The Trial and Denial of Jesus
Journey to the Empty Tomb
The Trial and Denial of Jesus
John 18:12-27
 
Last week we began a Journey to the Empty Tomb from the perspective of the Apostle John.  Chapters 18-20 give us the account of what happened in the last hours and days of the earthly life of Christ beginning with the betrayal and arrest of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane.  And what we discovered last week is that even though we are looking primarily at the historical narrative of what happened, it is absolutely packed full of spiritual insights and truths that are exciting to discover.
 
We ended last week’s study at verse 12 as Jesus was arrested and bound by the soldiers who came to arrest Him.
 
Now we need to keep in mind Jesus is not a victim being arrested against His will.  This is the fulfillment of the plan of God, developed before the foundations of the world that would provide ultimate salvation and atonement for lost mankind.
 
That Jesus is in control is seen in His courage, His power, His love and His obedience.  And now that plan developed centuries before is in action as this massive contingent of soldiers and police bind Jesus and take Him to Jerusalem.
 
Today we continue our study at John 18:12-27 and what we find is two dramas that are unfolding at the same time.  They separate and different and have tremendous significance on their own.
But we also discover they are intermingled and inseparable linked together, both by John and the Holy Spirit.
 
And as these two dramas unfold, they teach us two basic about Christianity.  One is the majesty and glory of Christ and the other is the sinfulness of man. Now those two truths are at the very core of Christian doctrine.  Christianity is built on the fact that Christ is God in the flesh and as such He is Holy and sinless.  Man,, on the other end of the spectrum is depraved and sinful with nothing good in him.  And all of Christian though, if it will stay true to Scripture, must begin there and then move up from that foundation.  That's what it's all about.
 
And these two basics of the faith are graphically illustrated in today’s text.  The majesty of Christ is seen in His trials while the sinfulness of man is presented through Peter and his denial of the Lord.
 
I find it extremely interesting that in John’s record, the Holy Spirit weaves these two dramas together.  It seems to me it would have been much more simple to just put the trial in one spot, at least this portion of it before Annas, and give us the details of that, then put Peter's denial together in one spot and give us the details of that and present them as separate, stand-alone events.
 
But that’s not what we are given and the more I’ve studied it the more I have become convinced there is a reason for that.  They are intentionally woven together and interlaced by the design of God.  And with His help I hope to show you why today.
 
First, we see
1. Jesus’ Trial, Act 1
 
verses 13-14
 
Here we are introduced to two real winners, Annas and Caiaphas. They are despicable individuals. They are the lowest of the low. But they're very important to the scene.
 
Before we get into the particulars of this text, let me just remind you of some general things in regard to the trials of Christ.
 
Jesus had two trials, a religious trial and a civil trial. His religious trial had to do with Israel; His civil trial had to do with Rome. And nothing could be done in terms of Jesus' execution without Rome. Israel could decide that He should die but Rome had to execute Him because they had no right to take a life since they were under Roman bondage.
 
So first of all, there is a religious trial. And just as a side note, the whole thing was illegal.  It was nothing more than a mockery of their judicial system.  It had three parts.
 
First was the arraignment which was the initial indictment before Annas.  That took place immediately after the arrest in the garden.
 
Following that, there was a meeting with Caiaphas, the High Priest and the Sanhedrin.  They got together in the middle of the night.
 
Later they regrouped after daybreak to try to make it legal which was the third trial.
 
After that, He went to the civil trial which also had three phases.
 
First he appeared before Pilate and Pilate didn't know what to do so he sent Jesus over to Herod who was the tetrarch of Galilee who happened to be down in Jerusalem at the time and Herod didn't know what to do with Him either so he sent Him back to Pilate. So there you have the three phases of the civil trial.
 
So what we have here in John is the first event of the first trial when He appears before Annas.  Now according to verse 19 in this passage, Annas is referred to as the high priest.  Earlier, in verse 13, Caiaphas is called high priest.
 
