19 Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. 20 “I have spoken openly to the world,” Jesus replied. “I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. 21 Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.” 22 When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby slapped him in the face. “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” he demanded. 23 “If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?” 24 Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.–John 18:19-24 (NIV)
With His first answer to the high priest, Jesus receives a slap in the face from one of the temple officials. Thus begins the mockery that is called a trial. This type of questioning and cruel treatment would continue through the night. When the high priest Annas finished questioning Jesus, he bound Him and sent Him to Caiaphas the high priest.
(There were not really two high priests at this time. The Romans had removed Annas in AD 15, yet the Jews still respected him and considered him a high priest. Since his removal from office by the Romans, five of his sons had served as high priest and now, Caiaphas, his son-in-law was the actual high priest.)
Jesus never claimed to be anyone but who He was. He never wavered or changed His story. He understood and accepted the reason He was being mistreated. He is our example of how we should respond when we are mistreated for His name’s sake. No matter how we suffer, if we are called to suffer, Jesus has already been there and worse. He will be there to carry us through. We should remember what Paul wrote to Timothy: 11 And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher.12 That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day.–2 Timothy 1:11,12 (NIV)
We too are appointed as heralds and teachers of the gospel of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. 11 It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him:
12 If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us:
–2 Timothy 2:11,12 (NIV)
We must be ready to die for Him now, if we expect to reign with Him in heaven.
15 Simon Peter and another one of Jesus’ followers went along after Jesus. This follower knew the high priest, so he went with Jesus into the high priest’s courtyard. 16 But Peter waited outside near the door. The follower who knew the high priest came back outside, spoke to the girl at the door, and brought Peter inside. 17 The girl at the door said to Peter, “Aren’t you also one of that man’s followers?” Peter answered, “No, I am not!” 18 It was cold, so the servants and guards had built a fire and were standing around it, warming themselves. Peter also was standing with them, warming himself.—John 18:15-18 (NCV)
When Jesus was arrested in the garden, all the disciples fled, However, two of them came back at some point on the journey from the Garden to the priest’s house. One of them we are sure is Simon Peter, The other follower is assumed to be John because, in the book of John, John does not normally refer to himself by name, but with a brief description such as “the disciple that Jesus loved”. John went inside the house with Jesus, but Peter stayed outside near the door. John shows us that Jesus has taught him to care about others since he went into the house with Jesus, seemingly not caring if the others knew he was a follower of Jesus. Then he comes back out to have Peter brought inside. A nice gesture on a cold night. But when the girl goes to bring Peter inside, she recognizes Peter and she asks him if he isn’t also one of the followers of Jesus. Peter answers that he is not. Peter makes his first denial of the evening. Now he will have to keep lying about his relationship with Jesus. As we know, one lie always leads to another and it gets easier each time we tell it. Peter failed Jesus with words, how many times have we done that? And just as hypocritical, how many times have we betrayed Jesus with our silence? How many times have we grieved God the Holy Spirit with our refusal to allow Him to lead us? Everyday, with our actions or lack of actions and our words or our lack of words, we deny God the Father and grieve God the Holy Spirit.
