Several of us recently took to the streets to incorporate what we were learning in the Way of the Master course we completed. This is an evangelistic training course that helps us to interact with confidence as we share the gospel of Jesus Christ with unbelievers. As Christians, we want to make sure that what we learn is not merely an intellectual exercise but we want to live out what we are learning. And so to be consistent with this, and because of our commission to make disciples, we went out of our comfort zones to have “cold” conversations with people. As you know, this is not all that easy. This is something that definitely takes many of us out of our comfort zones.
For a number of reasons, it is easier for me being a pastor to tell the same truths within this environment. This is because to be here on a Sunday morning indicates that there is at least a desire to hear of spiritual matters. Right? We haven’t come here to get advice on how to be a better baseball player or advice on financial investments or to discuss the latest on Hollywood movies. We have come because of our desire to hear from God through his word. And so for me and others to talk about Jesus in this environment is expected. We have come here this morning at least primed for spiritual matters.
So, for those who have had experience sharing with people about Jesus, you know that there are some things at stake once you’ve done so – especially in a small town context. If you are in the Boston Pizza / cinema / liquor store parking lot, it is almost guaranteed that you will come across people you know. This friend, co-worker, store clerk will see you with perhaps a couple paperback New Testaments and gospel tracts. Deep breath. Because having taken this step, you have chosen your team. In the words of some of the bystanders in our text this morning, “you are one of them.”
The question of our lives is, “are you ok with this?” I’ll pause for a moment as you consider this. This is something you need to make sure that are firmly and confidently alright with claiming. If you answer in the affirmative that you are “one of them,” “a Christian, a disciple of Jesus Christ,” there is a cost. You have simultaneously become a “fool” in the eyes of the world and an “ambassador” for the King of Kings. Have you ever considered that?? I think some of us have embraced the thought that we will spend eternity in heaven with him and forgotten that we will be rejected by unbelievers. We want to be accepted by God and the world.
We will see these issues emerge in our text today. Please turn in your Bibles to Mark 14. We will be dealing with verses 53-72.
If you had highlighter in hand, you might likely do as I do. In a given text, I will highlight, underline, circle things that are interesting. In our passage today, we have a word and theme that is repeated frequently. As I read the text, listen for them. I think you will see emphasized the theme of “testimony.” And this is why the title of the sermon is “Testify.” You will see this evident in words such as testimony, witness, testify, and unfortunately even “deny.” READ.
As I mentioned there is a lot of testimony (or lack thereof) in this text. Our first type of testimony is our first point: Opposing Testimony.
We see this is in verses 55, 56, and 57. It is identified as testimony against Jesus. We find ourselves in what is known as “Passion Week” in the life of Jesus. It wasn’t too long ago that he and the disciples had entered into Jerusalem where Jesus pronounced judgment on the temple and its practices. And then just before the Passover, according to Mark 14.1, the chief priests and scribes were seeking to arrest Jesus and to kill Jesus. But there was the problem of the Passover, where they feared potential rioting from the hundreds of thousands of people who had come to Jerusalem to celebrate.
But, according to the plan of God, there was a traitor in the midst of the disciples who sought out these religious leaders in order to betray Jesus to them. His name was Judas Iscariot. This made the chief priests and scribes very happy because it provided a means to get to Jesus by stealth and avoid any crowds.
None of this took Jesus by surprise. In fact, he foretold the event as he joined his disciples in celebrating the Passover with them. All along, Jesus knew that this was part of God’s plan so that he could fulfill his mission and die on a cross for sinners.
After Jesus institutes the Lord’s Supper during the Passover celebration, he and his disciples go to the Mount of Olives where Jesus makes this alarming pronouncement. He He says that all of his disciples would leave him and that the chief of the disciples, Peter himself, would deny Jesus three times that very night. Instead of accepting the Lord’s words humbly, Peter makes a rash and proud statement saying that, despite the wavering faith of the others, he would certainly not deny Jesus.
We saw last week how the disciples departed from there and went to the Garden of Gethsemane where Jesus would warn his disciples to be on the alert while he went away to pray. Jesus spent some time pouring out his soul to God the Father. Three times he returned to his disciples to find them sleeping and not watching. And on the third time, Jesus sees that the betrayal is at hand and those who would capture him were approaching. Judas betrays Jesus and the crowd apprehends him. And Jesus says, “let the Scriptures be fulfilled.” And they all left him as he had said. And this is where we left off and where we will pick up the story this morning.
