I Am – Mark 14:53-65

Good morning Gathering. It’s great to be with you this morning and privilege to open the Word of God together. I hated to be out the last couple of weeks, but I had the opportunity to preach at two other churches in the city. And that’s something that we definitely value, because we’re for the gospel in our city! We want to see a whole host of Bible-believing, gospel-centered, God-glorifying churches throughout Mumbai. So, while I certainly don’t like to miss out on our time here at the Gathering, it was great to serve a couple of other churches in our area.

But, it’s good to be back and I’m excited to jump back into The Gospel of Mark with you. If you have a Bible with you this morning, I’d invite you to turn there with me to Mark chapter 14. It’s hard to believe that, after so many months in Mark, we have nearly arrived at the crucifixion.

Jesus and His disciples have just observed the Passover meal. It’s this beautiful time where Jesus reorients the Passover around Himself. He essentially put Himself as the object of the Passover and, in doing so, He instituted the Lord’s Supper (which we’ll observe at the end of our time together this morning).

And the instruction that Jesus gives during that meal (and as He washes the disciples feet) is incredible. You need to look at the other gospels to get the fuller context of what Jesus taught during that time (John’s gospel is particularly helpful on this)…

It’s really during the last supper that we see this shift toward the abandonment of Jesus by His followers. He reveals that one of the disciples will betray Him and that’s exactly what happens. Judas goes and gets the soldiers and brings them to Jesus. He reveals that Peter will deny Him. And, as you know, that’s exactly what happens. === === We’ll see next weekend Peter deny Jesus 3 times when he’s faced with questions about their relationship. And all of the other disciples fled & abandoned Jesus after His arrest in the Garden. You could say that the theme of chapter 14 in Mark, particularly the last 1/2 of the chapter, is abandonment. And this is where we come to our text for this morning; verses 53-65. This is after Jesus is arrested in the middle of the night. Mark gives us a picture of Jesus standing before the Jewish ruling council. I’ll read this for us and then we’ll go to the Lord in prayer and ask for His help in understanding what we’ve read.

“And they led Jesus to the high priest. And all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together. And Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. And he was sitting with the guards and warming himself at the fire. Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but they found none. For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree. And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying, “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.'” Yet even about this their testimony did not agree. And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” 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.” And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need? You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death. And some began to spit on him and to cover his face and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophesy!” And the guards received him with blows.” (Mark 14:53-65)

Here’s how I’d like to handle this. I’m going to take some time and break down what’s actually happening here. We’ll talk about some of the details of the trial and what’s underlying those details with the goal of arriving at God’s purpose for all of this. But, before we get to those details, I want to frame the conversation for us in light of how Mark has been leading us through the entire book. You might remember, back in chapter 8, we identified the turning point in the Gospel of Mark.

Do you remember when all of the people were trying to figure out who Jesus is. Some of them are thinking He’s John the Baptist. Some think that He’s Elijah or one of the other prophets. And then Jesus looks at His disciples and asks a question. And, it’s not just “a question,” it’s really “THE QUESTION” because it’s the question that is posed to every one of us as well. In fact, you might write this question down because we’re going to come back to it at the end of our time. Anyone remember the question? “WHO DO YOU SAY I AM?”

What we said when we preached that text is that this is where things begin to change in Mark’s gospel. Things begin to pick up speed. They begin moving toward one climactic point, sort of like you’ve just begun accelerating toward the peak of a mountain.

This interaction with the High Priest and the Jewish Council is that climactic point. Where Ciaphas asks Jesus directly, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” We need to remember that, up until this point Jesus has been silent. He’s concealed who He really is because His time had not yet come (we hear that phrase repeated throughout the 4 gospels: “My time has not yet come.”).

And so, Jesus mostly kept His identity veiled. It was only to His disciples that He revealed who He truly was, and they didn’t really even understand what He was talking about. Yes, Peter gave the right answer when Jesus asked, “Who do you say I am?” Peter said, “You are the Christ!” But, even then, Jesus said, “That answer didn’t come from you Peter, but from the Father in Heaven.” And we know that Peter didn’t get it because, immediately after that, Peter tried to rebuke Jesus and Jesus called Him Satan (which is less than awesome if you’re Peter). And then, of course, we have Peter’s denial of Jesus which (as I said) we’ll look at next weekend.

All of that to say that the disciples didn’t really even understand it. Jesus was hidden. He was concealed. His glory was veiled up to this point. Even in the way He taught people, with parables, Jesus said that was so the people didn’t really understand what He was talking about. And so, Jesus has remained silent.

Even through His betrayal, through His arrest, through all of these false accusations, Jesus has said nothing up until this point. That shouldn’t surprise us because of Isaiah 53:7: “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.”

