The Lord's Day Morning
October 2, 2011
“Beaten and Questioned”
The Reverend Dr. J. Ligon Duncan III
If you have your Bibles, I'd invite you to turn with me to Luke chapter 22. We’ll be reading from the sixty-third verse to the end of the chapter as we continue to work our way through the gospel together. Luke is showing us the mistreatment that Jesus endured during the night in anticipation of His trial before the Sanhedrin in the very early morning hours. And he's showing us this for several reasons.
First of all, he wants Christians to know what their Savior underwent for them, but he also wants us to know the reason why the council wanted to put Him to death and what the council wanted to entrap Him in. It's important for us to know what Jesus’ enemies were accusing Him of and what they thought He was guilty of. We have, for many, many years, as many as two centuries here in the protestant western part of the world, had liberal scholars who've argued things like this — “Jesus never presented Himself as the Christ, as the Messiah, as the divine Son of God. These things are things that were accretion from the later church. The later church imposed these things on Him. He Himself never claimed these things.” Well, the witness of the earliest records of history directly contradicts that kind of revisionist view of who Jesus was and what His mission was. Even Jesus’ enemies know that He is making claims to be the Messiah and it offends them and they want Him to be convicted of what they consider to be blasphemy. And so Luke wants us to see that in this passage — what are the charges that Jesus’ enemies are bringing against Him and what does Jesus say to them in the context of the trial.
But he also wants to set before us an example. And we know this because in 1 Peter 2, and we're going to look at that passage in a few moments, Peter draws from this passage an example for us as Christians, which he calls on us to follow in the strength of the Holy Spirit.
So for all those reasons and more, Luke has put a very important passage in front of us today, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, this is God's own Word. So let's pray and ask for God to help and bless us here as we read and hear His Word proclaimed. Let's pray.
Father, this is Your own Word and we love it. We love to hear Your truths. We love to meditate on Your Word, but we do not want to do this as curious spectators. We want to do this as humble servants for whom there is an utter dependence upon Your Word because we know that we do not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from Your mouth. And we know that Your Word searches out our hearts. It's powerful, it's effective, it's sharper than any two-edged sword. It gets down deep into our soul and heart and being and it is able to discern and divide things that we ourselves can't sort out and it is not only inspired, it's not only God-breathed, it's profitable for our edification. So we pray that You would edify us by Your Word and glorify Yourself by Your Word in Jesus' name. Amen.
This is the Word of God. Hear it:
“Now the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking Him as they beat Him. They also blindfolded Him and kept asking Him, ‘Prophesy! Who is it that struck You?’ And they said many other things against Him, blaspheming Him.
When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people gathered together, both chief priests and scribes. And they led Him away to their council, and they said, ‘If You are the Christ, tell us.’ But He said to them, ‘If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I ask you, you will not answer. But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.’ So they all said, ‘Are You the Son of God, then?’ And He said to them, ‘You say that I am.’ Then they said, ‘What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from His own lips.’”
Amen, and thus ends this reading of God's holy, inspired, and inerrant Word. May He write its eternal truth upon all our hearts.
Good shepherds not only teach their people how to live, they teach their people how to suffer and die, and that is what the Lord Jesus is doing in this passage, and that is what Luke, as His under-shepherd, is doing, not only for those who first heard this gospel read, but for all of us who, through the ages, have been the beneficiaries of the inscripturated Word of God being read into our ears and preached into our hearts. Jesus is teaching us not only how to live but how to suffer and how to die. And of course, Luke is drawing attention to that unique and unparalleled, that matchless work that the Savior is doing on our behalf. And there are two scenes in particular in this passage that he draws to our attention.
RESPONDING TO MISTREATMENT
The first scene you see there in verses 63 to 65; it's the scene of Jesus’ mistreatment at the hands of the underlings of the council, the guards that the Sanhedrin had trusted Jesus into the care of and who were mistreating Him. And then the second scene you see from verses 66 to 71; it's the scene of Jesus’ trial in which He gives the good testimony. And as Luke shows us these two pictures, he wants us to see two great things that Jesus is doing for us, and out of these things he very clearly intends for us to learn at least three lessons. So I want to look at these things with you together.
