Words are cheap. Emotions are cheap. There’s a difference between youthful infatuation and true, loyal love. And there’s a difference between saying you’ll be faithful to Jesus and then truly acknowledging him when the people around you begin to get hostile.
Jesus has been arrested and is being led off to a preliminary hearing at the home of the Jewish high priest. Following him “at a distance” is Peter, the disciple who claimed that he would never deny Jesus. We’ll get back to Peter in a moment.
Mark records that “the chief priests and the whole Council were seeking testimony against Jesus to put him to death.” In most trials, the charges are already in place, and the question is whether or not the defendant is guilty, and if so, what his sentence should be. In this hearing, it has already been decided that the defendant is guilty and the sentence is death. Now, his judges simply need to find a charge. They need an excuse to get rid of Jesus, who is a threat to their authority.
False witnesses are paraded before the Council, each one accusing Jesus of wrongdoing. But they are contradicting one another. Things are not going well for this kangaroo court.
The high priest takes control of the situation. He confronts Jesus, asking, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” Jesus says nothing, fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah 53:7. The charges are absurd and don’t deserve a response. Jesus is totally innocent of wrongdoing.
Finally, the high priest demands, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” Jesus has never said so publicly, but his actions and his parables have strongly implied it. Finally, his enemies challenge him to reveal how he sees himself. Will Jesus back down in order to save his own life?
“I am,” he replies, “and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”
Not only does Jesus agree that he is the Messiah, God’s anointed king, but that he is the Son of God. He also claims to be the Son of Man, a divine figure whom God grants authority over the whole earth (Daniel 7:13–14). He is both God and man, deserving all power and authority as the Lord over all creation.
“You have heard his blasphemy!” the high priest shouts as he tears his garments in rage. The Council has been standing in judgment over this maverick Galilean preacher, and now he claims to have authority over them! And he even sets himself up as equal to God!
He deserves to die, they decide. The members of the council spit on him; they blindfold him and slap him, mocking him by demanding that he prophesy to them. They release him to the guards, who beat him with closed fists.
As Jesus is being abused and condemned to death, Peter is also facing a deadly threat: the teasing of a servant girl. The poor man is just trying to keep warm by a fire while waiting for news of Jesus, but this girl recognizes him as a Galilean and pipes up, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” Peter denies it and abandons the fire for the safety of the darkened gateway, while a rooster crows ominously. The girl finds him and identifies him again, and others agree, “This man is one of them.” Peter denies it again, but they persist in identifying him with the criminal, Jesus. Finally, he begins to lob curses, and he swears, “I do not know this man of whom you speak!”
The rooster crows a second time, and at once Peter remembers what Jesus told him: “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” Peter was brimming with self-confidence at the time, and he refused to believe it. Now, his self-esteem has been stripped away, and he sees himself for what he really is. He is a failure, a coward and a traitor; he has abandoned his Lord to avoid disgracing himself. He is ashamed of Jesus and his words (Mark 8:38).
Peter breaks down and weeps. For the first time in Mark’s gospel, he is broken. There is no more hiding from his sin.
We leave Mark’s account at a dark and miserable place, and the story is only going to get uglier. But there is hope here. We know that Peter has failed to confess Jesus as his Lord. But Jesus has not failed. He has insisted on his Lordship even when faced with death. He succeeds where Peter fails.
That’s where our hope comes from. If you see yourself as a stalwart defender of the Christian faith and an all-around great person, you’re going to be broken. God loves you; he will not let your self-confidence harden you into a creature fit for hell. He will break you down first. And then you will see that Jesus is your only hope. You cannot remain faithful to him; you will fail to acknowledge him as your Lord in your actions and words. That’s why Jesus did it all for you that night. And this act of courage and faithfulness belongs to you now; it’s what God sees when he looks at you. Jesus stood in your place before his bloodthirsty enemies, and when asked if he was their Lord, he declared, “I am!” Then he was “despised and rejected by men” (Isaiah 53:3) so that you would never be despised and rejected by God.
You are not good. You are not strong. But Jesus was. And that’s all that matters.
[Analyst Bob Whitelaw] says the riot would’ve likely happened whether the Canucks won or lost.
“With the loss, that seemed to give people the right to set police cars on fire, turn vehicles over, but the excitement of winning would’ve spilled over,” Whitelaw said, adding that it appears some of the instigators were not hockey fans.
