The man was on trial for a crime he hadn’t committed. But there were those who were out to get him. They wanted him dead. So they brought trumped up charges against him. They had false witnesses testify at his trial. They wanted to bring him down at all costs. They hated him. They despised the work he was doing. So they lied. They insisted that he be killed. They didn’t give him a legal trial. His trial was held in the dead of night. They convicted him before the public knew he had even been arrested.
It was as if they were on a witch hunt. Pursuing an innocent man, because they hated him. They were jealous of this man. This night was not the first time they were looking for reasons to kill him. They had relentlessly pursued him. Watching him in the temple as he explained the Scriptures. Watching for any sign that he was breaking Jewish laws so they could punish him. But he was always able to get away. Until now. On this night, he was betrayed by one of his own.
The thing is. Jesus knew the prophecies about himself. He knew what was in store. He had quoted those prophecies to his disciples, yet they didn’t understand the meaning of his words. Until much later. Until those prophecies had been fulfilled with his death and suffering and resurrection. Then their hearts were opened, and they understood all he had said was true.
And when the high priest asked if he should be freed, the people demanded that a murderer be released instead of this innocent man. The people. The crowd who stood by watching had just days before been praising and worshiping this man as he rode a donkey down the street. They were waving palm branches in his honor.
But oh. How their hearts had turned. When he who had taught a message of love and hope was on trial, they didn’t stand up for him. They wouldn’t dare speak the truth. Because if they did, they too might be brought to trial. And their fate could be the same as his. So they stayed silent about the truth. They demanded that he be killed.
This man. This innocent man was Jesus. They knew him to be the son of Mary and Joseph the carpenter. His brothers and sisters were known to these people. So when Jesus began teaching a message that directly opposed the ancient Jewish traditions, some believed publicly. Others believed privately. Others doubted his message. And still others revolted against him.
Jesus never shied away from teaching anyone who would listen. And actually, people followed him from place to place. They were eager to hear a message that spoke of love and humility. They were hungry to hear a message that spoke of treating others the way they want to be treated. They were amazed that a man who looked like them could perform miracles. He could heal the blind, the crippled, the deaf and the diseased. He could bring people back to life. He could calm a raging storm. They wanted what he had.
But were they willing to pay the price?
When Jesus was arrested that night in the Garden of Gethsemane, his followers scattered. Suddenly, his message seemed a threat to their lives. If they were found to be a follower of this man Jesus, what punishment awaited them? Would they too be brought to trial in a back room away from the courts and be declared guilty by false accusers? Suddenly this man with unusual teachings seemed more of a threat to their personal safety than they were willing to accept. They must protect themselves and their families. They thought. So they turned on him.
During the trial when asked what he was teaching, Jesus told them to ask the people who heard his teachings. He said he hadn’t spoken in secret. His message was public knowledge. He wasn’t trying to hide the message of salvation from the crowds. He was speaking loudly and boldly. He never watered down his message or shied away from speaking truth. He knew the cost and he continued this work his Father had laid out for him.
Oh. There were times when he asked others who he had healed not to tell who had healed them. But that was because his time had not yet come. He wanted to postpone his arrest and crucifixion until more people had heard the good news.
But he definitely wasn’t shy about spreading the gospel of salvation.
The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields. Luke 10:2
How many of us speak of our faith only in secret? Only in the confines of our church on Sunday morning? Or in our Bible study group? Or in the safety of our homes? Or with our Christian friends? How many of us, instead of trying to win the world to Christ, try to shield our faith by standing silent in public? Even when we see and hear wrong being taught and applauded, do we stand silent? Or do we speak up?
I dare say that we’ve become too comfortable with keeping our faith to ourselves. We say that we pray for the lost. We give money so others can share the Good News. But do we put our faith on the line by speaking boldly about right and wrong.
Recently, I was talking to someone about current events. We were both disturbed by the way our culture is heading. This person mentioned to me that someone needs to do something. And I thought to myself. Why not you? Why not me? Why don’t we believers do something and say something? If not you, then who? If not me, then who?
Inside, the high priest began asking Jesus about his followers and what he had been teaching them. Jesus replied, “Everyone knows what I teach. I have preached regularly in the synagogues and the Temple, where the people gather. I have not spoken in secret. Why are you asking me this question? Ask those who heard me. They know what I said.” Then one of the Temple guards standing nearby slapped Jesus across the face. “Is that the way to answer the high priest?” he demanded. Jesus replied, “If I said anything wrong, you must prove it. But if I’m speaking the truth, why are you beating me?” Then Annas bound Jesus and sent him to Caiaphas, the high priest. John 18:19-24
You can read the full story of Jesus’ trial, crucifixion and resurrection in John 18-20.