4 Jesus fully realized all that was going to happen to him, so he stepped forward to meet them. “Who are you looking for?” he asked. 5 “Jesus the Nazarene,” they replied. “I am he,” Jesus said. (Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them.) 6 As Jesus said “I am he,” they all drew back and fell to the ground! 7 Once more he asked them, “Who are you looking for?” And again they replied, “Jesus the Nazarene.” 8 “I told you that I am he,” Jesus said. “And since I am the one you want, let these others go.” 9 He did this to fulfill his own statement: “I did not lose a single one of those you have given me.” 10 Then Simon Peter drew a sword and slashed off the right ear of Malchus, the high priest’s slave. 11 But Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its sheath. Shall I not drink from the cup of suffering the Father has given me?”—John 18:4-11 (NLT)
When Judas had led the Roman soldiers and the Temple guard to Jesus, Jesus asked them who they were looking for. When they replied that they were looking for Jesus the Nazarene, Jesus said “I AM HE”. His words were so powerful that all the soldiers and guards fell to the ground, After all, this was the same voice that spoke the world and everything in it into existence. 1 In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He existed in the beginning with God. 3 God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. 4 The Word gave life to everything that was created. –John 1: 1-4a (NLT)
Jesus could just as easily have spoken words of death to them, but because of His love for man, He did not do that. Instead, He spoke words that gave His disciples life and liberty. This fulfilled His earlier words that He would not lose any of the ones that God the Father had given Him. Even when Peter took out his sword, Jesus admonished him to put his sword away. There are times to fight, there are times to stand and then there are those times when we must drink from the cup of suffering if we are to be counted as a child of God. We each have a cross to bear. Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.–Luke 9:23 (NLT)
45 Many of the Jews, who had come to visit Mary and saw what Jesus did, believed in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 Then the leading priests and Pharisees called a meeting of the Jewish council. They asked, “What should we do? This man is doing many miracles. 48 If we let him continue doing these things, everyone will believe in him. Then the Romans will come and take away our Temple and our nation.” 49 One of the men there was Caiaphas, the high priest that year. He said, “You people know nothing! 50 You don’t realize that it is better for one man to die for the people than for the whole nation to be destroyed.” 51 Caiaphas did not think of this himself. As high priest that year, he was really prophesying that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation 52 and for God’s scattered children to bring them all together and make them one.—John 11:45-52 (NCV)
After seeing Lazarus come out of the tomb, some of the people believed and others went to tell what they had seen. When they told the Pharisees and the leading priests, this group called a meeting of the whole Jewish council. The council was afraid that if Jesus kept doing miracles, He and His followers might become too powerful and upset the Romans. Then the Romans would remove them from the Temple and take away the authority they had been allowed to exercise over the Jewish people. Without realizing what he was saying, Caiaphas, the high priest for that year, prophesied that Jesus would die for the redemption of the Jews and other nations to make them into one body, the Church. But, since they could not sentence anyone to death, they needed the Romans to do that for them. God uses people to fulfill His plans and He has a purpose for every life. Some are willing agents. Isaiah, Moses, Daniel, David and the apostles are good examples. Others are used by God, even if it is unwillingly and unwittingly, to accomplish His purpose. Pharaoh, Caiaphas, Judas and Pilate are examples of this type of agent. 16 It was by Him that everything was created: the heavens, the earth, all things within and upon them, all things seen and unseen, thrones and dominions, spiritual powers and authorities. Every detail was crafted through His design, by His own hands, and for His purposes. 17 He has always been! It is His hand that holds everything together. 18 He is the head of this body, the church. He is the beginning, the first of those to be reborn from the dead, so that in every aspect, at every view, in everything—He is first.—- Colossians 1:16-18 (THE VOICE). Which will we be, willing or unwilling agents?
28 While Jesus was teaching in the Temple, he called out, “Yes, you know me, and you know where I come from. But I represent one you don’t know, and he is true. 29 I know him because I have come from him, and he sent me to you.” 30 Then the leaders tried to arrest him; but no one laid a hand on him, because his time had not yet come. 31 Many among the crowds at the Temple believed in him. “After all,” they said, “would you expect the Messiah to do more miraculous signs than this man has done?” 32 When the Pharisees heard that the crowds were murmuring such things, they and the leading priests sent Temple guards to arrest Jesus.–John 7:28-32 (NLT)
When it comes to the message of Jesus Christ, nothing in the message has changed and it never will. Apparently, the reactions and responses from the crowd haven’t changed much either. People see the same signs and hear the same words today. Just as it was then, there are some who believe and some who don’t believe. Not everyone that saw and heard Jesus believed, Not everyone that saw and heard Paul and the other apostles believed. Not everyone that hears the message from us is going to believe. However, just as Jesus, Paul and our other Christian ancestors never gave up, neither can we. They preached until the crowds persecuted and killed them. Not many of us will have to pay that price. 12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. 2 We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. 3 Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. 4 After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.—Hebrews 12:1-4 (NLT)
The things we suffer here and now are nothing compared to what Jesus has prepared for us in eternity. Count it all joy!
