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THE TRIALS OF CHRIST - DURING HIS PASSION

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Lord's Day Morning, March 28, 2004
at the Fundamentalist Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

"The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed…" (Psalm 2:2).


We go out to the colleges and malls that surround Los Angeles, and we invite college-age students to come and hear the gospel. Many of you came this morning, and we are glad you did! You are our honored guests. Thank you for coming!

Many young people like you have seen or heard about Mel Gibson's film, "The Passion of the Christ." You are thinking about this film. You are talking about it. I am going to explain what the Bible itself says about the crucifixion of Christ. The Catholic church teaches that salvation comes through the "sacraments."  This is wrong.  Salvation comes by faith in Christ alone.  Listen carefully to what I say. May this sermon lead you to trust Christ and be saved!

Jesus went into the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. It was late at night. The Disciples went with Him, but they fell asleep. Jesus prayed alone. Then a sound was heard of a great crowd of people coming. The Roman soldiers sprang out of the darkness and took Jesus away. Christ then went through several strange trials. In these trials He was falsely accused, and at last He was sentenced to die on the Cross. In each of these trials, the words of our text are clearly shown,

"The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed…"
    (Psalm 2:2).

These trials were actually against God, and against Jesus, "his anointed."

I. First, there was the trial before the chief priests.

The Roman soldiers dragged Jesus before a man named Annas. This elderly man had been the high priest, but the Romans had taken away his position and had given it to another man named Caiaphas. But the people still considered Annas to be the true high priest. So Jesus was taken there first. The Gospel of John tells us that Annas questioned Jesus about "his disciples, and of his doctrine" (John 18:19). Jesus said,

"Why askest thou me? ask them which heard me, what I have said unto them: behold, they know what I said" (John 18:21).

One of the officials was angered by Jesus' answer and struck Jesus with the palm of his hand. Jesus said,

"If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil: but if well, why smitest thou me?" (John 18:23).

Jesus told the official that he should say what He had spoken that was wrong. It was illegal, by their law, to hit someone without saying why he was being hit. Annas must have realized at this time that this whole "questioning" was not legal. So Annas told the soldiers to take Jesus to Caiaphas, who was the Roman-appointed high priest.

The soldiers then took Jesus to Caiaphas, probably in a different building of the Temple compound. The second meeting was a formal gathering of the Sanhedrin, the seventy-member governing body of the people. It had authority over the religious matters of the nation.

According to Deuteronomy 17:6 and 19:15, in the Old Testament, they had to find two people who would accuse Jesus before He could be found guilty. But they could not find two witnesses that agreed with each other. Then some people falsely accused Jesus of saying, "I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands" (Mark 14:58). But they misquoted Jesus, who was really referring to "the temple of his body" (John 2:21), not to the physical Temple. Jesus was silent. Caiaphas, the high priest, was not able to find two witnesses that agreed. So he spoke directly to Jesus.

"Answerest thou nothing?…But he held his peace, and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked him…Art thou the Christ [the Messiah], the Son of the Blessed? And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven" (Mark 14:60-62).

Then the high priest tore his clothes. That was a sign that he thought Jesus had committed blasphemy. For Jesus to claim that He was the Messiah was highly offensive to him. He expected the Messiah to be a great king. How could a humble prisoner in chains be the Messiah? He thought Jesus was a blasphemer, guilty of death.

Then the high priest said,

"What need we any further witnesses? Ye have heard the blasphemy: what think ye? And they all condemned him to be guilty of death. And some began to spit on him, and to cover his face [blindfold Him], and to buffet him [beat Him with their fists], and to say unto him, Prophesy: and the servants did strike him with the palms of their hands" (Mark 14:63-65).

"The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed…"
    (Psalm 2:2).

II. Second, there was the trial before Pilate.

The Sanhedrin itself could not carry out the death sentence. Only the Roman governor could do that. So they decided to hand Jesus over to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea. They took Him to Pilate.

"And the chief priests accused him of many things: but he answered nothing. And Pilate asked him again, saying, Answerest thou nothing? behold how many things they witness against thee. But Jesus yet answered nothing; so that Pilate marveled"
      (Mark 15:1-3).

