Mark 14:61&62 “Again the high priest asked him, ‘Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?’ ‘I am,’ said Jesus. ‘And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.'”
In this chapter is recorded the extraordinary scene of Jesus Christ standing in the dock. He has been put on trial by the religious leaders of the world. Soon he will be also tried by Caesar and his representatives. All this took place twenty centuries ago, but Christ is still on trial both by the word’s religions and its secular power structures. Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, communism, scientific materialism all stand in judgment over Christ. We too as his servants will also find ourselves on trial if we say about the Lord Jesus, “My Lord and my God.” Let us examine how Christ is questioned and then at how he answers.
1. OUR SAVIOUR IS IN THE DOCK.
No one has ever done the works that Jesus has done, but he is in the dock. Here are authentic and witnessed events of miraculous power which were done before thousands of eyewitnesses, but the one who did them is in the dock. He feeds 5,000 ravenous men with five loaves and two fishes until their hunger is satisfied, but they put him in the dock. He raises three people from the dead, but men still put him in the dock. He has wiped out disease in Galilee, but they arrest him and put him on trial. He has power over the winds and waves, but men will pass their verdict on him. When he preaches people say, “Never man spake like this man,” but they take him away from every one of his pulpits – in a synagogue, on a mountain, from a boat, in an upper room, by a well – and they’ll put him in irons. He preaches the most sublime words this world has ever heard in the Sermon on the Mount, but they still silence him. His life is one of purity and integrity. Here is a man who never told a lie. His relationship with women was blameless; mothers put their children in his arms for him to bless. He lived a life of loving submission to his parents, assisting them and loving them as the oldest son should. He was the most loyal and wise friend. The crowds flocked to hear him and went away subdued and changed, but men still arrested him and put him on trial. If there was ever a man whom you’d think would never to be arrested and charged with any crime, never even get his name in the papers, it would be gentle Jesus meek and mild, yet here he is standing in the dock before the highest court in the land, in the Sanhedrin on trial for his life!
Our Lord is not being tried by witch-doctors and cannibals. Behind this court lies a tradition of righteousness superior to anything the world has ever seen. Behind this court lie the prophets God sent, the covenants, the Holy Scriptures, the sacrifices and offerings. Behind it lie the ten commandments, written with the finger of God on tablets of stone. Behind it lie all the examples of case law and the grieved-over prophets whom Jehovah sent, which their fathers had murdered. Here were a whole class of lawyers, skillful in debate, analytical and discerning. All of these traditions lay behind this court which had put Jesus on trial. They were not a bunch of back street amateurs, or vigilantes, a self-appointed judge and jury. This was the highest court in the history of mankind.
More than that, they put Jesus Christ under oath. Matthew records the very words of the chief priest in chapter 26 and verse 63, as he says to Jesus, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Caiaphas has to do this because he has got nowhere with the procession of witnesses brought into the court; they have contradicted themselves and left the witness stand in confusion, and there is no one else left to summon. Jesus himself has refused to speak and so Caiaphas cannot find some word of the Saviour to turn back on Christ. Uncertainty prevails. So Caiaphas will use his official authority as high priest and demand that Jesus take an oath. This oath puts Jesus in the presence of God. You remember the traditional words when a person had to speak in a court of law? He would place his hand on a Bible and say, “The evidence I give shall be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God.” How solemn the words sound, but how necessary, when the liberty, or even the life, of a man is at stake. A man in court is put under oath to speak the truth alone.
Now we know from the Sermon on the Mount that amongst the Jews oaths were commonplace. They would swear oaths on the most trivial of occasions. An oath would be invoked for every little thing in the daily routine. They would boldly and unblushingly swear the most precious oaths in connection with the kitchen, in the cattle trade, selling a goat and in any and every trivial duty. “Let my mother die tonight . . . I swear on the head of all my children . . . let God strike me dead if this is not so . . . I swear by the temple of Jehovah,” and so on. That is how ‘respectable’ Jews spoke. That is how all ‘good’ people spoke. Every ‘normal’ citizen laced his speech with oaths. All the years Christ grew up walking the lanes and standing at the well of Nazareth he lived in an atmosphere of men and women shrilly uttering oaths. What was the consequence of this? The potency of an oath was diminished; its edge was blunted. These men brought God’s name into things that were not God’s; they bled the awesome and the glorious out of God’s name; they were demolishing that very throne of judgment which we are all facing, before which we must all appear. The consuming fire of the house of God was extinguished by a barren and deceitful use of oaths.
