True Israel on Trial

Law and the Law-giver

Matthew 26:57-68

And those who had seized Jesus led Him away to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were gathered together. But Peter also was following Him at a distance as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and entered in, and sat down with the officers to see the outcome. Now the chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus, in order that they might put Him to death; and they did not find any, even though many false witnesses came forward. But later on two came forward, and said, “This man stated, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to rebuild it in three days.’” And the high priest stood up and said to Him, “Do You make no answer? What is it that these men are testifying against You?” But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest said to Him, “I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you shall see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN.” Then the high priest tore his robes, saying, “He has blasphemed! What further need do we have of witnesses? Behold, you have now heard the blasphemy; what do you think?” They answered and said, “He is deserving of death!” Then they spat in His face and beat Him with their fists; and others slapped Him, and said, “Prophesy to us, You Christ; who is the one who hit You?”

See the irony; they are condemning the Author of their Law, using said Law. Historically speaking this is not that uncommon. The best way to unseat an unruly ruler is to catch him breaking one of his own laws. Nevertheless, as their God, Jesus gave them the Law, which they don’t follow, even to the letter, much less the spirit, and yet he did. They were ecstatic when Jesus said, “You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you shall see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN.” And we would do well to understand that which they understood by Jesus’ use of this phrase, because it was enough for them to cry out, “He has blasphemed! What further need do we have of witnesses? Behold, you have now heard the blasphemy; what do you think?” They answered and said, “He is deserving of death!” 

“And those who had seized Jesus led Him away to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were gathered together.” The multitude of  scribes and elders, wielding weapons, has brought the bound Jesus to the high priest and more scribes and more elders. We also see in the context that they brought in many witnesses. Therefore, the number of people against Jesus has grown from a multitude to a bigger multitude. At the same time,  those who support Jesus have all but fled. Notice, “But Peter also was following Him at a distance as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and entered in, and sat down with the officers to see the outcome.” Peter wasn’t a witness for Jesus but wanted to witness the outcome. For those that desire application, there it is. False witness upon false witness testified against Jesus while Peter sat on the sidelines, awaiting the outcome. But according to the gospel of John, John was present as well. We find the two premier disciples, not defending their God and friend. This all sounds very familiar. Rather than defending Jesus, we defend our dogmatic doctrines. This also reminds me of the apostle Paul; “At my first defense no one supported me, but all deserted me; may it not be counted against them. But the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me, in order that through me the proclamation might be fully accomplished, and that all the Gentiles might hear; and I was delivered out of the lion’s mouth.” We will come back to this.

“Now the chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus, in order that they might put Him to death; and they did not find any, even though many false witnesses came forward.” Notice what the text says; they “kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus, in order that they might put Him to death; and they did not find any, even though many false witnesses came forward.” To put it another way, even though many false witnesses came forward, they didn’t find one testimony worthy of death. They were not seeking the truth, but desired to dispense of Jesus because of their preconceived notions. They didn’t want their minds changed. Many people lied about Jesus that night, but none of them could cause Christ’s crucifixion. They were pretending to follow the Law but most certainly were not. According to the context of Matthew, it was the words of Jesus, that were the words of Jesus in their Law and prophets, that condemn Jesus to death. Now don’t think in modern, Western thought– this was not suicide by cop, yet Jesus was laying down his life but by testifying to the truth. One more time: Jesus was laying down his life but by testifying to the truth. Remember this as we continue to consider the context.

“But later on two came forward, and said, ‘This man stated, “I am able to destroy the temple of God and to rebuild it in three days.”‘ And the high priest stood up and said to Him, ‘Do You make no answer?'” Like a sheep silent before his shearers, as Isaiah prophesized, Jesus remained without answer to these two witnesses. By two or three witnesses everything will be confirmed, is what their Law states. And they had their two witnesses. Problem; we have at least 11 witnesses, two of whom are present, one of whom recorded the words of Jesus–we know that is not what he said. John in, chapter 2, tells us the context and the exact words of Jesus. “The Jews therefore answered and said to Him, ‘What sign do You show to us, seeing that You do these things?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ The Jews therefore said, :It took forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?’ But He was speaking of the temple of His body. When therefore He was raised from the dead, His disciples remembered that He said this; and they believed the Scripture, and the word which Jesus had spoken.” Even though Jesus was speaking in metaphor, his literal words were distorted as well. He told them to destroy the temple, which they are about to do, and in three days, he would rebuild it. Two things; they clearly missed the metaphor and also his literal words. This is all to say that although the high priest had his required two witnesses, they broke an even older commandment–they bore false witness. Not only did they lie, their testimony isn’t enough for Jesus to be put to death.

