************ Sermon on John 18:12-24 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on April 1, 2007
"Jesus is Questioned"
A couple of years ago, acting on a tip, the Ontario Provincial Police broke down the door of a house in suburban Toronto. It was the middle of the night. They rushed into the bedrooms with guns drawn, and literally dragged the occupants out of bed. They forced a man, his wife, her aged father, and a couple of children to lay face down on the living room floor for a couple of hours. All of them were dressed or undressed for bed, cold, and scared.
The police searched through their house for the criminal they had come to arrest. In fact, the house was ransacked and generally torn apart in the search for evidence. The police never did find anything linking the family to the criminal in question.
It turned out the police were at the wrong house.
When the police rather shamefacedly left, the family never got an apology for being wrongfully terrorized. Rather, the police threatened to lay charges against them because a small package of a controlled/illegal substance had been found in their basement.
In November 1988 a Joseph Burrows was arrested for the murder of an 88-year-old man in Sheldon, Illinois. No physical evidence was found to link Burrows to the killing, but he was convicted on the basis of testimony from two people who said they saw Burrows do the shooting.
Burrows was convicted and sentenced to die. He spent more than 6 years on Death Row.
Burrows' defense attorney persuaded the judge to rehear the testimony of the two witnesses. Both of them took back their earlier testimony and said that police and prosecutors pressured them into testifying falsely against Burrows. Eventually, one of the witnesses even admitted to the murder.
News stories like these always get my blood boiling. Imagine ordinary citizens, law-abiding people like you and me, being treated like criminals. I try to put myself in these situations and I shudder. I know I would be very angry if this kind of injustice happened to me and my family.
In the Scripture reading in front of us this evening we see someone innocent – totally innocent – being treated like a common criminal. We see a grave injustice being done to Jesus.
I Treated Like a Criminal
A It starts right away with Christ's arrest. What was His crime? What was He charged with? We have to go back to a meeting of the Sanhedrin that John records for us in chapter 11. The chief priests and Pharisees had just learned about the miraculous raising of Lazarus from the grave. John tells us that many of the Jews who had seen what Jesus did "put their faith in him" (John 11:45). The chief priests and Pharisees asked,
(Jn 11:47-48) "What are we accomplishing?" ... "Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. (48) If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation."
Do you know what Jesus' crime was? Jesus' crime was that He was getting too popular. He was getting too big a following. And everyone in the Sanhedrin knew that those who followed Him were rabble-rousers, the kind of people who would riot and loot for no good reason. The Roman authorities would be forced to respond with spears and swords. The result: no more Jerusalem, no more Temple, no more Israel. All because of Jesus.
"So from that day on they plotted to take his life" (John 11:53). That was the conclusion of the meeting of the Sanhedrin. They convinced one another that "We have to kill Him before He ruins the country."
B Jesus was arrested. And John reports that He was "bound" (vs 12). Today that would mean handcuffs or a strait-jacket. Back then it meant ropes and shackles tying His hands and feet together.
Jesus did not resist arrest; nor did He try to flee. In fact, as we learned last week, He went to meet those who came to arrest Him. And, Jesus refused to use force. Remember how He admonished Peter for using the sword? Jesus was no threat to the soldiers and temple guards who came to arrest Him; He was no threat to Himself; He was no threat to any passers-by. Yet, He was "bound" like a common criminal; He was bound like He was dangerous; He was bound like He was a threat to society.
In this light we also have to view the temple guards who stood watch over Him at every moment. They were part of the group that arrested Jesus. They escorted Him into the home of Annas. They protected the high priest while a defenseless Jesus was questioned by him. They were the ones who slapped Jesus across the face when it seemed He was insolent to the high priest.
Jesus, the innocent One, was treated like an armed and dangerous criminal.
