Posts Tagged ‘Sanhedrin’

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“REALPOLITIK OF THE CROSS” – Mar. 30

March 30, 2013

“Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man.  Seize him and lead him away under guard.”  Mark 14:44

Passion of Christ at Ginosa (TA) (Italy)Last night my family and I went to the re-enactment of Christ’s trial and crucifixion that several Churches in our community performed.  It was well done and I appreciated the reality of it.  However, I cannot say that I liked it.  I guess the reason that I did not enjoy the play was because it is so negative.  I don’t like to ponder on the negative. I don’t like to ponder on the despicable, on betrayal, on conniving and the plotting of the destruction of another person and then the crass implementation of that strategy.

I look at Christ’s betrayal and arrest and I realize that this is just another example of how broken our world is.  What happened to Jesus is really not unique to human history.  The fact that this was the betrayal of the Messiah makes it wholly unique.  However, the betrayal of a perceived revolutionary is nothing new.  The plotting of the downfall of a charismatic leader for the protection of the establishment is a common theme in the history of civilizations.

That is how the world works.  This world is broken.  It is broken because of what Judas did – what the Sanhedrin did – what the Romans did.  What they did is exactly how the world works.  It is ‘Realpolitik’ in action.

‘Realpolitik’ is essentially a very pragmatic view of the world as it really is and the use of power and strength to manipulate events for either stability or to strengthen those in power.

Have you ever considered the Sanhedrin’s actions in terms of realpolitik?

We must remember the Sanhedrin’s responsibility.  The Sanhedrin was the supreme judicial and administrative council of the Jews.  They had responsibility for the smooth operation of both religion and the State.  They had responsibility for both.

The Sanhedrin was responsible for a nation under occupation.  Rome had subjugated Israel but allowed the Sanhedrin to exist solely for the purpose of maintaining the peace for the Romans.  The Sanhedrin was responsible of keeping the status quo – maintaining the stability of the existing balance of power in a powder keg of a nation.  The Sanhedrin was the institution with the practical view on the situation.  They knew that Israel was in no position to defend itself against the sole superpower of the time; the Roman Empire.  They knew what would happen if they did not keep a lid on the unrest that was continually swirling as an undercurrent in Israel.

The destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem.Just consider what did happen when the Sanhedrin finally failed in quelling the unrest.  In 66 AD, the unrest finally did boil over into open revolt.  The Romans responded in force retake the country.  The final act of suppression happened in 70 AD, when they destroyed Jerusalem, the temple and eliminated the Sanhedrin.  The number of Jews that were killed during this rebellion has been estimated at 1,340,000. (Josephus, Flavius ; Whiston, William: The Works of Josephus : Complete and Unabridged. Peabody : Hendrickson, 1996, c1987, S. Wars 6.414-420)

What would you do if you were on the Sanhedrin Council in 65 AD, the year before the rebellion broke out in Caesarea?  You are one of the seventy-one members of the highest court in the land of Israel.  You are responsible for protecting your people from the oppression of the greatest power in the entire world.  You know what the Romans are capable of.

What if you hear about a guy by the name of John of Giscala and another guy by the name of Simon Bar Giora?  They were the leaders of the rebellion in the north that started everything in 66 AD.  They were also the ones who took the war within Jerusalem that led to the prolonged siege and ultimate destruction of Jerusalem.  It is conceivable that if you are able to remove these individuals from the events of 65 AD that the unrest in Caesarea may not boil over into open rebellion.  If that doesn’t happen, then the Emperor will not send 60,000 Roman legionaries to Galilee, Jerusalem will not be destroyed, and 1.3 million people will be saved.   If you could get a spy into the inner circle of John of Giscala and Simon Bar Giora; a spy who would tell you where they were and identify them to the arresting authorities, would you do it?  Would you get your spy in place, gain the information, and arrest and put on trial John of Giscala and Simon Bar Giora if it would mean even the possibility of saving 1.3 million people?  Would you do it?

September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City: V...

September 11, 2001 attacks in New York City: View of the World Trade Center and the Statue of Liberty. (Image: US National Park Service ) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Let’s say it is the year 2000 and you are the President of the United States.  You have the opportunity to turn a member of Osama bin Laden’s inner circle.  You can find out his location.  Do you send in  Seal Team 6?  If you send in Seal Team 6, you can take out Osama bin Laden and possibly the 9/11 attacks don’t happen or can be stopped.  2,819 people could be saved – billions of dollars of destruction averted, the war in Afghanistan and Iraq possibly prevented.  Would you do it?  Would you send in Seal Team 6?

