Grab your Bibles and turn with me to Mark 14. Last week we wrapped up the scene in the Garden of Gethsemane. We saw the main players and how they responded to the situation. It was a moment of sowing and reaping as years of patterns boiled over into action.
The Jewish leaders were full of hatred toward Jesus because he threatened their influence and so they came to arrest him, Judas was filled with love of the world, specifically manifested in a love of money which harvested cold-blooded betrayal of Jesus. The disciples were still attached to their lives and in self-preservation and self-confidence abandoned Jesus.
The only one who remained faithful was Jesus. He stood out as one of these things who was not like the others. After committing himself to the Father’s plan in the Garden that night, even through agony, he was resolved to obey in the Spirit and that’s just what he did.
Now in our passage today we are going to leave the Garden and head back into the city of Jerusalem, where Jesus will be tried by sinful men. Mark serves it up to us in three progressions:
The events leading up to the false trial (53-54)
What was the backstory and what were the circumstances leading up to and surrounding the trial scene that Mark spends his time focusing on.
2. The evil scheming to manufacture consistent witnesses (55-59)
This second progression really highlights the grave injustice of the trial. The Jewish leaders violate jurisprudence by approaching the trial with the goal of killing Jesus, and then look for ways to do it, rather than conducting an honest investigation and a fair trial.
3. The erroneous condemnation of the glorious Christ (60-65)
The end of this narrative is raw. You have the manifestation of the glory of God in the person of Jesus Christ, which is met with absolute hardness and absolute blindness and rejection. It’s powerful to watch it unfold.
There are so many wonderful themes that this passage will yield for us.
Mark writes this first and foremost so that we can understand how Jesus suffered as a perfect man and as a result brought us forgiveness and reconciliation to God. These events help us understand the cross work of Jesus Christ.
That’s the main point.
But as is always the case with scripture, we have several other lessons we learn from studying a passage like this.
It will teach you how to respond to injustice. When you are personally mistreated, this scene contains truth that you must recall to mind. When you are mistreated, or misunderstood, your default is to reason according to the flesh.
How do you respond when a family member sins against you repeatedly? What do you do when a co-worker or boss has it out for you? How about when your motives are judged or you are made to look bad by other people?
In other words, what are you to do when life isn’t fair and the system seems rigged against you? This account today reminds us that:
God’s plan superintends evil scheming and he is always in control
God’s plan includes your suffering and you being wronged by others (Jesus never even sinned, you and I bring some of this on ourselves).
God’s plan exalts Christ as a perfect example for enduring wrong
Jesus is on the way to the cross, but before he gets there, the Father wants him to undergo this horrible situation. Why? To demonstrate his righteousness, to show his obedience, and to leave us an encouraging model
1 Peter 4:19—Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right.
You have to care more about the glory of God than your own personal rights, and you have to trust God’s sovereign plan more than what you believe is best for your life. And you entrust yourself to your faithful creator.
Let’s read our passage this morning and see our Lord navigate this situation:
Mark 14:53–65—53 They led Jesus away to the high priest; and all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes gathered together. 54 Peter had followed Him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest; and he was sitting with the officers and warming himself at the fire.
55 Now the chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, and they were not finding any. 56 For many were giving false testimony against Him, but their testimony was not consistent. 57 Some stood up and began to give false testimony against Him, saying, 58 “We heard Him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands, and in three days I will build another made without hands.’ ” 59 Not even in this respect was their testimony consistent.
60 The high priest stood up and came forward and questioned Jesus, saying, “Do You not answer? What is it that these men are testifying against You?” 61 But He kept silent and did not answer. Again the high priest was questioning Him, and saying to Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” 62 And Jesus said, “I am; and you shall see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING WITH THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN.” 63 Tearing his clothes, the high priest said, “What further need do we have of witnesses? 64 “You have heard the blasphemy; how does it seem to you?” And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death. 65 Some began to spit at Him, and to blindfold Him, and to beat Him with their fists, and to say to Him, “Prophesy!” And the officers received Him with slaps in the face.
Mark gives us the next couple of steps in the progression of the story. The events move quickly back to back and then we slow down and take a detailed look at a few things.