Then Pilate heard that Jesus was from Galilee, in the north. Hoping to escape the wrath of the mob, Pilate sent Jesus to Herod, who was in charge of that territory. Herod asked Jesus a few questions. But when Jesus would not answer him, Herod sent Him back to Pilate.

The soldiers brought Christ to Pilate the second time. Let great Spurgeon tell the rest of it.

See, they bring him to Pilate a second time. Pilate again is anxious to save him. He says, "I have found no fault in this man touching those things whereof ye accuse him: no, nor yet Herod; I will therefore release him!" "No, no," they say; and they clamour greatly. He proposes a cruel alternative… "I will therefore chastise him, and let him go." He gave [Jesus] over to his [officers] to be scourged. The Roman scourge was…a most dreadful instrument. It was made of the sinews of oxen, and little sharp pieces of bone, which…cause the most frightful lacerations...little sharp pieces, splinters of bone, were intertwisted every here and there among the sinews; so that every time the lash came down some of these pieces of bone went right through into the flesh, and tore off heavy thongfulls, and…the very flesh would be [torn] away. The Saviour was tied to the columns, and thus beaten. He had been beaten before; but this of the Roman [officers] was probably the most severe of his flagellations. After Pilate had beaten him, he gave him…to the soldiers for a short time, that they might contemplate the mockery…The soldiers put a crown of thorns on his head, and bowed before him, and spat on him, and put a reed in his hands; they smote the crown of thorns into his temple, they covered him with a purple robe; and then Pilate brought him out, saying, "Behold the man!"… Oh! That Ecce Homo ought to have melted their hearts, if Satan had not made them harder than flints…But no, they cry, "Crucify him! Crucify him!" (C. H. Spurgeon, "The Greatest Trial on Record," The Metropolitan Tabernacle  Pulpit,  Pilgrim,  1979 reprint,  volume IX,  pages  97-108).

Pilate has his servants bring a basin of water. He washes his hands before the crowd, and says, "I am innocent of the blood of this just person" (Matthew 27:24). This was a custom which they used to show the removing of guilt. But was his guilt removed? It was not. Pilate's name is forever remembered as the one who sent Christ to the Cross.

"And so Pilate, willing to content the people…delivered Jesus, when he had scourged him, to be crucified" (Mark 15:15).

"The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed…"
      (Psalm 2:2).

Are we right to say that this verse speaks of the crucifixion of our Saviour? The early Christians in the Book of Acts thought so. When they were threatened by the religious leaders, they gathered together and prayed, as recorded in the fourth chapter of the Book of Acts. Please turn to Acts 4:24, and read aloud through verse 28, as we stand.

"…they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done" (Acts 4:24-28).

You may be seated.

Notice verse twenty-eight,

"For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done" (Acts 4:28).

This shows very clearly that those religious leaders, as well as Herod and Pilate, were unknowingly carrying out the plan of God when they crucified the Saviour.

In his great sermon at Pentecost, Peter reminded the people of this important truth. Peter said,

"Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel [predetermined plan] and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it" (Acts 2:22-24).

"Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost… Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls… And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved" (Acts 2:37-38, 41, 47).

What conclusions do we draw from the trials, the scourging, the crucifixion, and physical resurrection of our Lord? There are several lessons we should draw from the Scriptures regarding these events.

(1) First, these events show the wickedness of the religious leaders, and of Pilate and his cruel soldiers. These events show us the sinful depravity of the human heart. The crucifixion of Christ shows the evil that dwells in every human soul. The prophet Jeremiah said,

"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked…" (Jeremiah 17:9).

The great evangelist George Whitefield often said that no one experiences true conversion until he realizes the depths of sin in his own nature. And I think Whitefield was right. You must see that your own heart is sinfully opposed to God and His Christ.

"Because the carnal mind is enmity against God"
    (Romans 8:7).

If you are still unconverted, your heart is as fully against God as that of the chief priest, Pilate, the cruel Roman soldiers, or the crowd who mocked Him while He hung on the Cross.

As you realize how you have rejected the Son of God, you will begin to see the corruption and rebellion of your own heart against the crucified Saviour. When this dawns on you, you will cry out with those at Pentecost, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?" (Acts 2:37). That is the awakening to your sinfulness that leads you to trust in Christ!

