Sunday, February 19, 2017
For many Christians, the passion, or the events surrounding the crucifixion of Christ, are very familiar. We’ve heard countless messages on the crucifixion and even possibly seen movies or plays depicting it. Not to mention, there are four gospel accounts in the New Testament. However, not all the gospels offer the exact same details. One might include some things which others leave out. In John’s gospel, he includes some details which others have not, but at the same time, he has left out some events that others included. So the tendency among preachers and expositors is to fill in the blanks, so to speak, as if to make up for what John was lacking.
Now in the case of the other gospel writers, Matthew, Mark and Luke, that could be considered an appropriate method of exposition, since you could make the case that those three writers were not actually in attendance. However, that’s not the case with John. He makes it clear that He was there. He is the disciple whom Jesus loved mentioned in vs.26 and 35 who was there and witnessed himself the proceedings.
So then the question is, why did John include some things and not others? Well, the answer is that John is not writing a biography, but a gospel. He is telling and emphasizing certain events to present the gospel of Jesus Christ which leads to salvation. That’s what he says in chapter 20:30, 31, “Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.”
My dilemma then is to figure out exactly how to present this gospel message that John is endeavoring to give us. And as I prayed and studied this text, I came to a very simple conclusion; John is presenting the fact that Jesus gave His life to accomplish salvation, not focusing on the morbid aspects of the crucifixion, but on the aspects which teach principles of Christ’s atonement for us. So as someone said, Christ gave His life not to engender sentimentality but spirituality. Not that we might be mortified by the physical torture and bloody gore of the crucifixion, but that it teach us the knowledge leading to salvation. As another writer said, Salvation is based on believing. Believing is based on truth. And truth is revealed in Scripture. That believing we might have life in His name.
So then, we will examine this principle of Christ giving His life to accomplish salvation through four vignettes which John presents to us. The first is He gave up His clothes, then He gave up His mother, then He gave up His Spirit, and finally He gave out water and blood.
Now, I also want to add at the beginning that John correlates some of these events with Old Testament prophesies, showing that they were fulfilled in Jesus’s crucifixion. And I believe three of the references he mentions are found in Psalm 22, and one in Psalm 34. And I just want to point out that the Psalms was written 1000 years before Christ. There is absolute proof of that. It is indisputable. In fact, the enemies of Christ, the Jews, would have been very familiar with these Psalms. They probably did not consider these references as Messianic prophesies. So they would not have connived to correlate Christ’s crucifixion with the prophesies even if they had wanted to. The Romans did what Roman soldiers did, irregardless of what the Jews wanted. And those Jews would not have wanted to confirm Christ’s Messiahship. So these prophetic fulfillments are very important to John to point out, so that we might believe that Jesus is the Christ. And I don’t want to gloss over that. But now let’s focus on the four vignettes of how Jesus gave His life to accomplish our salvation.
First. Jesus gave up His clothes. We’ve all heard the phrase, “he didn’t own anything but the clothes on his back.” Well, that was especially true of Jesus. He had no possessions, no home, nothing of any value. All that He had were the clothes on His back. And we see in vs 23, that the soldiers took those clothes and divided them up between themselves. When Jesus came down from heaven’s glory to earth, He came all the way down to the bottom to accomplish our salvation. He let go of all His pride, all His clothes, becoming completely poor for us, so that we might become rich in Him. He became naked, bearing all the shame which that brings. It’s the same shame that Adam and Eve felt in the garden of Eden when they realized they were naked and hid from God. Christ became naked for us, bearing the shame, the scoffing, the stares, so that He might be our substitute for sin.
2 Cor. 8:9 says, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.” Now how does this incident illustrate that we became rich? Because these four soldiers each received a part of His clothing. There were no more vile sinners than these soldiers who stripped Jesus’s clothes from Him and nailed Him to a cross. And yet we know that even as they did so, Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
What John pictures here is that the clothes of Christ were made available at the cross for the covering of sinners. Just as God skinned animals to make clothing for Adam and Eve, so also He skinned Jesus to make clothing for you and me. Isaiah 61:10 says, “For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness.”
The hymn we sing, The Solid Rock, says, “dressed in His righteousness alone, faultless to stand before the throne.” 2 Cor. 5:21 says, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” There is no better picture of our sin situation than that we are naked and ashamed before God. Christ took that upon Himself, that we might become clothed in His righteousness.
But John adds that there is another piece of clothing there, which was not divided, because it was made in one piece. It was a tunic, worn under the outer clothing. And I find two pictures in this; first it is the inner garment, signifying the spiritual. And secondly, it was without seams. It’s not in part, it’s complete. The Spirit of Christ is not given piecemeal. Then thirdly, it is the garment of the High Priest, according to Exodus 28:31-31. Christ as our High Priest is described in Romans 8:34 saying, “who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.”
Now as we see this dividing of His clothing played out by the soldiers, it may seem that Jesus has no control over these events. Yet John informs us that the invisible hand of God guides all things, so that specific prophecy is specifically fulfilled. The fact that it was foreordained indicates that Jesus gave His clothing willingly, even as He gave His life willingly.
The picture teaches us that we need to be clothed in His righteousness if we are to be saved. It is the means of our justification; Christ’s righteousness given to us in exchange for our sin. And when we are saved, then we receive the spiritual covering of His Spirit, so that we might be like Christ. Then in response to Christ’s likeness we also are willing give up our possessions for the sake of the kingdom. Matthew 5:40 “If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also.” 45, “so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.”
Secondly, Christ gave up His mother. I know that heading sounds awkward. Maybe it would be more palatable to say, He gave up His family associations. But all we have presented here is His mother. There are indications from this text and others that Joseph was long dead and Jesus had, as the eldest son, taken on the responsibility of His mother and His brothers. His brothers at this point had not believed in Him. There is no evidence that they were there at the crucifixion. In fact, all his disciples had fled except for John and these four women.
