March 31, 2011

An Innocent Man - Mar 30, 2011

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In the early 90’s, Steven Spielberg directed a film about the holocaust called “Schindler’s List”. The film tells the story of a German business by the name of Oskar Schindler. During World War II, Schindler saved over a thousand Jews from being slaughtered by employing them in his factories.

For various reasons the film was shot in black and white with only a few instances of color. One such moment of color appears in the form of a red coat worn by a little Jewish girl. Later in the film, Schindler sees the same red coat, this time lying among the piles of the dead.

The horror of the holocaust and the stark redness of that coat blend together and make this an image that does not soon leave the memory.

Tonight I would flash burn another image in your minds. Not an image of brilliant red, but of gleaming whiteness.

We do not know what color Jesus’ actual garments were as He stood, hands bound, before the religious high court called the Sanhedrin. But in one sense He stood there in white. The gleaming white of a clean conscience.

The image I would burn on your memory tonight is of an innocent Jesus. He is on trial, accused of many dark things, but He stands innocent.

Mark 14:53-65 (NIV)

53They took Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests, elders and teachers of the law came together. 54Peter followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. There he sat with the guards and warmed himself at the fire.
55The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any. 56Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree.
57Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: 58“We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this man–made temple and in three days will build another, not made by man.’” 59Yet even then their testimony did not agree.
60Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” 61But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.
Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?”
62“I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
63The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked. 64“You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?”
They all condemned him as worthy of death. 65Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, “Prophesy!” And the guards took him and beat him.

Courtrooms do not make people innocent or guilty. Those on trial enter already innocent or guilty. It is simply the job of the court to try and discover which is the case.

This black, night-time trial was completely illegal according to the Sanhedrin’s rules of operation.

But that does not MAKE Jesus innocent.

The whole Sanhedrin had not gathered to try and discover whether Jesus was guilty of some crime or not. They had come there for the purpose of trying to quickly find some evidence that could be used to get Jesus put to death. Some evidence that they could point to in order to justify murdering Him.

But that does not MAKE Jesus innocent.

They had recruited men who were willing to lie for a price. And they had coached these witnesses to try and incriminate Jesus.

But that does not MAKE Jesus innocent.

We are told that many witnesses came forward to lay crimes at Jesus’ feet, but their testimony continually clashed in impossible ways. Their lies were obvious in their conflicting testimony.

But that does not MAKE Jesus innocent.

And then there was the silence. Through all the false testimony about Him, Jesus stood silent. He would not speak a word to correct their lies, defend His character or persuade them to let Him go.

But that does not MAKE Jesus innocent.

Many a guilty man has sat in the front of the court in utter silence. In fact, it sometimes seems that silence is more of an indicator of guilt than anything else. But just as Jesus’ silence did not make Him innocent, neither did it make Him guilty.

I suppose their repeated attempts to incriminate Him does at least suggest Jesus’ innocence. I mean, they were grasping at the wind when it came to finding something wrong that Jesus had done. As for finding something that would make him worthy of the death penalty, well, they had nothing anywhere near that.

And then there’s the abuse that Jesus suffered at their hands. We are told that they spit on Jesus and mocked Him. It was all darkly funny to them. But even the physical beating and the mockery that Jesus endured do not MAKE Him innocent.

Jesus was innocent when He walked in the courtroom that night, and He was innocent when He walked out. But the evidence of THAT truth is not found in the courtroom.

Any who truly desired to know what Jesus was like, could have simply asked those who knew Him. They could have asked the mother who raised Him. They could have asked the blind men and the lepers whom He had healed. They could have asked Mary and Martha, or their brother Lazarus whom Jesus had raised from the dead. They could have asked any of the countless people who followed Jesus around if they had EVER heard a word from Jesus that was spoken in hatred. Who had EVER seen Jesus do something in carelessness, or with selfish intent, or with arrogant pride.

Today, we can also look to the testimony of Scripture to see the evidence of Jesus’ innocence. In 2 Corinthians 5 it says…
“21God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV).
In Hebrews 4 we read…
“15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15 NIV).
In 1 Peter 2 it says it plainly,
“ He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth” (1 Peter 2:22 NIV).
And for those who want more proof of Jesus’ purity, proof that He wasn’t just innocent of any great crimes, but that He was completely pure in EVERY way before God the Father, there is the empty tomb of Easter morning.

God would not have raised a lying prophet from the grave. God would not have accepted the sacrifice of a dirty sinner on behalf of all the sinners of the world. No! Only a pure lamb of immeasurable value could be offered to atone for sins like the human race has committed.

No, if Jesus had been even the slightest bit dirty with sin, He would have remained in the grave. The women would have found Him (as they expected to) in the early morning hours of that first Easter Sunday.

But they didn’t. He had risen.

I said earlier that the image I want to tattoo on your minds tonight is that of the gleaming white, innocent Jesus standing before the Sanhedrim.

Why this image? Not to prove the innocence of Jesus by the events that took place in that courtroom. No, the greater mass of evidence for Jesus’ purity is found outside that courtroom.

The fact that Jesus was silent in the face of all those false accusation didn’t prove His innocence, and neither did the abuse that was heaped on Him. But, all of this done to an innocent man DOES show us that Jesus CHOSE to go to the cross for us.

In a way He had to help the Sanhedrin overcome His innocence so that they would move Him along to the Romans who would eventually approve His execution.

Jesus was innocent to be sure, but He was no victim. He willingly went through this trial, on the way to our cross. He gave Himself to the wolves, in order to give us the gift of His innocence.

In the movie “Schindler’s List” the image of the red coat is so shocking because you see it on a precious little girl, walking along in the land of the living, and then the next place you see it is in a place of the dead, among bodies piled for the burning.

With Jesus, we see the opposite happen. We see Him in His gleaming white coat of innocence standing before the Sanhedrin, as good as dead, on the way to pain and suffering and death on the cross. But then, the next place we see this gleaming coat of sinlessness is on ourselves. It is Jesus’ innocence, but it’s on US, placed there by the Holy Spirit by the hands of faith!

Whenever you read about Jesus’ goodness in the Bible, remember, THAT PERFECT GOODNESS is now yours. Christ’s perfect purity is all that God sees when He sees YOU.

May that image warm your faith, your heart, your life. May that image give confidence and joy.

Let that image linger, and give you peace.


And the Peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

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