—Tracy Sherlock, Vancouver Sun article
There was a pear tree near our vineyard, heavy with fruit, but fruit that was not particularly tempting either to look at or to taste. A group of young blackguards, and I among them, went out to knock down the pears and carry them off late one night, for it was our bad habit to carry on our games in the streets till very late. We carried off an immense load of pears, not to eat—for we barely tasted them before throwing them to the hogs. Our only pleasure in doing it was that it was forbidden.…
What did I enjoy in that theft of mine? Of what excellence of my Lord was I making perverse and vicious imitation? Perhaps it was the thrill of acting against Your law—at least in appearance, since I had no power to do so in fact, the delight a prisoner might have in making some small gesture of liberty—getting a deceptive sense of omnipotence from doing something forbidden without immediate punishment.
—Augustine of Hippo, Confessions II.iv.9, II.vi.14
[Augustine's] thought went like this. “Everyone knows there is a divine law which forbids theft, so if I can steal and get away with it this will show that I am not subject to God or to any divine law. And if I am not subject to any law which defines what is good, then the good will simply be what I say it is. Hence I will be free and omnipotent. I can do what I want and what I want is the good.”
—Colin Starnes, Augustine’s Conversion, p. 42
Did God actually say, “You shall not eat of any tree in the garden”?…You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.
—Satan, Genesis 3:1, 4–5
The pattern of my life is not pleasing to God.
But Jesus pleased him to the fullest extent possible. (Mark 1:11)
I don’t make much of an effort to spend time alone with God. I don’t think praying with God is a good use of my time.
But Jesus got up early and left everything to be with God. He was convinced that God would lend his limitless power to those who pray. (1:35; 9:29; 11:22–24)
I want people to think highly of me. I want to get them to do the things I want so that I will feel happy and fulfilled.
But Jesus put other people first and saw himself as their servant. (9:33–37; 10:35–45)
I like to supplement God’s law with a few of my own.
But Jesus refused to accept any manmade law that interfered with God’s will. (7:1–13)
I’d rather keep my life back for myself instead of giving it to God.
But Jesus gave up his life, submitting to the will of God. (8:34–38)
I like using my time and money in intelligent and practical ways.
But Jesus prefers inefficient and awkward displays of devotion to him. (14:3–9)
I only like to do God’s will if it’s easy.
Jesus was willing to do God’s will even if it meant being abused and forsaken by everyone he knew and loved. (14:36)
I tend to get focused on the daily grind, on projects and goals and minor details.
But Jesus cared about people and wanted to save them. (1:17)
I prefer simple, rigid rules and laws.
But Jesus understood that God’s law is all about giving people what is good for them. (2:23–28; 3:1–6)
I don’t want to allow suffering people to complicate my life.
But Jesus acted out of pity for them even if it inconvenienced him. (1:40–45)
I like being around attractive, well-mannered people who have their lives together.
But Jesus would much rather be around dirty, messed-up sinners. (2:13–17)
I don’t think about other people’s needs; I’m obsessed with my own needs.
Jesus was concerned about other people’s needs for food and rest. (6:31; 8:2)
I don’t worry much about people who have no spiritual leader.
Jesus longed to fill the void for people who didn’t know he was the Good Shepherd they should follow. (6:34)
I focus on physical problems more than the real problem of sin in my life. I don’t think it’s a big deal.
But Jesus knew that sin was the most fundamental problem that people have. He was horrified at the danger which sin posed to people and the judgment they would face for it. (2:4; 9:42–50)
I tend to think of myself as a pretty decent person who sometimes does bad things.
Jesus knew that people are rotten deep down and that bad things come from bad hearts. (7:14–23)
I keep thinking I can get eternal life by being a well-mannered, well-meaning person.
But Jesus knew that only humble, childlike, desperate people will enter the kingdom of God. (Mark 10:13–31)
I want to exclude people who don’t belong to my church or theological tradition.
But Jesus knew that God’s kingdom includes people who aren’t just like me. (9:38–41)
I don’t like it when people challenge my ideas about who God is and how he acts.
But Jesus loved to turn people’s beliefs about God upside down. (12:35–37)
Sometimes I get into arguments with stubborn people who refuse to change their minds.
But Jesus knew when it wasn’t worth the fight. (8:11–13)
I shy away from demanding change from people who need to change.
But Jesus was bold in proclaiming repentance and the gospel. (1:15)
I’d rather back down when confronted by spiritual forces that hate me and people who don’t want me around.
Jesus beat up the spiritual forces and rescued a suffering man. (5:1–20)
I often don’t know how to respond when people challenge my beliefs about God.
