Then those who had seized Jesus led him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders had gathered. And Peter was following him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and going inside he sat with the guards to see the end. Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward and said, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days.’” And the high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your judgment?” They answered, “He deserves death.” Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him, saying, “Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?”
(Matthew 26:57-68 ESV)
Over the past few days we’ve been studying the trial of Jesus. As we learned, this trial was illegal for many reasons and took place simply because the Jewish political and religious authorities didn’t like what Jesus had to say. Yesterday we saw that Jesus was found guilty of blasphemy – a crime He did not and logically could not commit. After finding Jesus guilty He is then abused, which was another illegality under both Jewish and Roman law.
It’s very important to note who the “they” are in this verse. The antecedent of “they” is the scribes and the elders, the chief priests and the whole council, and the high priest. These were the highest ranking religious and political leaders in all of Israel. And they spit in Jesus’ face and struck Him.
These men were spitting in the face of God. They were physically abusing God. They even mocked Him when they slapped Him and sarcastically asked Him to tell them who it was that struck Him (according to Luke, Jesus was blindfolded at this point [Luke 22:63-64]).
These leaders hated Jesus and all He stood for. They hated the truth He spoke and instead loved the lies they told themselves. And because they hated Him so much they wanted to eliminate Him from their lives. They had long been seeking to kill Him [Matthew 12:14, 26:4], thinking that would solve their problem.
But their problem was not Jesus’ words, their problem was their own hearts. But they refused to believe that, even though Jesus had repeatedly told them so. Eliminating Jesus seemingly gave them a victory. But it really was a monumental failure with irrevocable, eternal consequences.
People still spit in the face of Jesus. They deny His existence or His claims to be God. They reject His gospel message and call to repentance. They love their own sin and even celebrate it and call it a “right”. They mock Him and ridicule Him. And, of course, they eliminate Him.
People have been eliminating Jesus from their own lives for hundreds of years. But recently we’ve seen our religious and political leaders eliminating Jesus from society – just like the Jewish leaders did with Jesus 2,000 years ago. Like the Jewish authorities, they think they are doing something beneficial. But they are really doing something incredibly harmful.
God’s truth has always had one of two effects on people. It either humbles them or makes them angry. When it makes them angry they vent their hatred towards God as if He were the problem. But someday they will know the truth.
They will either come to realize it while still living on this earth and thereby be saved from the penalty of their sins. Or they will come to realize it after they die – when it is too late to be saved from the penalty of their sins.
But make no mistake, someday every tongue will confess that Jesus is exactly who He claimed to be – Lord God of all [Philippians 2:10-11].
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