[podcast]http://communitypresbyterianchurchcelebration.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/The-Unexpected-Cross-03-22-15-9.30am-Sermon-Only.mp3[/podcast]

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The trial of Jesus is recorded in all four gospels. The religious authorities wanted to arrest Jesus, but His popularity with the people made it impossible to make such a bold move. Then an unexpected opportunity arose; Judas was willing to assist them.

Jesus was arrested in the Garden and taken to be put on trial before the Sanhedrin – the Supreme Court of the Jews, the legal body that oversaw their religion. Actually, Jesus will have six trials in eight hours. The first was with Annas, then Caiaphas and the religious Supreme Court, then Jesus was sent to Pilate, then to Herod, then back to Pilate.

Jewish law prohibited any trials at night. Nor could a criminal be executed for at least three days after sentencing, but these would be some of many injustices of Jesus’ trial.

The first stage of this trial was meeting with Annas who had been High Priest, until the Romans deposed him for executing a criminal which he did not have the authority to do as the Romans retained the right to execute anybody. Annas was the Godfather of the Jewish leadership exerting influence over all decisions. His son in-law Caiaphas was his puppet. Most high priest served for 2 terms, Caiaphas was in office for 19 years.

It is likely that council member Nicodemus was not invited to this sham of justice because he had demonstrated leanings toward Jesus. Joseph of Arimethea who had been a silent disciple of Jesus voiced his disapproval, opposing their rulings. Luke 23: 50-51 says, “Joseph a member of the council a good and upright man who had not consented to their decision and action.”

During the interrogation the religious leaders were having trouble bringing charges against Jesus because their testimonies could not be substantiated. They tried to accuse Jesus of threatening to tear down the temple, a capital offense, but they could not coordinate their accusation. By the way, Jesus made that statement because the temple and the sacrifices would no longer be necessary because He would be the sacrifice for all sin when Jesus went to the cross … the temple will be obsolete.

Incidentally, in the Talmud when the question was asked why God allowed the second temple to be destroyed in 70 AD the answer is given is gross injustice and hatred without cause. The gross injustice was murdering their savior and hatred without cause would be the venom released upon Jesus.

Interestingly the highly revered and ethical Gamaliel, one of the greatest Jewish theologians, was a contemporary of Jesus who should have been able to recognize the Messiah. He is the one in Acts 5 that advises the others to leave the disciples alone.

But have you ever been locked into a way of thinking and not realize you had blinders on? I’m sure these religious leaders could not conceive their Messiah would allow Himself to be arrested and treated this way. The Messiah was coming with the kind of power and with authority to reestablish Israel, removing the tyranny of Rome.

Finally, Caiaphas steps forward and says, “I charge you under oath by the Living God are you the Christ, the Son of God?” Jesus responds, in Luke, “I Am,” (the name of God). It is as you say and you will see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of the Mighty One and coming in the clouds.” Jesus quotes Psalm 110:1 and Daniel 7:13 explaining exactly who He is in scriptural language.

Realize, no one could be made to testify against himself. If Jesus remained silent He would have been acquitted.

Have you ever been falsely accused? What’s interesting is in all the years of making visits to prisons, I’ve made an amazing discovery – everyone is innocent! A man was driving home when he noticed a young hitchhiker, since it was cold he thought he would have pity on the guy and offered a ride. The driver usually had his wallet in the open tray between the seats and noticed it was gone. So he suddenly pulled off the road and ordered the hitchhiker out and demanded, “Hand over the wallet!” The frightened hitchhiker handed over a billfold and the man drove off. When he came home he started to relate the story to his wife who interrupted him, “Before I forget you left your wallet at home this morning.”

Ever been accused of something you didn’t do? People will lie about us to get us in trouble. People will set traps to get us to stumble. People will hate us so much they will spread rumors about us. People may even invent conspiracies. But notice Jesus answered affirmatively! This was not a false accusation.

Over the years people argue Jesus never claimed to be the God. The Jews understood what Jesus was saying because they respond, “He has blasphemed!” Remember when they commented, “Who is this man who blasphemes only God can forgive sins?!” The leaders understood Jesus to mean you are equal to God, you are saying you have God’s authority, that you have God’s power, that you are a direct descent of God, part of His blood line.

There is no parallel in other religions. If you had asked Buddha, “Are you the son of Bramah?” He would have said you are in the Veil of Illusion. If you had asked Socrates, “Are you Zeus?” he would have scoffed at you. If you had asked Mohammed, “Are you Allah?” he would have torn his clothes and then cut off your head. If you asked Confucius are you heaven? He’d have been confused responding your remarks are not in accordance with nature.

The idea of a great moral teacher saying what Christ said is out of the question. It would expose them as not a great moral teacher. C. S. Lewis made the famous conclusion: Jesus is either a liar, lunatic or He was what He said He was … a  guy that is healing numerous people, speaking of a God of love, and giving His life to rectify the main problem we have in life — sin-that brings destruction of the self, the family and society. Only God could fix our problem with God.

God set the rules. We could not meet His standard because of our sinfulness. So God’s love intervened and restored us back into relationship with Him by taking on our responsibility before Him.

One day a mother told her unruly child if she chooses to disobey her she would have to live with the consequences. With a terrified look, the girl said, “Oh mommy, I don’t want to live with the Consequences, I want to live with you.” Jesus came so we could live with Him, not the consequences.

So God allowed Himself to be put on trial. The trials included mocking and spitting in His face and beating Him over and over. “Tell us who hit you?” He could have told them their names and father’s names and grandfathers names yet He remained silent. They plucked out His beard, whipped Him with thirty nine lashes. The science of torture deduced that you would lose too much blood and die with forty lashes. A crown of three inch thorns was beaten into His head, He was stripped naked, His side pierced. He died because He claimed to be the Son of God.

