Sunday, March 05, 2006


Mark 14:53 and following

MARK 14:53....

August 15, 2004

Good morning. Today we will take up the story of Christ’s final hours before the crucifixion where we left off a few weeks ago. You will remember that Judas has come to the garden with a mob and betrayed Jesus. Also that all the disciples have fled as well as an unnamed young man who many to believe to be Mark himself.

Mark 14:53 (Read)

Most commentators believe that this hearing is before the high priest, Caiaphas. There was also a hearing before Annas which can be found in John 18. But Mark, which is Peter’s gospel focuses on Peter’s recollections, and as we are to see, Peter had reason to remember this particular hearing till his dying day.

Mark 14:54 (Read)

The word translated “palace” here is actually “court”. It is possible that Caiaphas lived in the building, but it’s main purpose was as a courthouse. Peter has under cover of darkness sneaked in with the mob of people and officers to observe what is happening. Perhaps he felt safe or anonymous...

Macdonald gives us three reasons this verse shows Peter’s downfall:

1.He first fought – misdirected enthusiasm
2.He then fled – cowardly withdrawal
3.Finally he followed afar off – half hearted discipleship by night

Now the same man who found he could sleep on the ground in the garden needs to get warm by a fire with his Lord’s enemies.

Mark 14:55-59 (Read)

This passage shows us the Sanhedrin meeting in the middle of the night. The Sanhedrin were 71 religious leaders led by the high priest. This group so hated our Lord and were so determined to destroy him they were willing to break their own rules to do it. The Jews have been such obsessively detailed historians, we know what this council was forbidden to do.

1.They weren’t supposed to meet at night. When was this meeting?
2.They were forbidden from bribing witnesses or allowing perjury. But they bribed the witnesses to do just that.
3.They weren’t supposed to meet during any of the Jewish feasts. This was Passover.
4.They could not find for a verdict of death until a night had passed for contemplation.
5.No verdict of the Sanhedrin was binding unless the council met in the Temple in the hall of Hewn Stone. This meeting was in Caiaphas’ private court.

The witnesses they had bribed disagreed with each other. Under oath. Perjury in Jewish courts could be punishable by death. It was no small thing in Israel to say “under three witnesses shall truth be established”.

Commentators say that the witnesses report of Jesus’ promise to rebuild the temple should they destroy it as a deliberate misquote. It was also a highly charged emotional appeal. These were the days of terrorist revolution against Roman occupation. The reaction to suggesting the Temple be destroyed would be much like the reaction now if a Moslem cleric were to call for the destruction of our Capitol or the Statue of Liberty. Yet even these witnesses could not agree. John 2:19 tells this story. It also tells one of the reasons the elders hated Jesus so much. This statement came when Jesus was asked by what authority he drove the moneychangers out of the Temple. He was telling them that they would see him crucified and resurrected and that would prove his authority.

Mark 14:60-62 (Read)

So why didn’t the Lord answer at first? 1st of all, this was an illegal assembly whose decisions were not legally binding. 2nd, he was exercising his right to remain silent, forcing the accusers to prove the case against him. You can see this principles carried on today in our Constitution. We also see today in our media the attitude of the High Priest in claiming that the seriousness of the accusation demands a response, even if there are no facts to back it up. But then the priest asked a question Jesus felt he had to answer.

There is another reason for this by the way.

Matthew 26:63 (Read)

The High Priest placed him under oath. He wanted no escape for this carpenter who was claiming Messiahship. He wanted a straightforward statement. And he got it:

“I am.” Then he added the words that put to rest the foolishness of the misunderstanding about the destruction of the Temple. “And ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” Remember that “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess.” Caiaphas will be resurrected at the final judgement, and he will KNOW. And what will be ultimate joy for the believers who rise at Christ’s return will be terror for the High Priest.

In the words of the singer, “you gotta serve somebody, it may be the Devil or it may be the Lord, but you gotta serve somebody.” The day will come when each of us will fall before Him and worship. Whether that moment will be joy or terror we decide right here and now. We can surrender to the Lordship of Christ now and put our faith in Him and greet him one day as a Friend or we can reject the great gift of His salvation and cower before Him as defeated enemies. The choice seems so simple, so obvious, yet blinded millions march on towards eternity in hell without Him.

