Are you the Christ?
"When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people gathered together, both chief priests and scribes. And they led him away to their council, and they said, "If you are the Christ, tell us." But he said to them, "If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I ask you, you will not answer. But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God." So they all said, "Are you the Son of God, then?" And he said to them, "You say that I am." Then they said, "What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips."
How important it is to know who Jesus is! If men and women, boys and girls, have false ideas about him their expectations of him will be wrong and their responses to him will also be wrong.
What do you think about Jesus? Who is he? Why did he come? Is he a success or a failure? Is he limited to the past or does he yet have a determining role in the future?
Who is this man?
Well, in our studies in Luke’s Gospel we have arrived at the final days of Jesus’ normal earthly life and we find him on trial for his life.
By this time the belief that Jesus was the Christ, that is the Messiah, had been gaining ground for some time among the ordinary people. After all he had been doing such extraordinary things and speaking with such an authority! Jesus’ own disciples of course had seen and heard more than anyone else and they, with the exception of Judas who betrayed him, were firmly convinced that the man they followed was the Christ, the anointed one of God.
Jesus himself was not in the slightest doubt either, a fact which he makes abundantly clear in the passage we’re considering this morning. Jesus knew he was the Messiah who had been promised from the earliest days of human history. He had come into the world in order to fulfil everything that had been written about the Messiah – he had, in the fullness of time, been born of a virgin, born of royal descent in Bethlehem, the city of David, born under the law. He had come in order to crush the serpent’s head and in so doing he would save his people from their sins.
And yet the popular view of the Christ, the Messiah, did not put the focus here. In fact the popular view differed quite considerably from Jesus’ own understanding. Yes, the popular view looked for a Messiah who would deliver his people but the type of deliverance that seemed most necessary to them was a political deliverance from the oppression of foreign forces in their land. It was not that the spiritual aspect was unknown it was just not emphasised.
It is perhaps for this reason that Jesus had avoided openly laying claim to being the Messiah. Had he simply said "I am the Christ" he may well have excited the wrong sort of excitement and expectation.
Jesus usually preferred to allow his deeds and actions to speak for him as for example when he responded to the question raised by John the Baptist. Things hadn’t worked out as John expected. He was Jesus’ divinely ordained forerunner but he’d been thrown into prison and there began to wonder whether he’d got things wrong. Was Jesus really the One or did he have to wait for someone else? By way of response to John’s question Jesus pointed out what was actually being done:
Lk.7:22 "the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them."
All the evidence suggested that a great spiritual work of deliverance was being accomplished and such spiritual deliverance was precisely the domain of the Messiah.
Was Jesus the Christ? What do you think?
But misconception was still in the air and the Jewish leaders sought to build their charges against Jesus upon it. Although Jesus’ actions were not politically subversive, the popular idea of the Messiah was that of a nationalistic freedom fighter. If only they could convince the Romans that Jesus was a dangerous rabble-rouser intent on political insurrection then they’d have their way and be able to get rid of him.
Jesus Questioned by the Council
The illegal night-hearing was over. It had been decided. Jesus must die. Now some semblance of legality must be added.
The Council was made up of the leading members of the Jewish leadership – it was a shameful business though shot through with hypocrisy and dishonesty. To what depths people are ready to descend in their efforts to get Jesus out of their lives and to keep him out! I hope that none of you are playing such games with the Saviour but it is very easy to play make-believe. How easy it is to give the impression that the questions we ask are genuine and serious whereas the reality is that we don’t want to hear the truth and certainly don’t want to receive it!
The hearing began.
The bruised prisoner apparently doesn’t bother to answer any of the accusations being laid before him and the high priest is beginning to lose his cool. They need something else. If only they can get Jesus to say something that they might use against him.
Against Jewish legal practice the high priest puts Jesus under oath. Jesus must now speak – he has no option.
And this is the question to which they so desperately want an answer:
"If you are the Christ, tell us."
Matthew and Mark both fill out this question a little in ways that make it obvious that the identity of the Messiah was known to be closely bound up with God himself. Hence the work of the Messiah was known to be spiritual and not merely political: eg.
Mt.26:63 "I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God."
Had Jesus refused to answer now he would have done two things:
He would have been guilty of dishonouring the name of God.
He would implicitly have denied the very purpose for his coming into the world.
So Jesus responded. He would give a clear answer but he has some other observations to make before he does so.
v.67 "If I tell you, you will not believe,"
What is the point of asking a question if you do not intend to take seriously the answer that is given?
These men knew and believed the Scriptures that God had promised to send his Messiah to deliver his people. But these men were not pursuing an honest search to find this Messiah and to put their trust in him once found. They weren’t asking Jesus if he were the Christ in order to follow him but in order to have an accusation to use against him.
In such circumstances what was the point of Jesus answering them? If he answered that he was would this not be akin to casting pearls before swine, something that he had taught his own disciples to avoid doing wherever possible?
In such circumstances would it not also be detrimental to the men concerned as it would increase their guilt as their sin would now be sin committed against the light?
Further if Jesus denied that he was the Christ they were already convinced that that is how he saw himself and they still wouldn’t believe him!