Fritz Kreisler, a famous violinist was setting out from Hamburg, Germany to give a concert in London. He had an hour before his boat sailed, so he wandered into a music shop where the proprietor asked if he could look at the violin Kreisler was carrying. He then vanished behind the counter and returned with two policemen who told the violinist you are under arrest. “For what?” “You have Fritz Kreisler’s violin.” “I am Fritz Kreisler.” “Sure you are, you’ll have to come to the station.” Kreisler’s boat was setting sail soon, there was no time for prolonged explanations, so he asked for the violin and played a piece he was well known for. “Are you satisfied?” They were. You wonder why the religious leaders would not be satisfied with Jesus assessment, “I am the Son of God” … after all who else raises the dead!

The Pharisees would have a problem with Jesus adjusting their theology, but when you are God and it was Your Spirit that wrote the Bible, and You are fulfilling what it said, and erasing the precepts of man that have misinterpreted what God originally intended … You have the authority to make these adjustments.

The religious leaders thought they were opposing Jesus when in reality their rotten attitudes were incorporated into a larger plan — the redemption of humanity. God works backwards: sometimes those who oppose Him are actually accomplishing His purposes.

Just like when we pray, “God please don’t let this happen” and we find out later it was the best thing ever. One man’s tweleve year old daughter was diagnosed with scoliosis, a curvature of the spine. Her father prayed for God to heal her every day. He took her to numerous doctors, but her situation was not fixable. Her curvature of the spine got worse in spite of Dad’s prayers. She grew up and got married. Then she and her new husband were in a head on collision and both seriously injured. The doctor said her scoliosis saved her life. If her spine had been straight then her neck would have broken and she would have been left paralyzed or dead. The curvature of the spine cushioned and absorbed the blow resulting in only a cracked vertebrae. If Dad’s prayers had been answered the way he wanted, he might not have a daughter today. God moves in our lives both in the good and the bad.

Caiaphas, the man who put God on trial, represents many in our society who dismiss Jesus on personal opinion. A man commented, “I don’t believe in Hell.” As if your opinion has anything to do with Hell’s reality. Our feelings don’t change realities.

Jesus is God, not “a god” like the Mormons present Him. Not a prophet that Islam reduces Him to. Not a moral teacher that emphasized love — an ancient John Lennon.

Jesus never claimed to be a religious leader or prophet, but He did claim to be equal with God; “I and the Father are one.” He claimed to have the power to forgive sins. The power to raise people from the dead. The authority to grant eternal life. Christians should understand the “incarnation” is God in the flesh. Surprisingly, many Christians do not believe in the divinity of Jesus.

But for Christianity to come alive in your life we need to believe in who He says He is. If Jesus is not God He is unable to forgive your sins and has no authority to grant you eternal life. But because He is God come down to us in the flesh, He did take care of our sin problem. He is our Savior who continues to show up in our lives. Jesus went to trial because He loves you and would not deny who He is, your God.

What has this to do with me? Today Jesus is put on trial over and over with people rejecting Jesus because surely he was just a man. Or I don’t need the forgiveness He made available to me on the cross. Jesus is thrown out of schools, removed from the court system, rejected from the practice of therapy, scoffed at in business, ridiculed in art, not allowed to interfere with politics, not consulted with our moral choices, not considered when choosing relationships.

It’s a personal decision. If He is not God, we don’t have to do what He says. Like the seminary student who commented, “Jesus said this and for the most part I agree with Him.” If Jesus is not God then we are limited to your own sinful nature to handle this chaotic world.

I argue He is worthy of investigating. Recently, a friend of mine shared his kids have rejected the faith. I gave him a book with all the arguments for Christianity laid out in a clear manner. My friend read it and said, “My kids aren’t using any of these arguments.” We dismiss Jesus for no good reasons. John Stott shares, “There is evidence for the deity of Jesus, good, strong, historical cumulative evidence to which an honest person can subscribe without committing intellectual suicide.”

One of the theological arguments we used to banter back and forth is: Who killed Jesus? Did the Romans when they put Him on the cross? Was it the Jews who sentenced Him? Actually I did … my sins put Him on the cross.

Again it gets personal. All of us need what Jesus secured for us on the cross. All of us have blown it, all of us have made moral mistakes. Just as crimes deserve justice, sin needs to be punished, the wages of sin is death. Somebody has to pay for all the injustice that has occurred, justice demands it. Jesus stepped in and said, “I love these guys, “I’ll pay for their sinfulness, I will pay for all the things you have done wrong.”

Jesus did not say, “I am finished.” Jesus said, “It is finished.” Justice was accomplished for humanity, the price paid, a sacrifice provided once and for all, a life given … our problem with sin is finished.

A boy was riding a bus home from Sunday School and was admiring a card he received from his teacher that had the statement: “Have faith in God.” Then to his dismay the cross breeze blew his card out of his hands and out the bus window. He screamed to the bus driver, “Stop the bus, I lost my faith in God!” The bus driver pulled over and helped the lad retrieve it, commenting, “All of us would be better off if we were that concerned about our faith in God.”

Please pray with me, Jesus I did not realize the depth of Your love for me. I did not realize the sacrifice You made for me. I pray now that I would love You with my whole heart. That I would hate sin and that I would follow You. Forgive my sins. I know You died for them. Help me to learn as much as I can about You and live for You.

Sources: Ed Vasicek, Tom Shephard, Nathan Johnson, Peter Loughman

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