In the Sermon on the Mount Christ told his disciples, “As Christians you don’t lightly refer to God’s name, God’s being, God’s temple, God’s residence and God’s work and accommodate it to your convenience. You don’t suit the divine to the human. All your life you live before God in a climate of seriousness and truthfulness. Let your plain ‘yes’ be yes. Your plain ‘no’ be no. Away with all this trivializing.” We are to tremble when we consider Almighty God is seeing and hearing and judging every word of ours. If you call on his name for every little this and that then you really don’t know the living God. You’re not thinking, “But our God is a consuming fire!”
God’s holy child Jesus, the Word of God made flesh, was put on a solemn oath by some sinner. This is the Saviour who claimed, “I am the truth!” This God-man challenged people to tell him if he had said or done anything wrong, and all were silent. This is the one who brought every bit of the message from heaven that God had given him. This is the one to whom God spoke and said, “You are my beloved Son and everything you’ve said pleases me,” and sinful old Caiaphas, who has bribed witnesses to lie, is putting the Lord of Glory on oath to tell the truth. Jesus was always under an oath to speak the truth. He always walked in the full light of day. Peter says, “There was no guile in his mouth – ever!” He brought a word straight from the heart of God. He had no dictionary of dignified phrases, softening his voice and taking a stern or sympathetic pose as the occasion demanded while retaining the jargon of the vernacular for other occasions. He was always authentic and 100 per cent true, always conscious that he was standing in the presence of God. So all his words were always on oath, given before God, with the Word of God not just under his right hand but in his heart, and he spoke the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. He does not need to say, “I swear before Almighty God . . .” Jesus lived in the kingdom of God.
So putting him on oath was a great humiliation. Think of your child coming home and telling you what happened that day in school, what her teacher had said, and you said to her, “Stop! Don’t go any further before you put your hand on the Bible and swear to me that you are telling the truth . . .!” What is that action saying? “I’ve got a little liar here and I don’t believe a word she says.” Or if your sweetheart, whom you have been going out with for a long time, tells you that he loves you, and wants to become your husband, and he proposes to you then would you say to him, “Now stop and get the Bible down. I want you to say those words to me with your hand on the Bible”? If you should do that, what distrust and suspicion that would indicate you had in your sweetheart. Caiaphas was humiliating Christ by asking him to swear an oath before he answered this question. Caiaphas was saying, “I don’t believe that throughout your life you and your Father have been one. I don’t believe that you are the Messiah of truth sent by the God of light into the world. I adjure thee solemnly now to tell the truth!” The demand that Jesus take an oath before he speaks shows Caiaphas rejects him. Who is Caiaphas? He is his accuser and also his judge. There is no way that Christ is going to leave the dock justified. He is bound to be condemned by the chief priest of Israel and the highest religious court of the land. What a burden for Jesus to bear, far heavier than being spat upon and punched and whipped by the soldiers. He is being told, “We do not believe that you have lived your life in the solemn atmosphere of the presence of God.”
The glorious thing is this that Christ took the oath! He says, “As you say . . .it is as you say.” He did not preach the text from the Sermon on the Mount to them. He did not haughtily say, “I always speak the truth. I will not take it.” He acknowledges that this is a court of law and courts of law have the right before God to require we take an oath, and that Christians simply and seriously take an oath as a personal act of worship. We have nothing to hide. He acknowledges that to Israel belong the covenants and revelations of God. He complies with their request. He speaks as one standing under oath by the living God! He makes a good confession. “I speak as one who knows he has to answer to God for what he says. He stands before God’s omniscience, his omnipotence, his omnipresence and holiness. Now he can address all the seventy men who are the leaders of the nation and on oath he will answer the judge’s question.
So Jesus swore by God. He swore by himself. He is God and man in one person. This is what his incarnation declares. The God who swears by God is speaking from the dock. The God whose yea is yea and whose nay is nay speaks! Like heaven is exalted above the earth, and the being of God transcends the being of this world, so the words of God are greater than all of the words of man. God can only swear by God. “I am that I am,” he says. What more can he say than that? Take your shoes from off your feet for the place on which you stand is holy ground. God is what he is. That is his terrible name. He came to be the light of the world. He came to reveal the living God to us. He is the Lord and he speaks now under the most solemn oath. There is no perjury here.
