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Jesus Accused and Denied

March 10, 2013 Series: Gospel of Mark

Topic: Faith Passage: Mark 14:53–72

Open to Mark 14. We have a lot of ground to cover this morning so let me give a little background to set the stage for our passage. Jesus ministry is complete and He is now looking toward the cross. Judas has betrayed Jesus over to the religious leaders with a kiss. Jesus has been arrested. Let’s read Mark 14:53-72. 

After Jesus was arrested all the other disciples scattered; all but one. Peter, who just a few hours earlier had boasted that even if everyone else fell away he would not, followed Jesus into the courtyard of the Chief Priest. But in the end, he too not only abandoned but denied His friend Jesus. Everyone has failed Jesus.

Marks main point here is that, in the midst of Peter’s failure he’s pointing to the faithfulness of the Son of God. In the midst of the great failure of man, Jesus is faithful. What do you reach for when life begins to shift; when the things that once brought you security are shaken? What do you do when your expectations are left unmet and hopes are dashed?

Imagine being a member of the early church in Rome; not only being socially rejected and persecuted but knowing that recently a member of your community group was captured and thrown to the lions. And you’re aware that the soldiers could be at your door any time and when they come you’ll have to hide your family and open it. What are you going to hold on to in this moment? Where does our confidence to follow Christ come from? We’re going to come back to this question. But first we’re going to look at the faithfulness of Jesus and the failure of Peter.

The Faithfulness of Jesus
Jesus predicted that all of this would happen, didn’t he? He knew that Judas would betray Him (14:18). He told the disciples that the shepherd would be struck and the sheep would be scattered; He predicted that they would all leave Him. Even when Peter objected Jesus read his mail, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” [30] And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” [31] But he said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” But Jesus knew He would.

None of this was a surprise to Jesus. He saw all the betrayal and denial coming and He knew this was heading toward His death. He told them about His death on a number of occasions.
• 8:31-“the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.”
• 9:31-“The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.”
• 10:33-“See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. [34] And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”

He knew that the reason He was there was to die, He knew it was time and He knew He would have to do it alone. He was aware of the character and capacity of His followers. He remained faithful to His mission as He continued on the path toward the cross alone.

Verse 53 says, “they led Jesus to the high priest. And all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together.” This group was known as the Sanhedrin-the most powerful Jewish governing body under the Roman authorities. So the Sanhedrin had been gathered in the house of the Chief Priest in the middle of the night for the sake of a hurried and secret trial. The hypocrisy that has defined these guys is now oozing out all over the place. 

In an effort to “enforce” the law, the Sanhedrin broke the law on multiple levels: They were only supposed to meet during the day, only in the specified location, there were supposed to be 2 days of meetings to give opportunity for confirmation and all witnesses were to warned not to give false testimony. All this was ignored so that they could condemn Jesus. 55-They were looking for testimony to condemn Jesus. This was a hung jury. We know, the verdict has already been decided.

So all the testimony (false) began to fly; accusation after accusation. But none of it was consistent; they still needed the confirmation of at least 2 witnesses. Mark gives us an example in verse 58- “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’” Misunderstanding or misquote Jesus never say HE would destroy the temple and He was talking about the temple, He was referring to His body (John 2:19). Jesus remained silent. He wasn’t going to validate or support this mockery.

He remained silent…until the Chief Priest asked Him in verse 61 “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed (God)?” The irony is that this question was intended to trap and condemn Jesus but is actually the truest and clearest confession about Jesus recorded in this gospel. “You are the Christ, the Son of God, right? Using the truth to condemn the Truth.

Now Jesus speaks up. He was faithful to who He is. And He gave them more than they asked for. In verse 62 Jesus answered “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven. (Is. 52, Ps. 110, Dan. 7)” I am, is the answer they wanted. What follows is a severe warning to His accusers; you stand before me now to judge me but soon I will judge you. The Chief Priest responds by tearing his clothes and saying, “What further witnesses do we need? You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death.”

Jesus is faithful to tell the truth about Himself even though His testimony would condemn Him to death. In that moment Jesus chose death. He didn’t take the easy way out. He was faithful and true to His character, His word and the mission that He was sent for. And because He was faithful, the abuse began. They beat Him, spit, mocked and taunted Him. And he was handed over to the guards.

The Failure of Peter
While all this is going on, Peter was in the courtyard. While Jesus was in the official trial Peter found himself being tried as well. A servant girl recognizes him and calls Him out as one of Jesus disciples. Read 66-68. This is big bad Peter, who hours earlier was pledging his life for Jesus and is now completely denying any knowledge or association with him because of the accusation of a servant girl. She followed him and the prosecution continued and now she brought some witnesses, “This man is one of them” but again he denied it. And then the witnesses said, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.”

