By Simon ManchesterSunday 19 Mar 2023Christian Growth with Simon ManchesterFaithReading Time: 1 minute
Today, we have these very famous verses of Jesus, and his arrest, and the beginning of the trial. My hope is that you might see these are very practical verses. And this is the sort of material that will help you on a Monday, and not just interest you on a Sunday. If Jesus can speak at his arrest, which is chaotic, and say something which changes everything, and then if he can speak at his trial, which is corrupt, and say something which changes everything, we should be able to borrow what he says and take it with us into this week.
The writer R.C. Sproul, who’s one of my favorite writers, just recently passed away, but one of those very brilliant men who could write for everybody says in one of his books, “I doubt if there’s been a period in all of Christian history when so many Christians are so ineffectual in shaping their culture.” On Sunday we say the Creed; on Monday we’re fatalists. We separate our Christian life from the rest of life, we therefore hold contradictory beliefs, which become confusing, inconsistent, incoherent and chaotic. And so we need to learn from Jesus, from these verses in Mark 14.
These two scenes could not be much worse than they are. Nevertheless, Jesus says something which changes everything. So verses 43 to 52, we’re on page 1,008 in your Bibles, Mark 14:43 to 52, Jesus is arrested. And then in the very middle of the arrest, he says something – something sensational. Then in verses 53 to 65, he’s on trial and he says something. And what he says is sensational. So do you see the pattern of these verses? Arrest, statement. Trial, statement. And because we face many messy situations, some of them are very big, and some of them are not so big, we need to know how to think and ideally, how to speak.
I don’t know whether you have got messy situations at the moment. On Friday night, we had some new neighbors hold a party with plenty of shouting and singing, which went from 9:00 on Friday night until 1:00 in the afternoon on Saturday, 16 hours of shouting, singing, and chaos. And I thought of so many things to say and to find somebody more courageous to do. Now you may have a lot more serious things that are needing to be dealt with and that are really beyond you at the moment, but all of these chaotic things that we face are symptoms of a much bigger disease.
And believe it or not, the bigger disease is the opposition to Christ. At the very center of our problems in the world is opposition to the authority of Christ. And where he’s attacked and opposed, things unravel. Where he is honored and worshipped, things will often fall into place. I’m not saying that a Christian is going to have an easy life, but attacking and opposing him is going to bring great disorder.
So in Mark 14, which is our section, we’re gonna think of two things this morning. First of all, chaos and the Word of God, and then corruption and the day of God. So chaos and the Word of God, corruption and the day of God.
Chaos and the Word of God
First of all, chaos and the Word of God, verses 43 to 52. So in the last few weeks, we’ve seen Jesus speak of his death at the supper and then agree to his death in the garden. If you missed the last few Sundays, I encourage you to try and listen in because what we’ve seen in this chapter of Mark 14 has been, I think of great help to many of us. And you’ll see the details as Jesus is arrested in 14:43. It’s all terrible. First of all, you see, look at 14:43, Judas leads the way. And see how Mark describes him, one of the 12.
Betrayal and arrest
Nothing could be more painful than to be betrayed by somebody who’s been a friend for such a long time and received so much from you. It’s just wrong that Judas would be the one leading this arrest. Second, there’s a crowd, a crowd armed with swords and clubs. Nothing could be more inappropriate for arresting Jesus. Nothing could be more unnecessary than a crowd with swords and clubs. Nothing could be more incompetent. And you’ll see that they’re all sent by the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders. This is like, they’ve been sent by the clergy, the bishops, the lecturers at the theological colleges, these are the people behind the arrest. The religious world could not be more upside down. And Judas you see has a signal, and the signal is going to be this famous kiss, and he enthusiastically kisses Jesus. The English here hides the fact that Judas comes up and basically hugs him, and enthusiastically kisses him. And he calls him Rabbi or teacher, which is highly ironic if not sarcastic. So they seize Jesus. And in the middle of the mess, its pitch dark, somebody we’re told, swings a sword and strikes the servant of the high priest, slicing off his ear.