Jesus would have been very aware of the pain that His crucifixion was causing to Mary. She was the only one out of His family that believed in Him. And now as Simeon prophesied to her 33 years earlier, a sword would pierce her soul. I’m sure in His humanness, Jesus would have loved to have used His divine power to come down from the cross and spare His mother this grief. But He was obedient even unto death to the will of the Father, knowing that in His death He would spare not only her soul, but millions more.
So John records here that Jesus gave up His mother, His family, and He gave over her care to John. He said to His mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then He said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” Not only was Jesus concerned about her physical care, but He was emphasizing also the nature of family in the kingdom of God. There is a new family dimension in the Kingdom of God. Our brothers and sisters and mothers and fathers are those in the kingdom. In Luke 8:21 Jesus said, “My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.”
He not only gave up His earthly family, He gave up His friendships. Note that John is always described as the one that He loved. This attitude of Christ also must be our attitude. This principle of consecration to God is stated by Christ in Matt. 10:37, “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it.”
Thirdly, He gave up His Spirit. Phil. 2:8 says, “And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” Giving up His Spirit means first of all, that He gave up His life. That is a tremendous thing. It was not an act of suicide. His hands are nailed to a cross. He can’t take His life by violence against Himself. But what He does is an act of divinity. He gives up His life willingly, of His own volition.
But before He acts in divinity, John shows His humanity. Jesus became thirsty and asks for a drink. So they give Him vinegar to drink. He suffered as all mankind would suffer the pangs of the cross. His divinity did not prevent His suffering. As a man, He thirsted. As God, He had the power over His life.
He gave up His life, voluntarily. As Jesus said, “I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.” (John 10:17-18)
The gospels record 7 statements or words of Jesus on the cross. John only gives us three. One was the statement to John and His mother. The second was He was thirsty. And now John records another statement that Jesus made as He gives up His Spirit. He cries, “Tetelistai!” it is finished. Tetelistai means it is complete, perfect. His life on earth as a man was complete. He lived from the first moment to the last, sinless, perfect. By the death of His perfect life He paid in full the debt of mankind who could never live a perfect life. And by dying, He paid the complete price which we owed; a life of perfection, righteousness, that God might place upon Him our sins as a substitute for the world.
1Peter 3:18 “For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit; in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison.” Not only did He give up His life, but He surrendered up His Spirit to death, to the abode of the spirits. Very little in scripture is given to us concerning the three days Christ spent in the grave. But according to both Peter and Paul, though His body was in the tomb, His Spirit was alive in the abode of the dead. I don’t want to speculate where the Bible does not indicate, but I cannot help but wonder if there was not an element of the punishment He bore for sins which was accomplished in the Spirit while He was in Hades. For it is certain, as the Apostle’s Creed confirms, that “He descended into Hell.” Though we are not privy to all that means, one thing is certain, He went to Hell, that He might triumph over death and Hell, that we who have faith in Him might never experience it.
The human body is spirit, soul and body. Our spirit is the spiritual part of our being that is connected to God, which then rules over the mind and the body. That is what it means to be born again. We must be born of the Spirit, if we are to be spiritual. And then we must give up our self rule to the rule of the Spirit if we are going to live as God would have us live, to be obedient to death, even as Christ.
Finally, the last vignette John presents for us is He gave up water and blood. The soldiers, in order to hurry the death of the crucified, broke their legs, which would cause them to suffocate. But coming to Jesus, these executioners realize that He is already dead. So one took his spear and stabbed Him in the side, presumably to prove He was dead, and John tells us that blood and water comes out. Now doctors have said that this clear liquid was from the pericardium surrounding the heart and partly coagulated blood. That’s the physical explanation. Other, more sentimental explanations have said it was a sign of a broken heart. I’m not sure that such a thing has been established as physically possible. But there is no doubt that there is a symbolic reference in the blood and water coming out of His side. And perhaps it is best stated in the old hymn, Rock of Ages, which says, “Let the water and the blood, from thy wounded side which flowed, be of sin the double cure, save from death and make me pure.” The blood therefore representing justification from sin, and the water being purification from sin.
Matthew Henry, the great theologian said it like this; “The blood and water that flowed out, signified those two great benefits which all believers partake of through Christ, justification and sanctification; blood for atonement, water for purification. They both flow from the pierced side of our Redeemer. To Christ crucified we owe merit for our justification, and Spirit and grace for our sanctification.”
Therefore, we can say that He gave His life to save us not only from the penalty of sin, but the power of it. As I have said numerous times, there are three phases in salvation. All must be accomplished for salvation to be complete. Justification is deliverance from the penalty of sin. Sanctification is the deliverance from the power of sin. And glorification is the deliverance from the presence of sin. The last phase will not happen until the resurrection when we will be given a glorified body. But all three phases are necessary in our salvation.
John has given us these vignettes of salvation tucked into the greater story of the cross, so that we might get a better understanding of what Christ gave His life for. Salvation must be more than just believing intellectually in Christ’s existence, otherwise everyone attending the crucifixion would have been saved that night. But we know that is not the case. Salvation is more than just some sort of superficial belief in the historicity of the events. And I will add something else that you may find disconcerting; salvation is more than just what Christ did on the cross. If salvation was accomplished for men by what Christ did on the cross, then all men have been saved. There is no need to evangelize. Christ has done everything. We do nothing. Well, we must do something, we must believe. But we must believe with saving faith. And faith is not merely intellectual, but it is also a matter of the will. Romans 10:10 says, “with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” Faith is a matter of both the intellect and the will. And in those two aspects of faith are couched justification and sanctification. So that James may rightly say, “show me your faith by your works. Faith without works is dead.”