What we will see is Mark’s intentionality in his recording of events once again. He has repeatedly organized stories in order to communicate significant lessons for his readers. In other words, Mark does not just provide a running commentary on chronological events, but wishes to draw our attention to similarities and contrasts. And the same is true with the passage this morning. There is a contrast between Jesus’ response in interrogation and Peter’s response. Mark sets them up as simultaneous events and notes the differences.
The religious leaders must have been thrilled with their plan. They have succeeded in acquiring Jesus. Now they merely needed to find charges against him so that they could finish the end goal – which was his death.
In verse 53, they take him to the high priest where the chief priests and elders and scribes have all come together. Verse 55 alludes to the whole Council, otherwise known as the Sanhedrin. Normally, the Sanhedrin would convene and meet in an assembly hall called the “Chamber of Hewn Stone” which would be found in the temple area in Jerusalem. This is where people would be tried for their crimes. And these hearings would be held in the daytime. You know, “normal business hours.”
But we find some irregularities in this current situation. It appears that they have gathered at night and not at the chamber in the temple courts, but at the house of the high priest Caiaphas. In addition, I found that the religious leaders were allowed to follow their customs regarding religious matters and provide justice on such things. But they were not permitted to sentence offenders to death as they pleased. So, because they did not have the power of capital punishment, I believe that they were likely have something similar to a police interrogation before going to trial. They were trying to pile up evidence against Jesus.
For a moment follow the narrative. They have picked up Jesus in Gethsemane and dragged him to the high priest’s house. The disciples have scattered. And then there’s Peter… Peter followed him at a distance – even to the house where Jesus is being questioned. Peter is outside warming himself by the fire. And that’s where we leave him and return to the house – likely to an upper room because Peter is apparently “down below” as verse 66 indicates.
Verse 55 tells us that the chief priests and the whole Council were seeking testimony against Jesus. If you remember at the outset of our study, we mentioned briefly that when Mark uses the word for “seek” here (ζητέω), it is always in a negative sense. The religious leaders are never “seekers” of Jesus in the way that the term is used today. It is always “seeking” to get him. Remember Mark 11.18, “And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching. “ And Mark 12.12, “And they were seeking to arrest him but feared the people, for they perceived that he had told the parable against them. “ And, of course, we most recently saw Mark 14.1, “It was now two days before the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest him by stealth and kill him.” So, it’s safe to say that these guys were not genuinely interested in “seeking” Jesus in order to put their faith in him. And here they are seeking testimony against Jesus to put him to death.
Next, we see False Testimony. Verse 56 says that there were many who bore false testimony against Jesus. And in verses 57-59, some stood up and said, “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.’” The question is, did Jesus actually say this? The closest thing to this that is recorded is Jesus’ words to the Jews in John 2.19 was, “destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” And here he never indicates that he would be the one to destroy any temple. He did indicate that the literal temple would be destroyed – just not by him. Mark 13.1-2, “And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.”
Secondly, we know that Jesus isn’t referring to the physical temple. Rather, he is alluding to his body. And so they are also wrong in saying that Jesus refers to a temple made with hands. We also know that the early church looked upon the Christian as a metaphorical temple. 1 and 2 Corinthians both refer to the Christian as the temple of God and of the Holy Spirit.
And in Jesus’ case, he was speaking specifically to his own body that would be crucified. And this same body he would raise up in three days! The only conclusion from false testimony is that it is also inconsistent testimony. Verse 56 says that for the many who bore false witness, their testimony did not agree. And in verse 59, their accusations regarding what Jesus said and did not say, did not agree.
Now, we know that this is true today as well. There are many opinions of who Jesus is. You could get as many answers as people you talk to. There are those who are completely ignorant of Jesus. They do not know that he is the Son of God who came to earth to die for sins. They have never heard the name of Jesus whatsoever.