That’s what Mark tells us about the arrest. Now it’s interesting that he doesn’t tell us some things that the other gospel writers do tell us. For example, Matthew tells us that as Jesus was being arrested, he told the men with the sword to put your sword away because he said, “Could I not call 12 legions of angels, and completely take over, and escape what’s happening? It would be so easy for me to do this.” He doesn’t tell us what Luke tells us, Dr. Luke, that in the very middle of this injury, Jesus leans forward and heals the man’s head. So at the very time he’s being arrested, out comes this miracle of compassion and of power. And Mark doesn’t tell us what John tells us, which is that Jesus walked out to meet the rabble, and said to them, “Who are you looking for?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” And He said, “I am,” which is “Yahweh.” And they fell over. And He then said, “Let these people go, deal with me.” Tremendous details which Mark doesn’t include in his report in Mark 14. What does he want us to know? I think he wants us to know very simply two things. One, it was chaos. It was dark. It was hypocritical. It was crafty. It was tragic. It was violent. And at the same time, Jesus speaks. And what he says doesn’t get him to escape the trouble, but it puts the trouble in context of the bigger plan.
A devastating question
We need to borrow the line of the Lord Jesus if we’re to speak to the chaos, which is often seen and commented on in our world. So look at what Jesus says in chapter 14:48, 49. He says, “Am I leading your rebellion that you’ve come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I was with you teaching in the temple courts, and you didn’t arrest me, but the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” Notice the first thing Jesus does is he asks a devastating question. The question goes like this, “Am I leading a rebellion? Is that who you think I am? Could you be more ignorant of my mission? Could you make a bigger mistake?” says Jesus. “Could you show more clearly that you don’t understand who I am? You’ve come out to arrest the Prince of Peace, and you need swords and clubs.” And the question, “Am I leading a rebellion?” Could be answered by, “You are.” Then there’s a very humbling comment, he says to them, you know, “Every day I was teaching in the temple, but you didn’t arrest me, did you? While I was teaching in the temple. Why didn’t you arrest me while I was teaching you in the temple?”
Because it was daylight. And there was a big crowd around. And you were frightened to do it. But now in the night, with your little crowd, you’ve come to do what you want. He says, “I was a teacher, you obviously were not listening.” And the most incredible thing that Jesus says is that the Scriptures must be fulfilled. I love to think of Jesus as the crowd comes towards him, virtually pulling out the script of the play and saying to them, “Ah, here it is, enter the crowd. You’ve just walked in on cue. The Scriptures must be fulfilled.” And so Jesus is saying to them, “All your plotting and all your power just fits inside the plan of God. The real reason that I’m going to be arrested and then crucified is because the Scripture says so.” And if you went back to your Old Testament, Jesus might say, and read Isaiah 53, or Psalm 22, or one of the many passages, you would see that it’s the case. In other words, God has a script. God has a plan. It completely embraces the world. When you listen to the script, there can be order and blessing. When you ignore the script, there will be chaos and opposition. So do you see we mustn’t miss the power of Jesus’ words as he’s being arrested.
I don’t think it’s too difficult to find people in the world who have no place for Christ. We need to know that somehow they still fit inside the plan of Christ. And it may be that down the track a day, or a week, or a month, they’re going to turn to Christ, but they’re not outside his plan. I don’t think it’s too difficult to find people who believe there is a plan. You often find these people, don’t you? They say, “everything happens for a reason.” Now what Jesus says is that the reason is a script, and the script is revealed. You don’t need to walk around thinking there is an invisible plan. There is a reason, but we’ll never know what it is. Jesus announces in the middle of his arrest, that the reason and the plan has been revealed to the world. And therefore, when we take up the Scriptures, the script, we discover what God’s big plan for the world is. It won’t tell you every single detail. It won’t explain every single setback, but it will give you the big concepts, the big principles, and the big purpose all wrapped up in God’s plan. So do you see how Jesus at a time of great chaos just stands like the rock and announces that the Word of God is being fulfilled? And we, I think, need to put away our unbelief Monday to Friday, and we need to be able to say to somebody, not just that there is a plan, and there is a script, but it’s revealed. It’s published. It’s public, it’s open. It’s available.
Order in the chaos
Spurgeon, who always puts things better than any of us, says this – he says that the day will come when you will be astonished that there was order in your life when you thought it all confusion. You will be astonished that there was love and you thought it was unkindness. There was gentleness and you thought it was severity. There was wisdom when you were wicked enough to question God’s goodness. Believer, he says, “The events of history match as a victorious legion under a skillful leader.” Do not think we can order our affairs in better style, our good, our ill, our joy, and our grief keep their place. They do not push one another out, everyone matches in his column, beautifully expressed. Well, let me give you a more sentimental illustration story which I read this week. This has got to be Victorian and a little bit cheesy and schmaltzy. But there is a mother planning to embroider a picture, and she says to her small son, “I’m going to do the picture with these colored threads.” And the little boy says, “I like the red, I like the yellow, I like the green, I like the blue, I don’t like the black.” The mother says, “Come back when I’ve finished, see what you think.” So the little boy comes back a week later, and there’s the picture, and the picture has a whole lot of people and the people don’t have eyes. And the little boy says, “They can’t see, mom. You’ve got to put some eyes in.” And she sews in the black.