Listen, the water and the blood streaming from the cross of Christ destroyed the enslavement to sin that the devil has held all of mankind in for all who believe. The symbolism of the blood and the water is the crux of the gospel, it is powerful for the destruction of fortresses. And it provides complete salvation. It is able to justify us, to deliver from the penalty of sin, but it is also powerful to sanctify us, to deliver us from the power of sin. Sin no longer needs have dominion over us. The truth will make us free when we embrace the whole truth of the gospel. Let us take up our cross and follow Christ, dressed in His righteousness, our justification. And being made free from the penalty of sin, let us live as free from the power of sin as we yield to the Spirit who lives in us and rules over our will.
Sunday, February 12, 2017
In the last few weeks we have been looking at the various aspects of apostasy. Apostasy, as you know, is the act of turning away from the truth. We started out examining the apostasy of the church in the example of the disciples at the arrest of Jesus. Peter’s denial of Christ exemplified the apostasy of the church.
Then last week we looked at the apostasy of the world, particularly as evidenced by religion and politics. The Jewish religious leaders under Annas exemplified apostate religion, and Pilate illustrated apostasy in politics.
Today we are going to look at one last example of apostasy, and that is the apostasy of government. Government is a divinely appointed institution, which God uses for HIs purposes. Romans 13:1 says, “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” However, even though God has established government, and has given it the authority to govern, we will see in this passage how as an institution it has turned away from the truth of God, or become apostate.
We might further define those three categories of apostasy as follows; Religion is man’s attempts to reach God; attempting to administer divine truth by mans methods. Politics is the art of compromise; attempting to manipulate truth to reach a consensus. And government is the rule of the people (the rule of law); attempting to enforce man’s truth through law. In each case, truth is subservient to man and not vice versa, as God intended it.
Now as we go through this passage, we will see seven ways in which government has turned apostate. As I have previously pointed out, Truth is on trial. Jesus is the embodiment of divine truth. And He is on trial for that truth which He represents on behalf of God.
So in rebellion against the Truth, Jesus is arrested and put on trial. And we see seven aspects of this apostasy on the part of the government which I have categorized as follows to help us see how this apostasy on the part of government is played out; they are exchanging the truth, mocking the truth, rejecting the truth, examining the truth, judging the truth, killing the truth, and rewriting the truth.
First let’s consider exchanging the truth. In chapter 18 Pilate declares, “what is truth?” And ironically, Truth is standing right next to him, and yet he does not recognize it. So Pilate does what people have done for centuries, what people do even today. As the representative of government he offers the people a choice; man’s version of the truth versus God’s designation of the Truth. He offers them either Christ or a man called Barabbas. Now John tells us that Barabbas was a robber. He was a convicted criminal. And yet when faced with the choice of choosing a criminal or an innocent man, they chose the criminal. So basically, they chose to exchange the truth for a lie.
Paul in his letter to the Romans, says the world is condemned because of that very thing. He says in Rom.1:25, “For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever.” Paul isn’t just talking about pagan idolatry here, he is talking about serving the devil himself, the father of lies.
I want to point out an interesting feature in the name Barabbas. Barabbas means "son of a father”. So we have here son of the father, Barabbas, and on the other hand Jesus whose name means Jehovah is Salvation who claims to be the Son of God the Father. So here is the choice that Israel is faced with. Will you release Barabbas, son of the father? Or shall I release to you Jesus, Jehovah is salvation, the Son of God the Father? And of course we know that they chose the creature, rather than their Creator. So given a choice by government, the people chose to exchange the truth for a lie.
But in this travesty of human justice, let us not miss the picture of divine justice presented for us here. In God’s court of justice, mankind stands before God as Barrabas, guilty and condemned. But God offers His Son, Jesus Christ, to die in our place, so that we might go free. It is the divine principle of the just dying for the unjust, the innocent taking the place of punishment for the guilty pictured in the law as the innocent, spotless lamb slain for the sins of the people. And this principle is stated succinctly in 2Cor. 5:21, “ [God] made [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
Secondly, in it’s apostasy, government mocks the truth. As we look at the beginning of chapter 19, we see Jesus mocked by Pilate and his soldiers. Pilate is almost obsessed with this concept of Jesus as King. Pilate of course is only a governor of Judea. He would have to bow to a King. So when He asks Jesus in chapter 18 if He was a King, Jesus asserts that He is in fact a King, but not of this world. He is really saying “I am a King, but not of this government.” He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords reigning throughout the world spiritually. But rather than that statement denouncing Christ’s authority, in reality it means that Pilate’s authority is subservient to Christ’s authority. But perhaps Pilate fails to comprehend this principle in entirety, or perhaps he does comprehend it, but instead of bowing to Christ as Lord, he mocks Christ’s rule.
So Pilate takes a man who is innocent by his own admission, and has Him scourged. John doesn’t give us the details of this scourging, but typically it was with a whip called a cat of nine tails, whose lashes were tipped with bits of glass or steel. The law had limited the number of strokes to 39, because 40 were known to kill a person. So they scourged Jesus, probably to within an inch of His life, though He was innocent of any wrong. Pilate reveals how cruel and evil he is, being willing to scourge an innocent man for the sake of appeasing the Jews and perhaps satiating his own jealous hatred of anyone challenging his authority.
Their mockery though is even more revealed by the crown of thorns and the purple robe the soldiers placed on HIm, and then parading the bleeding, lacerated Christ before the mob pronouncing “Hail, King of the Jews!” and slapping Him in the face.
The mockery of apostasy as revealed in this example shows that it’s possible to espouse the truth and yet not really believe it. It’s possible to proclaim Jesus is Lord and yet live for the devil. It’s possible that one’s actions can make a mockery of their professed faith in God. 2Peter 3:3 says, “Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts.” Truth is made a mockery by living in sin. Faith must be more than just lip service. As James said, “show me your faith by your works.”
