Sermons

September 15, 2019

The Judgment of Jesus

Jason Meyer | Mark 14:43-72

And immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man. Seize him and lead him away under guard.” And when he came, he went up to him at once and said, “Rabbi!” And he kissed him. And they laid hands on him and seized him. But one of those who stood by drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. And Jesus said to them, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.” And they all left him and fled.

And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.

And they led Jesus to the high priest. And all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together. And Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. And he was sitting with the guards and warming himself at the fire. Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but they found none. For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree. And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying, “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’” Yet even about this their testimony did not agree. And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need? You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death. And some began to spit on him and to cover his face and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophesy!” And the guards received him with blows.

And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway and the rooster crowed. And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.—Mark 14:43–72

Introduction

I want to talk to two groups of people in the introduction. 

First, I want to talk to those who are currently not following Jesus. We are glad you’re here. Skeptics are welcome. We are glad that you’re checking out the church and the claims of Jesus. We pray that we will be a church that holds out the welcome of the gospel and puts on display the love of Jesus. I also want to ask you a question. If you are not following Jesus, how would you put into words why you have chosen to do so? What is it about Jesus that you are rejecting? Is it that you do not really know who he is or what he has done or what claims he made? Or is it precisely what you do know about him that troubles you? Is it the personal claims of Jesus (truly God and truly Man, Lord of all, the only way to God—no other way to be saved)? Or is it the moral claims of Jesus—you cannot live any way you want and do whatever is right in your own eyes? 

The second group I want to talk to are followers of Christ. Here is my question for you: Are you discouraged by how many people reject Jesus for so many different reasons? Does the widespread rejection of Jesus make you waver in your acceptance of him? Do you feel pressure to deny him or distance yourself from him? Does feeling the weight of the world’s judgment make you feel embattled or even embittered? Or do you feel free from fear or anger and you are able to share him freely with others? 

All of these questions are set on a crash course with our text today. The first half of chapter 14 focused on Jesus’ predictions of Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s denial, and the second half is focused on the fulfillment of those predictions. Jesus and his claims are on trial in these verses. We will see three main events in this passage:

Prophesy and Fulfillment

  1. The Betrayal of Judas (vv. 43–52)
  2. The Trial of Jesus (vv. 53–65)
  3. The Denial of Peter (vv. 66–72)

The betrayal and denial are both fulfillments of Jesus’ words, and the central event will focus especially on the fulfillment of Scripture. 

1. The Betrayal of Judas (vv. 32–38)

This section is comprised of four separate scenes: (1) the betrayal of Judas, (2) the arrest of Jesus, (3) the scattering of the disciples, and (4) the fleeing of a young man. 

A. The Betrayal of Judas (vv. 43­–45)

And immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man. Seize him and lead him away under guard.” And when he came, he went up to him at once and said, “Rabbi!” And he kissed him.

Jesus prophesied that this would happen in Mark 14:18–21.

 And as they were reclining at table and eating, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” They began to be sorrowful and to say to him one after another, “Is it I?” He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the dish with me. For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”

Jesus not only prophesied this moment, but it is a fulfillment of Scripture in Psalm 41:9.

Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.

B. The Arrest of Jesus (vv. 46–49)

And they laid hands on him and seized him. But one of those who stood by drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. And Jesus said to them, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.”

We learn in the other gospels that the person who struck the servant of the high priest was Peter (John 18:10).

Why did Peter defend Jesus with the sword? Jesus kept prophesying that this would happen and Peter rebuked Jesus and said it never would. Jesus told Peter that he was not thinking the things of God but the things of man (Mark 8:33). 

He tells Peter that he is wrong for taking up the sword. And he tells the crowd with swords and clubs that they don’t understand the things of God either. It is clear that they do not understand who he really is. Would you try to capture God Almighty with clubs? That is like marshmallows trying to defeat a flamethrower. Furthermore, they are treating him like a robber on the run. He has not been a hiding like robber, but teaching like a teacher. They knew where to find him. Why didn’t they seize him during those times?