Now according to God’s design you can’t have two,, so why are both identified in that way?  I think it is simply an indication of what a mess Judaism was experiencing at that time.  Israel had deteriorated into so many problems that not only did they have two men identified as high priest, there many have been many others who had the right to be called high priests. But just for our study’s sake, just know Annas was the power behind everything.
 
And just to illustrate what kind of a guy Annas was, he was so powerful that when they took Annas out of office, the next six, seven guys they put in, five of them were his sons, one was his grandson and this one,, Caiaphas, was his son‑in‑law. So he may not have been high priest technically, but he was high priest for real. He was running the show.
 
 
He was an extremely powerful and wealthy man who made much of his living off of selling temple sacrifices.  And guess who had twice messed up his operation? None other than Jesus who when He began His ministry went in there and chased everybody out and evidently did it again at the close of His ministry.
 
Obviously that didn’t make Him very popular with Annas. So naturally if they wanted to get an indictment of Jesus, they would go to Annas for those two reasons.
 
Number one, he was the brains behind the machinery, serving as high priest and number two, he had a hatred for Jesus who had messed up his business. And they figured if anybody could come across with some pretty powerful indictments, our boy Annas could cut it. So they brought Him to Annas.
 
Then we meet Caiaphas.  Now Caiaphas is most likely the real high priest as far as function is concerned.  John introduces him as such in verses 13 and 14.
 
Now, Caiaphas had been plotting Jesus' death all along. He's scared to death of Jesus. He loves the prestige of his office and he views Jesus as a threat to that.  After all, He’s got a following and He’s talking about building a kingdom and tearing down the temple and the people are shouting “Hosanna” when He walks by and Caiaphas can’t have that.
 
 
 
In fact, back in John 11:49, he got together with his cronies and they talked about the tremendous problem of Jesus just prior to Jesus' triumphal entry and they had heard about Him raising Lazarus from the dead and that’s where Caiaphas suggested it would be best for Israel if Jesus died and what they should do is kill him to save the nation. 
 
Now, he didn't know what he was saying but he was actually speaking prophecy. The very next verse talks about how he was prophesying as high preist about the death of Jesus.
 
Isn’t that something?  Caiaphas is spouting off hisi hateful mouth speaking in political terms and didn’t have enough spiritual sense to know God was speaking spiritual truth through his mouth regarding the death of Jesus Christ as sSavior of the world!
 
So that's Caiaphas. He hated Jesus. And so was ready and plotting to get rid of Him.
 
Now in the meantime, there is another drama brewing and this one revolved around Simon Peter.
 
verse 15
 
Mark adds that he followed at a distance. He was kind of hiding back in the bushes and sneaking along.
 
And another disciple is present also, although we aren’t told who it is.  We are told he is close to the high priest.  In fact, he apparently accompanies Jesus to the appearance before Annas.
 
Now some think he's John since John often identifies himself in the third person.  Personally I don't think he is John. What connection would John have with the high priest? I mean, they would know him very definitely to be a disciple of Jesus.
 
Who is it then? Well, I have two choices that you can choose from that I think are valid. One would be Nicodemus.  Since he is one of the Sanhedrin, he would have been able to slide in there
 
The other one and the one that I think I lean toward is Joseph of Arimathea, a very wealthy and rich aristocrat in whose tomb Jesus is eventually buried.
 
We find out in John 19 he was a secret disciple of the Lord.  So either Nicodemus or Joseph of Arimathea likely would have had such an in.  You can take your pick.
 
So, Peter is following along. Now this is typical of Peter. Peter will not stay where the Lord wants him to stay.  In the garden the Lord built a little protection shelter for them and allowed them to get away. But Peter didn't accept that. He jumps out and starts to fight the Romans. And the Lord said: "Peter, put that thing away." And He grabs him and puts him back in the little shelter.
 
