Friday, July 4, 2014

The Judge Judged: Appreciating Biblical Ironies in the Trial of Jesus

Often while studying for the next Sunday's message, I come across a rich truth I had never considered before. Such moments get me excited to preach and share a week's worth of blessing to God's sheep. Recently while studying the trial of Jesus in Matthew 26:57-66, I discovered rich ironies I had always missed. All my life, this scene was one of unjust tragedy, but ironies of the text make it richer than that.

First, here is the passage.
57 Those who had seized Jesus led Him away to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were gathered together. 58 But Peter was following Him at a distance as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and entered in, and sat down with the officers to see the outcome.

59 Now the chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus, so that they might put Him to death. 60 They did not find any, even though many false witnesses came forward. But later on two came forward, 61 and said, “This man stated, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to rebuild it in three days.’” 62 The high priest stood up and said to Him, “Do You not answer? What is it that these men are testifying against You?” 63 But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest said to Him, “I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God.” 64 Jesus *said to him, “You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

65 Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has blasphemed! What further need do we have of witnesses? Behold, you have now heard the blasphemy; 66 what do you think?” They answered, “He deserves death!”
When you place the text within its context, beginning in verse 47, it is clear that Matthew's emphasis is on the sovereignty of Christ. Once he fully submits to God's will in Gethsemane, Jesus is portrayed as being in absolute, sovereign command over each event. With that in the background, we can better appreciate the above scene.

Dr. Darrell Bock unfolds the ironies of this passage in  his book Jesus According to Scripture:Restoring the Portrait from the Gospels (a book I highly recommend for pastors):
The irony of the scene is twofold. First, Jesus is the one who gives the testimony that leads to his death. The evidence that the leadership could not get by false testimony, Jesus supplies. Second, although they think that they are conducting a trial to censure Jesus’ claim of authority, Jesus is claiming that in reality they are the people on trial, and he will be their judge. In the midst of the trial in all the accounts, Jesus affirms that he is the Christ, the Son of God, and makes claims to possess the judgment authority of the Son of Man.” -375
Isn't that rich?

There is an important application to hermeneutics and preaching here. When handling narrative texts, there are a number of things to keep in mind like the characters, the plot, the background, the climax, the resolution, etc. In my own experience, I have discovered that another important aspect of biblical narrative is irony.

When we read this passage without irony, it is a tragedy that emotes sorrow for Jesus the victim. But when we appreciate the ironies of the passage, we see Christ willingly and sovereignly laying down his life for his friends (John 10), not as a victim, but as Lord.


For more:
David's Lord: Jesus on the Hyopstatic Union
12 Proofs of Jesus' Deity From the Synoptic Gospels
And yet this Jesus of Nazareth . . . 
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 1
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 2
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 3
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapters 4-5
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 6
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 7
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 8
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 9
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 10-11
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 12
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 13
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapter 14
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapters 15
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapters 16
"Jesus and the Eyewitnesses": Blogging Through Bauckham - Chapters 17
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