Robert Jeffress - God On Trial
Hi, I'm Robert Jeffress and welcome again to Pathway to Victory. Every year at Easter skeptics question, everything we know to be true about Jesus. From his birth to his ministry, to his resurrection from the dead. Countless individuals have weighed the evidence and come to their own conclusions. But these doubts are nothing new. Jesus has always been under scrutiny. My message is titled: God On Trial. On today's edition of Pathway to Victory.
42 year old, David Saunders stood in his front yard in his home in Hanover Michigan awaiting his four year old daughter Danielle to this embark from the school bus. But as he was watching her to his horror he noticed a speeding car behind the school bus traveling at such a high rate of speed that it would be impossible for it to stop for the crossing. Saunders immediately leapt into action. He ran and he grabbed his four year old daughter and he literally threw her onto the front yard. David Saunders was struck immediately by the speeding car and died at the scene of the accident. His little daughter only had minor injury, she was treated and released.
As remarkable as that father's sacrifice was I want to tell you this morning about an even more remarkable sacrifice that a father made. When God the Father was willing to sacrifice his own Son for your salvation and for my salvation. And today, we're going to talk about that incomparable sacrifice that Jesus made for us. You know, we are aware of the fact that the crucifixion, the death of Jesus Christ and the resurrection are the cornerstones of our Christian faith. We understand what Jesus said in John 3:16, "For God so loved the world", he so loved you and me, "that he gave his only begotten Son that whoever trust and believes in him will not perish, but have everlasting life". We know that the death of Christ is foundational to our salvation, but few people are aware of the events that actually led up to the crucifixion and death of Christ.
Now, from God's perspective, it was all part of his plan. Remember in Acts 2:23 when the apostle Peter seven weeks after the death and resurrection of Christ, stood on the southern steps of the temple in Jerusalem and he preached a sermon to the very people who had crucified Christ seven weeks earlier. And he said, "This man, Jesus was delivered up by the predetermined plan of God, but he was nailed to the cross by the hands of angry men. You are the ones responsible, but it was all according to God's plan". Usually we look at this from God's perspective but today, we're going to look at the events that led to Christ crucifixion from a human perspective. Specifically, we're going to look at the six trials that Jesus endured shortly before his death and what they revealed to us about the Messiah and what our response should be.
You know, these trials were filled with flimsy accusations, false evidence and flagrant violations of both the Roman and the Jewish laws. But in spite of all of that God used this horrific miscarriage of justice to achieve his plan for you and for me. Today, we're going to look at the day that God was put on trial. If you have your Bibles turn to John 18.
Now I want to say a word about these six trials an overview before we briefly look at each one of them. First of all, a word about their chronology. You remember that the last week before the crucifixion, hundreds of thousands of Jews had come to Jerusalem for the celebration of the passover. They probably finished around midnight on Thursday evening, early Friday morning. And the Bible says after they finished the meal they sang a song together and they departed and they left the upper room and they crossed the Kedron Valley and they went to a grove of olive trees on the side of the Mount of Olives, a place called Gethsemane. And you'll remember that while the disciples slept, Jesus prayed like he had never prayed before. He went a little beyond the disciples and he fell to the ground and he began to pray that if it were possible that this hour, this experience might pass him by.
When Jesus prayed, "Father if there is any other way, let this experience pass from me". But heaven was silent. God said nothing because there was no other way to atone for the sins of the world. And what I'm saying to you, ladies and gentlemen is that if there are other roads to heaven then the death of Jesus Christ was totally unnecessary. It was a waste. Jesus could have saved himself, but the reason he went to Calvary and died that horrific death was there is no other way for the forgiveness of sins and probably about one o'clock in the morning they finished their time in the garden. It was really interrupted when Judas and that band of Jewish and Roman officials came and they placed Jesus under arrest. And they took him from the garden to the first of six trials that went from 1:00 am in the morning till about 9:00 am when he was nailed to the cross.
Now that's the chronology of what happened. Let me say a word about the categories of these trials. You'll notice there are six trials. The first three are religious trials, the second three are civil trials. Why two different kinds of trials? Well even though the Romans were in charge of Israel, it was their territory, they liked for the Jewish people to handle their own disputes as much as possible. And so it was preferred that they handled this Jesus matter themself. And so the first three trials were trials by the religious leaders to try to convict Jesus of blasphemy. That he claimed to be the Messiah which in the Jewish thinking was the same as God. The Son of God was equal to God the Father. And so they were trying to charge him with blasphemy.