Now we discover that while the other disciples ran away, most likely staying together, Peter is off by himself and about to get into trouble.  He still hasn't got the sense to know what he can't handle. Obviously he's moved by the fact that down in his heart he remembers that he promised Jesus he'd die with Him and he loves Jesus and he can't stand the thought of not being with Jesus. Now we know that. I know Jesus spent three years with Peter and every time He stopped, Peter ran into the back of Him.  Peter was always there. And on one occasion He said, "Will you go away?" And he said: "To whom shall we go, Only you have the words of eternal life."
 
So, Peter had a tremendous desire to be with Jesus. And there is no question that he loved Jesus with all his heart. But he just had this kind of overwhelming self‑confidence that he thought that he could hack his way into any problem and he would not accept the security that Jesus had provided for him.
 
And before you get too hot about Peter, look at your own life. The Lord says, “I'm going to give you a secure place to stay.  Don't get out into the world's system.  Don't buy the world's philosophy.  Don't entertain yourself with the world's entertainment. Don't become a part of the world’s environment.  Just stay in the place I’ve provided so you can grow.  And then when you're strong enough you can go out there and you can meet the world and you can be victorious but until you get that strong, hang in tough with those who belong to Christ and build yourself up until you're ready for that.
 
And so many Christians say, "Are you kidding? I can handle that." Boom, they go out there. And the Lord spends His time reaching out and taking Christians and spanking them on the way back to put them in the shelter because we will not accept the place that God has given us to abide in Christ.  We always have this overconfidence, this arrogance, thinking we can go in the world and do what the world does and we'll come out all right.
 
That's Peter. He is not content with what Christ has provided for him in security until he gets strong enough to handle it.
 
Now later on he was strong enough. He was powerful. He could handle anything. He got before some of those persecutors later in his life, wound up being crucified upside down, I mean, he could handle it. But not yet.
 
But Peter doesn't know that. He's just self‑confident Peter. But he's not too self‑confident. He's following a far off. He wanted to be with Jesus and yet he was afraid.
 
verse 16
 
Now I can just imagine that in his mind he is plotting. "When I get in there I'm going to get right next to Jesus. I'm going to get in their face and if they try anything, I’m going to take care of business! And it will be just like it was in the garden when Jesus spoike and they all fell down!”
 
But, he didn't plan very well.
 
Verse 17
 
He didn’t even make it through the door before this little girl asks him if he’s a Christ-follower and he denies it!
 
And I wouldn’t be surprised if that just kind of slipped out.  I think he was shocked by his response.
 
I think he just spoke without even realizing what he’d said.  Fear stepped in and spoke before he even thought about it.
 
Now, get the picture. He was going in to where Jesus was on trial. He was ready for that. But he wasn't ready for the little girl at the door.   Listen:  Satan is so subtle!  You can work and prepare for some temptation you know is coming and get everything ready and lay out the strategy, and then suddenly you are blind-sided by something you didn’t even see coming.
 
And here all of a sudden, before Peter even knew what happened, he was going to go meet the whole Roman army and all the Jewish leaders and he was going to take care of it but he couldn't get pass the little girl at the door. He blew it. And once he had told the lie he was stuck with it because now if he turned his story around, then he made Jesus look bad ‑‑ a lying disciple.
 
Not only that it would have seemed like he had a plot going on or something. So he's stuck with his lie. And he's got so much pride he's going to save his face so he just keeps on lying and just keeps on blabbing that he doesn't know Jesus from then on out through the end of the evening.
 
Gone are all of his heroic promises to Jesus, gone was all the courage that was in his heart, gone was all of his fleshly self‑confidence and he was a great big nothing. The arrogant coward, unable to confess his Lord, is now cringing in lying denial. And the whole thing happened so fast he didn't even know what hit him.
Now, it's interesting that the time in the garden when he jumped ahead, Jesus rescued him. But this time, Jesus let him hit bottom and bounce a few times. He just let it hurt to teach Peter the tremendous lesson he needed to learn.
 
verse 18
 
Now, Peter, what are you doing with them? Those are the enemies of Jesus. Now you see how far this poor guy has come. In the garden he's standing beside Christ, defending Him with his little sword. Now he's standing by the fire warming himself with the enemies of Jesus and he's already denied Him repeated times.
 