Why are they seizing him now? Have they outsmarted him, outmaneuvered him, or overpowered him? No. His hour has come. The Scripture is being fulfilled. They think they are seizing him with their hands, but Jesus points to an unseen hand—the Father. The Scriptures are unfolding in fulfillment right before their very eyes.

C. The Scattering of the Disciples (v. 50)

And they all left him and fled.

Jesus prophesied that this would happen in Mark 14:27.

And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’”

That’s a quotation of Zechariah 13:7.

D. A Young Man Flees Without His Linen Cloth

And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.—Mark 14:51–52

Commentators go all over the place in explaining this part of the story. Some even think that this is a reference to Mark, so that the author is here making a “cameo” appearance incognito. That seems to be sheer speculation to me. I have a hunch that is hard to prove, but it is my best read on what this unusual story is actually doing in the narrative. 

Remember all the parallels between chapter 13 and chapter 14. We have been on the lookout for the coming of the Son of Man in power. Might he come at midnight or evening or when the rooster crows or in the morning? Here is a hint: the rooster is going to crow at the end of this passage. Midnight was the conclusion of the Lord’s Supper and the move to Gethsemane. We are now at evening. The betrayal and arrest of Jesus is the desolating sacrilege that will cause people to flee. All the disciples just fled in verse 50. Now in verse 51, there is a follower of Jesus that flees as well. For some reason, Mark zooms in on his linen cloth. He is seized, and he runs away without that cloth. Could this be Mark’s hint that the desolating sacrilege has happened and now everyone will run for it and not go back to grab their cloak? 

 And let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak.—Mark 13:16

Now we come to the centerpiece of this whole passage: the trial of Jesus.

2. The Trial of Jesus (vv. 53–65)

And they led Jesus to the high priest. And all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together. And Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. And he was sitting with the guards and warming himself at the fire. Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but they found none. For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree. And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying, “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’” Yet even about this their testimony did not agree. And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need? You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death. And some began to spit on him and to cover his face and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophesy!” And the guards received him with blows.

Notice the way that Mark sets the scene. Jesus and Peter are together. Peter stops in the courtyard of the high priest. Jesus goes into the house of the high priest. That will come back into play in the next point, because we will go back to the courtyard—this is another sandwich structure: 

Peter and Jesus (vv. 53–54)
Jesus’ Trial (vv. 55–65)
Peter’s Trial (vv. 66–72) 

Now we come to the judicial proceedings against Jesus. The chief priests were seeking testimony against Jesus. But the testimony was false because it did not agree. There are many examples here of a mockery of justice and a false assembly.

Justice was certainly not served at the Jewish judicial proceedings. The trial was more like a travesty of justice. Jewish leaders sought out any testimony that would condemn Jesus, but all of the testimonies were contradictory or false. Much has been written concerning the so-called illegal aspects of this trial. Some scholars look at the Sanhedrin rules governing capital trials and note that …

(1) They are to be conducted during the day and have the sentence rendered during the day
(2) They should begin with reasons for acquittal and not with reasons for conviction (m. Sanh. 4:1)
(3) They should not be held on the eve of the Sabbath or a festival day (m. Sanh. 4:1)
(4) They could reach an acquittal on the same day, but verdicts of conviction must be confirmed on the following day after a night’s sleep (m. Sanh. 4:1)
(5) They required the evidence of two witnesses for verdicts of condemnation.
Evidence became null and void if the witnesses disagreed. Furthermore, false witnesses were required to suffer the same death penalty to which the accused had been made liable
(6) They were supposed to be held in the temple, not the high priest’s home

[See David Garland, “Mark,” in the Zondervan Bible Background Commentary, Vol. 1 (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005), p. 291.]

Mark takes pains to inform us that Jesus faces trial alone. “Many” bore false witness (14:56) and “all” condemned him as deserving death (14:64). Mark does not record the voice of anyone who defended Jesus. He stood trial all alone, and everyone rendered a verdict against him.

Now notice that the high priest questions Jesus twice. The first time he asks … Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you? But he remained silent and made no answer. 

The first question and response testifies to Jesus’ identity as Isaiah’s servant (Isaiah 53:7).

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
     yet he opened not his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
     and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
     so he opened not his mouth. 

