Peace be with you!
Yesterday’s devotion ended with Jesus being arrested and the disciples scattering. Today, Jesus’ trial begins.
Once he is arrested, Jesus is taken to a meeting of the Sanhedrin (the Jewish priestly council) led by Caiaphas, the high priest. Everyone is looking for false testimony against Jesus Christ, yet they cannot find anything to charge him with (Matthew 26:59-60). Hmmm…I wonder why?
Then two witnesses come forward. One witness quotes Jesus saying, “I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.” (Matthew 26:61). Jesus stays quiet, which irritates the high priest. But what can Jesus say? “Yes, I said that but I am talking about myself, not the actual building.” If the high priests do not get it now, then what else can Jesus say? So Jesus remains quiet. I shared a story Sunday about an experience I had on a bus in St. Paul, Minnesota. I was harassed by a bus driver who was resistant to tying my electric wheelchair down. I too was unable to say anything to help my case. Other passengers took the driver’s position by saying I needed a personal caregiver to take the bus with me. Whatever I could have said would not have helped; clearly, no one would have listened or understood what I said, so why bother?
Caiaphas says Jesus is under oath and should tell them he is the Messiah, Son of God (Matthew 26:63). Caiaphas has set a trap for Jesus, yet he replies, “You have said so. But I tell you, From now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on clouds of heaven” (Matthew 26:64, NRSV). Jesus does not say he is the Messiah, but Caiaphas still charges him with blasphemy. When Caiaphas asks the whole council what its verdict is, it finds Jesus guilty and sentences him to death (Matthew 26:66).
Then the whole council spits on, strikes, and slaps at Jesus, taunting him all the while (Matthew 26:67-68). God takes a dramatic step and has Jesus suffer to the greatest extent for our sake. Jesus is on trial for our sins – self-pity, greediness, lies, murder, stealing, affairs, blasphemy, or [whatever “it” is] you do against God’s commands. How could he take it?
The first time Peter denies Jesus, a servant-girl points at the disciple and says, “He was with Jesus the Galilean” (Matthew 26:69). Peter replies, “I do not know what you are talking about” (Matthew 26:70). Of course he knows Jesus, but being in the midst of city hostile toward Jesus Peter chooses to protect himself. Does Peter want to be arrested like Jesus was?
The second and third times he is asked, Peter answers the bystanders the same way. Peter denies Jesus with an oath, “I swear I do not know the man” (Matthew 26:72, 74). Each time Peter denies Jesus, he adds more intensity to his denial. Peter is afraid of the crowd against Jesus. What will the crowd do to him if it finds out the truth? Will he be arrested like Jesus?
The world often makes it difficult and dangerous for us to truly proclaim our faith in the Triune God–God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Peter is such a visible leader in the Early Church and that makes it easy for us to judge his actions. But what would we do in his shoes? What do we do now when it becomes difficult or dangerous to deny Jesus?
As soon as Peter denies Jesus the third time, the cock crows. Then Peter remembers Jesus’ prediction of his three denials before the cock crowed. Peter leaves the crowd and weeps bitterly (Matthew 26:74-75). Peter is hard on himself, just as you are hard on yourself when you disappoint someone. How could he deny Jesus?
Just as Peter denies knowing Jesus, I have often wondered how individuals can deny the love of God by denying others their rights. How could the bus driver deny my rights to safety ride the bus? How could my brother break my trust? Then I think of the danger Peter faces in Jerusalem. The hostility within Jerusalem’s walls toward anyone who follows Jesus Christ causes his disciples to hide. Would I have denied knowing Jesus if I were in the same situation? It is easy to say no, but fear causes you to react in ways you would not in normal circumstances.
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for having Jesus go on trial for our sins. Help us to accept Jesus’ fate. Help us to not deny knowing you. Remind us that your grace will always be for us. Thank you for forgiving us. Amen.
Please feel free to answer the reflective questions through comments. Please agree to disagree and be respectable to each other. Please take a moment, if you have not already, to sign the covenant. You can answer all or just one of the questions.
- How do you feel about Jesus being on trial?
- Have you ever been “on trial” among friends or family members?
- How do you deny Jesus in your life?