The Mock Trial of Jesus

We are continuing day by day to look at the drama of the events that led up to the biggest murder of all time, the crucifixion of Christ. Israel’s system of jurisprudence was one of the best in the world, and truth was held in high esteem, except when it came to Jesus. A man could not be questioned without his lawyer being present. Jesus was given no lawyer. A man could not be tried during the night, yet Jesus endured two trials at night by Annas and Caiaphas before His third public trial at dawn before the Sanhedrin, i.e. the elders of Israel. If there was a guilty verdict, those giving the verdict were to stay a full day in the place where the pronouncement of guilt was given in case someone came forward with additional evidence.

Justice was to be protected and opportunity given for late testimony before punishment was carried out. Israel’s system of jurisprudence also held that no one could incriminate himself and that there needed to be at least two witnesses. Therefore, Jesus was silent before His accusers.  More than 600 years previously, it was prophesied by the prophet Isaiah that, when the Messiah came, He would be “oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7).

When Jesus came out of the house of Annas, He witnessed Peter’s third denial and betrayal before being taken across the courtyard to the house of Caiaphas, the puppet High Priest. Jesus stood boldly and did not reply to the lies and accusations from Annas and Caiaphas about Him. All legal proceedings of the ruling elders in capital cases had to be open to the public, and nothing incriminating was given by Jesus, so Christ was beaten, perhaps to weaken His resolve and courage, either before or after the public trial in front of the Sanhedrin (John 18:22), maybe both.

Early in the morning, the elders sat in judgement of Him. Standing before the Sanhedrin, the ruling body of seventy elders, He was already bloodied and bruised. The meeting of the Sanhedrin was just a mock trial to satisfy the legal requirement. The real trial had been illegally held before Annas and Caiaphas during the night. The accusation before the Sanhedrin was one of blasphemy, claiming that Jesus stated Himself to be God and Messiah:

66At 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, 68and if I asked you, you would not answer. 69But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.” 70They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?” He replied, “You say that I am.” 71Then they said, “Why do we need any more testimony? We have heard it from his own lips” (Luke 22:66-71).

Luke points out the fact that Jesus would not incriminate Himself; after all, He was not the one on trial. It was the ruling elders and high priests who were on trial. Everything that they did was illegal and an affront to Israel’s system of jurisprudence. The high priests themselves were the ones who would speak blasphemy as would occur later: “Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked. “We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered” (John 19:15). As the trial went on, the high priests could not get anything blasphemous out of His mouth, so in a blunt and direct manner, the high priest put Jesus under oath to tell them if He was the Messiah, the Son of God: “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God” (Matthew 26:62).

61But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” 62I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 63The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked. 64“You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?” (Mark 14:61-64).

Here before us, Jesus was saying that He was and is, the Great I Am, the name by which the Israelites would recognize God being among them (Exodus 3:14). Thank you, Jesus, for paying the price of our redemption.

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. Click on study 62 at this link, Jesus Before Pilate and Herod (Luke 23:1-25). Keith Thomas

The Restoration of Peter

We are continuing our theme of the drama before the crucifixion of Christ, and especially Peter’s 3-time denial of Christ. Peter was very broken when he saw Christ after the cock had crowed (Scroll down for yesterday’s meditation). After the resurrection, when the angels at the empty tomb appeared to the women after the resurrection, they singled out Peter, saying,

But go, tell his disciples and Peter, He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you (Mark 16:7; emphasis mine).

We all fear confrontation. Confrontation, though, can be one of the most loving things that a person can do or have done to them. We have all had times when we have had to face our failures. The enemy of our souls would have us believe that we are out for the count and not worthy, thereby halting our growth and effectiveness. Satan knows what will happen when we get up. We will arise having learned something more of God’s grace and something more of our need to lean on Christ. Our thankfulness deepens. This is how failure can make us stronger. We have more humility in our souls and more dependence on the Lord. It is how we respond to our failure that will make the difference in where we go from that point. We are to fail forward and continue to walk. While they waited in Galilee for Jesus, Peter went back to what he had done in his younger days:

“I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing (John 21:3).