2. WHAT THE LORD JESUS IS ASKED.
What is Jesus being asked? It is this, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” It is the most important question a person can ever ask. The feminists question Jesus about choosing twelve men to be his apostles, and sending out seventy men as preachers. Those whose hope is in politics question Jesus about saying that his kingdom was not of this world. Modernists question Jesus about his claim that God’s word is truth, and that Scripture cannot be broken. The evolutionists question Jesus about his saying that in the beginning God created man, making them male and female. But there is a far more fundamental question that those questions; “Is Jesus the Christ, that is, the Anointed One, the Messiah?” In other words, has the one true and living God, the maker of the universe, sent Jesus into the world, and come upon him by his Spirit, anointing him to bring the Creator’s words to us his creatures? There is no more important question than that.
This week on Tuesday 2nd August the Islamic government of Malaya sent its police and bulldozers and 40 demolition men into a bizarre community called the Sky Kingdom, in Terengannu state. A man called Ariffin Mohammed, better known as Ayah (“Master”) Pin had built a religious settlement there with an assembly hall, a concrete boat, a temple and a giant teapot. The bulldozers destroyed them all. This cream and orange teapot was twenty feet high and the claim was made that washing in the water that came out of its spout could heal people of their diseases. Ayah Pin was a Muslim, and so why were the buildings in his community knocked down by fellow Muslims? This is the reason, that Ayah Pin claims that he has a special relationship with God, that he is anointed by God to speak in the name of God, as the Times put it on Tuesday (under a photograph of the giant teapot), “Ayah Pin claimed to have a direct link to the Almighty, bypassing the Prophet Mohammed.” That was the offence. That is why his kingdom had to be destroyed.
Go back two thousand years. Here is Jesus Christ, a man who did not claim to be another prophet but one who had a special relationship with God, to have been sent into the world by God. God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son. “I and my Father are one . . . If you have seen me you have seen the Father.” The Father sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved. You see how important this question is – is Jesus of Nazareth the one anointed by God, the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One or not? What more crucial issue lies before everyone in the world today? Have you thought about it? Have you pondered the claims of Christ? Have you even looked at his life? Have you examined what he said and did? What manner of man is this?
Who is this virgin born man? Who is this pure and holy and sinless person? Who is this preacher of the Sermon on the Mount, the one who told the Parable of the Prodigal Son? Who is this one who healed every single sick person brought to him? Who is this one who, when men were nailing him to a cross, prayed for them, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do”? Who is this man who called God his own Father and said he was returning to his Father, but added, “Let not your heart be troubled. Ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you, and if I go I will come again and take you unto myself that where I am there you will be also” (Jn.14:1-3). Who could speak such extraordinary words as those? Neither Shakespeare nor Tennyson nor Dickens ever said words like that. Isn’t he the Christ? Isn’t he the Son of the Blessed One? If not him then who is? Has not the God who in different ways and at various times spoke to the men of the Old Testament by his servants the prophets spoken to men finally by his Son, Jesus Christ? Does he not have all the graciousness and love of God? Does he not have all the power of God? Does he not have all the perfections of God? So, I am saying that this question which Caiaphas asked is the number one question which all the world has to ask: “Was Jesus of Nazareth the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?”
3. OUR SAVIOUR AFFIRMS THAT HE IS GOD.
What was Jesus’ answer given under oath to this high court? “‘I am,’ said Jesus. ‘And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven'” (v.62). He spoke plainly, lucidly and emphatically. He swore with a precious oath. He swore by God that he was the Messiah, the true intervention from Heaven, the revelation of Jehovah Lord of hosts. He says it in the teeth of their mockery of him as God’s prophet. He says it in the teeth of their mockery of him as God’s king – think of the reed, of the crown of thorns, of the gorgeous robe. The man who stands in the dock, manacled and absolutely alone tells them that he is the Son of Man prophesied by Daniel. He is one with God in his glory and majesty and one with us in our humanness and weakness. He tells us that he is the mediator and the Messiah. He presents himself to the Sanhedrin who are his judges as their Judge. How terrible and mighty does he present himself.
What is the accepted attitude of the world to Jesus Christ today? Men will agree that he was a humble teacher and healer, but his followers exalted him and made a god of him. They will say that all he wanted to be was a rabbi and great physician, a good man and nothing more, but even they have to acknowledge that in the New Testament that is not at all what we see. The Scriptures present us with a man who says when he teaches, “But I say unto you.” He is not content to speak in the name of God, but magisterially in his own name and on his own authority, “Verily, verily, I say unto you.” He legislates on the independent basis of his own status and with his own insights. He tells us on that basis that he is the Lord of the Sabbath, that he has authority to forgive sins. He pronounces on oaths, divorce and scripture itself. He does so constantly and simply in his own name. He sets that great “I” over against all the assertions of the scribes and Pharisees. He will correct tradition simply on the basis of his own authority.
