Mark: The Silence of the Lamb

Sermon by Derek Thomas on February 12, 2006

Mark 14:43-65

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The Lord’s Day Evening

February 12, 2006

Mark 14:43-65

“The Silence of The Lamb”

Dr. Derek W. H. Thomas

Now turn with me once again to the Gospel of Mark,
and we’re in chapter 14, beginning at verse 43. Now, these past number of weeks
we have been following our Lord and His disciples in the upper room and
preparing for Passover, and now latterly, in the last two weeks, having
celebrated the Lord’s Supper together and predicted Peter’s denial, we have
followed our Savior into the Garden of Gethsemane. And last Lord’s Day evening
we followed the account of the wrestling in the mind and soul of our Lord as He
prayed that incredible prayer, “Father, all things are possible for You; remove
this cup from Me; yet, not what I will, but what You will.”

And tonight we come to the section of the arrest and
the beginnings of the trial of Jesus, and before we read the passage together,
let’s come once again before God in prayer.

Our Father in heaven, we bow our hearts in Your
presence, wanting once again to be still and to know that You are God. We come
in the realization that by faith we have been brought into union and communion
with Christ. This same Lord Jesus Christ who wrestled in the garden, who was
arrested and tried in this mockery of a trial, who gave His life for us. And we
pray now, Holy Spirit, that You would once again give us a measure of solemnity
as we tread on holy ground. We are unworthy of the least of Your mercies. Hide
Your word within our hearts, that we might now sin against You. For Jesus’ sake.
Amen.

Hear now the word of God:

“Immediately while He was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve,
came up, accompanied by a crowd with swords and clubs, who were from the chief
priests and the scribes and the elders. Now he who was betraying Him had given
them a signal, saying, ‘Whomever I kiss, He is the one; seize Him, and lead Him
away under guard.’ After coming, Judas immediately went to Him saying, ‘Rabbi!’
and kissed Him. They laid hands on Him, and seized Him. But one of those who
stood by drew his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest, and cut off
his ear. And Jesus said to them, ‘Have you come out with swords and clubs to
arrest Me, as you would against a robber? Every day I was with you in the temple
teaching, and you did not seize Me; but this has taken place to fulfill the
Scriptures.’ And they all left Him and fled.

“And a young man was following Him, wearing nothing but a linen
sheet over his naked body; and they seized him. But he pulled free of the linen
sheet, and escaped naked.

“They led Jesus away to the high priest; and all the chief priests
and the elders and the scribes gathered together. And Peter had followed Him at
a distance, right in to the courtyard of the high priest; and he was sitting
with the officers, and warming himself at the fire. Now the chief priests and
the whole Council kept trying to obtain testimony against Jesus to put Him to
death; and they were not finding any. For many were giving false testimony
against Him, and yet their testimony was not consistent. Some stood up and began
to give false testimony against Him, saying, ‘We heard Him say, ‘I will destroy
this temple made with hands, and in three days I will build another made without
hands.’’ Not even in this respect was their testimony consistent. The high
priest stood up and came forward and questioned Jesus, saying, ‘Do You not
answer? What is it that these men are testifying against You? But He kept
silent, and did not answer. Again the high priest was questioning Him, and
saying to Him, ‘Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?’ And Jesus
said, ‘I am; and you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of
power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.’ Tearing his clothes, the high
priest said, ‘What further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the
blasphemy; how does it seem to you? And they all condemned Him to be deserving
of death. Some began to spit at Him, and to blindfold Him, and to beat Him with
their fists, and to say to Him, ‘Prophesy!’ And the officers received Him with
slaps in the face.”

Amen. May God bless that word to our hearts.

Spurgeon says,

“The narrative of our Lord’s grief is harrowing in the extreme. One
cannot think long of it without tears. In fact, I have personally known what it
is to be compelled to leave my meditations upon it from excessive emotion. It is
enough to make one’s heart break fully to realize the suffering of such a One,
so lovely in Himself, and so loving toward us.”

What we have here tonight is the account of the
arrest of Jesus and the trial of Jesus. Why would they come with clubs and
swords? This is not just a rabble or a mob; this is an officially sanctioned
party of the Sanhedrin council. Jesus will say later that they had had
opportunity to arrest Him in the temple. Roman soldiers didn’t go into the
temple. These are men employed as temple police by the Jewish authorities. This
is religion, not the state, that is arresting Him here. What had Jesus ever
done? What had He ever said, that they should come with clubs and swords to
arrest Him? He had never preached insurrection; He had never led a rebel mob
against the authorities; He didn’t carry a sword; He never issued a fatwah,
as Islamic imams do on a regular basis about almost anything. His kingdom was
not of this world. He didn’t lead a band of zealots in some kind of
quasi-political revolution to overthrow the Roman authority. He’d never been in
trouble with the state, but He is numbered with the transgressors. And there’s
the heart of it. There’s a determination here on the part of providence, but on
the part of Jesus, that He take up every aspect, every detail of the description
of the Suffering Servant of the Lord.

