lies of his accusers. His silence fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah (53:7) who wrote of the coming Messiah, “As a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.” We may learn from Jesus. In the face of lies, the defense of oneself is hardly worth the effort. One’s example may be a better defense than angry words of denial.
When the high priest asks Jesus if he is the Christ,” Jesus breaks his silence and answers boldly, “I am.” His answer is what the high priest had been waiting for; by his own admission Jesus is guilty of blasphemy, a crime punishable by death. He has declared himself the Son of God, the long awaited Messiah. He spoke the truth; what more could he do? In the minds of the religious leaders, Jesus had defamed God by claiming to be the Son of Man.
This assertion by Jesus leaves the high priest two alternatives. Either he can acknowledge Jesus as the King of glory, or he can condemn the arrogant Nazarene to death. Like Pilate, the high priest did not recognize the truth when it was standing directly in front of him. He joined the chorus of his accusers as they condemned Jesus to death. By tearing his clothes, the high priest showed his emotional contempt for the man who would equate himself with God.
Since the Sanhedrin could not execute anyone, the next step was to take Jesus before Pilate, who could have Jesus crucified. Pilate, however, was reluctant to order the death of Jesus. He believed him to be an innocent man. When the Jewish leaders and the boisterous crowd clamored for Jesus’ death, Pilate asked them, “Why, what evil has he done?”
Finally Pilate saw a way to appease the crowd and avoid having to issue the death penalty himself. He would let the people decide, and then the blood of Jesus would be on their hands, not his. To dramatize his decision, Pilate even washes his hands of the whole affair in the presence of the crowd. History has rewarded his cleverness by making his hand washing a symbol of cowardice. Pilate’s behavior becomes even more pathetic when compared to the humility of Jesus in washing not his hands but the dirty feet of his disciples.
The most significant aspect of this scripture is the role of Jesus throughout the trial, the scourging, and the crucifixion. Jesus was not a helpless victim of cruel, hateful men; indeed, he was the King of glory taking our place on the cross! His accusers and the Roman soldiers did not take his life; he gave his life for the sins of the whole world. He came down from heaven to humble himself, take up his cross, suffer and die so that the Father’s plan could be fulfilled. The crucifixion appeared to be the will of evil men, but in reality it was the will of God being accomplished. God was not absent from this mock trial and crucifixion. He was at work! He used evil men to achieve his purpose.
The cross was not a surprise to God. The resurrection of
Jesus was not Plan B because Plan A had failed. The death, crucifixion, and
resurrection of Jesus was God’s plan from the beginning. God knew in the Garden
of Eden that His Son would have to suffer in the
Father, not my will, but yours be done.”
Today we shall be wise to fall on our knees and ask God to forgive us for bellyaching about any suffering we may endure for “His name.” Let us ask him to forgive us when we respond to tough issues with cowardice like that of Pilate when we could “stand up for Jesus” with courage like that of the disciples after the resurrection. Let us seek forgiveness for not thanking Him every day for his willingness to die on the cross for our salvation. Jesus had to die so that we could be saved from our sins. My sins, and yours, helped to nail our Savior to the cross. May our praise for his sacrifice be on our lips daily until he calls us home!
John understand what happened on
John summed it up better than anyone ever has with these words: “For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John ). Thanks be to God!
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