More than that, Jesus was absolutely confident that every single life that was built on himself would never collapse. What a claim! He was unshakingly confident in the relevance of his teaching to every human being. He told a parable of a builder who laid the foundation of a house on a rock, and when a fierce storm came crashing on that house it did not fall. That foundation, said Jesus, was his own teaching, and every life erected on his words would endure all the storms that came crashing against it, of heartbreak, and death, and philosophical speculation, and fierce persecution, and scientific pretension. No matter how the waves beat on the house, if it were standing on Christ it would continue to stand. There is nothing plain and simple about a man who has an attitude like that.
More than that there were the claims he made throughout his life, that he would judge all mankind and assign to everyone his or her eternal destiny. How had they been related to him? That was the ultimate issue. Were they ashamed of him and his words? Did he love them or say to them, “I never knew you.”? He claimed to go right back before Abraham to the very beginning. He claimed to be absolute God. When Thomas fell before him and said, “My Lord and my God,” there was no look of horror on Jesus’ face, and no protestation that such talk was blasphemous.
That is the background for our Lord’s reply under oath to the chief priest’s question, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” Jesus says, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” He claims to be the Son of Man; he asserts that he will be at the right hand of God. He says he is going to be coming on the clouds of heaven and that their eyes would see this. It was a declaration and also a terrible warning. Jesus was alluding to three Old Testament Messianic passages which announced the exaltation of the Lord the great Judge. Isaiah 52:8 says, “When Jehovah returns to Zion they will see it with their own eyes.” Psalm 110:1 adds, “The Lord says to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” Daniel 7:13 records, “In my vision at night I looked and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven.” “You are now standing in judgment on me,” Christ was saying, “Yes, but in one tremendous day I am going to judge you.”
Now it doesn’t matter where you probe the New Testament, in Matthew, Mark, Luke or John, or if you go to the letters of the apostles, the only Christ you’ll find is a divine Christ.
The Jesus we find is one who makes the most astonishing and awe-inspiring claims, that all the world is going to see him one day with their own eyes, that he is now seated in the midst of the throne of God, right at the heart of the Sovereignty above, that he is coming again with the clouds of heaven. We are confronted today with this tremendous challenge from the dock of a makeshift courthouse in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago of our Lord Jesus’ assertion of his deity. The child in the manger, the infant of Mary, in all his frailty and humanness and ordinariness, looking indistinguishable from any other day old baby, is in fact the Lord of all. And in many ways today the challenge of God’s gospel is the challenge of the self-consciousness of Jesus, the challenge of the Lord’s claim to be God, to be the one who made the universe, the one who upholds it, the one who will judge it and consummate. That is the Lord’s claim. It is the claim that he made you, that he is your Lord, that he is your God.
I am not confronting you today with some emotional challenge. I am not appealing to your will to make a decision. I am presenting to you basically an intellectual challenge. The issue before you is the truthfulness of the words of Jesus. One day a man stood in the dock on trial for his life before the greatest court in the world and he was asked point blank under oath whether he was the Christ and the Son of God, and he said, “I am,” and that one day they would see this for themselves in their loathing and despair. I don’t know how you feel. Intrigued? Perplexed? Hostile? Maybe with John Wesley you feel that your heart being strangely warmed, but my challenge has nothing to do with the way you feel. It is a challenge of this most indisputable fact that here is a man who claims he is the anointed one, and the Son of the Blessed One. That he reigns in heaven and is coming again to this world, and I am saying to you that you must bow the knee to him – not if that hard heart of yours can work up some feelings, you must bow the knee to him if what he says is true. Now that is quite independent of what you feel. You may feel that he is God. You may feel no goose-pimples. You may feel your heart is not burning within you, but the question is this, is the reply Jesus gave to the chief priest true? If it is true it is a truth of the most momentous consequences. If what he says is true then if you reject him that is an eternal rejection, an eternal mind set locking Christ out of your life, utterly unaffected by your death. Then you cannot be with him where he is, but if what he says is true and you accept him then he becomes your Saviour.
Jesus Christ is not on trial today. Behold, the Christ of the New Testament stands here before men and answers their question, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” and he says, “I am.” Now here you have a man who must be a devil or a megalomaniac if this reply is a deliberate lie. Does the Jesus of the New Testament seem to anyone to be crazy? Doesn’t he seem the most sane man you have ever met? Does the Jesus of the New Testament seem to you to be a devil worshipper? The very opposite!
