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.
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!
You all probably have heard and read many times about the events from this evenings Gospel. Jesus is tried. Do you know what this story essentially is about? It is about the problem of this world.
Do you know what the problem of this world is? We want to be good. To be more precise, – we want to be good without Jesus. This helps to understand this strange trial. Jesus is captured and brought to the high priest.
And all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes were there. What were they looking for? In the middle of night? For justice? No… They were looking for ways to be good.
Jesus was their greatest obstacle. He had made their otherwise good and righteous lives very complicated. He came preaching this very unpopular word. Do you know what it is? Yes, repentance.
He came preaching repentance. He said He hadn’t come to save the good people, but sinners. He said that everyone who does sin is a slave to sin. He taught that our sin is so serious that He will have to give up His life to save us.
That there is no other way. If someone said it to you, while you consider yourselves good people, how would you react? That message is offensive. Makes us angry. This teaching of Jesus had made all the leaders and many others very angry. For they wanted to be good people. They believed that they are good people. They wanted to show that they were just.
What did they do? They didn’t want to murder Jesus secretly. Good and just people don’t do that. They wanted to bring Him before the court, to hear from witnesses all the terrible accusations and then to condemn Jesus ‘justly’.
To give Him what He deserves. They wanted to be good people. Surely, they may not have been completely honest, for they already knew what verdict they wanted to hear. Death. “The whole council were seeking testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but they found none.” This ‘just’ trial was not going to work.
Gladly Jesus Himself rushed to help them. “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” the high priest asked. 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 good leaders of the Jews had got the confession from Jesus. Now they could with good conscience condemn Him as guilty is blasphemy. And blasphemy required not less than a capital punishment. Death.
How terrible, we could think! They didn’t want to accept the truth that all people are sinners and need God’s grace. So, they condemned to death the One, who had come to bring them God’s forgiveness and eternal life.
Do you think that things are any better today? Let’s see! When Jesus returned to the Father, whom did He leave to continue His work? Whom did He leave to bring His message to all the nations of the world?
Whom did He give His Holy Spirit? To the Church. That is – us. His people. How is the Church called in the New Testament? The body of … that’s it, the body of Christ! Now we are the body of Christ, having received the same Spirit.
It is wonderful how Jesus speaks about us. When He encounters Saul the persecutor of the Church on the road to Damascus, what did He say to Him? Saul, Saul, why did you persecute, and this is wonderful, – why do you persecute me?
Saul wasn’t persecuting resurrected Jesus. He was persecuting Christians who carried on Jesus’ mission and were spreading His message. Repent and believe in the Gospel! But Jesus speaks about His people saying: “Why do you, Saul, persecute me?”
We can’t fully understand how close our Lord and God is to us and how important we are to Him. He takes very personally everything that happens with each one of you. “As you do it to one of the least of my brothers and sisters, you do it to me.” You are His body here in Barossa. Precious to your Lord.
Now, how does the world treat Jesus today? Are they different than back then? No, people still want to be good. Without Jesus. On their own terms. This is, why we as Christ’s body need to hear accusations from many, who try to condemn the Church, so that we don’t bother them any longer with this life-giving message of repentance and forgiveness in the name of Jesus.
You hear accusations that it is the Church that enables discrimination, even if it is this Biblical view on humanity as created in God’s image that has led to abolishing of slavery and equal right for all people.
You hear accusation that it is the Church that causes domestic violence, even if the Bible gives the most beautiful, almost impossible task to all spouses. Love your wives as Jesus loved His Church, even giving up your live for them. Respect your husbands as you would respect the Lord Jesus.
You hear accusation that Christians are the most hateful people, even if all genuine disciples of Jesus try to lead their lives following the two great commandments, – love your God and love your neighbour as yourself.
Similarly, as back then, these accusations are declared not to establish the truth, but to condemn the message of Jesus. But why? Why? For people want to be good. On their own. Without Jesus.
And this message of repentance doesn’t allow them to be good. So they fight it, and they fight the Church which brings this message. What shall we do in such situation? It is nothing new. Let’s learn from the apostles.
When they were condemned and threated by their leaders, what did they do? “Then they left the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name [of Jesus]. And every day […] they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Jesus is the Christ.” (Acts 5:41-42) We can do the same.
Now, and this is going to hit closer to home. Are we much different than those leaders back then? Are we much different from today’s people who want to be good on their own terms? Are we?
I know there are many self-identified Christians in Barossa who believe that they are good because they are nice people, friendly, they may even be attending services as often as they can.
They have this idea that the Church is a community of good people. There is one thing they don’t like. One word. Repentance. They don’t like the idea that they can’t be good on their own terms and may need Jesus’ help.
Are we so different? You can test yourself. Ask, why are you a member of the Church? Because you think that belonging to your congregation will make you a good person? Or because you want to turn away from your sins and receive God’s forgiveness?
Are you here because this is what good people do, they go to church? Or are you hear because you know that without Jesus you stand no chance of the Last Day? When do you rejoice more, – when you can tell what great things you have done, on when you can hear what great things Jesus has done for you? Why are you here? To do something to please God, or to receive His forgiveness, to hear how He tells you about His love, to taste the forgiveness and eternal life, to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit? The way you answer these questions will tell you where you are. One of those good people, or one of the sinners whom Jesus has come to call His brothers and sisters, and for whom He has already prepared a place in His Father’s house.
We may not be that different from the leaders back then, or from the world today. Some days we may have repentant hearts and rejoice in God’s grace and forgiveness, some days we may grow proud of our own goodness.
By God’s grace we have this season of Lent in our Church year. What do we focus on during Lent? On sufferings. On whose sufferings? On suffering of Jesus. Why did He need to suffer?
Because the painful truth is that we are not good and can’t be good on our own. But our loving God in His goodness and grace still desires to have us with Him. He comes as one of us, as Jesus from Nazareth to restore our relationships.
More, to restore our goodness. He comes to take away everything bad in us. He doesn’t require us to suffer. He doesn’t require us to pay for the evil in our hearts, and minds, and words and actions.
He takes what we deserve upon Himself, so that we could receive what He deserves. He offers us this wonderful exchange. Our sins against His holiness. Our death against His life. For us this exchange is for free. For Jesus it cost Him humiliation, slander, injustice, violence, suffering, and finally death on the cross.
Some may wonder: “Is our sin really that serious? We seem to be pretty good people.” Remember, Jesus prayed to the Father: “If only there is other way… please… please!” But there was no other way.
Thus, Jesus went all the way to the cross. His last words were … “it is finished”. We could say, that He meant: “It is finished, I have made you good.” What He did changes everything. This wonderful exchange changes everything.
We are free now. We are free to admit that we are sinners. We are free to repent. We don’t need to be good on our own. We are free to rejoice in God’s forgiveness. It if this forgiveness that makes us good in God’s eyes.
Remember this, when you hear word “I forgive you your sins”, you know that you are good. Good not on your own, but in the eyes of the Father. “Brothers and sisters, in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, I forgive you all your sins”. You are good.