He was arrested & oppressed; He spoke not. He was afflicted & accused; He gave no defense. But all of that changes in verse 62. Jesus is asked if He is the Christ (meaning the Messiah) & the Son of the Blessed (which is how they would have referred to God, out of respect).

So, “Are you the Messiah? Are you the Son of God?” And here we have it! This is it! This is the moment that God pre-determined before the foundation of the world where He would reveal who Jesus really is. And, Jesus doesn’t just give AN answer to the High Priest’s question, He gives THE ANSWER. Just like, “Who do you say that I am” isn’t A question, it’s THE question. Jesus gives THE ANSWER in this text. He says, “I AM!”

Now, I wanted to highlight that before we even start breaking down what’s happening in the text because we have such a strong tendency to miss the main thing. Just like the religious leaders missed it. Just like the disciples didn’t see it clearly. We have a tendency to miss things, especially in a text that we’re so familiar with like this one. But, this is too important for us to miss. This isn’t just the key moment in the Gospel of Mark. This represents the key moment in each one of our lives as well. Here it is:  “WHO DO YOU SAY JESUS IS?” That’s our main idea this morning:  “WHO DO YOU SAY JESUS IS?”

Everything in your life is driving you toward that question, and nothing even comes close to how important that question is for you. Not your family. Not your job. Not a relationship. Not money. Not circumstantial happiness. Not all of those things combined. Everything else pales in comparison! When you consider the scope of eternity and the reality of eternal union with God in heaven, or eternal separation from God in hell.

And, when you consider the fact that your eternal destination is determined by this question in your heart:  “WHO DO YOU SAY JESUS IS?” Everything else pales in comparison to the importance of that question. So, as we go through this text, I want for that question to be right on the forefront of your heart. As we look at Jesus here, as we think about what’s happening, I want you to be asking yourself, “Who Do I Say Jesus Is?”

Now, let’s back up and work our way through this with hearts that are expectant to see Jesus for who He reveals Himself to be. And, maybe we could just start by breaking down the details of what’s actually happening. First, there are some things that we need to understand about this trial itself; starting with the fact that this wasn’t even a trial. It was illegal, based on Jewish law in a whole bunch of ways.

— It took place at the High Priest’s home, not in a public space.
— Judas was bribed in his betrayal of Jesus.
— Witnesses were paid to give their testimony.
— Those witness lied.
— It was illegal to have a trial at night.
— It was illegal to pass a verdict at night.
— It was illegal to hold a trial on a holiday (including the day before and day after).
— It was illegal to pursue a death sentence before a crime was established.

Let’s be clear, This wasn’t a trial! In fact, we know exactly what this was because Mark tells us exactly what this in chapter 14, verse 2. “The Chief Priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest him by stealth and kill him…” The purpose of the Jewish council wasn’t to determine guilt or innocence here.

The purpose was to get rid of Him by having the Romans put Him to death. That’s what they wanted. They wanted to kill Him, And, because they had already determined the end, they justified whatever means they thought were necessary to arrive at that end. Bribery, lying, illegal procedure, breaking all kinds of other laws. None of it mattered to them because they had determined that they were right, and so they justified their actions. That’s what’s actually happening here.

Now, let me pause for just a moment and make a couple of observations (points of application) that I think we have to consider for our own lives. I want to be clear; these aren’t the main point that I’m driving at. The main point is Jesus looking at you and asking, “Who do you say I am?” But, there are definitely some things that we can learn here that are really important for our lives. Let me give you 3 things that I think we need to understand.

1st — The end never justifies the means, if the means violate God’s written or moral law. Let’s be honest, we are sinful & full of pride. We have a lot of blind spots, especially when it comes to our idolatry. And, if you think you don’t have blind spots, then you probably have more than the person sitting next to you. We are blind to our blindness.

And, because of that, it is not uncommon for us to believe that we’re right and begin justifying decisions & behaviors that are clearly outside of what God has communicated in Scripture. That’s what these religious leaders did. They were convinced they were right about Jesus and so they justified all kinds of things that were clearly wrong.

But, here’s the problem:  THEY WERE WRONG ABOUT JESUS. And, the fact that they were doing all kinds of wrongs things in order to condemn Him should have been a clue that they were wrong.

We need to be very careful with this same kind of pride in our lives. Where we’ve convinced ourselves that we’re right about something, and so we’re doing things that are compromising what God has called us to in Scripture. And it’s all just an effort to accomplish the end that we’ve determined needs to be accomplished. We have to be very careful with that because: A) You could be wrong. And B) If you’re doing things outside of what God has clearly communicated in Scripture, you’re definitely wrong. That’s the first thing.