Giving ourselves a running start at our narrative today, let’s wind back a few a verses.
v. 45—Judas interrupts a late-night prayer meeting in the Garden of Gethsemane, a familiar place where Jesus loved to go with his disciples. Judas shows up and begins kissing Jesus. A sign of friendship and the deepest level of cold-blooded, hard-heartedness as he delivers over the son of God.
v. 46—They lay hands on Jesus and seize him. They surround him so that he can be apprehended.
v. 47—Peter cuts off the ear of the slave of the high priest because he gets amped up after Jesus speaks and the entire crew which came to arrest him falls backwards. Jesus puts the ear back on.
vv. 48-49—Jesus rebukes those arresting him by asking why they never arrested him when they had the opportunity during the day. All week he’s been hanging out in the temple.
v. 50—Then they all fled and abandoned him. Practically they ran away as fast as they could so they wouldn’t be in danger. And personally, they left Jesus all by himself. In the process one bystander lost his towel and had an awkward night as he escaped with his life, but no clothing. That was the urgency and the danger.
Then in the progress of these events we come to v. 53—
(53) They led Jesus away to the high priest;
3 Progressions in the Jewish Trial of Jesus (14:53-65)
The events leading up to the false trial (53-54)
Jesus is tied up right now. He’s been arrested by the commander. They know take him where they want him to go.
And so, begins the first section concerning the criminal conviction of Jesus. There are three parts to his Jewish trials and then three parts to his Roman trials. Mark skips over the first and second parts and focuses on the middle section of the trial of Jesus by the Jews.
The high priest is located in Jerusalem. He lived in the fancy part of town up in the elevated part of the city. It was the nice part of town. It boasted a good view and afternoon breezes.
We learn from John that this is the house of Annas. Annas is the patriarch of a wealthy and powerful family. The high priest at this time is a political position, which was purchased. You bought your way into the role.
And so, this is a powerful family. A different governmental system, but perhaps akin to the Kennedy family in American politics.
Annas has retired from his official role, but he’s still alive and still influencing. His son-in-law Caiaphas is the current high priest. Luke 3:2 references the priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas as being an era. According to Josephus his full name is Joseph Caiaphas.
Annas had five sons who would rule in the position at different times.
Typical tenure for a high priest was four years. Being replaced after one year wasn’t uncommon. Annas served for nine years. Caiaphas for nineteen years (A.D. 18-37). We are actually now about 15 years into his rule. Nineteen years is highly impressive.
They are taking Jesus to a skilled and savvy politician. Let’s just say that to get to this position you had to be able to dodge some land mines and remove some obstacles. He’s seasoned in life, no longer a young man.
It’s a full house for Annas this evening. Second part of v. 53—
and all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes gathered together.
This is the supreme court in Israel. It is the ruling party of 70 leaders made up from three different walks of life. Each is delineated here. Just to briefly set this in our minds freshly, the:
Chief priests—former high priests and high-ranking officials. A small handful of men.
The elders—These were the old guys so to speak. They possessed the greatest power as a contingency within the Sanhedrin.
The scribes—scholars, essentially lawyers. They came from the middle class.
Breaking rules in terms of both scriptural indications of proper conduct as well as the traditions held by the Pharisees. These guys don’t care. They are Sadducees.
These men need a decision by morning. They’ve got to move very quickly.
As we will see it will require finding evidence, establishing witnesses, hearing testimony, pronouncing judgment.
Now v. 54 somewhat comes out of nowhere and then disappears for a while. We get a little comment about Peter.
Mark’s wants us to have this scene in the back of our minds while we read the rest of the story. You could understand it to be like the “B” roll in a movie scene. The main story is taking place with Jesus in the house. Meanwhile there is another story unfolding simultaneously in the backyard.
(54) Peter had followed Him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest; and he was sitting with the officers and warming himself at the fire.
If you remember, all the men fled including Peter (v. 50). He must have hid, and then watched to get an idea of where the crowd was going as they made their way back to the city. He somewhat regained his composure, but he’s still afraid right now.
One other disciple was nearby in the courtyard, which is how Peter got access (it was probably John). So, Jesus is inside being deposed by the grand jury, Peter is outside in the backyard trying to blend in and act normal.
You’ve been with a group you don’t identify with. It’s uncomfortable.