Thirdly, the apostasy of government rejects the truth. Vs.4, Pilate came out again and said to them, “Behold, I am bringing Him out to you so that you may know that I find no guilt in Him.”
Jesus then came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold, the Man!” So when the chief priests and the officers saw Him, they cried out saying, “Crucify, crucify!” Pilate *said to them, “Take Him yourselves and crucify Him, for I find no guilt in Him.”
Pilate asserts again and again that Christ is guiltless of any crime. Yet in spite of that, the Jews still reject Him. This rejection of Christ really began a long time before this trial. Jesus spoke of this rejection in a parable found in Luke 19:14, in which the citizens of the kingdom say, “We do not want this man to reign over us.” Jesus was speaking allegorically of the citizens of Israel, who would reject God’s reign. And as Christ prophesied in yet another parable, they would kill the Son in order to try to thwart God’s sovereignty over them.
Government either recognizes God’s rule over the world, and they are merely stewards of that responsibility given to them by God, or they have rejected God’s rule, in order to rule themselves according to their lusts. And far too often in our society today, we see government capitulate to protests, to mob lust for blood, in spite of whether or not the placards and slogans of the crowds are true or not. As Isaiah 59:14 says, “Truth has stumbled in the street, and uprightness cannot enter.”
And I would suggest that this is the crux of man’s rejection of salvation. Man rejects the idea that Christ should rule over them. They may not dislike the idea of Christ dying in their place, but they reject the notion that they give up their right to self rule. Most people reject salvation because they want to live their life by their standards, by their rules, and as such reject the rule of Christ as Lord of their life.
That brings us to the fourth aspect of apostasy in government, and that is the examination of the truth. When Pilate has said they should crucify Him themselves, they respond, “We have a law, and by that law He ought to die because He made Himself out to be the Son of God.” This accusation strikes fear into the heart of Pilate. Pilate was more than willing to punish an innocent man who claimed a spiritual kingdom, but the thought that Christ was actually God in flesh concerned him greatly.
So Pilate brings Christ out to the Praetorium, his private residence, in order to examine Him. In effect, Pilate had already examined Christ by scourging, a method used to soften up the criminal so that he would be ready to confess. But at that point, Pilate had no charge to condemn Him with. Now he has this assertion by the Jews that Christ had committed blasphemy by declaring Himself as the Son of God.
But the Jews appeal to their law, probably referring to the law of Moses concerning blasphemy. However, they do not examine Him according to truth. Truth affirms that He is the Son of God. He was foretold by the prophets, heralded by angels, acknowledged verbally by God in the heavens, transfigured before His disciples, and He had performed hundreds of miracles that could only be of God and which served to validate the truth of His teaching. All of which, if they would have considered, would have eliminated the charge of blasphemy and caused them to fall on their knees in worship. But they aren’t interested in the truth, only in finding fault.
For Pilate, however, the possibility that Christ was the Son of God was alarming, and he takes Jesus privately into his quarters and begins to question Him saying, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer.
Listen, God is not obligated to answer man’s questions as to where He came from, or how or why He does certain things. Job became angry with God and asked God for answers on the assumption that God wasn’t fair and just, and when God finally did respond, He did not answer the question “why”. God is good and just and merciful, but He is God. He is sovereign, and finite, mortal man cannot ascertain Him. So Jesus did not answer Pilate.
Vs.10,11So Pilate said to Him, “You do not speak to me? Do You not know that I have authority to release You, and I have authority to crucify You?” Jesus answered, “You would have no authority over Me, unless it had been given you from above; for this reason he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.”
As we looked at earlier, Romans 13:1 says, “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” Pilate thinks that he has authority to judge, but he fails to realize that actually the great Judge of all the earth is judging him.
I find it ironic that just this week we had a decision by a panel of judges that rendered the Presidents order as unconstitutional. I don’t want to make political statements here, but I will say that judges do not have unilateral authority to determine truth. Judges have to be accountable to the truth, and as the law is the expression of truth then they must judge according to the law. Judges cannot legislate; they interpret and apply the law.
Thomas Jefferson wrote that the the General Government has no powers but such as the Constitution gives it. And as I said last week in regards to the American Constitution, the founders recognized that certain truths from God were evident, from which they established certain laws.
That principle is expounded in Jesus’s statement which is that government’s authority comes from God and God alone. Without such truth as a foundation, there can be no justice. But in the case of the government under Pilate, we see that truth is rejected for what is considered popular and expedient. And so he judges Christ according to the dictates of a mob, and the pressures of the moment.
And by the way, we see that being played out today as well. Society is trying to change laws and influence government by protests, by mob violence. And as we have seen it is effective to a great degree. That method has been used with great effect since the 60’s to change American policy, to make the general populace and particularly the politicians think that it is the majority opinion, when in fact many times it’s just the louder opinion. The silent majority suffers injury from a more vocal and violent minority.
That leads us to the next aspect of the apostasy of government; judging the truth. Vs.13, “Therefore when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out, and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Pavement, but in Hebrew, Gabbatha.”
John’s gospel is full of irony. And the height of irony is that Pilate sits on his judgment seat to cast judgment upon the Son of God. This same Jesus, whom Pilate and worthless men put to death, will one day sit on the Great White Throne. And all judgment will be given to Him to judge every man according to his deeds. John writes in Rev. 20:11 “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, [that includes kings and governors and celebrites and all who are considered great in this world) standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire.
And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
So here is the puny prefect of Judea, sitting in judgment of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the Judge of the whole earth. What irony. Who is man that dares to judge God? And how will God judge him that has passed judgment on Christ by refusing to submit to Him as Lord and King?