14 We need to hold on to our declaration of faith: We have a superior chief priest who has gone through the heavens. That person is Jesus, the Son of God. 15 We have a chief priest who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses. He was tempted in every way that we are, but he didn’t sin. 16 So we can go confidently to the throne of God’s kindness to receive mercy and find kindness, which will help us at the right time.–Hebrews 4:14-16 (GW)
In the Old Testament, the priests were chosen from the tribe of Levi, but Jesus is from the lineage of the tribe of Judah. The Levitical priests gave temporary sacrifices that had to be repeated over and over. They even gave sacrifices for “unknown” sins, just in case somebody had missed one. But Jesus came into our world and suffered the same temptations we go through. He did this without sinning, but having suffered through those, he can empathize with our weaknesses. He became the perfect and last sacrifice necessary for sin. After suffering death on the cross, He was made our High Priest and now stands at the right hand of God interceding for us. No more sacrifice is necessary, we just need to accept His forgiveness and live a life modeled after His life here on earth. We will stumlbe and fall, but He is there to pick us up.
14 Since all of these sons and daughters have flesh and blood, Jesus took on flesh and blood to be like them. He did this so that by dying he would destroy the one who had power over death (that is, the devil). 15 In this way he would free those who were slaves all their lives because they were afraid of dying. 16 So Jesus helps Abraham’s descendants rather than helping angels. 17 Therefore, he had to become like his brothers and sisters so that he could be merciful. He became like them so that he could serve as a faithful chief priest in God’s presence and make peace with God for their sins. 18 Because Jesus experienced temptation when he suffered, he is able to help others when they are tempted.–Hebrews 2:14-18 (GW)
Jesus took on flesh and blood and became human just as we are. He became like us so that He could experience the same things we experience. Because Jesus was willing to do that, He knows our feelings and our weaknesses. He understands the situations we go through and the temptations we face. The difference is that He went through these same things without sinning. Because He is perfect, He is more than qualified to serve as the sacrificial Lamb for our sins. His perfection also qualified Him to be our chief Priest. It also qualifies Him to judge us and correct us when we sin. God made Him a little lower than the angels and then restored Him to His glory in heaven, where He is, even now, interceding for us when we fall to temptations.
14 Since we have a great high priest, Jesus the Son of God, who has gone into heaven, let us hold on to the faith we have. 15 For our high priest is able to understand our weaknesses. He was tempted in every way that we are, but he did not sin. 16 Let us, then, feel very sure that we can come before God’s throne where there is grace. There we can receive mercy and grace to help us when we need it.–Hebrews 4:14-16 (NCV)
There are many times in our journey that we fall short of the mark. There will always be those times as long as we remain in these human bodies. When it comes to being tempted, we are very weak. Because Jesus went through the same temptations when He walked on this earth, He understands our failures. The devil will take those failures and beat us up over and over, telling us how we are no longer a child of God because we failed. But don’t let those failures stop you from repenting. Just remember that guilt and condemnation come from the devil, who is a thief and a liar. Conviction comes from the Holy Spirit and calls us to the throne room of God where we can ask for and receive His forgiveness. We can be very sure that we will receive mercy and grace from our Father. We will receive this not because we have done anything to earn it, but simply because of what Jesus did for us at the Cross. Even right now, Jesus is at the right hand of the Father interceding for us. The Father will not refuse anything that the Son ask from Him. So, hold on and press on because Jesus has paid the price.
17 I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near—a star shall come out of Jacob,
and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; it shall crush the borderlands of Moab,
and the territory of all the Shethites. Numbers 24:17 (NRSV)
This would have been a strange prophecy for the Israelites to hear. This was a conformation of the prophecy in Gen 49:10 that the scepter would never depart from between Judah’s feet. All priests were to be of the tribe of Levi and Jacob was of the tribe of Judah. How could a priest rise out of the tribe of Judah? But God had a plan that would not violate the laws that He had handed down. When the scepter rose out of Israel, there would be a change in the way people were to worship God. This is explained further in Hebrews. 12 For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well. 13 Now the one of whom these things are spoken belonged to another tribe, from which no one has ever served at the altar. 14 For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. 15 It is even more obvious when another priest arises, resembling Melchizedek, 16 one who has become a priest, not through a legal requirement concerning physical descent, but through the power of an indestructible life.–Hebrews 7:12-15 (NRSV)
So, we see that while the priesthood of the Levites was established by the law, the priesthood of Jesus was established through the power of an indestructible life that could only be from the Creator. It was decided before the earth was formed. Jesus would be the final and perfect blood sacrifice for all the sin of the world. He was not, can not, and will not be destroyed or defeated. What Adam gave up in Eden, Jesus took back with His death and resurrection.
Now, we celebrate His birth, but that truly was just the beginning.