About Jesus Christ: Chapter 8
THE VERDICT IS HEARD: HE MUST DIE
Neither Caiaphas the High Priest, the Jewish Sanhedrin nor the King of Judah could stand the truth. They would not believe it when they heard it with their own ears. Someone said long ago, there are none so blind as those who refuse to see. Even with distorted, misguided and contradictory testimony, those deciding the verdict shouted: He must die!
The chief priests in Jerusalem had ordered the Temple Guards to go out at night to find and arrest Jesus. They knew he was not far away. He had been teaching at the Temple during the day, but they were afraid to make a move on Jesus while the crowds were around. Probably sometime past midnight, the Guards found Jesus, bound him and brought him to the home of the chief Priest.
Since Jewish law prohibited the Sanhedrin from meeting at night, it was not until early in the morning that the Sanhedrin was convened to put Jesus on trial. While waiting for that hour, the soldiers who had him in custody spent the hours in mocking, abusing and beating up on Jesus. His disciples had fled in fear and there was no one to protest the treatment of this innocent man.
When the trial finally got underway, the Sanhedrin was unable to get agreement between conflicting witnesses. They decided on one final question they believed would lead them to their desired verdict: “Jesus, are you the Son of God?”
That was also the question that burned in the minds of thousands of people in Israel at that time. People were being healed of various diseases, thousands were being fed and satisfied with just a few loaves and fish; crowds were following this Rabbi from Galilee to hear him preach the Gospel of the Kingdom. There were conflicting opinions about Jesus, but as the blind were made to see, the deaf regained their hearing, the lame walked and, yes, the dead raised to life, the evidence pointed to an overwhelming conclusion: Yes, this must be the Messiah, the Son of God.
Rumors of what Jesus had said and done reached the ears of the members of the Sanhedrin. Some had gone out to see and hear for themselves. One member, Nicodemus, arranged an evening of conversation with Jesus. They knew the evidence but most would not admit to where it led. So when they asked, “Are you the Son of God,” his response was, “It is as you say it is.” From Luke 22, we read Jesus’ response to the question thrown at him by the Sanhedrin early that Friday morning:
66 At daybreak the council of the elders of the people, both the chief priests and the teachers of the law, met together, and Jesus was led before them. 67 “If you are the Messiah,” they said, “tell us.” Jesus answered, “If I tell you, you will not believe me, 68 and if I asked you, you would not answer. 69 But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.” 70 They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?” He replied, “You say that I am.” 71 Then they said, “Why do we need any more testimony? We have heard it from his own lips.”
When Jesus answered their question he was saying: The evidence and what you have heard and seen speaks for itself; it is the truth! The proof was there but the Chief Priests and religious leaders rejected it by shouting, “This is blasphemy—you heard it from his lips.” If Jesus was not what he claimed to be, according to Jewish law it was a blasphemous claim—a mere man claiming to be God.
That cry, however, had been heard before. Rejecting truth can reach such a fever pitch that the only defense against the evidence of truth is to do away with the bearer. Prophets that God had sent to Israel in earlier times were subject to the same treatment. We refuse to accept God’s verdict about our living so we’ll do away with the messenger. Let’s now turn to the Old Testament to read what happened in Jeremiah’s case.
Jeremiah the prophet is known as “The weeping Prophet.” From his two books, Jeremiah and Lamentations., we learn much about this man whom God sent to preach to Israel. To understand why his life and that of Jesus merit comparison, we will pick up some of the flavor of the prophet from his writing.
We begin with the call of Jeremiah to become the Lord’s prophet, the bearer of His truth to the people of Israel and other nations found in Jeremiah 1:4 – 10:
4 The word of the LORD came to me, saying, 5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” 6 “Alas, Sovereign LORD,” I said, “I do not know how to speak; I am too young.” 7 But the LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. 8 Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the LORD. 9 Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth. 10 See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”
As you read these verses about Jeremiah’s call, what do you see? It is a picture of a person, chosen by God to speak for Him, a person who is humble and apprehensive, one who is reluctant to take on such a task. He is called to pronounce the words that God would put in his mouth.
And what do we know about Jesus’ task? In conversation with his disciples, he says, “My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me. If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.”
Then, at a later time, he declares, “The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.” (John 7:16, 17; 14:10o, 11).
Jesus and Jeremiah are both chosen and sent by God to reveal and announce God’s word and God’s will. The evidence is displayed in their living and in their preaching. As Jeremiah was timid, he was also tender in his affection for the people of Israel. He sees their rebellion but wants to be the bearer of healing words. 21 Since my people are crushed, I am crushed; I mourn, and horror grips me. 22 Is there no balm inGilead? Is there no physician there? Why then is there no healing for the wound of my people?
1 Oh, that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears! I would weep day and night for the slain of my people. 2 Oh, that I had in the desert a lodging place for travelers, so that I might leave my people and go away from them; for they are all adulterers, a crowd of unfaithful people. (Jeremiah 8:21 – 9-2).
It is painful for Jeremiah to see the suffering of his people. He knows, however, it is because they have rejected the truth from God that he had spoken to them. Not unlike Jesus, he was preaching in Jerusalem where God had sent him. Let’s pick up more of the story as Jeremiah follows the Lord’s instructions:
1 Early in the reign of Jehoiakim son of Josiah king of Judah, this word came from the LORD: 2 “This is what the LORD says: Stand in the courtyard of the LORD’s house and speak to all the people of the towns of Judah who come to worship in the house of the LORD. Tell them everything I command you; do not omit a word. 3 Perhaps they will listen and each will turn from their evil ways. Then I will relent and not inflict on them the disaster I was planning because of the evil they have done. 4 Say to them, ‘This is what the LORD says: If you do not listen to me and follow my law, which I have set before you, 5 and if you do not listen to the words of my servants the prophets, whom I have sent to you again and again (though you have not listened), 6 then I will make this house like Shiloh and this city a curse among all the nations of the earth.’” 7 The priests, the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speak these words in the house of the LORD. 8 But as soon as Jeremiah finished telling all the people everything the LORD had commanded him to say, the priests, the prophets and all the people seized him and said, “You must die! 9 Why do you prophesy in the LORD’s name that this house will be like Shilohand this city will be desolate and deserted?” And all the people crowded around Jeremiah in the house of the LORD. 10 When the officials of Judah heard about these things, they went up from the royal palace to the house of the LORD and took their places at the entrance of the New Gate of the LORD’s house. 11 Then the priests and the prophets said to the officials and all the people, “This man should be sentenced to death because he has prophesied against this city. You have heard it with your own ears!” (Jeremiah 26:1-11)
As you read these verses from the book of Jeremiah, written hundreds of years before the time of Jesus, it almost seems that the Sanhedrin lifted their “script” from this passage when they conducted the trial of Jesus. It was certainly the intention of the priests and other religious leaders to have Jeremiah executed. But in the end, Jeremiah’s life is spared. Another prophet, Uriah, did not receive the same consideration. Uriah fled from the King Jehoiakim’s wrath, going to Egypt. You can also read his story in Jeremiah 26.
- What similarities do you see between Jesus and Jeremiah?
–God’s knowledge about them
–Ultimate result of their preaching
–Place where their trials were conducted
–The verdicts from their trials
- In each case, did everyone condemn them?
- Are there individual choices to be made today? What choices do you see?
- What do you see as God’s purpose in the messages of Jesus and Jeremiah?