Jesus said, "You'll deny Me three times." He did. On three different occasions he denied the Lord.  But did you ever notice he made multiple statements? In fact, if you put all of the gospel accounts together there are at least six different statements that Peter makes denying Christ.
 
And so Peter, the end of verse 18, sad comment, "... Stood with them and warmed himself."
 
His hands were warm, his heart was cold.
 
Meanwhile, back at the trial,
 
Jesus' trial, Act 2
 
verse 19
 
Now, this is a most, most interesting thing because the examination before Annas was a mockery of justice.
It had been decided already that Jesus was going to die, it was just a matter of getting something to trap Him in so they could have right to kill Him legally. Jewish law said that when anybody was brought on trial he could not testify to bring guilt upon himself. The evidence had to be presented from witnesses testifying against him. He was innocent until proven guilty. There was a kind of running Fifth Amendment that no man could condemn himself by his own word. The burden of proof was on the court.
 
There also was a rule that there was never to be any striking of the prisoner, no display of emotion before the judge. Well, they violated all of that in His whole trial.
 
Not only that, there was a rule that from the trial to the execution there had to be an interval of at least two days and that was broken.
 
Another rule was that they couldn't try anybody at night and they broke that. The whole thing was rotten from beginning to end. It was all part of the plot to kill Jesus.
 
And so, verse 19 says that the high priest asked Jesus of His disciples and of His doctrine.
 
He had no right to ask Him that. He was not even supposed to be the one who testified. That isn't even a legitimate trial.
 
Instead of bringing a formal indictment and stating the charges, Annas says, “Well, Jesus, why don't You tell us about Your disciples and Your doctrine.”
 
 He wanted Jesus either to talk about a planned insurrection or to talk about His heresy so they would then have an accusation against Him.
 
So Annas violated the principles of Jewish justice when he questioned Jesus. But that was nothing different 'cause the whole thing was illegal anyway. And he wanted Jesus to say He was training His disciples for a revolution, or He was teaching heresy. Either way they'd get Him.
 
But, Jesus replies not by answering their questions but by indicting them. He's at His own arraignment and He arraigns them. He's at His own indictment and they get indicted.
 
Look at verse 20
 
No secret doctrine here!  Bring in some witnesses and let them speak!  I’m supposed to be charged and those charges verified by witnesses.  This whole thing is a mockery!
 
You see, they wanted to get the trial over with in the middle of the night when there weren't any witnesses. Now sooner or later they came up with some and they were false witnesses. But here Jesus said, “I haven't taught any secret doctrine to any small group that's going to cause a revolution.  Everything I've said has been for public consumption”
 
And Jesus is not being uncooperative, He's simply says, “I want a legal trial, why don't you do it right?”
 
You say -‑ Well, did He expect to get a legal trial? No, but He just wanted to make it clear from the very beginning that it was illegal so when it was all over the guilt would be theirs and it would be true what is said that He was hated without a cause. And He was crucified in innocence in a mockery of a trial. And Jesus wants us to be aware of that, to know that.
 
So, the whole thing was a plot with no evidence. And Jesus really left Annas unable to proceed, with egg on his face. He turned the tables and Annas doesn't know what to say. This isn't legal, Annas.
 
So there's Annas sitting there not knowing what to say, so one of his henchman,
 
verse 22
 
This is a typical underling looking for a promotion.  So in an attempt to please the boss, he hits Jesus. By the way, that is not an incidental detail.
 
Now, it's interesting that the word which is the word for "struck with the palm of the hand," also can be translated "struck with a stick." And I think there is a high probability that is what happened.  You might say, “Why?”
 
Because of Micah 5:1
 
You see, this is not an incidental detail, but a fulfillment of prophecy.  I don’t think the soldier knew he was fulfilling prophecy, but Jesus did.  And I point that out to you to remind you once again that Jesus is in control.
And by the way, I love the fact that Micah calls Him the Judge of Israel. They didn't know it. Annas was sitting up there playing judge but guess who was the real judge? Jesus Christ.
 