Then there are those who are ambivalent about his claims and consider him to be one of many spiritual paths. And then there are some who bear false witness about him in an attempt to discredit him. These are those actively opposed to Jesus. Perhaps you have encountered such people. They may mock Jesus and look for you to waver in your faith or respond sinfully to their remarks. And the hope and the encouragement for you is that the same thing will result. If not in this lifetime, the truth will become evident and any such testimony against Jesus will be exposed and shown to be inconsistent and false.
Next, we come to True Testimony. After the unsuccessful attempts from the “many” in verse 56 and the “some” of verse 57, the high priest stood up in the midst of them all and asked Jesus, “aren’t you going to say something? Anything? Do you hear the charges leveled at you? What about your defense?”
It is almost comical as you picture the scene, isn’t it? Here are all these false reports being spewed out. None of it agrees with each other. They don’t quote him right. They’re probably getting all worked up because they just want to be able to come up with something – anything – to be able to put Jesus to trial and death. And Jesus probably sits there with a grin on his face as they struggle with this.
Perhaps the high priest is hoping that Jesus will respond to the charges out of anger and give them some evidence against him. Or maybe he will say something they can leverage against him. And after the first couple of questions from the high priest, Jesus remained silent and gave no answer. There was no need for Jesus to speak because no argument had been sustained. Could it be at this point that you have some Old Testament prophecies come to mind? Isaiah 53.7, “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.”
Maybe the high priest was tired and wanted to cut to the chase. He asks Jesus again in verse 61, “Look. Jesus. Enough with all this playing around. Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” Now this was getting to the point. The first part of the question would refer to him being the anticipated Messiah. The second part is even more important. “The Son of the Blessed” would be equated with deity. It’s all come down to this! All throughout the Gospel, Jesus has tried to conceal his identity. Here we finally get to the heart of the issue. And it is initiated through one of his opponents.
How does Jesus respond? Does he answer politically in an attempt to avert any criticism or judgment? Nope. Jesus says, “I am.” And perhaps this is more than just an answer in the affirmative. Where have we heard these words before? Exodus 3.14. “God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, ‘Say this to the people of Israel, I AM has sent me to you.’” This is none other than the divine name, Yahweh.
He says, “I am. AND… and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” If there was any doubt from his initial two words what he was getting at, there remains no more ambiguity. In this statement, Jesus has just declared himself to be the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy and the one who will judge the earth and rule on a heavenly throne. Daniel 7.13-14 reads, ““I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”
We recall a little while ago that Jesus is also the fulfillment of Psalm 110.1 which reads, “The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” To sit at the right hand represents divine power exercised in the heavenly places.
So there is Jesus. Remember, he probably isn’t all that impressive looking. He is a commoner from Nazareth. He’s probably dirty and a little bloody from being apprehended. He’s tired. He’s been praying and sweating drops of blood. He’s in the midst of all the religious elite. And this man has just declared himself to be God! David Garland adds, “to imagine this man as God's Messiah, let alone as the one who exercises the power of God, must have seemed laughable to them if it were not so offensive."
And this all the high priest needs to hear. He tears his garments and says, “What further witnesses do we need? You have heard his blasphemy.” In truth, it is only blasphemy if he is wrong. And, though they could not officially pass sentence on him, they condemned him as deserving death. It was in this moment that Israel has rejected her king.
And then they began to spit on the King. They covered his face and struck him – imploring him to determine who it was that was striking him. And they continued to strike him all the more. All the while the Old Testament prophecies are being fulfilled. Isaiah 50.6, “I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting.” Isaiah 53.3-5, “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. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.”
At the same time that Jesus was fulfilling prophecy, so was Peter. In the account that is simultaneous to Jesus and the religious rulers we see our final point: Failed Testimony.
Peter is an interesting disciple and difficult to figure out. On one hand, he offers bold statements regarding Jesus. He is the one that confidently declared that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God. And he is one who cannot stay awake in the Garden. Peter is the one that we often jump all over because of this failed attempt to stand up for his Lord. And yet he is the only one of the disciples who is at least close by. Perhaps Peter had remembered his bold and rash pledge to die with Jesus. And this may be a meager attempt to follow through. Albeit he is doing this from a distance.
Whatever the case, notice the contrast that I referred to earlier. Jesus is in this upper room of the high priest’s house being interrogated by the religious leaders. He knows he will be soon going to the cross. And his answers to their questions will sentence him. And he doesn’t waver.
