Second Reformed Church

Monday, May 29, 2017

"What Did you Say?" Sermons: John 18:15-24



“What Did You Say?”
[John 18:15-24]
May 21, 2017, Second Reformed Church
            Judas comes with over six hundred soldiers to betray Jesus, only to have Jesus show His power as He speaks and causes them all to fall to the ground.  Jesus voluntarily submits to the Romans – and the Will of His Father – and allows Himself to be arrested.  Peter jumps in and cuts off the ear of the High Priest’s servant, whom Jesus heals, and Jesus rebukes Peter, telling Him that He could call on the armies of Heaven to save Him, but then the Scriptures would not be fulfilled – and there would be no salvation.  And the Eleven and the other disciples run away and leave Jesus alone.
            The Romans take Jesus to Annas, the former High Priest, the father-in-law of the current High Priest – the one who said it would be better for one man to die than for the whole nation to be lost – prophesying – unbeknownst to himself – that Jesus would give Himself up for all the people God gave Him – securing their and our salvation through His life, death, resurrection, and ascension.
            Now, I need to apologize – last week I said we have no record of the trial before Annas.  I had not read today’s text carefully enough – this is the trial before Annas.  So, please forgive my error and note that today’s text is the trial before Annas.
            John begins this text with a little background:
“Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he entered with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter stood outside at the door. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the servant girl who kept watch at the door, and brought Peter in.”
After the Eleven and the other disciples run away, Peter and John circle back and follow the arrest crowd to the house of Annas.  We need to understand that houses – especially larger houses – were built with rooms around the edge of the house with an open courtyard in the middle of the house.  So, if this was a perfectly square house, we can imagine rooms on all four sides and then doors leading into the central courtyard.  This is why Peter and John have to do through a door to get into the courtyard and through another door to get to the interrogation room.
So, Peter and John follow the crowd to Annas’ house, and John goes right into the house because he is well known by the High Priest.  We’re not told why John was well-known to the High Priest and his household, but whatever the reason, they let him in right away, and he had to vouch for Peter.
While John is getting Peter, Jesus is brought into the interrogation room.  Then John goes into the interrogation room, but Peter says in the courtyard.
And we see first, this morning, it is easy to sin.
“The servant girl at the door said to Peter, ‘You also are not one of this man's disciples, are you?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ Now the servants and officers had made a charcoal fire, because it was cold, and they were standing and warming themselves. Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself.”
And you may be thinking, “Well, of course it is easy to sin, that’s why we sin, because it’s so easy to give into temptation.”
Let’s think about this:  the person in question in Peter.  When Jesus told the Eleven that He was going to leave them and they could not follow – remember what happened in John 13:
“Simon Peter said to him, ‘Lord, where are you going?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Where I am going you cannot follow me now, but you will follow afterward.’ Peter said to him, ‘Lord, why can I not follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.’ Jesus answered, ‘Will you lay down your life for me? Truly, truly, I say to you, the rooster will not crow till you have denied me three times’” (John 13:36-38, ESV).
We have Peter, the “I will never leave You.  I will never deny You.  I will die for You.”   He boldly goes to the house of the High Priest to be with Jesus – to see this through with Him.  But when he gets into the courtyard, he starts to fear – he can’t go in – so John goes in and leaves Peter in his lions’ den.
            And a young servant girl asks Peter if he is one of Jesus’ disciples.  It makes sense.  She saw Jesus come in.  She saw John with Him.  She saw John give access to Peter.  Why wouldn’t she think he was one of Jesus’ disciples?
            “What did you say?  What?  Who?  Me?  No!  I am not one of His disciples.”
            Peter had the reasonable fear of being arrested at the High Priest’s house, and the devil presented a thought to him – a temptation to sin, “If you just deny Jesus, no one will touch you.”  And in his fear, he sinned and denied Jesus.
            Sometimes temptation comes – so it would seem, at least – out of the clear blue.  But then there are times when we know that certain things, certain places, certain people lead us into temptation and we ought to stay away – turn away, run to God in prayer and seek out whatever way of escape there is, because Jesus said, “If you love Me, you will obey Me.”  If we love Him, we will strive towards holiness – and God the Holy Spirit indwells us and will lead and empower us to turn away and not sin – if we ask Him.
            The devil knows the right words and the right moment that we are most likely to give in – and he will use that.  The devil is a defeated foe, but he is powerful and intelligent: 
            “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world” (I Peter 5:8-9, ESV).
            We look back at Peter and shake our heads: “You spent three years with Jesus.  You confessed that He is God and Savior.  How could you give into your fears and sin against Him?”  But let us not be unduly harsh on Peter, but rather look at ourselves – we have the indwelling of God the Holy Spirit, Peter did not yet.  We, therefore, are guiltier than he when we sin against our God.
            So, we must always be alert and use everything we can, as God the Holy Spirit empowers us, to stay away from temptation and to turn away and deny it when it comes, so we will not sin against our Savior.  And, when we do sin, let us turn quickly to our Savior and ask Him for the forgiveness He merited for us – and He will give it to the truly repentant.  And then, rejoice with thanksgiving, for you are forgiven and loved by our God and Savior.
            Then John turns and reports what happens at the trial before Annas.
            And we see, second, Jesus respects the authorities and the law.
“The high priest then questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. Jesus answered him, ‘I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me what I said to them; they know what I said.’”
Jesus is brought bound before Annas, the High Priest, and Annas begins questioning Jesus, “What do You teach?  How have You instructed Your disciples?  What is Your interpretation of the Law?  Who are Your disciples?  Will You give us a list?”
