Let us pray: Dear Savior, tonight we hold You to Your promise never to leave or forsake us! We know that You know exactly how it feels—to be forsaken. For the disciples, the masses of people, the church leaders of the day all abandoned You. You went to the cross alone. You suffered all alone. But, because of that we don’t have to! For You are always with us with Your comfort and strength, with your empathy. So, tonight we ask You to shower us with comfort from on high by reminding us that whatever occurs in our lives, we’re never alone. Amen
GRACE MERCY AND PEACE ARE YOURS FROM CHRIST, IN WHOM WE FIND HIDDEN GLORY!
TEXT: Matthew 26: 57-68
Fellow Redeemed Sinners:
The march to the cross continues. Tonight we’re one step closer to that apex of human and divine history when all of God’s promises are fulfilled. Our lesson lays before us one of the most appalling points along the passion highway, Matthew 26: 57-68:
“Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled. But Peter followed him at a distance, right up to the courtyard of the high priest. He entered and sat down with the guards to see the outcome. The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward. Finally, two came forward and declared, ‘This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’ Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, ‘Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?’ But Jesus remained silent. The high priest said to him, ‘I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.’ ‘Yes, it is as you say,’ Jesus replied. ‘But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.’ Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, ‘He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?’ ‘He is worthy of death,’ they answered. Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him and said, ‘Prophesy to us, Christ. Who hit you?’”
Yes, in this lesson we see Christ’s glory. We see that:
IT IS HIDDEN IN THE SAVIOR’S REJECTION BY HIS OWN
Whenever and wherever Christ and His cross appear, one repeating theme intrudes. It is hostility, hatred, opposition and persecution—not outward glory. His glory is hidden under the cross of rejection. That’s what He promised and that’s what Lent is all about. And since it happened to Christ, it is no surprise that it happens to us and the entire Christian church throughout all history, as well.
Jesus was born in Judea, Israel, Palestine. He came first to Jewish people who possessed the Old Testament and all its promises concerning the Messiah. The high priest, Caiaphas that year, was the leader of that religious community. He stood as God’s representative on earth. He was the one who offered up sacrificial blood to God on the day of atonement for the sins of the people. He was the one who could enter the holy of holies. He was the one who oversaw all the temple worship practices which all pointed to the coming Messiah.
If anyone should have known that Jesus was the fulfillment of all those ceremonies and sacrifices, it was the high priest. He knew the Old Testament promises of God and the prophecies about the Savior by heart. He knew of the miracles. He knew of John the Baptist’s announcement concerning Christ: “Behold the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world.” And yet, hardness of heart blocked it all out. Total rejection describes his “faith.” And so here he sets up a kangaroo court to try Jesus on the basis of lies in order to kill Him. He gets his cronies to pronounce a death sentence. He even rips open his robe to make a show of his indignation. It’s sad, shocking, and just plain immoral.
Likewise that kangaroo court. The Sanhedrin was made up of 70 of the leading religious scholars of that time. They included (mostly) liberal Sadducees and some very puritanical Pharisees. But all these men knew the Old Testament backwards and forwards. They had memorized those holy words from little boy on. Yet, not one of them speaks up for Christ. Not one of them says: “He raised 3 people from the dead!” Not one of them says: “He healed the sick, threw out demons and fed thousands!” They hardened their hearts to the Palm Sunday accolades and now agree to pass a death sentence of God’s anointed One.
The question is: why? Why the hatred and rejection? Yes, why has Lent always been a stumbling block especially to those within the visible religious community? Why did people like St. Athanasius have to fight for Christ’s divinity within the visible Christian church of his age? Why were John Huss, the early reformer, and Martin Luther, the ultimate reformer, put to death and shunned by the priests and church leaders of their day? I’ll tell you why. It is because God’s glory is hidden in the cross and so it doesn’t stroke our egos and provide us with personal glory. The cross never feeds our pride and humans don’t like that.
Today in America the majority identifies itself with Christianity. And yet they don’t go to church, they don’t believe in the Virgin birth, they don’t believe in the physical resurrection, and they don’t hold to the truth that salvation of soul isn’t based on “living a good life.” In other words, most reject the whole concept of grace. For them Christianity is an excuse to assuage their guilty consciences on their own instead of letting God do it in and through the cross of Christ. And so today the American church preaches diversity instead of salvation. They preach that homosexuality isn’t a sin. That abortion is sad but not so bad. Even Pope John Paul II said in a famous talk that the Muslims are on the right path to salvation! The cross has become emptied of true meaning. For the cross doesn’t speak of diversity in that God accepts human sin and lazily looks the other way. No, the cross announces repentance and speaks of self-sacrifice and our human flesh simply hates it—both then and now.
This is shocking and tragic. Christ’s own rejected Him and still reject Him today. We’d expect the Romans to reject Him. We’d expect the heathen to do likewise. But when those who have been exposed to God’s Word do so, well, it’s doubly bad, isn’t it? That’s why Christ tells the disciples in Gethsemane, “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” That’s why He tells them, “If you continue in My Word then truly you are my disciples.” For He knew the perverse hardness of heart that afflicts self-centered glory hogs who hide behind outward religious piety.
“The Lord knows those that are his.” He knows exactly what’s in our hearts. And He also knows that our sinful flesh can seduce us away from Him. He knows that Christian Churches that teach all of His truths, not just the politically correct ones, will be opposed. Think of how much greater His grief over someone who knows what grace really is, but who soft-pedals it in order become more accepted by friends and neighbors? Yes, we all want glory, but we don’t want the cross that comes with true glory, do we?
Ah, my friends, that’s the rub. So, keep watch and pray. For the spirit is willing, but our flesh is weak! Think about the fact that the Savior’s own rejected Him—and then resolve that you will never be counted in their number! Yes, cling to the cross and glory in it, for it is there that you will find true glory—yes, God’s hidden glory in the form of forgiveness for all your sins! Amen