The problem was, the Romans didn't care about blasphemy. They didn't care if somebody claimed to be God heck they believed in hundreds of gods, what's one more? Somebody wants to be a God. So blasphemy wasn't on their chart as a capitiol offense. So the Jews changed the charge when they got to the Romans and said, "You know what, this guy claims to be a king, just like Tiberius our emperor. He's guilty of treason, he's going to lead an insurrection". And so that was the charge against Jesus to the Romans that he claimed to be a king.
Finally, a word about the character of these trials. All six of them were illegal trials in one way or another. For example, according to Jewish law you could only receive evidence, hear evidence during the daytime. And yet all of the religious trials took place at nighttime. Both Jewish and Roman law said anyone convicted of a capital crime or charged with a capital crime should have an attorney present. No attorney was present for Jesus.
Now, let's look at each of these trials for just a minute. The first trial in John 18 was a trial before Annas. Look at verse 12 of John 18. So the Roman cohort and the commander and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound him and led him to Annas first for he was the father and law of Caiaphas who was the high priest that year. So why did they go to this ex-high priest? Well, simply because he had the stature people listened to Annas and they thought if they got his stamp of approval, they would be home free.
So they bring him before Annas, look at verse 19. The high priest therefore questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching. Jesus answered them, "I have spoken openly to the world. I always taught in synagogues and in the temple where all the Jews come together and I spoke nothing in secret, why do you question me? Question those who have heard what I spoke to them, behold, they know what I've said". And when he had said this, one of the officers standing by gave Jesus a blow saying, "Is that how you answer the high priest"? And Jesus answered him. "If I have spoken wrongly bear witness of the wrong. But if rightly, why do you strike me"? By the way, what court of law do you know where physical violence is allowed? I mean again, this whole thing was a sham.
Well, the religious leaders didn't have any answer to Jesus and so they said, "Well, let's taking before Caiaphas". The current high priest, that was the second trial. Now they all lived together in the same home. So they simply took Jesus out of the area where Annas was, took him through the courtyard, where Peter was, listening to all of this taking place and took him inside before Caiaphas the current high priest. Look at Matthew 26:57. And those who had seized Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest for the scribes and the elders were gathered together. It was about three o'clock in the morning.
Why was everybody up, have you ever wondered that? I mean, why were they up and meeting together? Why were they expecting something to happen? Because again, this was all a sham. It was all a part of the plan to get Jesus on the cross as soon as possible. Notice what happened in verse 63. Jesus kept silent so Caiaphas said to him, "I adjure you, I command you by the living God that you tell us whether you are the Christ, the Son of God". And Jesus said to him, "You have said it yourself. Nevertheless, I will tell you hereafter that you shall see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of power and coming on the clouds of heaven". Verse 65, then the high priest tore his robe saying, "He has blasphemed, what further need do we have of witnesses"?
Now what got Caiaphas all worked up over those words from Jesus? Jesus was quoting scripture, specifically Daniel 7:13.14 which were prophecies about the coming Messiah. So when Jesus was quoting Daniel 7:13.14 he was virtually saying, "Hey, Caiaphas you know that Messiah you've been looking for for hundreds of years, you know him, I am he". By quoting that passage he said, I am the Son of God. Literally I am equal to God himself. And that sent Caiaphas over the edge. "You have now heard the blasphemy," he said, "what do you think"? And they answered and said he is deserving of death.
And that led to the third trial. Probably right after that, the Sanhedrin the trial before the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin was kind of the supreme court of Israel. They too were there at Caiaphas's house, they were ready for this final trial of the religious kind. Now we're probably around 6:00 am, Luke 22:7. And they all said, "Are you the Son of God then"? And he said to the entire crowd, "Yes I am". He said, I am the Messiah, see it right there? I am he, he said in John 10, I and the Father are one. He who has seen me has seen the Father, make no doubt about it Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. He said, "Why is that such a big deal"? Well, because it means you have to come to grips with who you believe Jesus is. Jesus claimed to be God because he was God.
Well, the Jews knew they now had enough to charge him with blasphemy. But as I said, that wasn't enough for the Romans. So they had to change the charge when they brought him before Pontius Pilate. And that's the first of the civil trials, the trial before Pilate. Now look at verse 1. So then the whole body of Jews arose and brought Jesus before Pilate. And they began to accuse him saying, "We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar and saying that he himself is Christ a king". Two charges first of all, he says you can't pay taxes, you shouldn't pay taxes.
Now that was an outright lie, wasn't it? Remember the disciples said to Jesus "Is it right for us to pay taxes"? Jesus held up a Roman coin and said what? Render unto Caesar, the things that are Caesar's and to God that things that are God's. Yes, it's lawful to pay taxes. But what about the second charge? And he also says that he himself is a king. Well, the fact is he did claim to be a king. So Pilate asked him about that verse 3 and Pilate said to him, "Are you the king of the Jews"? And Jesus answered him and said, "It is as you say". And Pilate said to the chief priest and the multitudes, "I find no guilt in this man".
