trials of Christ make for an interesting study across the four Gospels. But it
is also possible to see three trials: those of Peter, Judas and Christ.
trial of Peter
Mat 26:57-75 NASB
Those who had seized Jesus led Him away to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the
scribes and the elders were gathered together. (58)
But Peter was following Him at a distance as far as the courtyard of the high
priest, and entered in, and sat down with the officers to see the outcome. (59) Now the chief priests and the whole Council
kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus, so that they might put Him
to death. (60) They did not find any, even though many false witnesses came
forward. But later on two came forward, (61)
and said, "This man stated, 'I am able to destroy the temple of God and to rebuild it in three days.'" (62)
The high priest stood up and said to Him, "Do You not answer? What is it
that these men are testifying against You?" (63)
But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest said to Him, "I adjure You by
the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of
God." (64) Jesus *said to him, "You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you will see THE SON OF
MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF
HEAVEN." (65) Then the high
priest tore his robes and said, "He has blasphemed! What further need do
we have of witnesses? Behold, you have now heard the blasphemy; (66) what do you think?" They answered,
"He deserves death!" (67) Then they
spat in His face and beat Him with their fists; and others slapped Him, (68) and said, "Prophesy to us, You Christ; who
is the one who hit You?" (69) Now Peter
was sitting outside in the courtyard, and a servant-girl came to him and said,
"You too were with Jesus the Galilean." (70)
But he denied it before them all,
saying, "I do not know what you are talking about." (71) When he had gone out to the gateway, another servant-girl saw him and *said to those who were
there, "This man was with Jesus of Nazareth." (72) And again he denied it
with an oath, "I do not know the man." (73)
A little later the bystanders came up and said to Peter, "Surely you too
are one of them; for even the way you
talk gives you away." (74) Then he began
to curse and swear, "I do not know the man!" And immediately a
rooster crowed. (75) And Peter remembered the
word which Jesus had said, "Before a rooster
crows, you will deny Me three times." And he went out and wept
thinking, most of us would say that sin comes upon us suddenly. But when
challenged, we usually will admit that sin started small and continued to
progress for us. Such a progression is seen in Peter:
begins by denying Christ in a casual conversation. It is something low
key; just to avoid any misunderstandings, you know.
challenged again, however, he makes his denial stronger. He takes an oath
in God’s name, saying that he does not know the Man.
when pressed, he resorts to the parade of obscenities approach. Thus does
one sinner convince others of just how serious he is.
seems to go from bad to worse. Here we have the classic example of this; it
should be a warning to all of us that even the best of us are not immune from
having so recently announced his loyalty to the death (as did the rest of the
disciples), would be viewed today as being mentally defective. There is, in
fact, nothing wrong with Peter’s brain. It’s just that we don’t like to answer
the question, “Why?”, because it hits so close to home for us. So let’s take a
look at the answers:
Most of us are afraid of public speaking, which is related to our fear of
being an outcast. We like to be with birds of a feather. It might seem
this is of little account to Peter; his accuser has low social status.
He’s just reaffirmed his loyalty. He’s afraid to be on his own, alone.
So are most of us.
of preparation. Most of us manage to keep from panicking until we are actually
in the dentist’s chair – when it’s too late. The dentist probably wishes
you came prepared to suffer. Peter was not prepared to stand up for his
– specifically, disconnection from Christ. Peter is impetuous and bold
when Christ is around. He spent three years showing that. Now Christ is
not around; what then? Some of us omit prayer, and are surprised at our
later will ask to be crucified upside down – as not being worthy of the same
death as his Lord. This night is the root of his opinion of his own
unworthiness. It’s a lesson for us all.
subject of repentance is never a popular one, as we wish to have no reason to
study it. But we can see some of its features in Peter:
sorrow – a genuine regret for one’s actions
- is the root emotion of repentance. Sorrow for getting caught is not.
encourages us to separate the sin from the sinner – which certainly
applies to ourselves, as well. He would have us be merciful to us – and
then extend the same treatment to others.
path of repentance is not a wandering one; it leads straight back to
Mat 27:1-10 NASB
Now when morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people
conferred together against Jesus to put Him to death; (2)
and they bound Him, and led Him away and delivered Him to Pilate the governor.
(3) Then when Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw
that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of
silver to the chief priests and elders, (4)
saying, "I have sinned by betraying innocent blood." But they said,
"What is that to us? See to that
yourself!" (5) And he threw the pieces
of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed; and he went away and hanged
himself. (6) The chief priests took the
pieces of silver and said, "It is not lawful to put them into the temple
treasury, since it is the price of blood." (7)
And they conferred together and with the money bought the Potter's Field as a
burial place for strangers. (8) For this
reason that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. (9) Then that which was spoken through Jeremiah the
prophet was fulfilled: "AND THEY TOOK THE THIRTY PIECES OF SILVER, THE
PRICE OF THE ONE WHOSE PRICE HAD BEEN SET by the sons of Israel; (10) AND THEY GAVE THEM FOR THE POTTER'S FIELD, AS
THE LORD DIRECTED ME."
test of the sinner – repentance
is no question about it: Judas felt sorry about Jesus being condemned. Real
sorry. Exceedingly sorry. But the emotion itself is not the same thing as
– in this instance, bordering on horror – is a natural reaction to the sin
involved. Judas has suddenly realized just what he has done. He thus
draws a conclusion about what kind of man he is. This, we shall see, is
has a path, leading back to God. Judas does not follow that path.