We can play this “what if” game all day long.  What about Lee Harvey Oswald; Pearl Harbor; what about Adolf Hitler when he was in Austria before he came to power; the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand that started WWI; what about John Wilkes Booth; on and on we can go.  The US has an entire agency established, the CIA, whose clandestine service’s purpose is to turn the Judas’ of the world.  The Judas’ of the world are usually the means by which the potential tragedies of the world are averted.  It all depends upon ones perspective.

That is the world that we live in – the world of realpolitik – a world that has not changed since the time of Christ.  The reason it has not changed is because this world is broken.  Am I right?  Is this not how our world works?  I realize that I am a cynic and that I certainly don’t look at our world from an idealistic point of view.  Our world is filled with conflict – our lives have this pull of competing interests at every turn – this is true in our families, communities, business, governments, and nations.  I look at history and I see the predominate characteristics of realpolitik at work.

That is the question that I have asked myself – why?  What is at the source of this struggle – this realpolitik – that I believe that we all engaged in – in one form or another?  I propose that the fundamental reason we are all practitioners of self-interest is a misplaced love.  We love ourselves and our families and the things of this world more than God.  Our will is more for those things than it is for the will of God.

The world of realpolitik is built upon the principle that people will actively pursue their own self-interest and they usually do.

Christ came to explode that principle.  On the night that He was betrayed, prior to the mob showing up, Jesus was praying for another way.  He prayed “not what I will, but what you will.”  He did not have to wait very long for the Father to answer His prayer.  The answer to Jesus’ prayer is very clear.  God’s will had not changed.  His Son would be rejected, hated, abandoned, betrayed, denied, condemned, spit upon, flogged, mocked, pierced, and killed. That all happened according to the Father’s sovereign will.

Jesus was obedient to his Father’s will, which is the exact opposite of realpolitik.

He could have run.  He could have fought.  In Matt. 26:52-54, He said to Peter that He could call twelve legions of angels to come and rescue Him if He wanted to be rescued. That is seventy-two thousand angels.  Can you imagine what kind of destruction seventy-two thousand angels could do, when in the Old Testament one angel killed 185 thousand Assyrians? Seventy-two thousand angels could do some serious damage and most assuredly could have freed Jesus.

Jesus did not do that.  Jesus shows us a unique motivation and heart condition.  He sought God’s will over His own will.  He pursued His Father’s interest above His own interests.  Some have called the cross “divine child abuse”.  That is an absurd accusation.  The Father did not impose His will on His son.  The Son chose the Father’s will.  The Son preferred the Father’s will over His own.

Christ’s actions are a beautiful display of love and obedience.

That is the contrast between Christ and the world.  The world that we live in does not operate on Christ’s principles.  It cannot understand the concept of preferring the will of God over selfish interest.

Maybe that is at the heart of the Christian life; understanding that our true self-interest can never be fulfilled by anyone or thing other than God himself.  I think this is where John Piper and Christian hedonism get it right.  God is most glorified when we are most satisfied in Him.  Our problems all start when we insist on seeking our satisfaction outside of God; when we revert to the self-interest games of this the world.

The brokenness of this world will only be fixed when you come to the cross and fall on your face and you realize that the cross is not another example of realpolitik. The cross is a work of God and the love of God on full display. It is when you receive Christ’s sacrifice as His highest gift and value that above all else, then you will be saved and Christ will be glorified.

That is what will heal this broken world that we live in.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for coming and saving us from a broken world.  Our world is beyond repair.  We cannot fix it.  Thank you for making a way for us to escape to you.  Keep me from reverting back to my old ways of personal realpolitik.  Help me to walk in your footsteps and follow You with all of my heart, soul and mind.  Amen

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“THE RIGHT CHARGE” – Mar. 29

March 29, 2013

“But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?”  And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”  Mark 14:61-62

Jesus before high priestThe trial of Jesus was a sham.  The whole trial of Jesus was unjust according to their own law.  How they did it; where they did it; when they did it; the witness alone; all were against their own law.  Those who prosecuted and convicted Jesus broke their own law in their passionate pursuit to kill Jesus.

However, they got something right.

Remember, Jesus is in complete control of these events.  They did not turn Judas; Jesus sent him.  They did not forcibly arrest Jesus; He allowed them to arrest him.  In His trial, He did not answer any question that He did not want to answer.

