In this study we find the Lord Jesus Christ standing like a criminal before the religious leaders of Jerusalem. These so-called pious men were about to condemn their only Messiah to death. The One standing before them, “In whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3), would one day judge these wicked men.
“And they led Jesus away to the high priest: and with him were assembled all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes. And Peter followed him afar off, even into the palace of the high priest: and he sat with the servants, and warmed himself at the fire” (Mark 14:53-54).
While the Lord was being condemned by cold-hearted men, Peter was comfortably warming himself by the fire. He had forsaken Jesus just a few moments earlier, so surely he ought to be distraught over his weakness and failure. He had just run away from the band of men who arrested the Lord, now he is right in midst of them again. “Out of the frying pan, into the fire.” But Peter was continuously rash and presumptuous, so it should not surprise us to see him on the verge of facing further trials of faith. Peter, unknowingly, was preparing the way to commit his greatest sin – the denial of his Master.
Backslidders, once they have left off serving the Lord, seem to run headlong and blindly into all kinds of trouble that destroys whatever faith they may have. Like Peter, they appear to cast away commonsense and discretion. Like a snowball rolling down a hill, they seem to gather to themselves increasing amounts of sin and condemnation. Once a believer steps out of the way of holiness, there is no telling what manner of sin he will not commit. We need to keep well away from the brink of evil, or as Paul says, “Abstain from all appearance of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22). If we comfort ourselves with the world’s fire, then we can blame no one but ourselves when we get burned. Remember that the Lord taught us to pray, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13).
“And the chief priests and all the council sought for witness against Jesus to put him to death; and found none. For many bare false witness against him, but their witness agreed not together. And there arose certain, and bare false witness against him, saying, We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands. But neither so did their witness agree together. And the high priest stood up in the midst, and asked Jesus, saying, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee? But he held his peace, and answered nothing.” (Mark 14:55-61a).
The religious leaders could not condemn the Lord Jesus Christ with truth, so instead they had to use lies and deceit to reach their predetermined outcome. “And led him away to Annas first; for he was father in law to Caiaphas, which was the high priest that same year. Now Caiaphas was he, which gave counsel to the Jews, that it was expedient that one man should die for the people” (John 18:13-14) … “Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain” (Acts 2:22-23). They even bribed people to make up false stories about Jesus and to twist the words He spoke. “The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly” (Proverbs 18:8). Even David experienced the evil spread by liars, “Deliver my soul, O LORD, from lying lips, and from a deceitful tongue” (Psalm 120:2). Though this was really a kangaroo court, the false witnesses were guilty of perverting the course of justice. Yet all of this was part of the cup the Saviour had to drink from for our sakes. It was part of the price He had to pay for our redemption.
As followers of Christ we too are going to be misrepresented and slandered by the world. “The servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you; if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also” (John 15:20). Though we might become disheartened when others spread falsehoods about us, we need never be discouraged. “Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12). We certainly know something is wrong with us when the world flatters us, “Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets” (Luke 6:26).
“Again the high priest asked him, and said unto him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. Then the high priest rent his clothes, and saith, What need we any further witnesses? Ye have heard the blasphemy: what think ye? And they all condemned him to be guilty of death. And some began to spit on him, and to cover his face, and to buffet him, and to say unto him, Prophesy: and the servants did strike him with the palms of their hands” (Mark 14:61b-65),
We notice that Jesus did not honour their foolish lies with any response, but He gave an emphatic answer when asked about His divinity and position in the Godhead. “I am” speaks of Him as the Lord and Creator of all things. Just like the unbelieving Jews of Moses’ day, they heard the name of the one standing before them. “I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you” (Exodus 3:14). From that moment no Jew could claim that Jesus did not tell them who He was. Jesus went on to tell them that though they put their Messiah to death, it would not be the end of the matter. One day He will return, not as Messiah, but as King of Kings and Lord of Lords (see Revelation 19:16). They might unrighteously judge Him now, but He would judge them for what they have done.
What man or woman has the right to suggest that Christ is not coming again? He did not have to say these words, especially as He was facing cruel torment at the hands of His enemies, if He did not literally mean them. We ought to live our lives as though He might come at any moment of any day. We believe in a Christ who died for our sins, was buried but rose the third day; ascended into Heaven, but is coming again to judge all mankind. “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom” (2 Timothy 4:1).
We may be astounded by the gross injustice shown towards the Lord by those who ought to have been the pillars of morality in the nation, but we must not forget that it had to be this way so that we could be saved. “The Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners” (Matthew 26:45). He did not pay a part but the whole of the price to redeem us from sin and death.