John tells us that it was early in the morning when Jesus came and called to them from the shore, asking them in the negative, almost as if He knew that they had no fish. “He called out to them, ‘Friends, haven’t you any fish?’ ‘No,’ they answered’” (John 21:5). Fishermen normally will stretch the truth about the one that got away, but the disciples were honest with Jesus that morning and said that they had no fish. Life can be unfruitful unless the Lord is in the boat. Even though they did not yet recognize that it was the Lord, when He said to try the right side of the boat, they did so. Immediately, they caught a huge amount of fish, so many that they had difficulty hauling in the net. Instantly, their minds went back to a time some three years earlier when Jesus had instructed them to push out their boat into the deep water and recast their nets for a catch. When they saw this miracle repeated in front of their eyes, they knew it was the Lord on the shoreline. At the words of John, Peter wrapped himself with his outer garment, and swam to Jesus. Peter had denied Jesus publically, and now he is restored before the others.

 15When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?” “Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.” 16Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.” 17The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep (John 21:15-17).

He lovingly asked Peter a question, “Do you love me more than these?” It is possible that Peter was wondering if he was done with ministry and, perhaps, thought that he had disqualified himself from service in the kingdom of God. With the Lord, though, brokenness is part of the training. The Lord had no sharp rebuke for him, but asks Peter the only question that matters, “Do you love me?”

There are many things that Peter may have been expecting Jesus to say to him, but I don’t think he was expecting to be asked about his love for Christ. When Jesus asks Peter the first time, He asked him if he loved Christ with an agape love. Peter responds saying that he loves Christ with an affectionate love, avoiding using the Greek word agape to describe his love. He is no longer self-confident and admits that alongside the tender agape love of the Lord, his love is insufficient to be described as agape love. Each time, Jesus restores Peter back to feeding the Lord’s lambs, taking care of His sheep, and feeding the sheep. For each of the three denials, the Lord asks him three times as to his love for Him. Do you love Me? This is the heart of all ministry that God’s people do in His Name—is it done out of a personal and abiding love for Christ?

It is important for us to grasp that Christ’s love for Peter was just as strong and just the same as it was before his denial. We are not loved any less for our failures. We are to rebound back into the grace of the Lord Jesus and the calling of God for our lives. Peter did return to God’s calling for his life, and was eventually martyred for his faith. May love for Christ be our central focus too.

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 61, Peter, the Broken Disciple (Luke 22:54-62). Keith Thomas

What is Brokenness?

We are continuing our meditation on Peter’s 3-time denial of Christ just a few hours before the crucifixion (Scroll down for yesterday’s meditation on Peter’s brokenness). We are saying that the pressure put on Peter was used of God in breaking his heart, in order that he may be reliant on God’s strength rather than his own to lead the disciples. Jesus had said to him earlier: “But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers” (Luke 22:32). But the question remains with us, why would God want to break the heart of one of those He loves?

In Chapter 18 of the book of Jeremiah, the prophet was taken down to the Potter’s house and saw the potter making a jar of clay. It was all bent out of shape and had no beauty or correct shape to be used. The potter took it off the wheel and started again with the pliable clay to form it into what he wanted to create. The lesson that God was teaching Jeremiah and Peter (and us, too) is that through the brokenness, God will reshape every one of us. All He needs is a broken and contrite heart.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise (Psalm 51:17).

A.W. Tozer once said, “God never uses a man greatly until he has hurt him deeply.” How can we define brokenness? Brokenness is the working of God in a person’s life leading to a point of abandonment of one’s self to a place of complete dependence and trust in the Father’s care. John Collinson, an English Vicar, put it this way:

When to do the will of God means that even my Christian brothers will not understand and I remember that even His brothers did not understand or believe in Him, and I bow my head to obey and accept the misunderstanding, this is brokenness. When I am misrepresented, or deliberately misinterpreted, and I remember that Jesus was falsely accused but He held his peace, and I accept the accusation without trying to justify myself, that is brokenness. When another is preferred before me and I am deliberately passed over, and I remember that they cried “away with this man and release unto us Barabbas” and I bow my head and accept rejection, that is brokenness.

