************ Sermon on Luke 22:66 - 23:2 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on March 17, 2002
Luke 22:66 - 23:2
"Condemned as a Subverter"
Subtopic: Christ our
Title: God Leads a Pretty Sheltered Life
Billions of people were scattered on a great plain before God's throne. Some of the groups near the front talked heatedly -- not with cringing shame, but with belligerence.
"How can God judge us?" said one.
"What does he know about suffering?" snapped a brunette. She jerked back a sleeve to reveal a tattooed number from a Nazi concentration camp. "We endured terror, beatings, torture, death!"
In another group a black man lowered his collar. "What about this?" he demanded, showing an ugly rope burn. "Lynched for no crime but being black! We have suffocated in slave ships, been wrenched from loved ones, toiled till death gave release."
Far out across the plain were hundreds of such groups. Each had a complaint against God for the evil and suffering He permitted in His world. How lucky God was to live in Heaven where there was no weeping no fear, no hunger, no hatred!
Indeed, what did God know about what man had been forced to endure in this world? "After all. God leads a pretty sheltered live," they said.
So each group sent out a leader, chosen because he had suffered the most. There was a Jew, a black, an untouchable from India, an illegitimate person, a victim of Hiroshima, and one from a Siberian slave camp.
In the center of the plain they consulted with each other. At last they were ready to present their case. It was rather simple: before God would be qualified to be their judge, He must endure what they had endured. Their decision was that God "should be sentenced to live on earth -- as a man!"
But because He was God, they set certain safeguards to be sure He could not use His divine powers to help Himself:
Let Him be born a Jew.
Let the legitimacy of His birth be doubted, so that none would know who is really His father.
Let Him champion a cause so just, but so radical, that it brings down upon Him the hate, condemnation, and efforts of every major traditional and established religious authority to eliminate Him.
Let Him try to describe what no man has ever seen, tasted, heard, or smelled -- let Him try to communicate God to men.
Let Him be betrayed by His dearest friends.
Let Him be indicted on false charges, tried before a prejudiced jury, and convicted by a cowardly judge.
Let Him see what it is to be terribly alone and completely abandoned by every living thing.
Let Him be tortured and let Him die! Let Him die the most humiliating death -- with common thieves.
As each leader announced his portion of the sentence, loud murmurs of approval went up from the great throngs of people.
But when the last had finished pronouncing sentence, there was a long silence. No one uttered another word. No one moved. For suddenly all knew: in Christ God had already served His sentence.
I False Condemnation
A Today we see Jesus before the Sanhedrin. Among the Jews the Sanhedrin plays the same role as the Supreme Court plays in the United States or Canada – it is the highest and final court of appeal. Yet, the whole episode in front of us speaks of injustice, of a gross miscarriage of justice. In today's language we would have to say that Jesus was deprived of His civil rights.
According to Jewish law, the Sanhedrin, when deciding on a criminal case, had to meet in a public place; it could not meet secretly or privately. Furthermore, no trial involving a capital charge could take place at night. The Jewish book of law clearly states that criminal cases must be tried in the daytime and finished in the daytime. Also, criminal cases may be finished on the same day they began if the verdict is "Not guilty." However, two consecutive days must be spent examining a case before a "Guilty" verdict may be rendered. This means that no criminal case could start the day before the Sabbath or a feast day, because automatically a second session would be prevented on the day following. All of these laws were designed to protect the accused and give him the full benefit of an open and public trial.
This is what the law requires. Now, what actually happened in the case of Jesus? We read that the trial took place in a private home, at daybreak, and was started the day before the Passover.
Like some of the show-trials in Russia during the 50's and 60's, the Sanhedrin went through the motions of a trial in order to legitimize a pre-arranged verdict of guilty and a pre-determined punishment of death.
B I want you to notice, too, the questions the Sanhedrin asked Jesus. "If you are the Christ," they said, "tell us." And, "Are you then the Son of God?" (Lk 22:67,70).
When they heard Jesus' answer to these questions they said, "Why do we need any more testimony? We have heard it from his own lips."