We see this by the context because they keep digging. Notice; “‘Do You make no answer? What is it that these men are testifying against You?’ But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest said to Him, ‘I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God.’” Mark gives us a beautiful insight into this scene concerning the false testimony and it’s short and sweet. “And not even in this respect was their testimony consistent.” The council; or, Sanhedrin, had absolutely nothing on Jesus but lies and inconsistent testimony. They desperately desire the death of the Divine, therefore they go for the jugular; and ask him flat-out, are you the Christ, the Son of God? The truth hurts. Which ever translation, from any account you prefer, all say the same thing. “You have said it yourself;” “I am;” “Yes, I am.” or; before Pilate in the Gospel of John, “You say correctly that I am a king.” Jesus remained silent during the false accusations and beatings but when asked the direct question of, who are you, he answered truthfully, and this was his death sentence. Nevertheless, something else is in the context of Matthew that we must consider, as it goes to his aspirations to his audience.

“‘I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God.’ Jesus said to him, ‘You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you shall see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN.’ Then the high priest tore his robes, saying, ‘He has blasphemed!’ Matthew’s aspiration to his audience is not that Jesus says, I am the Son of God but that they said he was. Also, notice what made the high priest tear his clothes, and why. Atfter demanding that Jesus tell them if he’s the Son of God, Jesus answers, and don’t miss this, “You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you shall see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN.” How is that blasphemous, why would this make the high priest tear his clothes? According to the dogmatic dispensationalist, this doesn’t happen until the Jews make a pact with the Antichrist to rebuild the temple, then the Antichrist takes the pact back after exactly 3.5 years, then exactly 3.5 years after that, the Messiah will come on a bright, shiny, cloud elevator, to rule over the Hebrews left alive for exactly 1000 years.

For those who like to dig deep, we’re about to mine for gold in the center of the earth. First, Jesus never said that he was God. While telling the truth and fully revealing himself, Jesus never specifically said, I am God. Look closely at the context, Jesus says he will be seen seated at the right hand of “power,” and “coming on the clouds of Heaven,” but never utters the word, “God.” He, as was his custom, referred to himself as the Son of Man, not the Son of God. And yet the high priest yelled blasphemy and​tore his clothes. In Daniel 7, we, and they, have read, “I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, That all the peoples, nations, and men of every language Might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion Which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one Which will not be destroyed.”

Did the high priest misinterpret what Jesus said? Not at all, he, unlike us in the West, understood completely, hence the tearing of his clothes. He knew exactly what Jesus said, without claiming to be God, literally or in so many words, he absolutely claimed that he was the Long-awaited Messiah. Jesus could have said, yes, I am the Son of God, equal and eternal with God–I am God–we are one. But he did not, yet the high priest exlaimed, “He has blasphemed! What further need do we have of witnesses? Behold, you have now heard the blasphemy;” because he knew what Jesus was saying, nevertheless, he didn’t believe Jesus.

What was Jesus saying? Was he saying, I will descend to earth on a cloud during the 21st century after your temple is rebuilt and destroyed? We have to let Scripture interpret Scripture and leave our culture and traditions at the door. Jesus was speaking to the Jewish, high priest in Jewish terms. He is giving the high priest a tiny snippet of what he told his disciples in Matthew 24. Notice what is not in the context of Jesus’ response, the word, “God.” Jesus, in an obvious allusion to Daniel 7, tells the high priest, “You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you shall see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN.” Without mentioning the name of God, Jesus clearly communicated that he was the one coming to the ancient of days. Ancient of Days is circumlocution or periphrasis for God. That is, culturally, they didn’t use the Lord’s name lest they might accidentally use it in vain. Therefore, they would use phrases to indicate that they were speaking of God, without saying his name. And this is exactly what Jesus did when revealing himself to the high priest without using the word, “God.” Therefore, Jesus didn’t technically blaspheme; except that he did, except that he couldn’t because he is God. Had anyone else said the words that Jesus said, in the way he said them, before the high priest, they would have been guilty of blaspheme. Jesus, however, was not guilty of blaspheme because he is God.

I know that it seems like we are going around in circles but we must have a good grasp of the scenario before we can move on. Jesus cannot blaspheme because he is God. But, the high priest doesn’t believe that Jesus is God, therefore in his eyes and mind, Jesus is guilty of blaspheme, even though Jesus never said, I am God. Not only did Jesus not say he was God, he didn’t say God at all–he wasn’t even guilty of taking the Lord’s name in vain; which again, is impossible for him to do. Jesus never used the name of the Lord, yet the high priest yelled blasphemy and tore his clothes. And now that I have beaten the proverbial dead horse, we have to get into the mind of the high priest, rooted in the Law and prophets. He should have seen Jesus as the Messiah, they all should have and this is why Matthew writes. Nevertheless, they didn’t see Jesus as the Messiah but absolutely understood exactly what he was saying. And it most certainly was not that he would come in the 21st century on a cloud elevator. He was saying to the high priest what he said to the disciples in Matthew 24– God sent him in judgement against Jerusalem.