It was a cold spring night because they have a fire going. Peter is trying to casually act like he belongs there with the officers.
Peter is the only one who has dared to come this close. We will get a lesson next time from Peter on failure, but that’s all Mark want to give us on Peter for now, and he moves back to the main scene in v. 55—
3 Progressions in the Jewish Trial of Jesus (14:53-65)
The events leading up to the false trial (53-54)
The evil scheming to manufacture consistent witnesses (55-59)
(55) Now the chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, and they were not finding any.
Just consider the injustice in that verse. And they were trying to investigate the matter so that they could bring justice to the situation. No. They wanted to put him to death and were trying to find something they could get him on in order to do it.
They are starting with the end in mind.
It’s very scary, outcome-based legal proceedings.
Convinced that they are acting in the best interest of the nation. Consider what took place after word got back to the Pharisees that Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead just a couple of weeks prior to this.
John 11:47–50—47 Therefore the chief priests and the Pharisees convened a council, and were saying, “What are we doing? For this man is performing many signs. 48 “If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” 49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all, 50 nor do you take into account that it is expedient for you that one man die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish.”
Jesus is going to make us look bad. Jesus is going to cause us to lose influence and popularity. Perhaps even freedom and independence. He’s gotta go.
Foolishly missing that he is raising people from the dead!
They are going to violate many rules here that would result in a mistrial. They don’t care. From the rabbinic teachings that specified how to conduct legal proceedings they will violate a handful of requires steps or practices. Here are some violations:
Capital cases must start and end during the day (need to be alert and sharp)
Cannot be on the eve of a festival (first day of Passover, day before Sabbath)
Location: south of the temple, semi-public location
The arrest was the result of a bribe
Begin for the case of acquittal, not for conviction (for property you begin with prosecution)
Must not reach a conviction on the same day (you can reach an acquittal that day)
(56) For many were giving false testimony against Him, but their testimony was not consistent.
The law was clear in the Old Testament that you couldn’t convict someone of a capital offense without two witnesses. It’s s wonderful legal standard for protecting wrongful indictments.
Deuteronomy 19:15—A single witness shall not rise up against a man on account of any iniquity or any sin which he has committed; on the evidence of two or three witnesses a matter shall be confirmed.
You need precise agreement. It wasn’t happening, Mark gives an example of what kinds of charges were being brought and how they weren’t sticking.
(57) Some stood up and began to give false testimony against Him, saying, 58 “We heard Him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands, and in three days I will build another made without hands.’ ”
Now you might be thinking, didn’t Jesus say that? I remember something like that when he made the statement, and everyone got upset. The charge is that Jesus claimed that he would destroy the temple. And that he was going to destroy the earthly one made by hands and then raise up a new one of a different type.
John records where Jesus says this. Keep your finger in Mark 14 and turn with me over to John 2.
John 2:20—Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
Destroy is a verb. But what’s the subject of the verb destroy? The subject is what does the action. Jesus doesn’t say I will destroy. He just says destroy. That’s because we use language differently in English, so it’s translated properly, with an assumed subject.
This is a second person plural verb. It is explicit in the original language that he is saying you all destroy this temple and I will raise it same temple, up.
He doesn’t say that he will do it. He doesn’t say made with hands. And he doesn’t say he will build another kind later.
Why did they attempt to get him on this charge? It was a capital offense to destroy a worship place. Imagine if someone was claiming, “I’m going to blow up the entire Pentagon and then replace it with another one.” It was a capital offense, they wanted to get him on the charge. But…
(59) Not even in this respect was their testimony consistent.
Perhaps you’ve watched a courtroom drama. This is not a public witness stand, but rather each witness gives testimony privately so that you can see whether their stories corroborate one another. They had been trying to get everyone on the same page, but since they were all lying, the stories weren’t lining up.
But they are still committed to killing Jesus, so they move to another tactic, bringing us to our final progression in the Jewish trial of Jesus.
The events leading up to the false trial (53-54)
The evil scheming to manufacture consistent witnesses (55-59)
The erroneous condemnation of the glorious Christ (60-65)
(60) The high priest stood up and came forward and questioned Jesus,
Caiaphas, the fifteen-year veteran high priest who is on his way to a tenure that is five times the average.