But Jesus knew exactly how to challenge the mindset of his accusers. (11:27–12:34)
I’m easily impressed by religious people and powerful institutions made by men.
But Jesus couldn’t stand religious people and declared that the kingdoms of man would be torn to the ground. (12:38–13:37)
I sometimes worry that the church will eventually be smothered by the world.
But Jesus was confident that he is stronger than Satan. (3:23–27)
I don’t get upset when people treat casually the things God says are holy.
But Jesus became incensed when he saw the temple treated as a marketplace. (11:15–17)
I treat marriage casually, as simply another important relationship in life.
But Jesus insisted that marriage was God’s special creation. (10:1–12)
I’m not so sure that God will always be there to rescue me.
Jesus wasn’t bothered by little things like life-threatening storms. (4:35–41; 6:45–52)
I doubt that God has much power to heal people who are sick or raise the dead to life.
Jesus himself has the power to heal chronic illness and raise the dead. (5:21–43)
What wondrous love, what mysteries
In this appointment shine:
My breaches of the law are his,
And his obedience mine!
He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2)
Nobody wants to go to hell. Nobody wants to bear the punishment for his or her sins. In fact, many professing Christians refuse to accept the doctrine of hell. It seems so barbaric, so awful. How could a good and loving God send people to an eternity of torment?
Perhaps a better question would be, how can a good and loving God send his Son to torment on the cross?
When Jesus cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34) he wasn’t exaggerating. You and I may feel forsaken by God from time to time, but we have this promise from him: “The LORD loves justice; he will not forsake his saints” (Psalm 37:28).
But Jesus truly was forsaken by his Father. And 1 John 2:2 tells us why. He was a propitiation. God was angry at us for our sins, and rightly so; we are guilty of high treason against him. But then he sent his own Son into the world as a man and poured out his wrath for us on Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ, the only righteous man, bore the sin of a wicked world. This means that the cross was a punishment far worse than hell. In hell, a sinner bears the penalty for his own sin. On the cross, Jesus bore the penalty for the sins of his people at least, if not all mankind.
Three hours in the darkness. It doesn’t seem long to us, but “with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8). Each second on the cross was an eternity of suffering, isolation, agony. The Lord did not experience hell on the cross; he experienced a billion hells, because he was not suffering for the sins of only one man but for the sins of the whole world.
We can’t even fathom what hell is like for an unrepentant sinner. Jesus used the imagery of fire and darkness to describe it, but it eclipses any language. How much more does the crucifixion of our Lord surpass comprehension! With the Roman centurion, we can only say, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39). No mere man could have borne that infinite suffering; he would have been crushed in an instant. Only a God-man could bear it. That is why Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father.
“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13). Take the time today to watch this video drawn from a sermon by R. C. Sproul. It’s a solemn reminder of the wrath of God against sin and the incredible love of God for us. He sent his Son to endure a punishment worse than hell.
I hid from God this weekend.
It’s not fun to say that, but it’s the truth. Have you ever gone through a period of time when you’d rather not be around God? When your feelings toward him are flat and cold? When he doesn’t seem to be anywhere near as satisfying as he claims to be?
Those are the times when I hide. I do it when I feel at odds with the Lord. Like David in Psalm 32, I sometimes hide because I think he’s angry at me, but I don’t want to let go of my sin (vv 3–4). Or I sometimes hide because I’m angry at him; I really do think he’s holding out on me because there’s something I want that he isn’t giving me. That’s why I hid from God this weekend.
There comes a transition in Psalm 32 where David turns from hiding from the Lord to hiding in the Lord. It happens when he finally agrees with the Lord that he is a sinner (v 5). He stops trying to cover up the truth; he admits at last, “I am in the wrong and God is in the right.” And God is gracious to forgive. And then David sings…
You yourself are a hiding place for me
From distress you keep watch over me
With shouts of deliverance you surround me (v 7)
Now he doesn’t hide from the Lord anymore. In fact, the Lord himself has become his one and only hiding place. When he’s in trouble, he doesn’t run from the Lord anymore; now he runs to the Lord.
Every sin we commit and every time of suffering we experience will cause you and me to run in one of two directions. We can run away from God and try to use entertainment or other pleasures of this world as narcotics. Or we can run toward God and hide away in his love. One of these is the path to sorrow; the other is the path to joy (vv 10–11).
Which will you choose today? If you’ve been holding God at arm’s length, please take some time now to read Psalm 32, talk with him, and agree that you’ve sinned against him. He is faithful to forgive. So then, be glad—rejoice—shout for joy!