What have they heard? To their way of thinking, they heard Jesus commit a blasphemy worthy of the death penalty. He, a mere man, claimed to the "the Son of God." He claimed to be part of the Divine.
Again, a gross miscarriage of justice. According to Jewish law no blasphemer is worthy of death unless he has actually misused the name of God. In His answers Jesus does not misuse God's name in any way or form, so He ought to have escaped the death penalty.
C The whole assembly brought Jesus to Pilate. But now there is nothing said about blasphemy, about misusing God's holy name. Instead, they bring up charges about subversion, non-payment of taxes, and claims to be Christ, a king. The political danger caused by Jesus is strongly emphasized. He is presented as a zealot, a revolutionary – someone like the suicide bombers of today who will stop at nothing to create destruction!
All of the charges are completely false. Didn't Jesus tell the people to pay taxes? Remember the time the teachers of the law and the chief priests asked Him, "Is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?" (Lk 20:22). Remember Jesus' answer?
(Lk 20:24-25) "Show me a denarius. Whose portrait and inscription are on it?" (25) "Caesar's," they replied. He said to them, "Then give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's."
It is obvious, isn't it? In Christ God has suffered a great injustice.
II Jesus' Claims About Himself
A Luke records for us what happened to Jesus the day after His trial before the Sanhedrin: namely, His crucifixion, death, and burial. This is obviously a Roman penalty: only Romans crucified convicted criminals; and the Romans reserved for themselves alone the right to exercise capital punishment. Yet, there is no doubt that the Sanhedrin wanted Jesus dead.
Why? What did they have against Him?
They wanted Jesus dead because of what Jesus said about Himself.
Who is Jesus? In His answer to the Sanhedrin Jesus makes three significant acknowledgments about Himself: that He is the Christ or the Messiah, that He is the Son of Man, and that He is the Son of God. Instead of being a political subverter the Sanhedrin sees Jesus as a religious subverter – someone Who leads people away from the faith and the worship of the one only true God.
B Jesus, in His answer to the Sanhedrin, admits He is the Christ or Messiah. But, it becomes clear that Jesus' conception of the Messiah is quite different from that of the Jewish people.
What is the people's expectation of the Messiah? They see Him as a Son of David, a royal heir, Who sits on David's throne in Jerusalem and rules over a free and sovereign Israel; this means, of course, that Israel would no longer be under Roman rule. That is why all of Jerusalem became so excited and disturbed when the Magi from the east suddenly appeared on the scene asking, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east ..." (Mt 2:2).
Remember what happened after Jesus had multiplied the loaves and fish to feed 5000 people? The crowds attempted to take Jesus by force and make Him their King (Jn 6:15). They hoped that Jesus might use His remarkable powers to set them free from Roman rule and establish the Kingdom of God here on earth. If Jesus would have accepted the crown they offered to Him they would gladly and willingly have followed Him into battle and even into death.
Do you remember what happened when Jesus refused the people's offer, when He indicated that He came to save from sin and not from Rome, when He indicated that His Kingdom was heavenly rather than earthly? Scripture says, "Many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him" (Jn 6:66). Sad, isn't it?! The people wanted a king to deliver them from Rome, not a Savior to redeem them from their sins.
C Jesus also claims to be the Son of God. By this title Jesus claims deity for Himself: that He is God the Son, the second person of the triune Godhead.
We come across this title many times in the Gospels. Jesus is called the Son of God by the heavenly voice at both His baptism (Lk 3:22) and the transfiguration (Lk 9:35). When Satan tempts Jesus he does so saying, "If you are the Son of God ..." (Lk 4:3,9). Remember when Jesus freed a man from demon possession and cast the demons into a herd of pigs? At that time Jesus is hailed as the Son of God because of His power over the spirit world (Lk 8:27-39). Remember too the taunt on the cross? "Save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!" (Mt 27:40).