The second question and response testifies to Jesus’ identity as the Son of Man who will come again (Mark 14: 61–62): 

Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”

The title “Son of Man,” the right hand of Power, and the clouds of heaven all out to be a dead giveaway to Daniel 7:13. 

 “I saw in the night visions,

     and behold, with the clouds of heaven
         there came one like a son of man,
     and he came to the Ancient of Days
          and was presented before him.
     And to him was given dominion
          and glory and a kingdom,
     that all peoples, nations, and languages
          should serve him;
     his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
          which shall not pass away,
     and his kingdom one
          that shall not be destroyed.

He is Isaiah’s Suffering Servant and Daniel’s Powerful Son of Man. The high priest does not see the truth of any of it. He thinks Jesus has just uttered blasphemy. Rather than tear his clothes in repentance, the high priest tore his garments in outrage. The high priest’s verdict is that Jesus just committed blasphemy (vv. 63–64).

And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need? You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death.

The irony is that they just committed blasphemy. Irony is often easier to spot than to define. One simple definition is that irony highlights a difference between appearance and reality. Irony normally conveys a clash between what is happening on the surface of the text and what is happening deeper in the text.

The eternal God is standing before them, and here he is claiming to be who he is, and they deny that it is him. The reader knows that Jesus is who He says He is (Mark 1:1). They stand in judgment of him at this meeting, but Jesus will stand in judgment over them at their next meeting. It is difficult to know if the Sanhedrin caught the pointed element of irony. The Jewish unjust kangaroo court has convicted him of blasphemy, but the supreme court of heaven and earth has convicted them of blasphemy. That is the pointedly ironic problem: They view themselves as the judge of Jesus, but Jesus is really the Judge of them.

Then, rather than receive him as God, they receive him with blows. They taunt him with mockery: they cover his face, strike him, and tell him to prophesy (Mark 14:65). 

And some began to spit on him and to cover his face and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophesy!” And the guards received him with blows.

But the reader gets a glimpse of a great irony because they can see what is happening in the courtyard at this same moment.

 3. The Denial of Peter (vv. 66–72) 

And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway and the rooster crowed. And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.

We have been on the lookout for the coming of the Son of Man in power. Might he come at midnight or evening or when the rooster crows or in the morning? We come now to the rooster crowing.

Jesus prophesied the denial of Peter in Mark 14:29–31.

Peter said to him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” But he said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same.

The ironies are truly tragic.

First, while Jesus stands trial before the chief priest, Peter stands on trial before the servant girl of the high priest. 

Second, while the Jewish leaders strike Jesus and taunt him by asking him to prophesy inside, outside in the courtyard Jesus’ prophesy about Peter is coming true. While the Sanhedrin mockingly asked Jesus to prophesy, the reader witnesses the vindication of Jesus’ prophecy uttered back in Mark 14:30. The validity of Jesus’ words stands in stark contrast to the failure of Peter’s earlier prediction: “Even though they all fall away, I will not” (14:29); “If I must die with you, I will not deny you” (14:31). 

Third, Peter denies the fact that he knows Jesus three times. It is not hard to see the rejection at this juncture, as it is remarkably personal and pointed. Peter, the disciple that swore with the most bravado (14:31) that he would not fall away, denied Jesus in the most detailed, repeated way (14:68, 70, 71). The “how” (the oath and the curse) and “how many” (three times), and the “before whom” (a lowly servant girl) of his denial make the rejection all the more stunning. 

Here is the irony. We all know that he knows Jesus. He has been with Jesus. But at a deeper level it raises the question, do those who deny Jesus ever really know him? How can you really know him and turn around and deny him? Peter has never understood Jesus and his mission because he has never understood the cross. He was thinking the things of man, not the things of God. 

Main Point: Jesus is both the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 and the Son of Man of Daniel 7 and so God has sovereignly appointed him to be both the Judged and the Judge—and no one in the story put those pieces together. 

Application

This section of Scripture is so hard to read because everyone gets everything wrong—except Jesus. He was right about everything. Even though he was betrayed and deserted and condemned and denied, his words were all vindicated.