The 2nd — Righteousness always operates in the light. Wickedness always operates in the darkness. The reason the the Council was doing all of this shrouded in darkness; in the middle of the night; when everyone was asleep; trying to get this thing wrapped up before daybreak, is because it was wicked. If this was the right thing, why not have a public trial? Why not bring charges and allow for other witnesses to be brought? Why do everything so quickly and under the cover of darkness? Because it was evil!

We must understand that this is how the enemy operates. And, by the enemy, I primarily mean our flesh. The enemy always wants to operate in darkness & isolation. When we think about our lives (our attitudes; our actions; our words; our interactions with other people), we should always be aware of whether we’re operating in the light or in the dark.

Are we open with people or are we trying to conceal things? Are we subjecting that issue or pattern of behavior to a biblical community, or are we isolating from community? Those are great evaluative questions that will help you diagnose if you’re operating in a way that honors God and most glorifies Him.

3rd — (and this is probably the most important) — God is sovereign over everything, including our sin, and will accomplish His purposes. I want to be abundantly clear on this: God purposed all of this before the foundation of the world.

This is happening completely under the umbrella of providence & His sovereign control. There are no accidents in God’s economy because He is all sovereign, all knowing and all powerful. That’s the pattern that see over & over again throughout Scripture. Where God is sovereignly orchestrating circumstances in a way that accomplishes His purposes, brings Him glory and also in a way that work for our ultimate good.

So, here we are. At a trial, that really isn’t a trial. In the dark. Jesus has been abandoned by those closest to Him. This council has already pronounced judgement on Him. They’re just waiting for that one “gotcha” moment that will seal the deal and allow them to hand Him over to the Romans. And, because He purposed to do it from before the beginning of the Universe, Jesus gives them that “gotcha” moment.

“You’re saying that you’re the Christ? You’re saying you’re the Messiah, the Son of God? Is that who you are?” Jesus looks at them and says, “I AM! And you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”

And there it was. That’s what they were looking for. It’s funny because all of this other stuff about tearing down the Temple, and building it back up, and all of the false witnesses that couldn’t agree with each other. They should have just led with this question because Jesus’ time had come.

Let’s break down this answer quickly, and then we’ll get back around to our main idea. First, there’s so much in that phrase, “I AM.” Jesus says, “I am:

— the one your fathers have been waiting for
— the one to bring about God’s Kingdom
— the one that God promised to Abraham
— the one He promised to Moses
— the son of David promised to your ancestors
— the one who was promised to Malachi and the rest of the prophets
— the one who was promised in the garden to crush the serpent
— the fulfillment of all the law & the prophets
— the one who has come to take the sins of the whole world upon my body— the way, the truth & the life… and the only way to be reconciled to God
— YES!!! I AM!”

We could actually spend another couple of hours talking about everything that is wrapped up in that phrase “I AM.” Needless to say, Jesus’ answer carries a lot of weight. But notice that that’s not all He says. He says, “And you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” He’s referring to a couple of messianic prophecies in the Old Testament; one in Psalm 110 and one in Daniel 7.

Psalm 110:1 — “The Lord says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”

Psalm 110:5 — “The Lord is at your right hand; he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath.”

Jesus isn’t just saying, “this is who I am”, He’s pointing specifically to Himself as the fulfillment of prophecies about the coming Messiah.

Daniel 7:13-14 — “I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.”

Jesus is cementing His answer of “I AM” by linking it to the Old Testament prophesies about the Messiah. He is declaring that He will be vindicated in His resurrection and ascension, as the Son of Man. And that’s why, in verse 64, they charge Jesus with blasphemy. It’s because He’s claiming to be God. These religious leaders knew exactly what it meant when Jesus said, “I AM” and then quoted those two texts.

And so, they condemn Him because they didn’t see Him for who He truly is. And, this is where we come back full circle. This is the question for us this morning:  Do you see Jesus for who He is, and have you submitted your whole life to Him?

This is not a matter of intellectualism. I’m not asking you to agree with who Jesus says He is. Satan and the demons are far better theologians than we will ever be. They know exactly who Jesus is. I am talking about whole life submission to Jesus as your Lord.

If you are here this morning and you are not a Christian, please understand this. We will all see the Son of Man, seated at the right hand of power and coming with the clouds of Heaven. The manner in which we see this will be determined by the question, “Who do you say I am?” This determines whether we see Him under the wrath of God, or under the righteousness of Christ.

If you are here this morning and you are a Christian, please consider this. Are there areas of your life that you’re holding back and not submitting them to His rule & reign? Are there areas where you’ve determined you’re right about and so, you’re blind to the fact that you’ve put that thing above God in your heart?

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