Now wait a minute, wasn't that treason to claim to be a king? Why wasn't Pilate troubled by that? In John 18:36, he said my kingdom Pilate, is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world then my servants would be fighting that I might not be delivered up to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not of this realm. When Pilate heard that, "I don't have anything to worry about". He said. And so he said to the masses "I find no fault in him, let him go". But the Jews wouldn't have that. Luke 23 says, they said "But Pilate, this man Jesus he's been causing trouble, he's been leading an insurrection from his starting place in Galilee all the way down to Judea". Pilate said, "Oh he's talking to the wrong person". You see, "I'm not the governor of Galilee, I'm the governor of Judea. It's Herod Antipas, he's the procurator of Galilee and guess what, he just happens to be in town right now".
And you see that trial before Herod in Luke 23:8-11. Now Herod was very glad when he saw Jesus for he had wanted to see him for a long time because he had been hearing about him and was hoping to see some signs performed by him. Now, Herod just decided to have some fun with Jesus. Talk to him a little bit, dressed him up in a robe, gave him a scepter and sent back to Pontius Pilate.
And that leads to the final trial before Pilate. It's about seven o'clock Friday morning Matthew 27:15. Now at the feast the governor that is Pilate was accustomed to release for the multitude, any one prisoner whom they wanted. And they were holding at that time a notorious prisoner called Barabbas. Verse 17, whom do you want me to release for you? Barabbas or Jesus who is called the Christ. Certainly you'll choose him over this hardened criminal, this murderer who would want him on the streets again? But the Pilate's dismay the people yelled out, "Barabbas". "Well then what shall I do with Jesus"? He asked. And they yelled, "Crucify him, crucify him". Pilate knew at that point, he had no choice. Ignoring his wife's advice he ordered for Jesus to be scourged and crucified.
One scholar describes the horror of Christ crucifixion this way. We're getting ready to walk on holy ground here for the next few moments. Preparations for the scourging are carried out. The prisoner is stripped of his clothing and his hands tied to a post above his head. The Roman legionnaire steps forward with a whip in his hand. This is a short whip consisting of several heavy leather thongs with two small balls of lead attached to the ends of each. The heavy whip is brought down with full force again and again, across Jesus' shoulders, back and legs. At first, the heavy thongs cut through the skin only then as the blows continue they cut deeper into tissues. Producing first an oozing of blood from the capillaries. And veins of the skin and produce sharp, deep bruises which are broken open by subsequent blows.
Finally, the skin of the back is hanging in long ribbons and the entire area is unrecognizable as a mass of torn bleeding tissue. When it's determined by the centurion in charge that the prisoner is near death, the beating is stopped. The heavy beam of the cross is then tied across the shoulders and the procession of the condemned Christ, two thieves and the execution detail begins its slow journey. The weight of the heavy wooden beam together with the shock produced by copious blood loss is too much.
Jesus stumbles and falls. The rough wood of the beam gouges into the lacerated skin and muscles of his shoulders. He tries to rise but human muscles have been pushed beyond their endurance. At Golgotha the beam is placed on the ground and Jesus is quickly thrown backward with his shoulders against the wood. The legionnaire feels for the depression at the front of Jesus' wrist. He drives a heavy square rod iron nail through the wrist and deep into the wood. Quickly, he moves to the other side and repeats the action. Being careful not to pull the arms too tightly but to allow some movement. The beam is then lifted in place at the top of the posts and the sign reading Jesus of Nazareth king of the Jews is nailed into place.
As the arms fatigue, great waves of cramps sweep over the muscles. Knottoing them in deep, relentless throbbing pain. With these cramps come the inability to push himself upward. Hanging by his arms, the pectoral muscles are unable to act. Air can be drawn into the lungs, but it cannot be exhaled. Jesus fights to raise himself in order to get even one short breath. Finally, the carbon dioxide builds up in the lungs and in the bloodstream and the cramps partially subside. Spasmodically, he is able to push himself upward to exhale. Hours of this limitless pain, cycles of twisting, joint cramps, intermittent partial asphyxiation, searing pain as tissue is torn from his lacerated back as he moves up and down against the rough timber. He can feel the chill of death creeping through his tissues.
With one last surge of strength he once again presses his torn feet against the nail, straightens his legs, takes a deeper breath and utters his seventh and last cry, "Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit". And for those six hours, he looked down at the crowd and he said to his father, "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing". In some inexplicable way when Jesus died on the cross, he experienced the wrath, the punishment of God that you and I deserve. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says God made him Jesus, who knew no sin to become sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in him.