He begins to depose Jesus. He’s trying to gather information for filing charges. Jesus hasn’t said anything yet. Nothing that would substantiate the outcome they are looking for. So, Caiaphas begins to press in, v. 60—
saying, “Do You not answer? What is it that these men are testifying against You?”
Jesus isn’t debating them. He isn’t answering fools according to their folly. But, v. 61—
(61) But He kept silent and did not answer.
Jesus is fulfilling prophecy right before our very eyes.
Isaiah 53:7—He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth.
This does two things. First, it angers those questioning him. This is incredibly frustrating and upsetting when you are asking anyone a question and they refuse to answer. But it’s even worse when you are trying to lay a trap or find a way of leveling a charge.
Second, it demonstrates Jesus’ willingness to endure being wronged, according to his Father’s good plan. He trusts the Father.
He will speak. Jesus isn’t demonstrating that you give everyone the silent treatment if you are being wronged. He’s been confrontational toward these men before. They are familiar faces. They’ve not only seen one another over the past three years on occasion, but in particular, this past week day after day.
Well, not getting anywhere, Caiaphas tries a different approach.
Again the high priest was questioning Him,
Repeated questioning, probably other questions. This perhaps being the most significant.
and saying to Him, “Are You the Christ,
Are you the Christos? The Messiah? The Promised One? The Anointed Prophet, Priest and King for whom we are waiting? Are you the Son of David? The Son of Man? The Morning star of Israel? The Promised Seed? The Redeemer?
And then in apposition to the question about him being the Christ, that means you put an equal sign between the first title and the second, he says:
[are you] the Son of the Blessed One?”
Are you the Son? Are the you the beloved Son who Isaiah spoke of?
If you are familiar with this interaction, then like me, you probably read over it without feeling how ridiculous it is to hear something like this.
We grab someone and pull them up here on stage and we want to find out, “hey do you think you are God?” It’s a ridiculous question and there are very few people who ever claim to be God outright. When they do most people recognize they are out of their minds.
But now Jesus decides to speak:
(62) And Jesus said, “I am;
All of the promises that you have been reading about concerning the Messiah for 2,000 years. I’ve arrived in my incarnation. I’m the guy being spoken about.
I am is the divine name.
I’m God in the flesh. This is a special moment in history. It is the first time Jesus has publicly testified concerning his identity with this degree of certainty and clarity.
And then he makes a statement that ups the level of accountability in the room, which is already sky high.
and you shall see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING WITH THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN.”
Now he quotes Daniel. What is he doing? He’s cutting through all the pretense and all the man-centeredness and all the idolatry and all the blindness. What happens at this moment in world history?
Daniel 7:13—“I kept looking in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him.
Psalm 110:1—The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at My right hand Until I make Your enemies a footstool for Your feet.”
Right now, you hotshots think you have me on the defensive. You are sitting in judgment over me? You delusional. You’re out of your minds. You have begun to drink deeply of your own significance. You think you are all that.
Try this out: next time you see me, you won’t be judging me, I will be judging you.
God laughs and scoffs at this type of pride.
Psalm 2:2–5—2 The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, 3 “Let us tear their fetters apart and cast away their cords from us!” 4 He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them. 5 Then He will speak to them in His anger and terrify them in His fury…
You go against Jesus and you will face anger and fury. So what’s the solution?
Psalm 2:11–12—11 Worship the Lord with reverence and rejoice with trembling. 12 Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, for His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!
You know what you are to do right now Caiaphas and Annas and Eleazar and Simon and Ishmael (all former chief priests sitting there)? Do homage. Bow the knee. Own your iniquity and come before your maker and he will wash you clean.
Psalm 2 is scary. It removes all the wrong ways of thinking we tend toward about human importance. But it ends by saying, how blessed are all who take refuge in Him!
How happy they are. How free they are. You can go to an angry god who laughs at opposition and will judge sin in fury and anger and you can find safety in that same God! Amen. This is good news. Getting on good terms with God does not involve you doing anything for God.
1 John 3:23—This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.
You believe in the name of Jesus.
Jesus says, I am
And Caiaphas says, v. 63—
the high priest said, “What further need do we have of witnesses? 64 “You have heard the blasphemy; how does it seem to you?”
