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  Phillip Ross

 

 

...be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind...  -Romans 12:2


‘These inward trials I employ,
From self and pride to set thee free,
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou mayest seek thy all in Me.’
                       -John Newton (1725-1807)


Are You?
 

And they led Jesus away to the high priest; and with him were assembled all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes. But Peter followed Him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. And he sat with the servants and warmed himself at the fire. Now the chief priests and all the council sought testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, but found none. For many bore false witness against Him, but their testimonies did not agree. Then some rose up and bore false witness against Him, saying, "We heard Him say, `I will destroy this temple made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.'" But not even then did their testimony agree. And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, saying, "Do You answer nothing? What is it these men testify against You?" But He kept silent and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked Him, saying to Him, "Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?" Jesus said, "I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven." Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, "What further need do we have of witnesses? "You have heard the blasphemy! What do you think?" And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death. Then some began to spit on Him, and to blindfold Him, and to beat Him, and to say to Him, "Prophesy!" And the officers struck Him with the palms of their hands. (Mark 14:53-65, NKJV).


As they took Jesus to the high priest for questioning, Peter followed. It had been Peter who cut off the servant’s ear, and it had been Peter whom Jesus reprimanded for attempting to defend Him. The disciples had pledged themselves to follow Jesus even to the death. Then in the garden Jesus forbade them from defending Him. In confusion they all fled, not knowing what to do.

The lesson of the garden taught that true discipleship must strip all Christians of their natural desires and responses. Our human efforts to respond and/or follow the Lord are tainted with human sin. They originate in the human heart, and are filled with the freight of the human heart. Jeremiah rightly described the human heart as “deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

You would think that Peter had learned this lesson by now. But he hadn’t. Peter followed his heart again. He seems to have had a kind of romantic understanding and/or love of Jesus. So, he followed those who had taken Jesus right into the back yard of the Lord’s chief enemy. Mark said that Peter followed Jesus “right into the courtyard of the high priest” (v. 54-emphasis added). The implication is that Peter had followed the captured Lamb right into the lion’s den, which is a dangerous place to be!

Not only did Peter go right into the courtyard of the high priest, but he revealed himself in the light of the fire among the high priest’s employees. Obviously, Peter had no idea of the danger he was in. Peter had pulled out his sword and cut off the ear of one of the high priest’s servants, and now he waltzes into the high priest’s backyard and steps into the light of the fire. Peter was like an tragedy looking for a place to happen.

No doubt, Peter strained to hear what was happening inside. A kangaroo court was in session. “The chief priests and all the council sought testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, but found none” (v. 55). False witnesses offered various false testimonies, but a case could not be made because the details of the accusations didn’t add up.

Then someone tried to accuse Jesus of insurrection against the temple. “We heard Him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.’ But not even then did their testimony agree” (v. 58-59). Accusations were flying right and left. Tension prevailed and emotions were high. The high priest couldn’t believe that Jesus did not defend Himself. It was as if Jesus was not concerned about the accusations or the mock trial.

Finally, “the high priest asked Him, saying to Him, ‘Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?’” (v. 61). The question is important and instructive. Neither the question nor the priests challenged the fact that the Messiah was divine, that the Christ-whenever He would come-was the very Son of God. Christ’s divinity was not at issue. The sticking point was whether or not Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ. They didn’t doubt the reality of God’s Messiah, or that God had promised to send Him, or the fact of His divinity.

But they were categorically unable to believe that God would send the Messiah in their time, or that He would be such a person as Jesus. They could not consider it because it was not what they expected. Almighty God, dressed as a beggar, standing before them as a common criminal? Unthinkable! The high priest and his pharisees, like Peter and the disciples, and the people who had followed Jesus around the country side, were bound and blinded by their own expectations regarding Jesus. They were all constitutionally in and of themselves unable to understand who He really was or to respond to Him appropriately.

Yet, the high priest of Israel asked Jesus who He was. Are you the Christ? I wish we could hear the tone of the high priest’s voice. Was he taunting Jesus? Was he sarcastic? Or incensed? Was there any hint of honest inquiry?

Jesus responded emphatically, “I am.” There was no doubt or hesitation on His part. He simply acknowledged the fact of the matter. But that is not all He said. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven” (v. 62).

By identifying with the Person of God, Jesus claimed that the divine power that directed both nature and history was His to wield, and that through Him God would accomplish a feat no less spectacular or meaningful than the Exodus itself. Jesus’ identification as the Son of Man established Him as the New Adam, the new federal head of humanity. Jesus was not merely the Son of God. In other words, Christ’s divinity was not merely an abstract concept of His perfection, but His divinity was inextricably intertwined with His humanity. Jesus indeed was fully human, but not merely so. In His humanity He represented humanity as Adam before Him had. Where the sin of Adam resulted in the Fall of humanity, so the sinlessness of Christ would result in humanity’s salvation through the atonement by Jesus Christ.