He denies Jesus for the 3rd time and He swears that he doesn’t know Him. And then vs. 72-read. This is utter failure; the end of Peter’s faith; his following Jesus. Peter has reached the end of himself. He has come face to face with the reality of who he really is. He’s finally getting an accurate picture of who he is and he’s broken. He’s a man with no hope as he realizes what he’s done and who he really is.

I wonder if you can identify with Peter? I know I can. I know the pain that lies underneath the word “remember”. I know what it’s like to have missed the first crow of the rooster and then hear the second and only then remember what the Lord had said. I know what it is to weep bitterly at the realization of my weakness and sinfulness and failure. But how does this give us hope? How does this picture of failure point us to Christ? We can so easily get stuck in the pit of our own failure and find ourselves unable to climb out in order to see Jesus. But Mark wants us to know that there is a way out.

If you know Christ you know what it is to know your weakness. Our failures are not isolated problems that need to be addressed. Our failures are simply glimpses into our constant state of being. You are weak; you are sinful; you are unfaithful; you are unable to please God no matter how hard you try! But Jesus is strong; Jesus is righteous; Jesus is faithful. And I believe the hope for us in this passage is found in the way Mark wrote it.

In 53-54 Jesus is led to the high priest and Peter follows to the courtyard and then he returns to Jesus. He uses this literary form to show that these are happening at the same time. Jesus is on trial; Peter is on trial. I’m going to read this passage again but a little out of order to try and simulate how this might have happened in real time.

[53] And they led Jesus to the high priest.

[54] And Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest.

And all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together.

And he was sitting with the guards and warming himself at the fire.

[55] Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but they found none. [56] For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree.

[66] And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came,

[57] And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying, [58] “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’” [59] Yet even about this their testimony did not agree.

[67] and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.”

[60] And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” [61] But he remained silent and made no answer.

[68] But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway and the rooster crowed. [69] And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.”

Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?”

[70] But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.”

[62] And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”

[71] But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.”

[63] And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need?

[72] And immediately the rooster crowed a second time.

[64] You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?”

And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him,

And they all condemned him as deserving death.

“Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.”

[65] And some began to spit on him and to cover his face and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophesy!” And the guards received him with blows.

And he broke down and wept.

The Foundation of our Confidence
In the midst of Peter’s failure, Jesus was faithful. When we fail, Jesus has already been faithful! This is our hope. We know from the other gospels that when Jesus told Peter that he would deny Him, He also said that He had prayed for Him, that His faith would not fail. And after the resurrection Jesus restored Peter. And Peter would go on to boldly preach, defend and die for the gospel of Jesus Christ, his friend.

Jesus didn’t come to set an unattainable standard; that standard already existed…and we failed to keep it. He came to meet that standard. This wasn’t a competition between Jesus and Peter. This is a display of the love of God in the form of a sacrificial Lamb doing for Peter and for us what we were unable to do. Jesus faithfulness didn’t end this night. As we’ll see in the weeks to come, Jesus was faithful all the way to the cross and the grave. He willingly gave himself to these hypocrites to be mistreated and killed; to hang on the cross and die; to take the full wrath of God, the punishment for sin. He was faithful to the end.

I can’t help but think about Romans 5:6, “For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. [8] but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Peter, the onetime self-confident, self-made man had come to the end of himself. But in seeing his own failure he saw the faithfulness of Jesus; he saw his weakness but learned the strength of the Savior so that he could say with Paul, “When I am weak, then I am strong”.

If Peter was here he would say to us, “don’t put any confidence in your ability to remain faithful to Christ but place all of your confidence in Christ’s ability to be faithful to you.” So let us cast off all confidence in our own ability, strength, will. And let us lean wholly on the faithfulness of Jesus.

Where does our confidence to follow Christ come from? If it’s not in Jesus and His rock solid faithfulness, we have no confidence at all. So when your faith is weak, take confidence in Christ. When temptation and sin seem to overwhelm like a flood, rely on the blood of Christ shed for you. When hope and joy flee, remember that He is our satisfaction. When trial and tragedy come and turn life upside down, put your trust in Jesus who sees the beginning from the end and knows all the answers to why. He is faithful.

Though we fail Him, He will never fail us. He is faithful to His children and will keep us till the end. He will never leave us or forsake us, even though He was forsaken by everyone. And because of what He suffered He is able to sympathize with us and comfort us and strengthen us through our suffering. So look to Jesus who, though we are so often unfaithful to Him, is always faithful to us.