Mark 14:63,64 (Read)

The priest knew exactly what Jesus was saying. The leaders of Israel knew the Old Testament frontward and backward. They were very aware of Job’s promise of the future coming of Messiah in Glory. Let’s look at it.

Job 19:25-27 (Read)

The High Priest was enraged! How DARE this wandering teacher claim to be The One? I have to wonder. Do you suppose the High Priest secretly hoped HE would be the one chosen by God to be the Messiah? Wouldn’t it make sense that God would chose the top spiritual leader of the nation? Caiaphas was the one leader in Israel who should have known that Jesus met all the requirements to be Messiah. And he led the Sanhedrin in illegally condemning the very one Israel was waiting for to death.

Mark 14:65 (Read)

This is not as bizarre a scene as you might think. It was tradition in the East to cover the face of a condemned man. Let’s look at the story of Haman in the book of Esther.

Esther 7:8 (Read)

But with Jesus face covered and those present aware of his claim to me Messiah, they began to tease and ridicule him saying “Prophesy” In other words, tell us who hit you. Think of those men standing before the throne of judgement one day. Standing before the one they hit and spat upon. Yet, praise God, if any of them became believers later, even that sin was washed away by his blood. By the way, the word translated “servants” here in Greek means attendants or officers. These men that Peter was crowding up to the fire with down in the courtyard and who were striking the Lord were the Temple police. The Greek carries the idea here that they were slapping him along as they dragged him out.

Mark 14:66-68 (Read)

So the one who said he would be crucified with the Lord rather than betray him, pleaded total ignorance of what she was talking about and slipped away from her sight out onto the porch. As he got there, the rooster crowed the first time. Lest we be too hard on Peter, remember he had just seen the high court illegally condemn the Lord to death. I think it was finally sinking in that not only was all this really going to happen, it could happen to Peter. And at that moment, the personal servant of the High Priest recognizes and confronts him! I’m reminded of the young Christian girl in Columbine, Colorado who was confronted by the young madman with a shotgun. He knew she was a Christian, but gave her a chance to save her life by denying the Lord. She looked down the barrel of that gun and said, “yes, I AM a Christian.” I wonder what Peter said to her seconds later.

Mark 14:69,70 (Read)

The walls are closing in on Peter. Here he stands in the enemy camp and again she recognizes him. Again he denies it. But now she has attracted the attention of the others around him and they realize his accent showed him to be from Galilee, and one of Christ’s followers. Peter is desperate now. His life is at stake.

Mark 14:71,72 (Read)

Peter did the one thing that could convince them he was not a believer. He cursed and swore as he denied the Lord. Everyone there knew that Jesus required holiness of his disciples. There is nothing that marks a Christian as a hypocrite faster than to use foul language. When I was in the Army I asked my First Sergeant for the forms to fill out for a leave of absence so I could go work for a mission in south Texas. I’ll never forget the disdain in his voice or the sneer on his face when he said “YOU are going to do mission work, YOU? The way you swear?” Nothing condemns us like our tongue. The scripture asks, who can tame it?

Jesus had said at the Triumphal Entry that if his followers were to be silent the rocks themselves would cry out. Peter went far beyond mere silence and nature did cry out. The rooster crowed again. Peter remembered the prophecy. I’ve heard it said that God uses broken men. A broken and a contrite spirit he will in no way ignore. Do you think Peter was broken and contrite here? All the arrogance in the big fisherman was flushed away in a moment. He wept.

Has God ever broken your spirit? Have you ever been on your knees broken and sobbing before him? That’s when he can use you the most. But the wonder of it all is, we don’t have to get to the point that Peter did. We can make the decision today to surrender to him completely. In our own quiet time we can get on our knees and tell him, “Lord, I offer myself to you – to build with me and to do with me what you will. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do your will. Take away my sins, that victory over them may bear witness to those around me of your Power, your Love, and your Way of Life. May I do your will always!”
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