Instead, he creates his own path of repentance.
of course, means that there is some virtue left in the man: he has the
capacity to be horrified at what he has done. But he repents only after
the sin is complete; the devil’s own way of repentance.
of taking God’s path of repentance he creates his own. He renounces his
actions – and then commits suicide. Man’s way of repentance usually makes
“wages of a harlot”
Pharisees have had plenty of time over the years to detail a law making the use
of such money for the Temple to be sinful. They don’t seem to have done so;
the closest we have is this:
Deu 23:17-18 NASB
"None of the daughters of Israel shall be a cult prostitute, nor shall any
of the sons of Israel be a cult prostitute. (18)
"You shall not bring the hire of a harlot or the wages of a dog into the
house of the LORD your God for any votive offering, for both of these are an
abomination to the LORD your God.
might not appear to you to fit the case. The Pharisees were sure it did,
however. Perhaps an example might assist:
this writing, we have recently had the news story of a publisher who attempted
to secure and publish a book by O. J. Simpson on “how he would have done it (if
he had done it, which of course he didn’t.)” The news had but to reach the
public to create a great, moral outcry (even in our times, there are shreds of
decency left.) The public, generally holding the man to be a cold-blooded
murderer, was outraged that he would now be allowed to profit from his crime.
It would be blood money; and that’s just how the Pharisees would have seen
these thirty pieces of silver.
in so doing, the Pharisees have convicted themselves. They were the ones who
produced the thirty shekels in the first place. It is a terrible hypocrisy
which can condemn itself like this – without knowing it.
did Judas throw the money back? Some have argued that he hoped to have the
Pharisees change their minds. Others have suggested “buyer’s remorse” – Judas
got exactly what he asked for, and has now discovered that it’s not at all what
matter is perhaps not so simple. One of Shakespeare’s characters put it much
better than I could. Here is Lady Macbeth, after Duncan’s murder,
Out, damned spot! out, I say!-- One;
two; why, then 'tis
time to do't ;--Hell is murky!--Fie, my lord, fie! a soldier,
and afeard? What need we fear who knows it, when none can call
our power to account?--Yet who would have thought the old man to
have had so much blood in him? (Macbeth, Act V, Scene 1)
were none to “call our power to account” for the Pharisees. But who can doubt the
effects of the blood of their Victim?
Trials of Christ
Mat 27:11-26 NASB
Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor questioned Him, saying,
"Are You the King of the Jews?" And Jesus said to him, "It is as you say." (12)
And while He was being accused by the chief priests and elders, He did not
answer. (13) Then Pilate *said to Him,
"Do You not hear how many things they testify against You?" (14) And He did not answer him with regard to even a
single charge, so the governor was quite
amazed. (15) Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release
for the people any one prisoner whom
they wanted. (16) At that time they were
holding a notorious prisoner, called Barabbas. (17)
So when the people gathered together, Pilate said to them, "Whom do you
want me to release for you? Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?" (18) For he knew that because of envy they had
handed Him over. (19) While he was sitting on
the judgment seat, his wife sent him a message,
saying, "Have nothing to do with that righteous Man; for last night I
suffered greatly in a dream because of Him." (20)
But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas
and to put Jesus to death. (21) But the
governor said to them, "Which of the two do you want me to release for
you?" And they said, "Barabbas." (22)
Pilate *said to them, "Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called
Christ?" They all *said, "Crucify Him!" (23) And he said, "Why, what evil has He done?" But
they kept shouting all the more, saying, "Crucify Him!" (24) When Pilate saw that he was accomplishing
nothing, but rather that a riot was starting, he took water and washed his
hands in front of the crowd, saying, "I am innocent of this Man's blood;
see to that yourselves." (25) And all the people said, "His blood shall
be on us and on our children!" (26) Then
he released Barabbas for them; but after having Jesus scourged, he handed Him
over to be crucified.
may be brief in this. I would have you note the one answer Christ gives – not
even answering the challenge of tearing down the Temple and restoring it in
three days (clearly referring to the resurrection). His only reply comes to
the question of the High Priest: are you the Christ, the Son of God?
is no other question. It is fitting from the High Priest, for he stands before
the permanent high priest, the Christ. Upon the answer to that question rests
western civilization. If Christ is who He says He is, then God’s righteousness
is an integral part of our civilization. If He is not, we need not the rudder
of God to float about in moral uncertainty.
is the only question; it is the only one the priests need to condemn him. But
they need to kill Him openly, for thus only can they kill Him and His
has only one real concern: “Are you the king of the Jews?” The question is a
reasonable one; if He says yes, we have a rebel against Rome on our hands. But
(as is seen in other accounts) Pilate quickly discovers that Jesus is no threat
to the empire.
is a sharp mind; he knows what’s going on here. The quislings are worried that
this man might supplant them in the eyes of the people. He knows envy when he
sees it (see verse 18). Being an astute administrator for an empire known for
its love of justice, Pilate thinks he can handle the situation.
a merciful man – until it gets risky. The poison pill is offered (Barabbas).
But eventually it’s clear this Man must die. But not on Pilate’s account. He
washes his hands of the matter, leaving Shakespeare with the indelible metaphor
is, by and large, silent through all this. By His silence He achieves much:
fulfills the voices of the prophets concerning the suffering servant
silence puts the attention on the men (and the system) condemning Him. It
forces those who see it to consider that Roman justice is more on trial
than is Jesus.
confirms the truth, when asked. He is silent in all else; He is the Lamb of
God going to the slaughter without a word. McGuffey’s Reader had it right:
Socrates died like a philosopher; Jesus Christ like a God.