Vs.14, “Now it was the day of preparation for the Passover; it was about the sixth hour. And he said to the Jews, ‘Behold, your King!’ So they cried out, ‘Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him!’ Pilate said to them, ‘Shall I crucify your King?’ The chief priests answered, ‘We have no king but Caesar.’ So he then handed Him over to them to be crucified.”
In their judgment of Christ they sealed their own judgment. Here is the nation designed to be a theocratic nation. Here is the nation that claimed Jehovah as their God and King. But here they renounce their theocratic relationship to Jehovah God, by saying, "We have no king but Caesar." And so Israel, guilty of blasphemy in the denial of the Son of God, and guilty of apostasy in turning from God as King to Caesar thus denounces the theocracy, their own unique position before God, and in a few years they will receive their judgment and be scattered to the four corners of the earth, until there is no longer any Israel at all.
God is patient with the government of mankind, not wishing for any to perish but all to come to repentance. But one need only look at history to see the long line of governments that have abandoned God and become apostate, and as a result are no longer a power any longer on the earth to be reckoned with. The great Egyptian empire is no more. The Roman Empire has crumbled. The Greek Empire is no more to be found. England’s once grand empire is no longer. Nazi Germany’s empire was destroyed. And America, as the modern world’s greatest superpower, is on the brink of imploding under the weight of it’s own corruption. But the truth of God endures forever. God’s empire is increasing and will never end.
So the apostasy of the government results in killing Truth. That is the only solution to a world who hates the truth. That is their only way they think they can silence the truth, and thus silence their consciences. So they crucify Christ. Vs.17, “They took Jesus, therefore, and He went out, bearing His own cross, to the place called the Place of a Skull, which is called in Hebrew, Golgotha. There they crucified Him, and with Him two other men, one on either side, and Jesus in between.”
And governments have been killing Christians ever since, trying to silence the gospel. Trying to silence the truth of God. Christianity Today magazine has put the number of Christian martyrs since Christ walked the earth at 70 million people. And the persecution has not slowed down. Many sources say that Christians are the most persecuted group in the world today. Jesus said in John 15:20, “Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you.”
There is one final aspect of apostasy in government that we will look at today, and that is rewriting the truth. Vs.19, Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It was written, “JESUS THE NAZARENE, THE KING OF THE JEWS.” Therefore many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, Latin and in Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews were saying to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews’; but that He said, ‘I am King of the Jews.’” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”
Pilate wished to frame the argument his way. His argument was that Jesus was a Jew, and his death was a result of Jewish law. He wanted to absolve himself of any responsibility in the matter. He wanted to wash his hands of the whole affair. But Jesus did not let Pilate off so easily. Jesus made it clear that He was a King, but not of this realm. However, He also made it clear to Pilate that His realm superseded Pilate’s realm. He said Pilate would have no authority if God did not give him that authority.
So Pilate in one last desperate brazen act, writes a sign to be placed on Jesus’s cross, “The King of the Jews.” In one sense it was true. But it was only part of the truth. The full truth was that Jesus is King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. He was the very Son of God. And as is so often the case, a half truth is little more than a full lie.
Pilate writes his version of the truth. And says, “what I have written, I have written,” as if to say that his word was law. But as we have already stated, God’s law is the final authority. Man may write enough books to fill up the Atlantic Ocean, but all of them cannot equal the truth of God’s Word, the Bible. It is the sola scripture; the sole authority for life and practice. It is the source of truth, regardless of the revisionist historians, regardless of the scientists, regardless of the consensus of the courts of men.
The question for Pilate is the same for men today. What will you do with Jesus? If he was just the king of the Jews 2000 years ago, that was martyred, then we can write him off as inconsequential to 21st century Americans. But if He was the Son of God who gave His life as the Passover Lamb for the sins of the world, so that we like Barabbas might be set free, then we must fall at His feet and worship Him as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Do not turn away from the truth. Everyone will one day stand at the Great White Throne Judgment and answer this question: “What did you do with Jesus Christ?”
Sunday, February 5, 2017
Hillary Clinton achieved a great measure of notoriety during the Benghazi Hearings for her response to questioning regarding what really happened during the massacre, by asking her accusers, “What difference does it make?” Some would say that this statement of seeming indifference at the loss of the US Ambassador’s life and three embassy personnel’s lives was a key factor in her recent loss in the election.
And while that incident has very little to do with today’s message, as I studied the text this last week, and considered the importance of the truth of Christ upon our lives, I found myself hearing that shrill question repeated in the back of my mind. What difference does it make? Is the truth really that important? That is the subject we have been looking at for the last couple of weeks as we have studied the arrest and now the trial of Jesus. The subject has been the contrast of truth versus apostasy. Remaining stedfast in the truth, versus caving in to natural wisdom or human preferences which subvert the truth.
And for the last couple of weeks we have looked at various responses of the church when the truth engaged with the hostility of the world. The disciples initial response when Jesus was arrested was the fight or flight syndrome. Most of them fled into the darkness, Peter tried to fight. Both responses were natural, but both were the wrong response. The truth as evidenced by Christ’s response is stedfast, it is grounded in the word of God.
Then last week we looked more closely at the denial of Peter, his attempt to fight in his own cunning and strength resulted in eventually blaspheming and denying the Lord. That action is what is called apostasy in ecclesiastical terminology. And we looked at four steps by which the church - not the world, but the church - can turn from the truth to apostasy as evidenced by Peter. They were reliance upon your own wisdom and strength, a distancing of oneself from God, a desire for friendship and acceptance by the world, which finally culminates in blasphemy and denial of the Lord. And we often see this apostasy mirrored today in the church.