Now, isn’t that a helpful, slightly sentimental illustration, that when God sews in the black, it often is what enables people to see for the first time. So this is Mark 14, isn’t it? Here is Jesus speaking of the Word of God in the midst of the chaos of the world. Now how do you think Mark might show the power of this word at work? I suggest that he possibly does it in these verses 50 to 52, this very strange incident, where there is a boy being captured and his robe being taken. And as you read those three verses, you scratch your head and think to yourself, “Why are they here in this particular passage?” And one possibility is that they’re completely irrelevant. They’re just there because Mark needed to fill up the page. Another possibility is that they show how frightened people were, that they were prepared to run even if they lost their clothes. Another possibility is that this is kind of exposing literally the cowardice of this group. But I suggest to you that it’s probably Mark himself who lived in Jerusalem, we know that from Acts chapter 12. And I suspect that he’s building himself into this account, and he’s basically saying, without naming himself, “I was one of those who fled. I don’t deserve to be named. But I want to say in a modest way, in an anonymous way, in a humbling way, that I was one of the people who ran, I didn’t stay, I didn’t stick.”
Changed by the Word of God
But this man was obviously changed because he’s writing the gospel. And he’s obviously transformed. So whatever he did in the past of running and hiding, he’s now a brand new person. How is it possible that he was changed? And I suspect the answer is because he heard the Word of God. And he listened to it and he received it because when you hear the Word of God, the promises of Jesus, and you take them in, you don’t just take in information, you take in the very life of God, you take in the power of God. Jesus said, “The one who hears my word believes Him who sent me, has eternal life, will not be condemned, but has crossed from death to life.” I wonder if there’s anyone here this morning who still thinks that the Christian life means that you live your life, and you hope that one day down the end, you’re going to be accepted. Now Christianity says exactly the opposite. Christianity says there is a Christ who will accept you. When you turn back to him and when you surrender to him, he will accept you. And you live your Christian life accepted from day one until you meet him, accepted face to face. So in the chaos of the garden and in the chaos of the world, Jesus just stands up and stands tall, and says, “There is a script. There is a plan. It’s the Word of God.”
And we need to say to people, I suggest every now and again, “Yes, things are terrible. And there is a public plan. There is a revealed script. There are answers in God’s Word.” And the person who hears that and believes may be made a brand new person, which may be what Mark is telling us about himself. Well, you might like to think about that over the coffee. I’m just giving you a suggestion for these unusual verses in Mark 14. I suggest it could be a little autobiographical detail from Mark, which could be telling, “I’m the guy who ran and I’ve been wonderfully changed.”
Corruption and the Day of Christ
Now the second, more briefly this morning, is corruption and the day of Christ. Corruption and the day of Christ. This is where we come to the trial. And this is a terrible trial. Again, Jesus stands in the middle of the trial and says something very wonderful. You see in chapter 14:53, they took Jesus to the courtyard of the high priest. I understand that today there is a church there called St. Peter on the site, and the little area is called Gallicantu, which means cock-crow. So the area remembers the denial of Peter and the church is called St. Peter. Now, everything about the trial from verse 53 onwards, is corrupt.
First of all, it’s taking place at night, which was illegal. Second, it’s all happening with one sitting, whereas they were meant to have at least two. The numbers are not sufficient for a proper Sanhedrin. And if you were to charge somebody with blasphemy, they needed to curse God, which Jesus never does. But you’ll see if you look at 14:55, they’re not seeking the truth anyway. They are looking for evidence to kill him, so their motives are corrupt from the start. If you’ve ever been in a context where there is injustice against you, and everything is stacked against you, and I’ve no doubt you have been, you’ll know that there’s no point in looking for logic, or reason, or integrity, or justice, because everything is stacked against you. And this is the supreme example. Then you’ll see some false witnesses spoke against him, verse 56, contradicting each other. Then verse 58, they decided to misquote Jesus, and they said that he planned to destroy the temple. Jesus never said that he would destroy the temple. He said in John 2, “If you destroy the temple, this temple, that is my body, where you meet God, I will raise it in three days. If you destroy the temple, I will raise it.”