It’s discouraging when people don’t listen to God’s Word. But it’s not a failure of God’s truth. Instead of believing, Caiaphas digs in even deeper.
The text says that as he was saying also demonstrating his outrage by
(63) Tearing his clothes,
Most likely he’s tearing his undershirt here and not his robe. It’s a way of demonstrating how outrageous something is. He’s displaying horror.
Now let’s be clear. Caiaphas couldn’t care less about blasphemy.
Blasphemy was contending with God at the highest level. The irony of course is that by saying that Jesus is blaspheming, when he is in fact God, Caiaphas in blaspheming.
Truth be told this was not a moment that caused Caiaphas to grieve over the over someone stealing and competing with the glory of God, rather it would have been relieving. Now he has the ability to get the rest of the Sanhedrin to declare Jesus guilty and move on.
This is a relief when you consider what the earlier testimony and evidence looked like. This feels like a present dropped into his lap to have incriminating evidence now on Jesus.
And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death.
To the grand jury: all in favor of sentencing Jesus to death, signify by saying, “I.” and in unison there was a chorus of voices. Of course, this was before Robert’s rules, but the text says they were all approving of Caiaphas statement.
And their assessment was that he was deserving to die.
As is often the case, as the power shifts, they get violent and they began to humiliate and mistreat our Savior.
(65) Some began to spit at Him, and to blindfold Him, and to beat Him with their fists, and to say to Him, “Prophesy!”
Spitting is always considered repulsive and a sign of disrespect. Hard to imagine grown men doing this will all the spite they can muster.
They put a hood or a blindfold to cover up his face so he wouldn’t know when he was going to get punched in the face, what part of the face, or where it was coming from.
This is a Messianic test according to their interpretation of Isaiah 11. Isaiah 11 says the Messiah won’t judge by what his eyes see. The problem in context, the verses are speaking about his assessment not being according to the flesh and externals.
The Messiah won’t assess by whether people are rich or poor as a human might, but rather according to righteousness.
What they are saying is in effect, “if you are really God, then you prove it to us on our own terms.” Have you heard that one before? “I told God if he really exists then…” It’s arrogance.
Furthermore, you have the wickedness of the human heart. They’ve hated Jesus for a long time and now he’s tied up, and they’re not. He doesn’t even give it the time of day.
Each one of these men is thinking they are getting away with it. They won’t rat on each other. Jesus is gonna die soon.
But the truth is that we never get away with our sin.
Each one of these men will stand before Jesus one day and give an account face to face. You spit phlegm in my beard. You punched me behind a hood. You condemned me to death when I offered you salvation.
And the officers received Him with slaps in the face.
Transition statement. Jesus is now going to Pilate. He is going to have three more depositions. Pilate, then Herod, then back to Pilate again. And so the temple guards and the Roman soldiers do the same thing as the Jews.
They begin mocking him and receive him with open slaps to the face—it’s a sign of derision. Not only painful, but humiliating.
This account shows us the perfect Son of God suffering at the hands of sinners. And it reminds us that:
God’s plan superintends evil scheming and he is always in control.
God’s plan includes your suffering and you being wronged by others.
God’s plan exalts Christ as a perfect example for enduring wrong.
One thought that really provoked me this week was that Jesus received this treatment, not first from Gentiles, but from his own people. And it wasn’t the folks, but the people who were in positions of spiritual influence.
As you read the Old Testament you discover that very often the people charged with spiritual leadership over the nation of Israel are a conduit of corruption and spiritual harm rather than spiritual benefit.
And so here, the high priest—the one who was considered the position of greatest spiritual responsibility for leading the nation to God, is here blaspheming God.
Here in the timeline we are now just hours away from the veil being torn in two. And when that veil was torn it was a visible that human priests are done away with forever. No more go-between needed to relate to God.
What the priesthood did originally was demonstrate that you need a go-between, and to demonstrate the distance between you and a holy god. But when Jesus came, he removed thist by becoming our go-between and removing our separation from God.
If you have put your faith in Jesus Christ, then the writer of Hebrews says that is your great high priest. And unlike a human high priest Jesus is a perfect high priest.
He can be trusted. He will never lead you astray. He will never be in error. And you never have to worry about the mediator who is supposed to serve you in bringing you to God being beset by human weakness or sinfulness.
You can now come to God boldly.