(2) The second lesson we learn from all this is that Jesus suffered and died on the Cross to fulfill the plan of God. Christ was delivered to be crucified "by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God" (Acts 2:23). God Himself sent Jesus into the world to die to pay for your sins, and mine. The prophet Isaiah said,

"We have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all"
      (Isaiah 53:6).

That is vicarious atonement! That is Jesus dying on the Cross in your place, to pay for your sins. Christ was no mere martyr. He deliberately, knowingly, went to Jerusalem on purpose to be crucified for you and me. Why did Christ pour out His Blood for us on the Cross? So that God "might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus" (Romans 3:26). If God merely overlooked your sins, He would not be just. If He poured out His anger on you without providing a way to escape, He would not be the justifier. God provided a way to be just and the justifier. And that way is through the crucified Son of God. When you trust Jesus, your sins are atoned for by His suffering on the Cross. Nothing is left for you to do but throw yourself at the feet of Jesus and believe in Him with all your heart. He will save you from punishment for your sin. He will take away your stony heart and give you a living heart of faith.

(3) The third lesson we learn from the suffering and death of Christ, is that He loves you. As He was dying on the Cross, Jesus said,

"Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34).

He prayed this prayer for the religious leaders who had sent Him to be crucified. He prayed this for the weak-willed Pilate, who ordered His crucifixion. He prayed this for the howling mob who spit on Him and mocked Him, and sneered, "If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross" (Matthew 27:40). He prayed this for the cruel centurion who drove the spikes through His hands and feet, and thrust a spear into His side. Jesus prayed for them all - but in that prayer, He was also praying for you and me.

"Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do" (Luke 23:34).

(4) The fourth lesson is this: Jesus is still alive. He rose physically from the dead. He ascended into Heaven with His all-powerful Blood. The Blood is now up in Heaven, where Jesus is. His Blood can wash away all your sins, atoned for on the Cross. Jesus is alive, at the right hand of God, up in Heaven. Come to Him in faith. Trust in Him wholly. He loves you. He will cleanse your sin by His Blood. He will save your soul from the penalty of sin. Come to Jesus and trust Him today!

Dr. John R. Rice said, "We may be sure that those who want to believe a lie will be allowed to do so. God hides Himself in the thick darkness from wicked, rebellious hearts. To those hungry to see Him, the Lord appeared in person. To those who wished He had remained in the grave, Jesus did not show Himself" (Dr. John R. Rice, The Gospel According to Matthew, Sword of the Lord, 1980, p. 500).

And it is just the same today. If you are hungry to know Jesus, and be saved from sin by Him, it is easy to come to Him. But if you want nothing to do with Him, He will hide Himself in thick darkness from you.

Which is it for you this morning? Do you want to know Jesus and have your sins forgiven, and have everlasting life? Or do you want to go on living a life of sin without knowing Him? That is the most important choice you will ever be faced with in your life. I ask you to come to Jesus. Do it now. Don't put it off. The Saviour loves you and wants to wash away your sins in His Blood and give you everlasting life. Will you come to Jesus? Will you do it now?

The enormous load of human guilt
    Was on the Saviour laid;
With woe as with a garment, He
    For sinners was arrayed.
For sinners was arrayed.

And in the horrid pangs of death
    He wept, he prayed for me;
Loved and embraced my guilty soul
    When nailed to the tree.
When nailed to the tree.

Oh love amazing! Love beyond
    The reach of human tongue;
Love which shall be the subject of
    An everlasting song.
An everlasting song.
     ("Love in Agony" by William Williams, 1759).

(END OF SERMON)

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Acts 4:21-31.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:

"Love in Agony" (by William Williams, 1759).

THE OUTLINE OF

THE TRIALS OF CHRIST - DURING HIS PASSION

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.


"The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord, and against his anointed…" (Psalm 2:2).

I.   The trial before the chief priests, John 18:19, 21, 23;
Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15; Mark 14:58; John 2:21;
Mark 14:60-62, 63-65.

II.  The trial before Pilate, Mark 15:1-3; Matthew 27:24;
Mark 15:15; Acts 4:24-28; 2:22-24, 37-38, 41, 47;
Jeremiah 17:9; Romans 8:7; Isaiah 53:6; Romans 3:26;
Luke 23:34; Matthew 27:40.

You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.rlhymersjr.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."