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“And the men that held Jesus mocked Him, and smote Him. And when they had blindfolded Him, they struck Him on the face, and asked Him, saying, Prophesy, who is it that smote Thee? And many other things blasphemously spake they against Him. And as soon as it was day, the elders of the people and the chief priests and the scribes came together, and led Him into their council, saying, Art Thou the Christ? tell us. And He said unto them, If I tell you, ye will not believe: and if I also ask you, ye will not answer Me, nor let Me go. Hereafter shall the Son of Man sit on the right hand of the power of God. Then said they all, Art Thou then the Son of God? And He said unto them, Ye say that I am. And they said, What need we any further witness? for we ourselves have heard of His own mouth”—Luke 22:63-71.
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We have considered the agony in Gethsemane and the arrest of our blessed Lord when He was taken to the high priest’s house in the middle of the night. Then we noticed the failure, the denial of the apostle Peter; and as we looked a little farther on in the record we saw how graciously he was restored. Now we come back to the house of the high priest. It was directly contrary to Jewish law to conduct a trial in Jerusalem in the night-time, but all this was forgotten when the hatred of His enemies stirred their hearts to seek the condemnation and destruction of the Lord Jesus Christ.
As we consider this portion we find several things emphasized. One is this: in order to be saved it is not enough that a person be religious. I suppose these priests were as religious as anyone in all Israel at this particular time. They were the religious leaders of the people; they believed firmly in the revelation that Jehovah had given of Himself as the one true and living God. Some have the idea that if one believes in one God nothing more is required; but we remember the apostle James (2:19) has said, “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the demons also believe, and shudder” (literal rendering). Demons recognize the truth of the unity of the Godhead, and they know that some day they are going to be called to judgment before Him; so they shudder at the very mention of His name. Mere faith, mere recognition rather, of the fact that there is one God does not save anyone. A man might turn from the worst kind of heathenism, fetishism, or any other form of paganism, and accept the idea that there is only one God and henceforth profess to serve Him, and yet not be saved at all. These priests believed in one God, but they were not saved. More than that, they believed in the inspiration of the Bible; they accepted the sacred writings as divinely given, and they believed in the prophetic character of those writings. They knew the Scriptures foretold the coming of the Messiah into the world. For centuries their forefathers had been studying the writings of the prophets; and they, themselves, had been looking forward to the coming of this Just One. Yet when the Lord Jesus Christ actually came in fulfilment of all that was written aforehand, they did not recognize Him. They refused to accept Him; they spurned Him, and turned Him over to Pilate that He might be crucified. There is something here that you and I may well take to heart. Many profess to accept the Bible as a revelation from heaven, at least to recognize the fact that God has spoken in it to mankind as in no other book. In that respect they are orthodox. But remember, one may believe all this and yet not know God’s salvation. It is not enough to know the Scriptures in order to be saved. Years ago when I first visited the Jerry McAuley Mission in New York, I sat through a very interesting service, and at the conclusion a man pointed to an old Scotsman over in one corner of the room, and he said to me, “That is Old Chapter-and-Verse.” I inquired what he meant by that. He replied, “Well, that is the name we have given him—Old Chapter-and-Verse. He is an alcohol addict; we never have known him to be sober. Yet every night he is at the meeting. He sleeps through most of it, but let anyone get up to give a testimony and misquote a scripture and Old Chapter-and-Verse wakes up at once. He has such a knowledge of the Bible from his Scotch bringing-up that it stirs him when he hears anyone misquote Scripture. The other night somebody got up and quoted that passage in Matthew 11:28 according to the old English prayer-book rendering, rather than from the Authorized Version: ‘Come unto Me, all ye that are weary.’
Old Chapter-and-Verse jumped up at once and said, ‘Haud on noo. Dinna ye be handlin’ the Word o’ God deceitfully. It does na’ say, ‘All ye that are weary,’ it says, ‘All ye that labor and are heavy laden;’ then he dropped back to go to sleep until somebody else misquoted another scripture.” Poor old man! He had a head full of Bible and a heart full ,of sin. The Bible says no drunkard shall inherit the kingdom of God. This man knew the Bible but not the Saviour of whom it speaks.
