Mark 14:60–65 SV
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.
Mark, throughout his Gospel account, carefully unfolds two different but hopelessly intertwining storylines. On many occasions, he tells us the story from the perspective of Jesus, after which he will tell us the story from the perspective of the people. Now, the perspective of the people is actually made up of the multiple perspectives of the religious leadership, the common people, and Jesus’ disciples. Interestingly enough, while the perspectives of the people differed in many ways, they were all basically the same. The people, from the Sanhedrin to the Twelve, saw Jesus through the lenses of first-century messianic expectations. They were looking for a political leader who would affect a revolutionary deliverance from the immediate oppression of Rome.
Back in Mark 8 we get this exchange between Jesus and his disciples.
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.”
Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.
He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. (Mark 8:29–32)
In today’s text we get this exchange between Jesus and the religious establishment:
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.”
Look at the interplay here. Peter says, “You are the Messiah,” while the high priest says, “Are you the Messiah?” Peter and Caiaphas were talking about the same thing’their own concept of who the Messiah would be and what he would do. To them, Messiah meant god-like power and authority, but it did not mean God. This brings us to the profound ironic twist of today’s text. Here is God, in disguise, arrested and bound and on trial by the leaders of his chosen people for his claim to messianic status and he plays the ultimate God card. It is as though he were saying, “You think I am claiming to be the Messiah, and I am, but what you really need to know here is you aren’t dealing with a Messiah who is a threat to your power as you imagine it or as a solution to your problems as my disciples conceive of it. The eternal Judge of heaven and earth stands before you and is bringing a deliverance that will make your petty political problems seem like a playground scuffle over a game of marbles. You are looking for the defeat of your political enemies. I have come to defeat the supreme enemy of the powers of evil. And one more thing. Your rejection of me and my crucifixion will turn out to be my resurrection from the dead and the eternal redemption of all who will believe in my name, which could even include you.”
That’s my take on Jesus’ trial before the Sanhedrin this time through. But here’s where I wrestle with it and perhaps you do too. So what difference does all this make for me and my challenges and problems today and tomorrow and the next day? Like you, I’m facing some pretty hard things from which I need immediate deliverance. What does all this biblical analysis have to do with anything that matters right now?
I think that’s my point. I need Jesus to be and do certain things for me right now. If he does them, I will be ecstatic. If he does not, I will be devastated. This has the perhaps unintended effect of putting him on trial today. Certainly Jesus can solve your and my problems, but this is not who he is and what faith is all about. He is not our domestic Messiah. He is the God of heaven and earth who has defeated sin and death. We may get a reprieve from our cancer, but it will be back—in one form or another. The victory of God is that cancer does not ultimately win. And because cancer will lose, we have a completely different way of dealing with it now. When you know you are going to win, you play the game differently. Even better, when you know the God of heaven and earth is closer than your breath, you play with joyful boldness—come what may. (It’s kind of like in Monopoly when you get the “Get out of Jail Free” card.)
These two stories, told from the perspective of Jesus and understood from our own limited perspective, continue to unfold in an intertwining fashion right up to the present moment. In the short term, we are going to win some big ones and we will lose some really hard ones. Faith literally means living right now—win, lose, or draw—from the eternal perspective of Jesus. This does not mean deferring everything to the eternal hereafter—it means having the audacity to actually live in the eternal hereafter, right here and now.
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.
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