I realize the difficulty in doing away with the culture and traditions of which we have been taught. Especially considering that the climate of our culture seems to line up with what we have been taught. Nevertheless, that’s not prophecy, that’s history repeating itself. When we act like Israel, like Israel we shall be. Continuing to beat the proverbial dead horse, consider the context of 1 Corinthians 10; “Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.” We hear pastors and preachers, theologians and teachers exlclaim that the “falling away” of millennials from the church is prophecy fulfilled. Except that it isn’t. It’s the narrow-minded​, dogmatic, my-way-or-the-highway approach that​ causes the “church” to suffer loss. Don’t sing that song, don’t wear those clothes, don’t get a tattoo, give 10% of your income and believe in the pre-tribulation rapture, with no explanation of why, is what is killing the “church.” But they claim it to be prophecy. Yet it escapes their attention that in claming these things they have diluted the Gospel. The vast majority of dispensationalist are very mission-minded, I don’t want to lump the few, overly dogmatic with the many, nevertheless, a little leaven rises the whole lump–be cautious. Because there are a select few, with microphones, who claim that the “falling away” from the church is the fulfillment of 2 Timothy 3, which Paul wrote to Timothy, explaining to Timothy, the difficult times that Timothy will see in Timothy’s ministry, during the life of Timothy. There is a great and distinctive difference between directly-applied prophecy and history repeating itself.

“Then they spat in His face and beat Him with their fists; and others slapped Him, and said, ‘Prophesy to us, You Christ; who is the one who hit You?’”

I find it ironic that this scene ends with mockery about prophecy. I certainly don’t intend to mock anyone’s beliefs concerning prophecy. Yet these modern-day, pungent prophecy professors take to Twitter, ramble on radio and talk on the television, mocking my beliefs which are rooted in the Scripture interpreting Scripture, and letting Jesus explain prophecy fulfillment. In today’s text we see the mockery of the prophecy of Jesus. That, and they beat him. Question; why would they do this if they didn’t think Christ claimed that he was fulfilling the prophets? We have to look at Daniel 7 again to see what they saw Jesus claiming. And remember this; they didn’t believe him. Yet it goes deeper than that.

“I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, That all the peoples, nations, and men of every blanguage Might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion Which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one Which will not be destroyed.”

This is unfolding now, in the context of Matthew, where Jesus is being beaten because he quoted this passage. The high priest yelled, blasphemy! They beat Jesus saying, prophesy, Messiah, who hit you? They were not believing in Jesus because they didn’t want to. Consider the context of Daniel 7, Jesus has come to take their kingdom away from them and rule over it himself. Daniel 7 doesn’t say that Jesus will come back to earth on a cloud. Again, Daniel 7, which Jesus quotes revealing himself to the high priest and council, does not say that Jesus will come back to earth on a cloud. It reads; “with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him.” Even taken literally, Jesus doesn’t ride a cloud to earth, he rides it to heaven. Don’t miss this; Jesus, or, the Son of Man, in the context of Daniel 7, and therefore the context of Matthew 24 and 26, rides the cloud to the presence of God, or, the Ancient of Days. Again,  read the text, laying aside preconceived notions and presuppositions; “with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him.” This is ascension to the power and authority he had before he tabernacled among men. They understood and didn’t believe, how is it that we believe yet don’t understand? Preconceived notions and presuppositions; we don’t want our kingdom taken away.

Remember Paul writing to Timothy about the trouble in Timothy’s time? Paul, within the same context reminded Timothy of his own troubles and tribulations during his life. “But the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me, in order that through me the proclamation might be fully accomplished, and that all the Gentiles might hear; and I was delivered out of the lion’s mouth.” Lion’s mouth is circumlocution for Jerusalem; it has to be because Rome incarcerated Paul,  and Jerusalem is synonymous with the Old Covenant. Once more, Daniel 7, “I kept looking in the night visions, And behold, with the clouds of heaven One like a Son of Man was coming, And He came up to the Ancient of Days And was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion, Glory and a kingdom, That all the peoples, nations, and men of every language Might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion Which will not pass away; And His kingdom is one Which will not be destroyed.” Guess what happens to every other kingdom mentioned in Daniel 7. Destroyed. Jesus, and I know this is difficult to grasp, destroyed and fulfilled Israel. And he will destroy every other kingdom as well. Only the kingdom of which Jesus is building, over which he now reigns, will continue, though through fire. There is but one true Israel, those whose king is Christ, whom Matthew presents as the true Israel. There therefore can be no antisemitism or racism of any kind because Jesus calls men from every tongue and tribe to be partakers in the true Israel.

 

 

 

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