When my plans are brushed aside and I see the work of years brought to ruins by the ambitions of others and I remember that Jesus allowed them to lead Him away to crucify Him, and He accepted that place of failure, and I bow my head and accept the injustice without bitterness, that is brokenness. When to be right with my God it is necessary to take the humbling path of confession and restitution, and I remember that Jesus made Himself of no reputation and humbled Himself to death, even the death of the cross, and I bow my head and I’m ready to take the shame of exposure, that is brokenness. When others take unfair advantage of me because I’m a Christian and treat my belongings as public property and I remember that they stripped Him, and parted His garments casting lots, and I bow my head and accept joyfully the spoiling of my goods for His sake, this is brokenness.

When one acts toward me in an unforgivable way and I remember when He was crucified, He prayed “Father forgive them for they know not what they do,” and I bow my head and accept any behavior towards me as permitted by my heavenly Father, this is brokenness. When people expect the impossible of me, and more than time and human strength can give, and I remember that Jesus said, “this is my body which is broken for you” and I repent of my self-indulgence and lack of self-giving for others, this is brokenness.

Wherever these words find you today, if like Peter the apostle, you have just denied your Lord by your actions or words, know that He loves you and will restore you if you will turn to Him in brokenness and repentance: “But in their distress they turned to the LORD God of Israel, and they sought Him, and He let them find Him” (2 Chronicles 15:4).

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 61, Peter, the Broken Disciple (Luke 22:54-62). Keith Thomas

The Brokenness of Peter

We are meditating on the drama of the hours before the crucifixion of Christ (scroll down for yesterday’s thoughts), and today, especially, the three-time denial of Peter the disciple, soon to be apostle. Before he can become an apostle, the Lord allows him to become broken at his failure to be all that both he and Christ wants him to be. After already denying Christ twice, pressure builds again and he caves under it:

73After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them, for your accent gives you away.” 74Then he began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!” Immediately a rooster crowed. 75Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly (Matthew 26:73-75).

Luke gives us more insight into what finally broke Peter’s heart and causing him to weep bitterly:

59About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.” 60Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. 61The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” 62And he went outside and wept bitterly (Luke 22:59-62).

How painful it was to hear the cock crow a second time and be immediately reminded of Jesus’ words that, before the cock crows, Peter would deny his Lord three times. In God’s sovereignty, the very same instant that Peter heard the cock crowing was the same time when Jesus was brought out of the house of Annas, to be taken across the courtyard to the house of Caiaphas. As soon as the words of his third denial left Peter’s lips, the Lord looked at Peter and their eyes connected. There was no accusation in Jesus’ eyes, only sadness for Peter. The Greek word translated “looked” (v. 61) is emblepo. This word describes a fixed look, almost a stare. This look from Jesus broke Peter’s heart; he remembered all his protestations that he was capable of standing in the hour of trial, but instead, he failed miserably. He went outside the courtyard and wept bitterly. The verb “wept” describes a weeping, mournful cry like those who are grieving the death of a loved one. He was brokenhearted at his failure.

Why is Peter’s failure recorded for us in such depth? Why would the Holy Spirit inspire each of the Gospel writers to focus on Peter’s denial? It is because God’s purpose is for a broken and contrite heart. We are not to focus so much on Peter’s failure as we are to his brokenness and repentance. How quickly he repented. We may never have denied Jesus with our lips in the way that Peter did, but I am sure that, at one time or another, we have denied Him with our actions. This passage is recorded for us to show us God’s mercy and complete forgiveness. God often allows us to experience pain, for it is an excellent teacher. Often, it is only when our pain makes us hit rock bottom and we are broken of our pride and self-adequacy, that we are brought to a place where we look to our Savior.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise (Psalm 51:17).