Jesus agrees with the Sanhedrin that He is the Son of God, the second person of the triune Godhead. In so doing Jesus claims for Himself a special oneness with God. In so doing Jesus also claims for Himself a divine, supernatural power: a power to turn stones into bread, to cast out demons, to save Himself from the cross and the grave.
D Lastly, Jesus claims for Himself the title Son of Man. There are three important facts about the use of this title in the Gospels. First, the title Son of Man is Jesus' favorite way of talking about Himself; in fact, it is the only title He freely uses; the Gospels place it on the lips of Jesus over 65 times. Second, the title is never used by anyone but Jesus as a designation for Jesus. Third, there is no evidence that the early church ever called Jesus the Son of Man.
The early church fathers wrongly understood this title to refer to the humanity of the incarnate Son of God. Jesus was the God-man, the Son of God and the Son of Man. One of our favorite songs, "Beautiful Savior," also understands this title in this way:
Beautiful Savior! Lord of the nations!
Son of God and Son of Man!
Glory and honor, praise, adoration,
Now and forevermore be thine!
(new P.H. 461:4)
In my second year of college Greek we were asked about the title Son of Man in a test. "What a simple question," I thought. "It obviously refers to the humanity of Christ." I must have been dozing at my desk when the professor discussed this for my answer was marked wrong. In fact, I was publicly scolded for my lack of attention when the test was handed back.
The Son of Man title has its background in the Old Testament, the book of Daniel. Daniel is given a vision of four fierce beasts successively arising from the sea. These beasts symbolize four successive world empires. After this he sees one like a son of man. The son of man figure in Daniel is a pre-existent, heavenly, messianic figure who brings the Kingdom of God to the afflicted saints on earth. According to Daniel,
(Dan 7:14) He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.
Jesus agrees with the Sanhedrin and claims that He is the Son of Man figure first spoken of by Daniel.
In the Gospels Jesus adds a new dimension, another facet, to the Son of Man – one that we do not find in Daniel – namely, that the Son of Man must take on human flesh, suffer, and die. The Son of Man, in other words, is not only a heavenly, pre-existent being; He also appears in weakness and humility as a man among men. "The Son of Man," says Jesus, "came to seek and to save what was lost" (Lk 19:10). In fleshing this out Jesus says such things as:
-the Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men (Lk 9:44;
-the Son of Man will suffer (Lk 9:22)
-the Son of Man will be crucified (Lk 24:7)
-the Son of Man will die (Lk 9:22)
-the Son of Man will rise from the dead (Lk 9:22; 24:7)
Jesus has radically changed the Son of Man title. What Jesus does is join the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 to the Son of Man of Daniel 7. In other words, Jesus admits He will one day bring about the glorious Kingdom. But in order to accomplish this He, as the Son of Man, must first become the Suffering Servant.
III The Sanhedrin Reject Their Messiah
A Now we go back to what I said earlier: that the Sanhedrin hated Jesus and wanted Him dead BECAUSE OF WHO JESUS IS.
Remember Who Jesus is? He is the Christ or Messiah, the Son of God, the Son of Man. The Sanhedrin, in other words, have rejected and killed Jesus because He is the Christ, the Son of God, the Son of Man. He is a religious subverter!
How shocking! Don't forget, for centuries the Jewish authorities had dreamed about the coming of the Messiah, the Son of God, the Son of Man. In the deserts and villages, along the seas and hills, the Israelites talked of a time when God would again visit His people.
In rejecting and crucifying Jesus, says Luke, the Sanhedrin have rejected what they have been hoping, praying, and waiting for all those years. In rejecting Jesus one rejects, then, all hope and life for the future.
B This is a warning to all those who reject Jesus. Don't forget, those who reject Jesus reject the Messiah, the Son of God, the Son of Man. Those who reject Jesus reject the heavenly King; they reject He Who has divine power and authority; they reject He Who died in our place and for our sins; they reject He Who someday will judge the world.
Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the Son of Man. We owe Him our worship, our service, our life, our breath.
Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, the Son of Man. Only fools would neglect or reject Him.
I pray to God that none of us are such fools.
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