First, if you give close attention to verses 63 to 65, here Luke describes the mistreatment that Jesus experienced, and he does this in part to teach us that Jesus accepted mistreatment and held His tongue on our behalf. Jesus is reviled here without reviling and He is doing this for our benefit, on our behalf, in our place. He is enduring this mistreatment for us. And Luke describes it, not in a great deal of detail, but with some very pointed aspects of detail. The first thing that he tells you is this — look at verse 63. The men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking Him as they beat Him. Now Jewish law forbade this. They may not have had exactly the same system that we have with the innocent being considered innocent until — or the accused being innocent until proving guilty, but they had strict rules for the treatment of prisoners and you did not beat and mistreat someone who was awaiting trial, who had not been convicted. The treatment, obviously of condemned criminals, especially for capitol crimes in Jesus’ time was very severe, but before the trial was held and before the verdict was reached and before the sentence was meted out, prisoners were not to be treated like this. And Luke is showing you what your Savior endured.
We sing a hymn that's mostly about the cross that was written by Thomas Kelly but it begins with the words, “Stricken, smitten, and afflicted,” and then the rest of the four stanzas of that hymn focuses on the pain and the suffering that Jesus experienced on the cross. But before Jesus ever got to the cross, He had already been stricken, He had already been smitten, He had already been afflicted. The whole of His suffering is on our behalf, and Luke is showing us of the mistreatment that Jesus is experiencing and yet He's holding His tongue and He's doing this for you and for me. We would have deserved this kind of mistreatment; Jesus did not.
You know, so often in life we look around and we see people and it may be in a government setting or it may be in a business setting or it may be in some other setting and things go badly for them, and sometimes we say to ourselves, “Well you know what? What goes around, comes around, because there's been certain behavior in the past that they've gotten by with and now they've gotten caught. Maybe what they got caught for wasn't quite what they should've been caught for, but even if they’re being mistreated now, what they've done in their life has caught up with them.” You know, you can't say that of Jesus. This is a Man who lived in this world and never mistreated anyone. And here, He is receiving mistreatment.
You know I often think in my own life when the Lord spares me the treatment that I deserve, that if He were ever to mete out to me the things that I deserve to be dealt with, that He has, in His kindness withheld me from experiencing, I would have a long list to deal with. But Jesus had no such list, and yet here, He was mistreated. He was mistreated for you and me. And Luke wants us to see that.
But Peter draws an ethical consequence of this for us and I want you to see it. Turn with me to 1 Peter chapter 2. And in 1 Peter chapter 2 beginning in verse 21, Peter tells us this — “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth. And while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to the One who judges righteously.” And so Peter is telling you that among other things, Jesus is showing you and me how to respond to mistreatment.
There are many people in this room today who have endured serious mistreatment and injustice, some of it over a long duration of time in different spheres. I'm not making light of that at all, I'm not saying that there are no legal recourses to those things, but I am saying that when we think about those things we need to go back to the mistreatment that Jesus experienced and remember that that injustice that Jesus experienced, that mistreatment that Jesus experienced is far beyond any that any other human being has ever endured. And when I say that, I do not make light of the enormous injustices that have happened in the world in the past and are happening today. As Christians, we ought to care greatly about those things and we ought to be ready to expend ourselves to address those things and correct those things. But even as we do, we need to remember that there is nobody in this world that has endured injustice and mistreatment like Jesus, and that the way that He responded to that is to be a model for us. Peter says that, so that when we come into contact with mistreatment in our lives, our attitude has to be, “Lord, You've built me for this. This is what You were pouring the Word of God into me for, since I was a little child. This is what You've been discipling me for in Your Word. You've been preparing me for the day that I was going to be mistreated so that I could respond like a Christian, not only following Jesus’ example, but empowered by the Holy Spirit who causes Christ to dwell in our hearts and Christ to be formed in us so that we are strengthened by the strength of Him who was reviled, but did not revile, who indwells in us by the power of the Holy Spirit to respond in such a way to injustice and mistreatment that we bear a Gospel witness.”
So Peter tells us that in what Jesus does here, He's showing us how to respond to mistreatment, and so our attitude, instead of just being “woe is me,” or even looking for appropriate recourse, ought to be, “Lord, this is what You've built me for. Now, by Your grace, enable me to respond in a way that will emulate Christ and bring Him glory and bear a Gospel witness and a testimony.” Is that the way we think of it?