These three sections are held together by the fulfillment of prophesy and the middle section goes right to the heart of the gospel as it lays out the identity of Jesus as both the Suffering Servant and the Son of Man in Power. He is judged by humanity while at the same time being the Judge over humanity. No one seems to be able to put these two things together. That is why I chose a title like “the Judgment of Jesus,” because it can mean two things: The Judgment Jesus Receives or the Judgment That Jesus Gives.

The dynamics of this text are still on display today. People look at Jesus and pronounce a judgment over him. They treat him like he is always on trial. They act like the judge of Jesus. If you are in that position this morning, then you need to feel the flip of this passage. Perhaps you came into this church this morning thinking you were the judge of Jesus and now you realize that Jesus is the judge of you. It can be a liberating, life-changing moment. One politician I heard said that before he became a Christian he used to speak in a flippant way about the questions he had for God. His wife turned all of that on its head one day when she said, “I would be more concerned with the questions he has for you.”

That is the question before us today: Do you think you are the judge of Jesus or do you see now that Jesus is the judge of you? Jesus is not trying to get elected as Lord. He is Lord. He is not campaigning to become the Judge. He is Judge. 

The good news of this passage is that Jesus the Judge not only has questions for you, but Jesus the Savior is the answer for you. The Suffering Servant has come. He suffered not for his sin, but for our sin. He took the judgment for us. You can feel the flip of justice switching sides. Right now if you are not a Christian—justice speaks against you—it rightly and justly calls for your condemnation. But if you are in Christ, then Christ has taken your condemnation. The debt has been paid. The sentence of justice has been served. That is why 1 John 1:9 is such a remarkable verse: 

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  

Why is it just for God to forgive sinners instead of judge them? Answer: Justice has already been served at the cross. The punishment has happened and the price has been paid in full. Justice now calls for forgiveness. God is faithful to provide it when we confess.

Conclusion 

Christians, you do not need to fear the questions that others have for you—you can rest in the promises God has made to you. You do not need to feel the world’s wrath, because God’s wrath has been satisfied. You do not have to try to stand before the Great I Am in judgment, you can now stand with him as his children. Romans 8 offers a stunning promise. No one can bring a charge against God’s elect that could ever overturn God’s acceptance—because he is the One who justifies and accepts us (Romans 8:33). Who is the only one that can speak a word of eternal condemnation? Not the world, not Satan—only Jesus. And Jesus died for you, rose again, is seated at the right hand of power—and—far from speaking a word against you, he is speaking for you, interceding for you (Romans 8:34). Assurance is your blood-bought birthright. You are no longer a slave to fear. You are a child of God. Do not give the world the right to condemn you, if the Only One who has that right has already accepted you.

Sermon Discussion Questions

Outline
Prophesy and Fulfillment

  1. The Betrayal of Judas (Mark 14:43–52)
  2. The Trial of Jesus (Mark 14:53–65)
  3. The Denial of Peter (Mark 14:66–72)

Main Point: Jesus is both the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53 and the Son of Man of Daniel 7, and so God has sovereignly appointed him to be both the Judged and the Judge.

Discussion Questions

  • What did the disciples and the crowd that came to arrest Jesus both fail to understand about Jesus and what was happening in his arrest?
  • Why was the trial of Jesus unjust? What did the Jewish leaders fail to understand about who Jesus is and what was really happening?
  • Why was Peter’s denial of Jesus so ironic? How did the trial of Jesus inside the high priest’s home relate to what happened to Peter in the courtyard of the high priest?
  • Why does the Gospel of Mark use so much irony in the stories of Jesus’ betrayal, arrest, and rejection? In other words, what does irony lead the reader to do?
  • How are the dynamics of this text still on display in our day?

Application Questions

  • Do you view yourself as the judge of Jesus or Jesus as the Judge of you? Reflect on the various ways that we act as the judge, even when we know we are not the judge.
  • How can we better align our hearts and our hopes with Jesus as the Great I Am who is the Judge of All?
  • What part of this message do you need to share with someone this week?

Prayer Focus
Pray for a grace to come to grips with the reality of Christ’s Lordship and to joyfully bow the knee and confess with the tongue that he is Lord.

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