How foolish it is to ask questions in such a fashion! And yet how many folk there are who will try to look clever and keep Jesus at distance by asking similarly dishonest and hypocritical questions!
If you are not yet a Christian are you really so sure that your reasons for not repenting of your sin and putting your trust in Jesus are genuine and not just a smokescreen when the real reason is that you don’t want to?
v.68 "and if I ask you, you will not answer."
This might come as something of a surprise, after all why should someone being tried be able to ask and expect answers to his questions? But this remark of Jesus serves further to show just how hypocritical and dishonest his opponents actually are.
What do they have to say about him? And what is the evidence upon which they base their own opinions?
Men and women will sometimes hide behind their questions even when they are either unable or unwilling to answer the same questions themselves.
And in this particular instance Jesus had very good reason for calling out his detractors. Do you remember how earlier this same week the Jewish authorities hadn’t appreciated what Jesus had done when he acted to restore spiritual order to the Temple for which they had the official responsibility and which they had lamentably failed to exercise in a proper manner? They had asked him to explain upon what or whose authority he had acted. Jesus countered with a question of his own linked to the whole matter of true spiritual authority that they were pretending was so important to them. Jesus’ question concerned the authority of John the Baptist – was its origin human or divine?
The leaders had an answer, they were in no doubt as to what they thought but they simply weren’t prepare to run the risk of being disregarded by the people if they gave it. Instead of giving an answer they lied saying they didn’t know. They liked to give the impression of being concerned about the things that really mattered but in reality were far more concerned with man’s approval than with God’s. They would stubbornly protect their entrenched position come what may.
What right then did these dishonest men think they had to sit on judgment on a man like Jesus when they repeatedly showed themselves unwilling to do what was right?
These men might like to imagine that they are the judges and the prevailing circumstances did appear to be in their favour but in reality it was Jesus who was judging them and not the other way round. It would not be long before they would be made fully aware of that too!
Quoting from the prophecy of Daniel Jesus speaks of the Son of Man taking the place of authority and power at God’s right hand:
v.69 "But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God."
Yes, for a few hours more they might appear to be in control but how all that would change on the first day of the coming week! Raised from the dead Jesus would take his rightful place at the Father’s right hand and from there he would exercise his just, upright and powerful judgments.
These men were utterly unprepared for that.
Are you better prepared than they were?
You see this theme of Jesus as judge and not as victim is a theme that is developed in some detail in the pages of the NT. Let me highlight some of the verses that speak about this vitally important function of our Saviour:
Mt.28:18 "Jesus came and said to (his disciples), "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me."
Acts 10:42 "(Jesus) is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead."
Acts 17:31 "(God) has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead."
2Cor.5:10 "For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ"
2Tim.4:1 "Christ Jesus... is to judge the living and the dead"
Of course this is no invention of later writers who were trying desperately to inflate the importance of their Master – this was simply building upon what the Master himself had already taught:
Jn.5:22 "The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son"
The Answer they Thought they Wanted to Hear
The Council members don’t hesitate a moment. They had asked about the Christ. Jesus had answered with a reference to the Son of Man and they know that Jesus is referring to himself. They immediately make a further link:
v.70 "Are you the Son of God then?"
It might sound a bit odd to our ears, as though they’ve made jump in logic but they hadn’t. Although the Messiah is not often referred to as the Son of God in the Scriptures he was described that way in for example Psalm 2.
If Jesus was the Christ then he would have to be not just the Son of Man but the Son of God as well.
Jesus gave them a clear answer now. He had exposed their hypocrisy and dishonesty and warned them that he was the One who was going to be their judge however unlikely they might consider that to be the case.
The Greek is translated literally as:
v.70 "You say that I am."
But don’t imagine for a moment that Jesus is leaving any room for doubt here. The NIV translates the meaning of Jesus’ reply very clearly:
v.70 "You are right in saying I am." NIV
Of course the authorities didn’t believe Jesus. All they could think was that they had got him now. He was a blasphemer worthy of the death they had already determined he should experience. They don’t to hear anything more – it is enough for them. They have finished with this man.
And what of you?
Are you content like them to have found some reason for rejecting him and keeping him out of your life?
Or have you stopped playing games with those silly questions of yours? Are you ready to abandon the facade of foolish questions and to put your trust in him?
He is the Christ – that is he is the One chosen and anointed by God to accomplish the task of saving his people from their sins. Will you trust him for the forgiveness of your sins?
He is the Son of Man – the one who having become man knows exactly what it is like to be human. He has lived our life only he has never ever succumbed to sinful temptation though he has been exposed to far greater temptation than we ever will be. Because he is the Son of Man he is able to sympathise with us and help us in our trials knowing just what we need. Will you trust him to meet your needs?
He is the Son of God – fully divine he is all powerful and all-knowing. Because of who he is the life he laid down as a sacrifice for sin is of infinite value and worth. He has conquered and will conquer. He rules over all his and all our enemies and we can be safe in eternity because of him. Will you trust him to be Lord in your life and submit willingly to his reign and rule?
These enemies of Jesus said they didn’t need to hear any more – they had heard enough to reject him.
Do you really need to know any more before you trust him? You have heard what you need but will you act upon what you’ve heard?
May it please God to have mercy upon us all.