Lenten Reader -- Day 21
Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled. 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 rebuilt 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 Messiah, the Son of God.”
“You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on 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, Messiah. Who hit you?”
Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people made their plans how to have Jesus executed. So they bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate the governor. (Matthew 26:57, 59-68; 27:1-2)
He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth.... By oppression and judgment he was taken away.... For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished. (Isaiah 53:7-8)
My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father -- Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. (1 John 2:1)
[H]e is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. (Hebrews 7:25)
We have all heard about Jesus’ absurd trials, the false accusations, the problem over jurisdiction, because no one wanted to take responsibility for what the mob wanted to see done to him…his refusal to defend himself. At every step of the proceedings, Jesus’ accusers were there, making their preposterous case.
But where was Jesus’ defense counsel? The answer is that there was none.
In Jesus’ time, it would have been Pilate’s responsibility to ensure a fair trial, but Pilate was a coward and refused to stand up to the rabid crowd before him. So Jesus stood trial alone.
Since he was our substitute, this was right. There was no need to plead his innocence, because, ultimately, he was on trial for our sins, and we are all guilty.
But his present ministry ensures that, unlike Jesus, we will never stand trial alone against the debilitating, demeaning and destructive power of sin. Today, the One who had no legal counsel now stands and advocates for us, always. Every time the accuser comes before God to condemn us, Jesus defends us, not by claiming our innocence, but by pleading the ongoing effects of his own death.
And on earth, so that we will not forget this important fact, he sends his Holy Spirit, (paracletos in Greek – meaning “called alongside”), to stand beside us, just like legal counsel would in court.
Jesus stood alone so we will never have to. Every time we sin and feel the condemnation of it, Jesus is there, standing with us, as a perpetual reminder to the court that the case is closed. And because you are loved, your Advocate will always be heard.
Lord Jesus, you stood trial alone. You took on the sin of the entire world, including my sin, and you have granted me the glorious gift of acceptance and welcome in exchange. Without you, I was justly condemned and separated from my Father in heaven. But through your powerful work, I have been rescued from the domain of darkness and transferred me into your kingdom. In spite of my guilt, you reached out to me and lifted me out of the abyss. In my desperate need, you gave me the grace to recognize my condition and respond to your loving call through faith. You have declared me righteous and have reconciled me to my Creator. I now can enjoy peace and joy that I would have not known otherwise. Help me to avoid sin. And remind me that when I do fail you, you stand as my Advocate and Defender. In your righteous name I pray. Amen.