At the trial, they turned this around and said, “He said that he would destroy the temple.” And no doubt, of course, they thought of the building, and they thought of the blasphemy of destroying the temple. Well, I don’t need to tell you that injustice runs everywhere through this world. And Jesus is not the first or the last to have an unfair trial. But this opposition to him is the greatest possible injustice the world has ever seen because this is the maker of the world being attacked by the members of the world. That’s why this is the supreme injustice and worthy of our understanding. This attack on Jesus in the trial is the spiritual cancer from which all corruption flows. And you see that Jesus is silent as we were told in Isaiah 53, the servant would be silent. And this annoys or confuses the high priest and he says, “Will you speak?” And Jesus went. But then the high priest asks this absolutely massive question, 14:61, “Are you the Messiah?” And now Jesus is really on the line. Is he gonna say something or is he going to hide and be secretive? The high priest says, “Are you the Messiah? Are you the Son of the Blessed One?” And Jesus says, “I am.” You may know or you might not know that there are many people who argue that Jesus never claimed to be the Messiah, that Jesus never claimed to be the Son of God, that this has all been made up by the church because the church got sort of carried away.
But when you go right back to this basic Gospel of Mark, possibly the first of the Gospels, here is Jesus at his trial, definitively saying, “Yes, I’m the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And all these little phrases are very, very significant. “I am,” as you know, the name of Yahweh. He calls himself the Son of Man, this is the one in Daniel 7, who would be given all authority over the whole universe. He says, he’s gonna be seated at God’s right hand, this is the king, according to Psalm 2, and he’s going to obviously come on the clouds. Now he will come on the clouds to his throne and sit. But in this verse, he says, “He will sit and come.” And that’s true too. He will sit, he does sit, he is sitting, so to speak. And he says he will come. And of course, he’s saying to the high priest and the company around, “You may think you’re judging me, but I’m gonna come and judge you. You may think that you have me on trial, but I’m gonna have you on trial. You may think you’re deciding my future, I’m gonna decide your future.” And so you see, Jesus says something that changes everything. In the middle of the chaos of the garden, he stands and says, “There is a plan, there is a script, there are the Scriptures, nothing is outside the control of God.”
Everything will be put right
And here in the corrupt trial, he stands up and he says, “A day is coming. A day is coming where everything will be put right. And I will come and I will establish what is right. And I will put down what is wrong.” It’s a big claim, isn’t it? But he does seem to have the credentials to make it. And in the face of this claim to be the Messiah, to be the son of the Blessed One, the high priest doesn’t stop and say to the crowd around, “We better think about this. This is a big claim, and it could be true.” He just tears his clothes, as if to announce ahead of time, “This is a blasphemy.” So he basically steamrolls the court and says, “This is a blasphemy.” Now I just want to fly a little kite with you this morning. And again, you might like to think about it. Is it possible that there is another reference to clothes after Jesus makes his second statement? In other words, when he was in the garden, and he made his statement about the Scriptures, we saw some clothes, a detail about clothes because a man who was obviously a deserter, is recording his failure in the context of his now writing the gospel, and being transformed, and changed, and converted. And now at the trial, as Jesus makes his second comment, we get another detail about clothes, but this time the clothes belong to a man who’s not changing. And he’s not going to change as far as he’s concerned. And it’s only the day which will put things right. So in the short-term, Jesus says in the garden, “There’s a script which you can listen to, and you’ll know how to believe, and you’ll know how to be saved.”
And in the context of the courtroom, Jesus says, “There’s a day which is coming, it may not solve all your problems in the present, it probably won’t solve all your problems in the present. But there is a day which is coming and that day will see all things established.” So this, I think, is our message for ourselves and for other people as well, that God’s Word has an answer for chaos. It’s not a secret word, it’s a revealed word. And people today who hear it and believe may be transformed as Mark was. And the other message, of course, is that there is a day which will answer the corruption of the world. Yes, it will. It’s a day that is coming. It’s a day which many refuse to listen to, take seriously or respond to, but he will come. And suddenly, everything will be set right. And we are the sort of people who live in the world, and we’re able to say to people in the middle of the chaos and the corruption, “There’s a word which will help you, and there’s a day coming, which will fix everything.”
Our gracious God, we thank You for this window into the authority, the power, the beauty, the wisdom, the love of the Lord Jesus. We thank You for this reminder that everything is under Your control. And we thank You that everything will one day be established as it should. And we pray that You would help us as Your representatives in the world to take from the Lord Jesus something of this clarity and courage, that we might be able to say to those who we meet and mix with, that there is a script and there is a day. And we pray it in Jesus’ name. Amen.