They come (and Mark uses the word five times) — they
come to seize Him; to lay hold of Him. It’s not without significance that
this is a garden, because it was in a garden where sin first entered into the
world. It was in a garden where the first Adam fell. It was in a garden where
sin gained his victory, and it will be in a garden now where the last Adam will
undo what Satan did and gain victory over Satan, and death and hell, and the
grave. It’s not without significance that the end of our Bibles that we read a
description of the new Jerusalem, which is a city, to be sure, but it’s a garden
city with trees lining on either side of the river bearing fruit every month
like a celestial Harry & David™ club.

All of this, as verse 49 reminds us in a very solemn
way, all of this is in order that Scripture might be fulfilled. Jesus has
yielded Himself to drink of the cup — the cup which hours before, minutes
before, He had wrestled in the Garden of Gethsemane in His human consciousness
as He come to term with the demands of the covenant of redemption: that He
should drink of this cup and drink it to its last dregs. And He will drink it
now, and He will drink it to the full, and He will do His Father’s will. And He
will endure the sufferings of the Lord’s Servant in the place of sinners to
accomplish all of the demands of the covenant. He will pay the ransom price to
set us free.

Mark has his own way of telling this story, because
he wants us, I think, to see particular things. He is not interested in the
identity of the sword-wielding assailant — John will identify him as Peter,
maybe because Peter is the one who is whispering in Mark’s ear this Gospel of
Mark, and out of respect, perhaps, he passes that little incident over. Nor does
he identify the slave of the high priest whose ear was cut off, whom one of the
Gospels identifies as Marcus.

No, it is Judas that is to the fore in Mark’s
Gospel, as though Mark is drawing this contrast of black and white between Judas
and Jesus. What greater contrast could you ever draw? It is Judas, one of the
twelve, one of the twelve, who betrays Him; who has plotted and schemed
with the Sanhedrin for thirty pieces of silver, no less, to hand Him over with a
signal: a kiss in the darkness of the Garden of Gethsemane, by night. It is
Judas who has brought this band of temple police and others into the garden.

I want to ask tonight, how can someone in Judas’
position ever come to this? Is it possible that you or I could ever be brought
to this? Could we ever sell out our Lord for thirty pieces of silver, to hand
Him over with kind words and a patronizing gesture? You know, I doubt that six
months before Judas would ever, ever, have believed that he would do what he is
doing now. But when he was up in Galilee, when he was following our Lord,
listening to Him preaching, watching the miracles that He performed, engaging in
acts by the power of the Spirit in himself as a disciple, if you’d come to Judas
and told him that six months from now he would hand over Jesus, betray Him to
certain death, that his name would forever after become a byword for betrayal
and perfidy and duplicity and treachery, that he would be known hereafter as the
betrayer…I want to ask, how can this come about? We think of Judas in a
negative way.

When John tells his version of the gospel, he tells
us right up front when he’s first introduced, ‘He’s the betrayer.’ But how did
it come about? It came about, I think, slowly, little by little. We understand
that for months, perhaps for over a year, perhaps for two years, perhaps from
the very beginning of his discipleship he dipped his hand into the bag. He was
the person who kept the money, and little by little his conscience has become
seared and dull, insensitive to the warnings of God, to the voice of conscience.

He was a believer. Yes. Don’t let your theology get
in the way here. He was a believer — in outward terms now…from a worldly
point of view.
From the point of view of the disciples, from the point of
view of those who knew him, he was a believer. He was one of the twelve. He was
one of the disciples. He was a professing child of God. He had obeyed the
outward call of Jesus to follow Him. He had seemingly left all and followed
after Jesus. He had tasted of the heavenly gift. He had shared in the Holy
Spirit. He had tasted of the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the
world to come. Yes. It is possible to be a Christian in the world’s eyes, in
the church’s eyes, and still be a son of perdition
. I think that is meant to
scare us to death! I think that if we are bringing in the doctrine of eternal
security to try and bring some comfort in here, we’re bringing it in too soon,
because as far as these disciples were concerned, Judas was one of them. He was
a member of that visible church, in that period of redemptive history.

The doctrine of eternal security is that the elect
of God will persevere to the end. But it’s possible to be a believer in the eyes
of the church and fall away. Do you understand what I’m saying? That you can
give an outward profession of faith, you can pass the criterion of the seventy
elders of First Presbyterian Church, you can even pass the criterion of your own
conscience and still be a son of perdition. I think it’s meant to scare us to
death. I think it’s meant to say to us, “Make your calling and election sure.”
Don’t be too quick to rest on past experiences of grace. Are you trusting with
all of your heart and soul in Jesus tonight? Are you repenting of your sins
tonight?