These priests knew their Bibles, and yet they rejected the Christ of the Bible. They knew the Bible so well that some thirty years before, when Herod had heard of the birth of the King and inquired where Christ should be born, the scribes and chief priests turned at once to the prophecy, and answered, “In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet. ‘And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule My people Israel’” (Matt. 2:6). They knew exactly where Messiah was to be born, and yet they did not receive Him for themselves. As He grew up to Manhood and went about ministering the Word among His own people, they actually fulfilled their own Scripture by condemning Him. So it is not enough to be acquainted with Scripture. One needs to open his heart to Christ and receive Him as his personal Saviour: for the Bible says, “There is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
The men who took Jesus mocked Him and smote Him. I suppose these were the riff-raff, the reckless mob. They realized their religious leaders were against Christ, so they turned against Him too. “And when they had blindfolded Him, they struck Him on the face, and asked Him, saying, Prophesy, who is it that smote Thee?” Our blessed, adorable Lord, who was led as a lamb to the slaughter and as a sheep before the shearers was dumb, answered not a word. “And many other things blasphemously spake they against Him.”
As the first light appeared upon the horizon, the leaders, chief priests, and scribes came together and led Him into their council. This was the supreme council in Israel which was made up of seventy of their most noted elders. They were there to judge the Lord Jesus Christ; and we are told in another Gospel that they brought a great many false witnesses to testify against Him—men who declared they had heard Him say certain things which they pieced together with other sayings which they tried to prove He had said, but which He never had said at all. In this way they endeavored to convict Him of blasphemy. They asked Him, “Art Thou the Christ?” The Lord Jesus answered, “If I tell you, ye will not believe: and if I also ask you, ye will not answer Me, nor let me go.” That is, if He were to assert Himself and say, “I am the Messiah,” giving Scripture to show how the Word of God had been fulfilled in Him, they would not believe. He knew their hearts were set upon rejecting Him. There was no evidence of repentance, and there was no sense of their need of a Saviour. That is why men and women are lost today: they reject Christ; they imagine they can get along without Him; they have no realization of the innate deceitfulness of their hearts. I have known many persons who objected to the truth of the gospel, claiming they could not believe it; until at last, broken down under the convicting power of the Holy Spirit of God, they realized their lost condition and the sinfulness of their lives, and found that only Jesus could meet their need. They had no difficulty trusting Him then; for they saw, as John Hambleton, the converted actor, used to put it, that “Jesus Exactly Suits Us Sinners.”
The Lord Jesus Christ never attempted to answer these objectors, because He knew they had no desire to understand the truth. He said on one occasion, “If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of Myself” (John 7:17). But these people had no desire to make such a test; they were not ready to face things honestly in the presence of God.
Jesus went on to make a marvelous declaration. He told them that though they spurned Him then, “Hereafter shall the Son of Man sit on the right hand of the power of God.” To them this was the very height of blasphemy; it amounted to nothing less than a claim to actual Deity. They continued the examination by inquiring—though not with any desire to know the truth—“Art Thou then the Son of God?” Doubtless they remembered what was written by Daniel the Prophet, of one like the Son of Man who came to the Ancient of Days to receive power, and glory, and a kingdom. Did Jesus mean that this prophecy referred to Himself? Was He the Son of the Highest? He answered, “Ye say that I am.” That is, they had spoken the truth in using that title when referring to Him. He was indeed the Son of God. They were full of indignation and cried, “What need we any further witness? for we ourselves have heard of His own mouth.” So they put Him down as guilty of blasphemy. And they were right if, as many claim today, He were only a man, even though the best and greatest of humankind; because for any mere man to claim what Jesus claimed for Himself would rightly prove Him to be either self-deceived or a blasphemer. But the Word reveals ,our blessed Lord to be God the Eternal Son who came down to this world, taking humanity into union with Deity, in order that He might go to the cross to give His life a ransom for sinful men.