Then, Luke turns the scene to the trial and you see it in verse 66. Day comes and the Sanhedrin gathers, and if you look at the other gospels, what they've done is they've gone out and they've gathered in the usual suspects to be witnesses against Jesus. And after hearing the witnesses, they are not able to get a conviction. The witnesses are contradictory, the witnesses are waffling, and so suddenly, those who were supposed to be the judges become the prosecutors. And the chief priest, who is, by Jewish law, not to ask the accused to condemn himself, becomes the prosecutor, and asks this leading question — “If You are the Christ, tell us.” In other words, “Jesus, give us some words whereby we can hang You. We want You to convict Yourself by Your word, so give us some words that we can hang You by.” And Luke is showing you that because he wants you to see again the injustice that Jesus experienced from those who were to be the religious leaders of His people.
And so Jesus responds, “If I tell you, you will not believe.” This is, of course, a fact, because He had been telling them this all along in open daylight, in public. He had been answering and speaking clearly and powerfully as to who He was and what He had come to do. And then He said, “And if I ask you a question, you won't answer it.” And of course that's very poignant, because you remember the last series of engagements between Jesus and the chief priests and scribes, they ask Him a question, He responds by answering their question leaving them dumbstruck, and then He asks them a question which they can't answer. And so He says to them, “If I ask you a question, you’re not going to answer it.” And boy that was true.
And then, if you look at verse 70, verse 69, here's what He does. Right after saying that, He says — and by the way, turn to Daniel 7 verses 13 and 14 and just keep your finger in both places because what Jesus is going to do here is He is going to answer their question by a direct and clear appeal to Scripture. “But from now on, the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” “Are You the Christ?” is the question. “Do You claim to be the Messiah?” And what Jesus does, and if you look at Daniel 7, verses 13 and 14, is He summarizes the content of those verses. And what happens in those verses? The Son of Man, and that's the Messianic title, is presented before the Ancient of Days, God Almighty, and He is given dominion over the kingdoms of this world. And that verse supplied great hope to the children of Israel in their days of the exile as they anticipated God through the Messiah reigning and putting everything right. And Jesus looks back on the chief priests and scribes and He says, “Am I the Christ? You’re going to see Me standing before the Ancient of Days at the right hand of power. You’re going to see Me coming there, or you’ll see Me seated at the right hand of the power of God.”
Now look at what they say in response. Verse 70 — “Are You the Son of God then?” Notice, they understand what Jesus is claiming. Son of Man is not a title that refers to Jesus’ humanity. It's a Messianic title that comes right out of Daniel, so when He says that He is the one who is going to be seated at the right hand of power, they say, “Are You claiming to be the Son of God then?” because they understand the Messianic nature of that title. Now whether they understand all of the ramifications of that for Jesus’ divinity and all of the significance of the claims that He's making I don't know, but they do get that point of connection. And Jesus’ response in verse 70 is, “You say that I am.” And I need to pause right there and say, in the English, most of our modern English translations and even older translations like the King James, don't quite convey to us how clear Jesus’ answer is, and the reason is they’re trying to be strictly faithful to what the original Greek text says here and translate it and say no more. But what Jesus says here is, “You are absolutely right. What you are saying is correct. I am the Christ, the Son of Man, the Son of God, that's who I am.”
So you say, “How do you know that?” Well, it's because of their reaction. Look at verse 71. Their reaction to His response is to say, “What further testimony do we need? We've heard it from His own lips! He's claiming to be the Son of God! He's claiming to be the Messiah!” Jesus’ answer is clear and un-equivocating, but He is answered in both of these passages in such a way that they have to incriminate themselves. Now by the way, think about that. They are asking Him leading questions in order to incriminate Him. He responds to them in such a way they the testimony of who He is has to be on their lips so that on the last day they will stand before God and He will say, “You yourselves said that My Son was the Messiah, the Son of God, and you rejected Him. Depart from Me, I never knew you.” So the one who is the accused, who they are going to entrap into an incriminating statement, has in fact borne testimony against them as they take up His names and person and titles on their own lips and they incriminate at themselves.
THE RESIDENCE OF OUR HOPE
But what I want you to see in this passage, and you see it in verse 69, is especially this. In Jesus’ answer, in His first answer, He shows us where the residence of our hope is. He not only shows us how to respond to mistreatment, He shows us the residence of our hope. “From now on, the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” He's pointing to His coming in power and He's reminding the disciples that “No matter what the mistreatment and the injustice that you experience now, I will be seated at the right hand of God and I will come in power.”