Peter, on the other hand, also has a great opportunity to testify publicly regarding his allegiance to the Lord Jesus and fails miserably. And this “interrogation” comes at the hand of a servant girl.
You’ve got to wonder how Peter thought he could get away with walking on property of the high priest – in his courtyard. At first glance, it would seem as though the others in the courtyard were those who were involved in apprehending Jesus. Did Peter think that he wouldn’t be recognized?
I am not sure what would prompt the girl to approach Peter and point him out or why she would be hostile in such matters. But she sees him and says, “you were with him. You were with that Nazarene, Jesus.” This is meant to be derogatory. But Peter denies her claim saying, “I don’t understand.” Is this the equivalent of saying, “I don’t speak Spanish.”
So he leaves the campfire and moves out into the gateway. And then there’s a clue – a rooster crowed. You might think that Peter would catch on at this point and say, “Hey… I know what’s going on here. Jesus just said…” No deal. The girls follows after him and said to the others standing around, “this man is one of them.” And again, Peter denies the claim.
Then some of the others start pressing in and say, “certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” Isn’t that a curious thing to say? Matthew indicates that it was his accent that gave him away – as a Galilean, a northerner. Was it because Jesus’ ministry originated in the Galilee region that would have suggested that many from there were his followers? Perhaps it would be because Peter would have no other business for being in the courtyard of the high priest at that particular time unless he was involved in the whole nighttime ordeal.
And Peter’s response is intensified. The text reads in verse 71, that Peter began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear. I think that this would be akin to something like, “I’ll be damned if I know this man.” Wow!
There’s one thing that I have not been able to reconcile to this point. I’ll give you some extra homework… There are Scripture passages that indicate that the one who denies Jesus before men will be denied before the Father in heaven. You might think that these sorts of statements would fall into this category. These are three clear instances when this could apply. And yet we know that Peter would be later restored, used powerfully in establishing the first churches, and even give his life for his faith in Jesus Christ. So, I haven’t resolved this yet in my thinking.
At the same time that Jesus was fulfilling prophecy, Peter was fulfilling a more immediate prophecy from Jesus. That very night before the rooster crowed, Peter would deny Jesus three times. Verse 72 says immediately a rooster crowed and Peter broke. He knew immediately what had just occurred. And he wept.
This is obviously a special situation where Jesus mentions specifically that his disciples would abandon him and his most prominent disciple would deny him. However, this theme is not all that unique with contemporary disciples. Before we are too hard on Peter for his failings, aren’t we too susceptible to denying Jesus?
Our interrogations may not be as direct as the experience of Peter. Our denials of Christ may take more subtle forms – such as timid silence. Perhaps there have been times when false testimony has been spoken against Jesus, and we remain silent. I’ve been guilty of this too.
I can’t help but think of how this physical account symbolizes a spiritual lesson. I look at Peter entering the courtyard. Perhaps he has pulled a hood over his head to disguise himself. It’s March or April at this point. It was cold at night. There was a fire burning to keep the bystanders warm. Peter meanders in and tries to blend in.
How often do we try to blend into the crowd of our Master’s enemies? Peter denied openly his allegiance to Christ in the midst of the crowd. But don’t we do the same in an attempt to blend? I mean who wants to be singled out of a crowd and identified as “one of them?” This is where we started. Remember?
Could you be like Cassie Barnell who when asked if she believed in God, said “yes” and was shot immediately? Or like the countless martyrs throughout church history who did not cower? Or like our brothers and sisters in hostile countries who are killed daily because of Jesus Christ – who are not afraid to be “one of them.”
To this point, Peter is characterized as being brash and proud. He did not consider that he might fail his Lord and was not prepared for the temptation. 1 Corinthians 10.12 offers us some great advice. Paul writes, “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” Allow Peter’s example to help us remain humble and dependent on the grace of God.
Consider also the example of Jesus. He stood under more intense interrogation. Think of what he must have experienced as he considered that he was being rejected by those he created and those who should have represented and defended him. These were the religious leaders in Jerusalem. And yet Jesus considered obedience to the will of his Father as most important. And aren’t we grateful for that? If Jesus demanded his innocence, he would not have paid the price for our sins.
Let us show ourselves to be faithful disciples of Jesus and persevere – even in difficult circumstances. Let’s pray.