C According to Jewish law no trial could take place without witnesses. Yet, two times Jesus calls attention to the lack of witnesses:
(Jn 18:21) Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said."Annas does not ask for the testimony of those who heard Jesus. He does not call anyone to testify against Jesus. Annas does not need witnesses, jury, or charges. Annas does not need this for, don't forget, the Sanhedrin had already decided that Jesus must die. Jesus was convicted and the sentence was passed long before He appeared before Annas. Jesus, we would have to say, was not just treated like a common criminal; He was being treated worse than a common criminal for a criminal's rights would at least be upheld.
(Jn 18:23) "If I said something wrong," Jesus replied, "testify as to what is wrong ..."
D According to Jewish law no trial could take place without charges being laid. Yet, no charges were laid against Jesus. After all, how can you charge someone with having the wrong kind of followers? How can you charge someone with the behavior of those who follow him? How can you charge someone with the possibility of bringing the country to destruction and ruin?
II The Charge of Heresy
A John tells us that Annas questioned Jesus. Annas did not question Jesus about any crimes. He did not question Jesus about insurrection, about disobedience to Caesar and Roman rule. He did not question Jesus about faked miracles, what we would call "false advertising. Rather, He questioned Jesus "about his disciples and his teaching" (Jn 18:19).
Annas questioned Jesus "about his disciples and his teaching." Think about this for a moment. When is someone questioned about these two things? When does the church question someone about his followers and his prophecy? When does the Bible command us to question someone about these two areas? The answer: when they are a false prophet! A false prophet, you see, leads others astray and speaks falsehood in God's name (Deut 13:2-6; 18:20).
Now we see the real charge being laid against Jesus: He was accused of being a false prophet, a heretic, an infidel, an apostate.
B Annas questioned Jesus about His disciples. As we look through the Gospel of John we see one thing happening over and over again. Jesus changed the water into wine and His disciples "put their faith in him" (2:11). While Jesus was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many people saw the miraculous signs He was doing "and believed in his name" (2:23). Jesus revealed what He knew about the Samaritan woman at the well and many from that town "believed in him" (4:39); later, because of his words many more "became believers" (4:42). Jesus healed the official's son and he and all his household "believed" (4:53). When He was in Jerusalem at the Feast of Tabernacles the people saw the miraculous signs He was doing and many in the crowd "put their faith in him" (7:31). After Jesus healed a man born blind the man said, "Lord, I believe" and worshiped Him (9:38). Many of the Jews who witnessed the resurrection of Lazarus "put their faith in him" (11:45). Wherever Jesus went, whatever Jesus did, people believed in Him, put their faith in Him, and followed Him.
Remember the complaint at the meeting of the Sanhedrin: "If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him ..." (11:48). Annas wanted to know why so many put their faith in Him, why so many believed in Him, why so many were willing to follow Him. So Annas questioned Jesus about His disciples. Perhaps he was jealous. Maybe he was insecure. For sure he felt threatened by Jesus' popularity. Annas wanted proof that Jesus was a false prophet who led people astray!
C Annas also questioned Jesus about His teaching. To put it bluntly, Jesus' teaching was offensive to Annas and the Sanhedrin. We know that the Jews were upset with Jesus' teaching about the Sabbath. For instance, Jesus told the invalid at Bethesda to pick up his mat and walk even though it was the Sabbath (5:16,18). The Jews became even more upset when Jesus called God His own father, "making himself equal with God" (5:18). The Jews grumbled when Jesus said "I am the bread that came down from heaven" (6:41) for they realized Jesus was claiming to have come down from heaven and from God. When challenged by the Jews to state Who He was, Jesus admitted to being the Christ, the Messiah. In response, they accused Jesus of blasphemy because He, a mere man, claimed to be God and God's Son; because He said "the Father is in me, and I in the Father" (10:24,25, 31,33,36,38; cf 19:7). So Annas questioned Jesus about His teaching. He wanted proof that Jesus was a false prophet!