I love how we sing about this at Christmas time. I love when the choir — take your hymnals out and turn to 225 — I love when the choir comes in at Christmas time processing to “Once In Royal David's City” and I love when they get to the fourth and the fifth stanzas and I always turn around and look at certain faces in the choir because I just, there are certain faces that I like to watch them sing these stanzas because they get — they’re moved by it and I'm moved by. You know, you’re singing about this poor, lowly Child, born in a manger for, you know, in our hymnal, three stanzas; if you have the longer addition to this you’re singing it longer than that, but for our hymnal you’re singing about that for three stanzas. And then, you get to the fourth stanza, “And our eyes at last shall see Him, through His own redeeming love; for that Child so dear and gentle is our Lord in heav’n above, and He leads His children on to the place where He is gone. Not in that poor lowly stable, with the oxen standing by, we shall see Him, but in heaven, set at God's right hand on high; when like stars His children crowned all in white shall wait around.”
That is the Christian hope, my friends. Things are hard here. Why are we surprised? Jesus, over and over in the Gospel, teaches us what happens to the Master, happens to the disciple. Here we minister in weakness; here we experience injustice and mistreatment; here we have broken hearts. Are we indifferent to that? No. Do we not seek to right wrongs? No, of course we seek to right wrongs, but here, no matter what, no matter how good things are, there is injustice, there is mistreatment, things are broken, but He stands at God's right hand, He sits at the right hand of power, He is coming at the right hand of power; He will put everything right. That's the residence of our hope and it enables us to face the mistreatment that we have to face now and so Luke is showing us the residence of our hope.
THE READIENESS TO TESTIFY
But he's doing one more thing as well and you see it especially in Jesus’ testimony in verse 70. “Yes, what you have said is right. You have said it, I am the Son of God.” Jesus there gives the good testimony. You know it's interesting; Jesus is silent so much of the time when He's being passed around from Pilate to Herod to the Sanhedrin. So much of the time He does what? He says nothing. Why? Because He is in a kangaroo courtroom, the monkeys are in charge, and He doesn't even dignify what's going on because it's so wrong. But at certain key points He does what? He speaks, and so when you hear Him speak, your ears had better be poised to listen because what He's going to say is going to be hugely important. And at the right time He does what? He gives a good testimony. He points people to the things that are the most important, and here, He says, “Yes, by the way, I am the Christ, I am the Messiah, I am the Son of the living God. I am the way, I am the truth, I am the life. No man comes to the Father but by Me. Yes, I'm Him.” That's hugely important; that's hugely important for us and for tens and hundreds of millions of people who live on this planet because there is no name under heaven whereby a person can be saved but His. And He gives the good testimony and it points us to the importance of the readiness of our testimony.
I love what J. C. Ryle says about this passage. He says:
“The bold confession of our Master upon this occasion is intended to be an example to all His believing people. Like Him, we must not shrink from speaking out when occasion requires our testimony. The fear of man and the presence of multitudes must not make us hold our peace. We need not blow our trumpet before us and go out of our way and proclaim our own religion, but opportunities are sure to occur in the daily path of duty when like Paul aboard the ship, we may show whose we are and whom we serve. At such opportunities, if we have the mind of Christ, let us not be afraid to show our colors. A confessing Master loves bold, uncompromising, confessing disciples. Those who honor Him by an outspoken, courageous testimony He will honor because they are walking in His steps. ‘Whoever shall confess Me before men, him will I confess before My Father who is in heaven,’ Matthew said.”
My friends, and let me speak especially to the parents and the grandparents in this congregation. If we are not preparing our young generation to make that bold confession and to experience the mistreatment and the injustice that Jesus experienced here, today, right here in the United States of America, right here in Jackson, Mississippi, we are failing this generation because they will almost certainly have to give a testimony that will cost them. Jesus is showing us the way here, even as He points us to His matchless work on our behalf. It should be our spiritual concern to be preparing our children and our grandchildren that they will confess His name and bear whatever mistreatment or injustice that they may face in doing so and do it with joy and do it with hope and do it with readiness, because what happens to the Master, happens to the disciple. And that cuts both ways. Yes, we share in the fellowship of His sufferings, but yes, we will be there at last when every eye shall see Him and He will put everything right and we will say, “Our hope was not misplaced.”
Heavenly Father, thank You for this Your Word. Thank You for what Jesus has done on our behalf and for the example that He has given us in doing so. By Your Spirit, grant that we would testify the good testimony in our own way, in our own day, in our own time, in our own place. In Jesus' name, amen.
Now let's sing about the suffering Savior who bore mistreatment and injustice on our behalf using the great hymn, number 247, “O Sacred Head Now Wounded.”
Receive His blessing then. Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord, Jesus the Messiah. Amen.