The betrayal of Judas in the Garden of Gethsemane is a horrid thing. One of Jesus’ twelve, the closest, coming with a crowd of soldiers… He kisses hello as a friend… And those words of endearment, “Greetings, Rabbi!” we hear him say.
This betrayal brings us and Jesus into the middle of a courtroom: a place where the innocence or guilt of the accused hangs in the balance. A place where the judgment can fall one way or the other based on the testimony of a few witnesses. Witnesses will talk about many things, but very often, they’ll mention what they heard the defendant say about this or that – evidence that will either condemn or vindicate. Tonight, in Jesus’ trial, many accusations are laid; much that might be called evidence is presented. But, of all that we might hear, most important for us as Christians will be to remember what We Heard Him Say.
If we wait through all the chatter to hear what Jesus has to say in this trial, it won’t be very much. Despite all the accusations, we’ll find No Word of Defense because, for much of it, there was no need for him to speak. Mark tells us why. At the beginning of our section tonight, we find a trial, not for determining Jesus’ innocence or guilt but a trial born of betrayal: one “looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death”. The only problem was that the religious leaders “couldn’t find any” such evidence. It wasn’t for lack of looking: they twisted together lies about him, brought out people to testify falsely, even tried to twist Jesus’ own words against him, “We heard him say…” But altogether, the facts and lies simply proved one thing: that these men had heard Jesus say many things, but they hadn’t been listening.
If we listen to God’s Word, we find words like these from the prophet Isaiah about Jesus the Messiah, “He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth (53:9).” It’s said differently elsewhere, but anywhere in God’s Word it amounts to the same thing. In his trial, we heard Jesus say no word of defense because he had never done anything wrong. He had no need of defense.
For you or me, that might be prime time to make a defense – when you’re completely innocent. That seems to be what the high priest was asking Jesus too. “Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, ‘Are you not going to answer?’” The way he words the question in the original language implies that Jesus should be looking to his own interests – answer the questions, if you’re innocent, and save your life, right? But isn’t that exactly the point? It isn’t in Jesus’ interest that he’s not speaking – it’s in yours.
Let me illustrate. We’ve heard Jesus say many things in his Word. We might have assumed his words about putting the needs of others before our own were most important. We might have guessed that the proverbs about our married relationships were key. We might have decided that the fruits of the Spirit were priority one or that the 10 commandments were what we needed most. We might have heard him say any of those things, but we wouldn’t have been listening to what God knows we need. Sometimes others’ needs have fallen far behind what we thought most important. At other times, a whole book of marriage proverbs wouldn’t have saved us from an argument. And all the fruits of the Spirit or 101 commandments have ever only shown us what we’re not, what we haven’t done, and what wrong we’ve continued to do – all those things would only prove us guilty. But for our daily comfort, We heard Jesus say no word of defense not only because he needed none, but also because we need every defense possible from the guilt of our sins before God. Jesus is our perfect representative – no sin of his own – stands on trial to die because we haven’t always listened to what he says. And he silently takes the blame in our interest alone – to win us forgiveness and comfort from God.
That’s our salvation, in process, in the season of Lent. Jesus stands on trial in innocent quiet to be guilty for us. It’s important to know because by his innocence alone are we finally declared to be innocent too – forgiven, right with God, holy to the Lord. Ironically, that’s the very label the high priest condemning Jesus would have worn on his priestly uniform – holy to the Lord. He too had heard Jesus say many things, but hadn’t been listening. Instead he was looking for one unholy thing in particular. And Jesus gave it when We Heard Him Say A Word of Glorious Truth.
Here was the question posed in the midst of the failing trial: “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” The Christ – the anointed, chosen Messiah. The Son of the Blessed One – Son of the God whose name was so holy they dared not even utter it. The High Priest knew that the outcome of their trial lay, not in the things Jesus had said, but in who he claimed to be. So he asked, “Are you Messiah; are you God’s Son?” And claim it Jesus did: “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
That’s a word of glorious truth and it’s the completion of our comfort because it tells us who Jesus is. Jesus claims to be the Son of God – one who has all the power and ability, all the perfection and holiness, all that God has and is – Jesus claims for himself. But not only that, he claims to be the Son of Man – powerful God who came to live among us and know our sin and temptation; mighty God who took that guilt on himself and went to die in our place. You might find the comfort in knowing who he is by thinking about something like this: Suppose you had to stand trial to live or die, innocent or guilty. You enter the silence of the court, and some person in the gallery says, “Don’t worry, you’re not guilty.” Small comfort as the bailiff ignores that sentence and sets you before the judge and jury anyway. But if the judge says the same thing your worry melts away in an instant. Because of who he is – the judge – and what he says happens. Take comfort friends, because Jesus’ word of glorious truth tells us he is judge of all. He’s going to return with the clouds – all heaven’s wonder and might. He’s going to be at the right hand of the Mighty One – the position of all power and glory. He’s God Almighty wrapped in human flesh, and this is what that means: for the unbeliever, “7 Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. (Rv 1:7)”; but for you who believe, “To [Jesus] who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen. (Rv 1:5)” We Heard Him Say it; and we can trust it. He is the Son of God, who comforts you by declaring in his eternal courtroom that you are free from sin’s guilt and ready for heaven. He should know: he’s the judge.
You and I have stood tonight among those who condemn the Son of God in the court of men. The High Priest’s question rings in our ears, the same as theirs, “What do you think?” We’ve Heard Jesus Say No Word of Defense – his quiet perfection eclipsing the guilt of our sin. We’ve Heard Jesus Say a Word of Glorious Truth – who he is and what he will do. As the trial ends and the horror of the cross begins, you want to know what I think? I’ve heard enough – enough to know that I’m not guilty because Jesus was for me; I’ve heard enough – enough to know that I can’t wait to see and live and share what other glorious things We’ve Heard Him Say. Amen.