Although it is not called “pleading the fifth” in Jewish law, a suspect does not have to incriminate himself.  A suspect does not have to give any testimony that could be used against him.
And, so, Jesus responds by stating that everything He taught has been in the open – in the synagogues, in the Temple – where His disciples and those who did not believe Him came together and heard what He had to say.  If Annas asks any group of Jews, they could tell him what Jesus taught.  Everyone knows what Jesus taught.  So, Jesus tells Annas to find witnesses who can tell him what He have taught.
Jesus is not being sarcastic – He is not being disrespectful to Annas.  We need to understand that.  He is saying, “I am not going to provide testimony about Myself, which is My right under the Law, but I have taught so openly that you can easily find witnesses to testify to what I have taught.”  And the Law requires that at least two or three eyewitnesses be able to testify in a criminal case.  It was against the Law to judge a person without witnesses or by the witness of only one person.
Now, don’t be confused, Annas is an evil, self-centered, person – and Jesus does not respect that.  However, Annas holds the title of High Priest, he is an authority put in place by God, so, for the sake of the office and in the recognition of God’s placing Annas in authority, Jesus deals with him respectfully.
Remember what Paul tells us:
“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. For because of this you also pay taxes, for the authorities are ministers of God, attending to this very thing.  Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed” (Romans 13:1-7, ESV).
Unless a ruler commands us to sin, we must submit in obedience because God has put these men and women in office.  If our rulers are evil, God will punish them, but we are to submit.
For example, Paul tells us that we must pay our taxes.  I believe income taxes are theft – stealing – I believing our government sins against us by taking part of our income.  However, it would be a sin for us to disobey the government and not pay our taxes, so I do, and so should you.
We don’t have to agree with everything our leaders do.  We don’t have to like our leaders.  We may call them to account for their actions. We ought to remind them that they are serving in authority because God has placed them there. We ought to remind them that they have an authority over them.  We may vote them out of office.  But we must submit to them in everything, except sin.
Jesus shows respect to Annas, while responding within the constraints of the Law.  But, as we saw last week, these trails have nothing to do with justice – they have to do with finding a way to put Jesus to death to preserve the power and the wealth of the Pharisees and Sadducees.
Remember what Caiaphas, the current High Priest and son-in-law of Annas, prophesies:
“But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, ‘You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.’ He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. So from that day on they made plans to put him to death” (John 11:49-53, ESV).
This has nothing to do with a fair trial – as we saw last week, the Jews brake law after law in the trials of Jesus – this is a matter of Israel being occupied by the Romans, so the Jews are not legally allowed to put a man to death – they have to bring a case before Rome to have a man put to death – and the point is – Jesus must die.
The guards at the high Priest’s home understand the goal of the trials:
“When he had said these things, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, ‘Is that how you answer the high priest?’ Jesus answered him, ‘If what I said is wrong, bear witness about the wrong; but if what I said is right, why do you strike me?’ Annas then sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.”
Whack!  One of the officers strikes Jesus across the face.
As Micah prophesied: “Now muster your troops, O daughter of troops; siege is laid against us; with a rod they strike the judge of Israel on the cheek” (Micah 5:1, ESV).
“What did You say?  Don’t be smart!  That’s not the answer the High Priest wants!  Give him the respect and the answer he deserves!”
The officer sins against Jesus, but Jesus respectfully answers him: “If I lied, bring forth witnesses; if I did not lie, why did you hit Me?”
Again, this has nothing to do with justice, it has to do with putting Jesus to death.  Yet, with all these people sinning against Him, Jesus does not sin.  He acts appropriately, according to the law, and shows the respect due to each person.
Suppose you are driving down the road and a police officer pulls you over, and you ask, “What’s wrong, officer?”
Now, suppose the officer punches you in the face, says, “Don’t backtalk,” and pulls you out of the car.
What should we do as Christians?  Assuming there is no threat of death or serious bodily harm, in which case, self-defense may be merited, what ought we to do?
Should we spit on him and berate him and struggle to get away?  Should we threaten his family? 
No, we ought to submit to arrest, find any witnesses possible, and lodge a complaint against the officer in the correct manner.  That may be hard to do in the moment, but it is the right thing to do.
Of course, Jesus’ being sinned against in these trials is more than just the authorities sinning against their call and office and those they are called to protect – this is all part of Jesus submitting to the Will of the Father.
“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not” (Isaiah 53:3, ESV).
And so, Jesus is put through every type of suffering, betrayal, denial, injustice, torture, and death, for the sins of everyone who will ever believe.
Annas did not get what he wanted from Jesus, so he sent Him across the courtyard to Caiaphas, who was gathered with the whole of the Sanhedrin to put Jesus to trial and find a way that He could be put to death.
As we struggle towards holiness by the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus is our Advocate before the Father as we confess our sins and He forgives us.
As we are treated unjustly by our leaders and they sin against us, Jesus has experienced more than we will ever know about suffering, and He calls us to submit and to respect our leaders for the office they hold.
Let us be faithful to our God and Savior, looking forward to the day when this will be our life:
“Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:15-17, ESV).
Let us pray:
Almighty God, we understand Peter’s sin and we are repulsed at the way Your Son was treated.  We thank You that Jesus is the Sinless One Who intercedes before us, so we can be confident in our forgiveness.  Help us to show the right respect to all people, but especially to those You have put in authority – especially when they are sinning against us.  Use us to proclaim your Gospel even through our unjust suffering, because Your Son has suffered for us.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

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