D Annas "questioned Jesus about His disciples and His teaching." Annas questioned Jesus about being a heretic. How does Jesus respond? Listen to what He says:
(Jn 18:20) "I have spoken openly to the world," Jesus replied. "I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret ..."Do you know Who Jesus sounds like here? He sounds like God as we hear God speaking through Isaiah:
(Is 45:18-19) For this is what the LORD says ... "I am the LORD, and there is no other. (19) I have not spoken in secret ..."Annas knew the Bible. He understand what Jesus was saying. Jesus was again claiming to be part of the Godhead.
Jesus also argues that He spoke "openly." In the Old Testament it is "Wisdom" that speaks in public places and invites all to hear her message (Prov 8:2-3; 9:3). Again, Annas knew the Bible. He knew what Jesus was saying. Jesus was claiming to be divine wisdom in the flesh.
E After Jesus said this the official slapped Him in the face and Annas said and did nothing. That tells me everything I need to know. Obviously, Annas "questioned Jesus about His disciples and His teaching" and did not believe. Obviously, Annas "questioned Jesus about His disciples and His teaching" and found Him guilty of heresy. Obviously, Annas "questioned Jesus about His disciples and His teaching" and concluded that Jesus was a false prophet.
Then Annas sent Jesus, still bound, to Caiaphas the high priest. Still bound. Still treated like a criminal. Because of His disciples and His teaching.
III To Die for the People
I mentioned earlier the connection between our passage and what happened at the meeting of the Sanhedrin that we read about in John 11. There we read a prophecy of why Jesus really had to die. There we read a prophecy of why Jesus was so mistreated. There we read a prophecy of why Jesus went to the cross and the grave.
The decision was made at that meeting that Jesus had to die. Listen to what the high priest, Caiaphas, said to the Sanhedrin:
(Jn 11:49-50) "You know nothing at all! (50) You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.""One man die for the people."
The high priest sure hit the nail on the head here. "One man die for the people." That's why Jesus had to die in the plan of God: He died for the people. That's why Jesus had to suffer injustice: He died for the people. That's why Jesus was mistreated: He died for the people. That's why Jesus was treated like a criminal: He died for the people. "One man die for the people."
Topic: Cross of ChristAt Calvary the situation was reversed. The President of the Universe actually took a bullet for each of us. One man died for the people.
In the 1993 hit film "In the Line of Fire," Clint Eastwood played Secret Service agent Frank Horrigan. Horrigan had protected the life of the President for more than three decades, but he was haunted by the memory of what had happened thirty years before. Horrigan was a young agent assigned to President Kennedy on that fateful day in Dallas in 1963. When the assassin fired, Horrigan froze in shock.
For thirty years afterward, he wrestled with the ultimate question for a Secret Service agent: Can I take a bullet for the President?
In the climax of the movie, Horrigan does what he had been unable to do earlier: he throws himself into the path of an assassin's bullet to save the chief executive.
Secret Service agents are willing to do such a thing because they believe the President is so valuable to our country and the world that he is worth dying for. Obviously they would not take a bullet for just anyone.
We have seen Annas and his response to Jesus' disciples and teachings. You know about Caiaphas. You know the response of Pilate. You know the hatred of the Jews. Each one of them stood before Jesus. Each one of them was confronted with His disciples and His teachings. And each one of them rejected Him.
But what about you? How do you respond? Here is His disciples, right here in front of me this evening (POINT TO THE CHURCH). Here is His teachings (LIFT UP THE BIBLE). Now, like Annas you need to make a decision. Do you or do you not believe in Him, put your faith in Him, and follow Him?
Important things are at stake. Eternal things are at stake. We need to remember why John wrote his Gospel. As he put it in chapter 20:
(John 20:31) But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
John wants us to believe in Jesus. He wants us to look at Jesus' disciples and teachings and he wants us to believe. He wants us to have life in Jesus name.
That is what is at stake – life, eternal life or death, eternal death.
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