Peter was brought to a place of brokenness. The place of our brokenness is the place where God can step in and save and heal us. God’s school of training is more than Bible college and more than head knowledge. His training often includes brokenness and contriteness of heart. He molds and shapes our character through everyday situations. Some of the situations can be very trying, e.g. the death of a family member, a financial need, an impatient child. The list is endless.

The LORD will judge [for and on behalf of] his people and have compassion on his servants when he sees their strength is gone and no one is left, slave or free (Deuteronomy 32:36).

While we have adequate resources to fight our own battles, the Lord lets us carry on until we come to the place of brokenness and an end to fleshly ways and self. The Spirit will bring us to a place where we find ourselves devoid of help, having no strength left to accomplish what needs to be done, having no back-up plan, and no one but God to call to for help. That is the point at which God steps in to fight our battles for us. When we are weak, then we are strong in Him (1 Corinthians 1:27-29).  May it be so with you, dear reader.

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 61, Peter, the Broken Disciple (Luke 22:54-62). Keith Thomas

Peter’s Denial of Jesus

We are meditating on the events surrounding the crucifixion of Christ, looking at Peter’s denial that he knew Jesus. When Peter and John arrived at the palace, it was John who knocked on the outer gate to the courtyard. Because he knew the servants, he gained entrance first and then came back with a servant girl to also let in Peter. The two parted after they gained entrance. We are not told why, but the reason, perhaps, is because Peter would have been afraid to be seen by Malchus, the servant of the high priest whose ear Peter had cut off. John, perhaps, went in to listen to the gathering of leaders over the different court proceedings over the next few hours. Because it was cold that evening, Peter warmed himself by the fire.

56A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.” 57But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said. 58A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” “Man, I am not!” Peter replied (Luke 22:56-58).

What had reduced the Apostle Peter to deny being a disciple in front of a servant girl? Could it be that this first denial of Peter was because he was afraid that the young girl would call the soldiers? We cannot tell what fears were in his mind at that moment. Let’s give Peter credit that he chose to stay longer. Luke tells us that he sat down with a group of people warming themselves by a fire after the first denial (Luke 22:55). Apparently, the young girl did not believe Peter’s first denial and came up close to see his face in the light of the fire. Matthew tells us that the fireside denial was before a number of people:

69Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said. 70But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said (Matthew 26:69-70).

Luke tells us that the servant girl looked closely at him seated in front of the fire, and she accused him before the other people sitting around the fire, saying, “this man was also with him” (Luke 22:56). His denial to those around the fire constituted his second denial. This is often the way temptation comes to us. We give the enemy an inch, and he takes a foot. We give him a foot, and he takes a yard. We give a yard, and he takes a mile. We must be aware not to compromise an inch of our lives to the enemy of our souls. It seems that Peter was now afraid that his cover was blown, and he needed to get away from the fire in the courtyard. Matthew tells us that he moved to the gateway, trying to find an exit:

71Then he went out to the gateway, where another girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.” 72He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!” (Matthew 26:71-72).

There is nothing to tell us that the household servants would have done anything to Peter. He had been reduced to his denials out of his own fear. Luke tells us that an hour went by between the second denial and the third and last. About the time of the last denial, John gives us a bit more information, perhaps, because he was also in the courtyard and recognized the one challenging Jesus as a relative of Malchus. Those around the fire now had a witness that made Peter completely lose his composure. John tells us:

One of the high priest’s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, “Didn’t I see you with him in the olive grove?” (John 18:26).

The picture we should get is that of several people suspiciously looking at Peter. The pressure of the witness, together with a few of the servants around him, made him call down curses on himself, wishing himself a violent death at God’s hand if he was lying about knowing Jesus. How sad this strikes us, but many of us have had instances where we have denied our Lord, maybe not with words but with our sinful actions. If you are one of those, know that the forgiveness of the Lord is for you. There is grace to cover our sin. Cry out to Christ for Him to forgive you and He will abundantly pardon (Isaiah 55:7). We will share what happened at Peter’s third denial tomorrow.

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 61, Peter, the Broken Disciple (Luke 22:54-62). Keith Thomas