Scripture uses the phrase “right hand” to indicate the source of honor and authority. Mark used the word dunamis, which has been translated as power and means ability. Power is the ability to get things done. It requires the authority and competence to make things happen.

When Jesus said that He would be “sitting at the right hand of power” (v. 62) He claimed omnipotence for Himself as the Son of Man, the second Adam or federal head of humanity. Jesus acted here not in the capacity of his personhood as a man of Nazareth. Rather, He acted in the capacity of His office as the federal head of humanity.

The distinction between person and office is difficult for many people. When someone acts as an individual person he has certain responsibilities and rights. But when someone acts as an office holder in society he has different responsibilities and rights. Office holders do not represent themselves when they act or make decisions. The high priest himself was such an office holder. In fact, he represented the highest office of the Old Testament state of Israel. Caiaphas knew about the distinction between person and office. He had to deal with it regularly. Caiaphas also knew the process by which he had acquired the office of high priest.

And who did this young whipper-snapper from Nazareth think he was! Who made Him so important as to think that He sat at the right hand of power! You see, Caiaphas did not recognize that the authority of God superseded his own authority as high priest. Or another way to say it is that Caiaphas thought that he as high priest was the mouthpiece of God, and that God would not act apart from him as high priest.

Little did he realize that he was right! God had not acted apart from the high priest, but used the power and authority of the high priest to condemn Jesus in order to accomplish the atonement. The wonder and beauty of God’s sovereignty and providence is amazing!

Not only did Jesus claim the authority and power of God, but He predicted the accomplishment of God’s salvation plan in His reference to “the clouds of heaven” (v. 62). The Greek word used for cloud (nephele) indicates a particular and definite cloud. It was not the general word (nephos) for ordinary clouds in the sky. The reference was not to ordinary clouds, but to a particular cloud. And the particular cloud referred to in Scripture was the cloud that led the Israelites in the wilderness by day (Exodus 13:21). The implication was that the Son of Man was operating under the leadership of the cloud of Yahweh.

Caiaphas knew exactly what Jesus meant. He did not require any explanations or interpretations. Enough, he cried! “You have heard the blasphemy!” (v. 64). Caiaphas had no doubt that Jesus had committed blasphemy against the office of the high priest. What Caiaphas didn’t realize was that humanity’s sin had enthroned Man in the place of God through the office of the high priest. Caiaphas failed to understand that his own office as high priest was limited by the authority and power of God.

 Turning to the others Caiaphas asked, “‘What do you think?’ And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death” (v. 64). The fault did not belong to Caiaphas alone, but as he asked his associates he gave them the opportunity to agree with Jesus or with himself. By agreeing with Caiaphas they confirmed the fact that the entire priestly structure had made the same error as it’s leader. They all placed the power and authority of Man represented by the high priest over the power and authority of God represented by Jesus.

We can see it so clearly in the struggle between Jesus and Caiaphas, or between Jesus and the Pharisees. It is more difficult to see in and among ourselves, in our own time, in our own society. Yet, sin remains sin. The basic character or patterns of sin haven’t changed. Nor have the basic character or habits of men and women. The struggle today is the same as it was then. It is the same struggle that brought about Adam’s fall from grace. It is the struggle for ascendancy between the power and authority of humanity and the power and authority of God.

When we make our own rules regarding the nature and structure of Christ’s church, we side with the Pharisees. When we think that church officers are supposed to represent various factions and groups within the church, we have assumed the authority of the people of the church over the authority of God or God’s Word. Church officers are not to represent the thoughts and opinions of various groups and factions in the church. Rather, church officers are to re-present or epitomize the thoughts and opinions of God in the church. Those who represent groups and factions cannot represent God because God is above all groups and factions.

Similarly, when we consider that all interpretations of the Bible are equally valid, we side with the liberal Sadducees. The only biblical interpretation that counts is Jesus’ interpretation. Various human interpretations and understandings of Scripture are not all equally valid, but are equally invalid. God’s people must acquire His perspective and abandon their own-no matter what their current office or station in life.

When the Pharisees, Sadducees, and scribes who had been in Caiaphas’ house for the proceedings of the kangaroo court heard the truth of Jesus and agreed with the response of Caiaphas, they exploded in outrage. God’s truth had offended their human pride. “Some began to spit on Him, and to blindfold Him, and to beat Him, and to say to Him, ‘Prophesy!’ And the officers struck Him with the palms of their hands” (v. 65).













 

 

 

 

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2002 by Kevin W. Michael.
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