Now this week, as we follow the events recorded by John, we see another view of apostasy, the apostasy of the unsaved, or the apostasy of the world. Christ manifested the truth of God to the world, but the world turned away from truth, deliberately choosing apostasy. Truth is what was on trial then, and it is what is on trial in our modern culture as well. And we who love the truth find ourselves on trial as well. As Jesus in vs.37 says, “Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” You are either of the truth, or you are in opposition to the truth. And I believe the world who is antagonistic to the truth has echoed the question made by Hillary, “What difference does it make?” Truth is under attack. Apostasy is championed, in both the religious and political realms of this world.
Even a cursory look at the problems headlining our society today reveals the dilemma of our modern culture, which is summed up in Isaiah 59:14 which says, “Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands far away; for truth has stumbled in the street, and uprightness cannot enter.” Today truth has stumbled in the street. Apostasy seems to hold sway in the world and it threatens to overwhelm the church. The world loves darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil, they hate righteousness, and they love wickedness.
But while we can expect such a sentiment from the world who is in rebellion against God, it is even more disconcerting that the same question is asked by the church at large, if not directly, then indirectly. Is truth worth standing for? Does the truth really matter? Is the truth worth dying for? Is the truth worth separating over? Or do we just throw up our hands as Pilate did and say, “What is truth?”
I would submit to you that the truth is all that there is. It is the most important thing. Not conformity to religion, not conformity to the status quo, not conformity to political correctness. Jesus said, “you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” So truth is important.
Even the founders of our country understood that our heritage as Americans depended upon the truth. The Constitution begins, “We hold these truths to be self evident…” They acknowledged that truth was derived from our Creator. But I’m afraid that though they made a good start, they stopped far short of the truth. True life and freedom can only come when we believe and accept the gospel which is the truth of God given by Christ Jesus. As Jesus said, “you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
So as the church, we must believe all the truth, and nothing but the truth. It’s so important that as a church truth must be paramount in our focus. We cannot allow false teaching to creep in. Because like leaven, a little leaven leavens the whole lump, a little falsehood dilutes the truth so that it loses it’s power to set you free. A little lie serves to keep you in bondage.
The truths or doctrines of our faith are like railroad ties, underlying the steel rails of the track. If you start removing some of the ties, soon the rails are no longer able to keep the train on track, and you end up with a train wreck. But the world doesn’t see truth like that. They see it as a restriction on their freedom. They hate it because it makes them feel guilty. They want independence from God, even though such freedom leads to destruction. So they want to overthrow the truth, and are hostile to the truth. The world is at enmity with God.
In our text today we see this attempt by the world to subvert the truth concerning Jesus Christ. Truth is on trial, as I said previously. And the world is characterized by two entities in this passage; religion and politics. Those are the two elements of the world we are looking at today in this story. Religion and politics. First let’s consider religion. Not the church(the true believers) but religion.Religion is man’s attempts to reach God. Christianity is God reaching down to man through Jesus Christ.
So in this passage, religion is identified with Annas, the father in law of the high priest, who was Caiaphas. John doesn’t tell us much about Jesus’s trial with Caiaphas, but other gospels fill in those blanks. However, as I said in previous messages, John isn’t interested in a chronological biography here, he is giving us his gospel. And so the message I believe he wants to get across to us is not necessarily every detail of Christ’s trial, but the overarching view or goal of the religious bureaucracy, which was their animosity and hatred of the truth of Christ.
John focuses on Annas, because he is the real manipulator behind the Jewish religious facade. Caiaphas, who is the high priest that year is his son in law. But Annas, who had once been the high priest himself, is the godfather so to speak. Annas is the one who is in charge of all the concessions which were in the temple; the money changers and the sellers of doves and sacrifices. All of that was known as the bazaars of Annas. He was the godfather of what Jesus referred to as a “den of thieves” when He made a scourge of cords and cleaned out the temple.
And remember, Jesus did that twice. At the beginning of His ministry and then after His last triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Jesus cleaned out the temple. And that operation had exposed and called out the corruption of the religious system of the Jewish temple and the priesthood which was complicit. See, what they did was they fleeced people who came into the temple to present their sacrifice. Annas had inspectors there who inspected the animal or birds that the person had brought to be sacrificed. And of course, the law required that such had to be without spot or blemish. So when the inspector would look it over, he would find fault and say that it had some sort of defect and could not be sacrificed. So then the only real option was for the person to buy one of the “perfect” specimens that the bazaars offered, which of course cost much more money than what you could buy the same for elsewhere. And to make it even more odious, these theives had another aspect to their racket that included money changing. They said you couldn’t buy the sacrificial animal with Roman money, because it had Caesar’s image on it, and that amounted to idolatry. So you had to exchange your money for Jewish money, which again cost you a hefty commission. So they had quite a racket going on, enough to make the Mafia jealous.
Caiaphas, being the High Priest, was complicit in this scheme of course. It was a family business, after all. They were made extremely wealthy by it. But the High Priest was by this time a political appointment. The Romans recognized the degree of control and authority of religion in Israel, and so they had taken over the appointment of the High Priesthood in order to make sure that whoever was in that position followed their wishes and worked with them. And Caiaphas and his father in law Annas had managed to ingratiate themselves to the Roman authorities through graft and behind the scenes deal making. So that’s who these guys were. They were using religion for personal advantage. Truth had stumbled in the streets, because there was no righteousness in the leadership. They cared more about political correctness, about keeping the powers that be happy, and about garnering wealth than they did about truth. In fact, Caiaphas was the one who had said in vs14, “It is expedient for one to die on behalf of the people.” Unbeknownst to him, God was prophesying through him that Christ would die for the sins of the poeple. But from his perspective, what he was really saying, was it was expedient to sacrifice truth, to murder Jesus, for the sake of their religious enterprise.
So Annas, starting in vs.19, begins a mock trial of Jesus in the middle of the night. It was totally illegal and improper. There were no witnesses there to bring charges against Him. And as you look at his line of questioning, you notice that he doesn’t accuse Christ, but that He wants to get the Lord to say something which they can use to incriminate Him. They ask Him about His disciples and about His teaching.