He answered only one question in His trial.  Have you considered why?  I believe the reason that He answered this question from the high priest was because He wanted to.  So, why would He want to answer this specific question?  Jesus could have been convicted by any of those other questions in his trial.  I don’t think Jesus answered those questions because He did not want to be convicted on any abstraction of the law.  Remember, Jesus intends to be convicted.  Jesus was not answering questions so that somehow He will not be convicted.  He came to Jerusalem with the intention of being convicted.

What is very important if you plan on being convicted?  The charge!  Jesus wants to be convicted under the correct charge.  That means the question has to be the right question.  Jesus had done a lot of things in his ministry that they could have convicted Him on.  I think He was waiting for the right charge, which means He was waiting for the right question.

He was waiting for this question.  Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?

Matthias Stom's depiction of Jesus before Caia...Jesus had been waiting for the direct question, this is the first legitimate aspect in the trial, it is a legitimate question. It does not call for self-incrimination, but merely a truthful response. Jesus knows the intent of the question but He answers because He has a higher purpose and that time has come.

“Are You the Messiah, the anointed One, the promised One, and the Son of the blessed One?” Jesus answers with, Yahweh, the name of God; I AM.  He says clearly “I AM”;  It is an answer to the direct question and at the same time it is a proclamation of who He is.  However, He does not just leave it there.   He does not try to reduce the impact of what He just said, rather He escalates the reality of it. “Yes I AM the Messiah. Yes I AM the Son of God. And you will see Me sitting at the right hand of power, that is at the right hand of God, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”

There are some people out there who assert that Jesus never claimed to the Messiah, the Son of God.  That is a lie; there are some who say that Jesus never said He was God; that Jesus was a good teacher and a peaceful, loving, and moral man, but He never said he was God.

He did. He repeatedly, emphatically, clearly said He’s the only God.  You cannot get clearer than His intentional statement in His own trial.  I think that Jesus was waiting for this particular question so that there would no question about who He claimed to be.  The Sanhedrin understood what He was saying.  He was not speaking in parables; He was making it very clear as to who He was.

The Sanhedrin’s goal for this trial was to get a conviction.  This entire trial was a sham.  It was a complete miscarriage of justice.  However, there is one sliver of legitimacy to this trial.  “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?”  The Sanhedrin had to make a judgment on Jesus’ answer to that one question and so do we.  We all have to make a judgment upon Jesus’ answer to the trial question.

This is the most important judgment that anyone can make, “is Jesus the Christ?”  The way you answer that question is the most important decision that any person can make. There are some who will deny that He is… there are some who will believe what He says… there are some who will say that they don’t know… there are some who will say that it doesn’t matter.

Thomas Freidman wrote in an op-ed piece for the New York Times about what many try to assert: ”All faiths that come out of the biblical tradition — Judaism, Christianity and Islam — have the tendency to believe that they have the exclusive truth… The opposite of religious totalitarianism is an ideology of pluralism — an ideology that embraces religious diversity and the idea that my faith can be nurtured without claiming exclusive truth… Can Islam, Christianity and Judaism know that God speaks Arabic on Fridays, Hebrew on Saturdays and Latin on Sundays, and that he welcomes different human beings approaching him through their own history, out of their language and cultural heritage?”

What that denies is the truth of Jesus’ statement.

Jesus’ answer leaves us all with only two choices regarding what we believe about Him.

  1. His claims were false and He was not god.  If the claims of Jesus are false and He knew they were false but knowingly misled people, taught them things He knew were untrue, then He is the greatest liar the world has ever seen.
  2. His claims were true and He is God.  If the claims of Jesus are false and He believed them to be true, then He needed medication. It would take someone of great mental imbalance to do the things that Jesus did and say the things that Jesus said.

Neither of those options are a person who anyone should follow.

If the claims of Jesus are true then He truly is God and He is Lord. This reality forces us to make a judgment. Either we accept Him or we reject Him. The choice that all of mankind has.  It is a choice that you and I have.  Everything that we read in our Bibles leads up to this moment.  Are the actions described in the Gospels the actions of a mad-man?  Are they the actions of a master con-artist?  Or are they the actions of the Son of God?

Peter's Denial by Rembrandt, 1660. Jesus is sh...Who is this Jesus?

He is the Son of David, the Son of man and the Son of God. Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last, God almighty, the Great I Am and the great Amen.

Who is this Jesus?

Bread of life, the resurrection and the life, the way, the truth, Prince of peace, wonderful counselor, Immanuel – God with us, the righteous one, the Lamb of God, the lion of Judah, the light of the world, the living water, living stone and the living word of God

Who is this Jesus?

The Savior of the world, the suffering servant, One who died and rose again, one who was and is and is to come, He is the eternal image of God , Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ and the anointed one of God. Jesus is the king of kings and Lord of Lords.