What is now evident in this narrative is that Jesus
is alone. They all forsake Him. There’s a curious little story of (it’s probably
Mark himself) of a man who flees naked. I have no idea why he’s only wearing
this outer garment. I don’t even want to think about it! But he flees. And the
point of the narrative is that Jesus is alone. He is alone now. And you know why
He’s alone. You understand why He’s alone here, that there is no one with Him.
Peter is following close, but Peter will forsake Him, too. The rest of the
disciples have run away, and you understand why: because there is no other good
enough to pay the price of sin. It’s not Peter and Jesus; it’s not Jesus and
John; it’s Jesus only. It’s Jesus only….

And so comes the trial. You know, Plato wrote — and
of course, we’re what? 400 years or so before Jesus — he wrote in his
Republic
…he imagines what would happen to a man, a just man, who came from
outer space somewhere and into this world. What would happen to such a man, a
just man who came into this world? And Plato says,

“A just man will be thrown into prison, scourged and racked, will have his eyes
burnt out, and after every kind of torment, be impaled.”

Well, he may well have been writing about Jesus.

Everything about what goes on in this trial is
contrary to Jewish law, the law of the Sanhedrin. This Sanhedrin council
consisted of 71 members, and the Jews of course refused to honor the Roman
occupiers in legal matters, and the Romans were savvy enough to recognize that
and to grant them certain powers in matters of religion and even in some matters
of politics. In capital cases like this one, they were never to meet at night.
Witnesses were to be warned about hearsay and rumor. They would meet in a
certain part of the temple, and not in the upper room of the high priest’s
house. There is contrivance here. There is conspiracy here. Three times Mark
says in verses 55 and 56 and 57 — it’s like a ringing bell! — they were trying
to find evidence against Him. They weren’t just trying Him; they were trying to
find Him guilty, and they have to resort to false testimony. And even the false
testimony doesn’t agree. Everything is orchestrated, and there is bribery and
there is corruption.

C.S. Lewis once said that the ancient man approached
God as the accused person approaches his judge, but the modern man, the roles
are reversed. He is the judge; God is in the dock. And that’s precisely what’s
happened here. The only charge that carries any weight at all is the one that
Jesus had made about destroying the temple and in three days building it again
(referring to the resurrection). It was a statement that alluded to II Samuel
7, where David’s Son would build a temple in God’s name, and this Son receives
the promise, “I will be His Father, and He will be My Son.”

But Jesus is silent. “As a sheep before its shearers
is dumb, so He opened not His mouth.” There was no point in trying to convince
this rabble, this mockery of a trial. Even the spitting, and the blindfolding
that follows, and the beating is a reminder of Isaiah:

“I gave My back to those who strike, and My cheeks to those who pull out the
beard. I hid not My face from disgrace and spitting.”

And then the high priest stands up and asks Him, “Are You
the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” And all of a sudden, Jesus speaks. In
all of the otherwise silence of Jesus, He suddenly utters the words, “I am.”
And not all commentators are agreed, but it seems to me at least that Jesus in
uttering those words would have been reminding His hearers of the name of God
Himself: “I Am that I Am.” And He says, “You will see the Son of Man seated at
the right hand of power.” Not only is He Messiah, but He is that Daniel figure
of the Son of Man sitting in power and glory.

Alexander McClaren says:

“There was for a moment a little rending of the veil, the veil of His flesh; and
a remission of some flash of brightness that always tabernacled within Him, the
one stray beam of manifest divinity that shot through the crevice, as it were,
for an instant, was enough to prostrate with a strange awe even those rude and
insensitive men.”

It was a clear declaration from Jesus of His identity as
the Son of Man, as the Lord of glory Himself, as the Son of God incarnate.

Jesus, you see, is in charge here. He’s not just
some victim. He’s marching forward here to meet Satan on his own ground and
defeat him and destroy him.

And they slapped Him. They slapped Him on His face,
blindfolding Him and saying, ‘Prophesy who did this.’

In Bach’s St. Matthew Passion there’s a very
telling point at this point in the narrative of the Gospel as Bach put it to
music. “Who is it that hit You?” the choir sings. And do you know the response?
“I, I and my sins.” That’s what Bach would say. “Who is it that hit You?” Who
is it that took his hand and slapped Jesus in the face? And Bach says, “It was
I, and my sins did that. My wicked, evil sins did that to Jesus, the altogether
lovely one, and fairer than 10,000.

Oh, my friends! Behold Him! Behold Him as He gives
Himself for sinners like you and me.

Let’s pray together.

Our Father, once again on these Sunday evenings
we, having reminded afresh of the love of our Savior… ‘Did e’er such love and
sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown?’ We thank You, Lord, for every
glimpse and every revelation of the way in which Jesus gave Himself for us. Help
us tonight to respond with gratitude, with thanksgiving, with a heart that pours
itself out in love to You. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Please stand; receive the Lord’s
benediction. — Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and the Lord
Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

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