It’s almost as if they are more concerned about how many people Jesus has in His church, and how many services they are holding, than whether or not Jesus is speaking the truth or not. So Jesus answers him saying, “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; they know what I said.”
Here is what is happening; the ruling party of the Jews have already issued a verdict upon Jesus. He is to be killed, to be crucified. They have already determined that He has to be done away with. They have no charges in regards to Him teaching anything that isn’t true, or scriptural, but their issue is that He challenges their authority and their ability to exert financial gain from their religion. So there is a conflict between their religious traditions and Christ’s teaching of truth of God and their only solution is to silence Christ by killing Him.
Listen, there are similar conflicts going on in the church today. There are traditions, practices, that have been passed down from generations and are considered essential to church health and wealth. And if you don’t conform to the country club mentality, then you are ostracized and even sometimes attacked. You are put on trial by the religious community because you don’t conform to the church paradigm which is practiced by most churches. Truth is sacrificed for the sake of continuity, for the sake of conformity, for the sake of prosperity. And when you don’t adhere to that template because you don’t see that specified in God’s blueprint for the church then you are subject to hostility and denunciation.
And as we see in the case of the High Priest’s appointment, there is a similar situation in the church today over leadership that is not according to the calling of God. I read a blog the other day from a pastor, lamenting the number of pastors he knew that had recently quit the ministry. They talked about things like burnout, and lack of appreciation, or conflicts with membership or committees. I don’t deny that pastors can get burned out, or that they can suffer from loneliness or depression just like any other person does. I am sometimes a victim of such things myself from time to time. But what I think is perhaps the root of the problem is that there are a lot of pastors today that have been called by churches, but not necessarily called by God. They may have been appointed by a seminary, but not appointed by Christ. If a pastor has a clear call of God to preach the gospel, and pastor the flock of Christ that Christ has given him, then I think that such a man will not likely quit the ministry due to feeling under appreciated. I think far too many men are called according to a popularity contest held by the church’s pastor search committee, and in order to maintain that approval rating, they have to conform to what the people want them to do, rather than their first priority as to what God would have them do. And that lack of a divine call upon their lives is equivalent to what Jesus referred to as a hireling, and not a true shepherd, who abandons his sheep when trouble comes.
I will say this as well, when the church starts to dismiss certain truths of scripture in favor of cultural preferences, then you should expect a continued decline into apostasy to follow shortly afterwards. For instance, when churches opt to disregard the clear teaching of the Bible in regards to women in ministry because it is no longer fashionable, then it should come as no surprise when those same denominations eventually move to include homosexuals into the clergy. One need only look at the predominate Presbyterian and Episcopal denominations to see how one denial of truth soon leads to another and so on until it is completely corrupted. A little leaven soon leavens the whole lump.
Well, the response to Jesus’s rebuke of the High Priest earned Him a slap in the mouth. Vs22,
When He had said this, one of the officers standing nearby struck Jesus, saying, “Is that the way You answer the high priest?” Jesus answered him, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify of the wrong; but if rightly, why do you strike Me?”
Jesus comes back to the truth. If I’m telling the truth, why do you strike Me? The reason is that they hated the truth. They didn’t want to hear the truth. And I believe that is still the prevailing sentiment today in organized religion. People don’t want to hear the truth, if it opposes what they want to believe. We have seen that lately in the political arena as well, haven’t we? The riots the other day at Berkley University. They don’t care about the truth. So they strike out, they riot, they break things and cause damage in order to prevent or intimidate people from speaking the truth. And as Jesus indicated, they break laws in order to try to convince others that they are unlawful.
We have seen such attacks even here in this church. We speak the truth, and eventually someone gets their pet principles stepped on, but rather than seriously seek to know the truth, they go out of their way to attack the pastor, and demean him to as many people in the community as they can. Such is the nature of apostasy. But Jesus is the example of how we are to react to it.
There is one other aspect of the apostasy of religion that is illustrated here in vs 28, “Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas into the Praetorium, and it was early; and they themselves did not enter into the Praetorium so that they would not be defiled, but might eat the Passover.” What this indicates is a commitment to ceremony at the expense of truth. The hypocrisy of these Jews is really astounding. They don't want to be defiled, and so they will not enter into the hall of judgment because the hall of judgment is in the hands of Gentiles. God hadn’t told them to do this, this was their tradition. So in their minds, to enter into the hall of judgment will bring about the possibility of defilement. It’s ironic that they are so scrupulous about the little details of tradition, but totally unconcerned about the vast sin of the murder of the Son of God.
Now, what makes it even more significant is that John says they didn't enter into the hall of
judgment that they might not be defiled, so they might eat the Passover. Now, isn't this amazing? Think of the irony of it. Who is the Passover lamb? Well Paul says in
1 Corinthians 5: 7 that Jesus Christ is the Passover lamb. He says, "Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed.” So they continue in their sin of murder, but publicly adhere to ceremonial cleanliness, in order that they might eat the Passover, while putting to death the Passover Lamb.
And as a modern application of that, let us be careful in the church if we accommodate sin, in order to not offend the world, so that we might practice our religion. Remember that Christ suffered and died for those sins. And when we wink at sin, we embolden the practice of those sins, and cheapen the grace of God through licentiousness, disregarding the fact that God crushed Jesus to pay the penalty for those sins so that we might be set free from them.
The second aspect of the apostasy of the world that is illustrated here is the political realm. Pilate is a prime example of the political aspect of the world. Let me give you a little background on Pilate. First of all, he married well. He married Claudia, who was the daughter of Tiberius, the grand daughter of Caesar Augustus. As a result of that marriage, he was appointed prefect of Judea, or what we might call the governor.