Who is this Jesus?  That question is before us all; just like the question that was asked Peter and the Disciples.  Christ is asking all of us, “who do you say that I am?”  We can read how Jesus answered that question.

Do you believe Him; do you trust Him; do you know Him; will you follow Him; the Son of God, the great I AM

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for being so clear as to who You are.  Thank you for your obedience to the Father.  Thank you for coming to bear the punishment of my sin.  Lord, you are the Son of God who will be seated at the right hand of Power and coming with the clouds of heaven.  I look forward to seeing you in all of your glory.  Amen

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WEARING THE SANDALS OF THE SANHEDRIN – Jan. 26

January 26, 2013

“If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” John 11:48

Consider if you were a member of the Great Sanhedrin during the Roman occupation of Israel.  The Romans were the sole superpower of the time.  They were masters of subjecting other countries.  You don’t conquer the known world without learning the skills of maintaining such an empire.

English: Español: Trabajo propio. Máxima exten...

English: Español: Trabajo propio. Máxima extensión del Imperio Romano. Superpuesto en un mapa físico. Deutsch: (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When the Romans conquered a people, they granted some ruling authority to the locals for one primary purpose.  The restlessness of a conquered people could be abated when it appeared that they were ruled and judged by their own people.  That policy of limited self-rule effectively kept the peace in subservient providences for centuries.

That was the situation during the time of Christ.  Both Herod and the Sanhedrin had jobs allowed by the Romans with the primary purpose of keeping the people from rebelling against Roman rule.  If they could not do that, then the Romans would go to “plan B,” which was to get someone else or do it themselves.

Israel was a rebellious brew that always threatened to spill over.  It was the job of the Sanhedrin to keep it under control and they did a very good job for many years.  However, they had a monumental failure.  Their failure to beat down rebellious fervor resulted in exactly what they had feared about Jesus – “the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation”.

They were absolutely right.

In 66 AD, a growing movement got away from these guardians of Roman rule and flourished into open, armed rebellion.  The rebellious Jews were actually able to push the occupying Romans out, for a while. That was until Titus and his armies showed up.

The destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem.

The destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rebellions are a serious problem in empires.  An empire cannot tolerate even one rebellion for fear that it might spread.  The Romans knew that.  Therefore, Roman treatment of the Jewish rebellion in 70 AD was a message to all those other conquered peoples in the empire.

It was brutal.

Israel was never the same after the Romans got done with Jerusalem.  The chief priests and Pharisees concerns about the Romans taking away both their place and their nation had become a reality.  Jerusalem wasn’t even called Jerusalem for 200 years.  The center of Jewish society, the temple, was gone; the sacrificial system was gone; the Sadducees were gone.

How could they have been so absolutely right and so absolutely wrong at the same time?

The Sadducees and the Pharisees were being pragmatic when dealing with Jesus.  They were considering the practical consequences of the nation following after this Carpenter.  They knew what the Romans could do.  They were right about what the Romans would do.  History showed that they were right.  The pragmatic solution was to sacrifice a single life so that the entire society would survive, albeit still in bondage.  That was better than what happened in 70 AD.

Their problem was that they did not consider all the practical consequences regarding Jesus of Nazareth.  They only considered the practical consequences within this physical world.  They did not consider the implications of Jesus being who he claimed to be.

Once you believe Jesus’ claims, you have a game changing variable – GOD.  God is a player in all that we do, whether we acknowledge that or not.  The potential, practical consequences of different actions and inactions in this life are changed when you consider God.  There are clearly impossible consequences in this world.  Yet, the impossible is possible when you remember that God is for you.

“For nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37)

When you consider God in your decisions, you will find that everything gets turned upside down.

The Pharisees tried to save their lives and their nation and ended up losing both.

Jesus told us that, “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.” (Mark 6:35)

What was the difference? – GOD

The Pharisees were willing to violate the law and condemn an individual so that they would live in bondage.

Jesus was willing to sacrifice himself to free the nation, “and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.” (John 11:51) –

What was the difference?  – GOD

We must always remember to look beyond the practical consequences of this world and realize that none of those consequences stand when God is for us.

With God, there is nothing that is impossible.

PRAYER: Lord, thank you for reminding me that nothing is too hard for you.  Thank you for being all powerful and sovereign over everything.  Father, forgive me for those times when I don’t trust you or logic is used to cover a lack of faith.  Lord, teach me to lean on you; instruct me on how to trust you in all things.  Show me the balance between wisdom and blind obedience; between testing you and having trust in you.  Amen

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