I am asking you again, have you pondered on the challenge of Jesus’ reply? Have you reflected on the possibility that what he says is true, the possibility that Christ is God the Son? I am saying that there is never going to be a more important question to rise up and confront you during your whole life. It will never go away. You have every right in a purely academic respect to examine it and reject it, but you have no right simply to ignore these words of Jesus. That is one thing you cannot do with Christ. That is not something any person who ever met him was ever able to do with him. There were those who followed him, and there were those who cried “Crucify him,” but there was no one who could brush him aside as beneath contempt; his life and teaching and deeds won’t allow you to do that. The Lord Christ said, “Your eyes will see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty one and coming on the clouds of heaven.” I am asking you today whether you have pondered that claim, and I am saying if these words of Jesus are true then you must bow the knee; you must submit your intellect, you must fall before him in wonder, love and praise.
I am talking about the fact that one night in Jerusalem in a solemn court of law, Jesus of Nazareth was put on oath and was asked if he really were the Christ the Son of the Blessed One. He humbled himself to stand there, and he replied to them, “I am.” That is objective reality; if there were a court scribe present then he wrote down those words in the court’s records as the basis for the court’s condemnation. Those words are either the words of a provocative blasphemer or they are the words of the living God, and if they are the words of God the Son who has come into the world to seek and save us from ignorance and guilt and condemnation then you must fall at Jesus’ feet. You must fall at his feet because the Christian faith is true. It seems to me that very often men and women seem to be looking for reasons other than that for becoming Christians. To me there is one great reason for being a Christian and that is because it is true, and the moment it is true it has the right to the allegiance of every human being.
I could lower my voice now, and ask you to bow your heads, and then say we are going to pray, but while you are quiet and closing your eyes I could start to manipulate you and talk to you telling you that Jesus can give you comfort, and Jesus can make you feel good, and Jesus can strengthen your marriage, and Jesus can meet your deepest needs, and you won’t be lonely with Jesus. All of that might be true, but before any of that is true it is true that when Christ spoke the winds and waves obeyed him; it is true that the tomb was empty on the third day; that the Son of God arose and that now he is sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One. And I am urging your submission to Christ in the name of the objective reality and veracity of that. Christ claimed to be God, and if that is true it commands, and it deserves and it compels my allegiance.
Some days I feel religious; some days I feel prayerful; some days I feel loving, but there are days when I feel dead and lost. But the case for Jesus Christ does not fluctuate as my emotions fluctuate. The case rests on the objective truth of the statements of Christ endorsed by a life of extraordinary supernatural power and displayed in a walk of integrity and gracious humility in the eyes of the watching world. And it is on that solid rock I want you to stand today.
These words of Jesus are our message to the whole world today, “He is the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One, and you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty one and coming on the clouds of heaven.” We are not bearing testimony to experiences we’ve had. We are bearing witness to the glory of Jesus Christ. When men came to John the Baptist they wanted to hear John talking about John the Baptist, but John the Baptist would have none of it. John the Baptist said, “Behold the Lamb of God who carries away the sin of the world.” He was pointing away from himself; “I must decrease and he must increase,” he was saying, and that is the message of the Christian church. It is pointing to the one who sits at the right hand of the Mighty One. A Christian is man who makes stupendous claims on behalf of his Saviour. That every movement in the universe owes its energy to the power it receives from one who reigns in heaven. One day he is coming back, but not to a stable rather from a throne and on the clouds of heaven, and on that day he will pull the universe apart, atom by atom, molecule by molecule, and he will put the whole universe together again as a new heaven and a new earth.
I believe that you and will stand before him face to face and give an account, and from him receive our destinies. I believe that in him we meet ultimate and absolute and final reality. I believe that he is God, the only God there is; in him is the fulness of God; the whole form of God and the whole glory of God is found in Jesus Christ. That is what a Christian is. He may be more, but he believes nothing less. He believes in the greatness of Jesus Christ, the unique grandeur of the Lord, the incomparable majesty of Jesus of Nazareth.
Who is He in yonder stall
At whose feet the shepherds fall?
‘Tis the Lord O wondrous story!
‘Tis the Lord the King of glory!
At His feet we humbly fall
Crown Him, crown Him Lord of all.
This is the Christ we shall see, not standing in the dock, not wearing a crown of thorns, not manacled and despised, not humiliated and scorned but sitting at the right hand of the Mighty one, coming on the clouds of heaven. The slain one is the exalted and glorious one whom we worship and adore, and when we see him, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
7th August 2005 GEOFF THOMAS