Pilate was a politician, trying to please the Emperor of Rome on the one hand, and to placate the Jews on the other. Yet Josephus and other historians tell us that he repeatedly irritated the Jews, and had more than once been rebuked by Rome for his treatment of the Jews. So perhaps that is an indication of why Pilate seems to try to accommodate the Jews desire to crucify Christ, even though he found no fault in Him. Even his wife urged him not to have anything to do with crucifying the Lord. He was trying to please people, even if it meant he would have to sentence to death an innocent man.
I’ve come up with my own definition of the word politics. Politics is the art of compromise. It means one will jettison truth in order to reach a consensus. Politics is in opposition to the truth. Now in Pilates case, you get the feeling that he wasn’t happy being political, but he felt he had no other alternative. Look at the predicament he found himself in.
Vs.29, “Therefore Pilate went out to them and said, ‘What accusation do you bring against this Man?’ They answered and said to him, ‘If this Man were not an evildoer, we would not have delivered Him to you.’ So Pilate said to them, ‘Take Him yourselves, and judge Him according to your law.” The Jews said to him, “We are not permitted to put anyone to death,’ to fulfill the word of Jesus which He spoke, signifying by what kind of death He was about to die.”
The predicament is this; Pilate is summoned to court to condemn Jesus, whom I believe it would have been next to impossible for him not to have heard of to some extent, and the judgment, crucifixion has already been determined, and yet there is no charge that they prove is worthy of death. The religious leaders have put Pilate in a box. They know Pilate has been in trouble with Rome over his treatment of the Jews in the past, and he cannot afford another incident. So in order to appease the Jewish rulers, he must condemn Jesus to death. But in his heart he knows that Jesus is not guilty of death.
I think a lot of people in the world find themselves in a similar position today in regards to Christianity or the church. They recognize something about it which seems true and right, but the acclaim of the culture is that they condemn Christianity. And at that point they have to make a decision; to please the world, or to please God. Since they haven’t yet chosen to believe in God unto salvation, it is very unlikely that they will do so under duress. They make the same mistake that Pilate did. They try to escape making a decision at all.
vs.31, “So Pilate said to them, ‘Take Him yourselves, and judge Him according to your law.’ The Jews said to him, ‘We are not permitted to put anyone to death.’ But the world will not let you off the hook so easily. The world requires allegiance to it’s doctrine, just as God demands allegiance to His doctrine. In the words of Bob Dylan, “you got to serve somebody.” You have to make a choice.
So Pilate asks Jesus directly, “Are You the King of the Jews?” That was a start towards the truth. But let’s see if Pilate is seriously seeking the truth, or if he is just seeking a way out. Jesus answers him curiously; ““Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?”
Jesus doesn’t need to ask Pilate questions, as He knows the thoughts and intents of the heart of man. But what He is doing is asking a question to prompt Pilate to ask himself the right question. So Jesus says, Do you say this yourself, or did others tell you that about Me? Are you repeating what you have heard, or are you seriously inquiring to know if I am King of the Jews?
Note Pilate’s response; Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done?” So he at once removes himself from the equation, putting Christianity aside as a nationalistic thing, something that has nothing to do with himself as a Roman. And yet he cannot sweep this question of what to do about Jesus aside. It is a question that everyman and woman must answer at some point in their lives. Is He King of Kings, and Lord of Lords? And if I say He is, then I must bow to Him and worship Him. If I say He is not, then I will suffer the eternal consequence of my decision.
Jesus then answers in a way that does nothing to absolve Pilate of guilt. But rather includes everyone regardless of his nationality. “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.”
Note that Jesus does declare that He is King, but not just of the Jews, but of a realm which is outside of the geography of nations and kingdoms of this world. It is a spiritual kingdom as opposed to an earthly kingdom.
Therefore Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Here is the purpose of Christ’s coming to earth as declared by Jesus Himself; to testify to the truth. And here is the means of salvation; everyone who is of the truth hears My voice. Hearing indicates more than listening however. It indicates receiving, believing, and obeying the truth of Christ with all your heart and soul.
Folks we need to understand this. Jesus testified to the truth of God. God is life and they that believe in the truth of God receives that life. The very life of God; spiritual and eternal. The truth has been given to you and now the choice of receiving it is up to you. Jesus is the way of life, the truth of life, and the source of life, even everlasting life. But you have to receive Him and by extension His truth, and walk in it.
But the politician Pilate was still trying to duck the question. And so are many in the world today. The world echoes the disillusioned cry of Pilate; “what is truth?” Truth was staring him in the face, and he would not receive it. Oh, I believe Pilate saw it, just as clearly as Annas and Caiaphas saw the Passover Lamb standing in front of them. But like them, Pilate cannot afford to receive it. He loved too much the favor of this world to become an outcast with Christ.
Pilate thought he could please the world and still please God. He said to Christ what is truth, thus hopefully excusing himself from receiving the truth, and then he goes out to the crowd and says I find no fault in Him. He doesn’t want to make a decision either way. But either you accept Christ as your Lord and King, or you condemn Him along with the world. Undecided is not an option in the Kingdom of God. You are either for Him or against Him. You either believe Him, or you reject Him. Pilate would ultimately find this to be true, and though he would wash his hands for eternity, he would never wash away the blood of Christ upon his hands.
Listen, don’t die with Christ’s blood on your hands. Peter preaching on the day of Pentecost said in Acts 2:23, “this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.” It was your sins and mine that put Jesus to death. And only by repentance and faith in Him can we be forgiven of it, and given a second life.
Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Believe the truth today and be saved. Hold onto to the truth today and be set free. Walk in the truth and have life more abundantly. Today you have seen the truth of Christ. What will your response be? Will it be the response of religion? Continuing to practice expediency at the cost of truth? Will it be the response of political correctness, at the expense of truth? I pray you hold fast to the truth, no matter what the world or religion or political persuasion says.