And notice the response of Jesus in verse 23
 
Isn't that good? If I've done something wrong, where are the witnesses? If I haven't, why are you hitting Me? Oh, that's powerful. So calm, so dignified, so much in control and you've got a frustrated henchman to go with the frustrated Annas.
 
Now that is a kind of reaction you don't normally get out of a man. Can you imagine if one of us as believers were in a deal like that? I know how I’d respond, and I’m pretty sure I know how you’d respond also.
 
But not the King.
 
Well, by this time Annas has had it, to say the least.
 
verse 24
 
During the time He was with Anna, they had gathered together the Sanhedrin and Caiaphas to carry on the mock trial. They wanted it at night before the people knew about it. They'd have Him convicted and turned over to the Romans by morning and nobody could do anything about it. Then they would mingle in the crowd and cry "Crucify Him" and they would bring about His death, and that's exactly what they did. It was just a part of the plot all the way along.
 
Finally, lacking evidence, they accuse Him of blasphemy.  They high priest rips his clothes in feigned outrage; the soldiers slap Him in the face and the people begin to spit on him and cry for his crucifixion.
 
That was the mockery of a trial as Jesus is humiliated before Caiaphas.
 
The next verse returns us to Peter. Act 2
 
verse 25a
 
Isn’t it interesting that while all this is going on, Peter is still in the same place.  In verse 18, Peter stood and warmed himself and in verse 25, he’s still there. All through this time he's been denying Jesus standing around with those unbelievers. I find myself wanting to say, “Peter!  What are you doing?  Get out of there!”
 
But Peter is a vivid reminder that once you get immersed in the world it's hard to get out of it. And I'm sure if Jesus' heart was grieved by Annas and Caiaphas and the man that hit Him in the face with the stick and the people who spit on Him, don’t you know His heart was broken by Peter?
 
 verse 25b-26
 
At the very moment Peter denies Him for the third time, that old rooster crows and, man, like a bell it went off in Peter's brain what Jesus said, “Three times you'll deny me before the cock crows.”
 
 
And then Luke tells us the two scenes came together.
 
Luke 22:60-61
 
As they led Jesus out of the hall of Caiaphas, his face now bruised and bleeding, the spit of evil men dripping from his beard, humiliated and alone, He passes Peter out there in the courtyard at the very same moment that rooster begins to crow.
 
And he turned and looked at Peter.  There he stands warming at the fire of the enemies of Jesus.  That old rooster is crowing away off in the distance and in that moment time stands still as the two dramas come together.
 
"And Peter remembered the word of the Lord. . .and he went out and wept bitterly."
 
I'll tell you something, friends, if you've gotten to the place in your life where you're fooling around in the world and you know it's wrong and things aren’t like they used to be, and you’re standing around with unbelievers most of the time, there’s only one way out and that's to look into the face of Jesus Christ and remember what it used to be and get back to it.
 
This morning, this message is the look of Jesus Christ at you and you ought to go out and weep bitterly and make it right. There are so many things that Peter teaches us.
 
We learn just how weak we are as believers when we are following Jesus at a distance.
 
We learn the danger of self‑confidence.
 
We learn the consequence of prayerlessness. Peter should have been praying in the garden instead of sleeping.  If he had of, he might habve handled this situation better.
 
We learn the danger of evil company.
 
We learn the power of fear.
 
But above all, we see the beauty and majesty of Jesus Christ.
 
I want to remind you that look at Peter is not the end of the story.  Jesus recovers Peter and three times Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him and three times Peter has the privilege of saying "I love You." One time for each of the intervals of denial, Jesus let him redeem himself and then Jesus made him into the rock that He wanted him to be. God can restore you if you're willing.
 
Now, I asked myself why the Holy Spirit wanted to make sure these two dramas unfolded in Scripture the way they do.  Why this strange intermingling of stories?
 
Perhaps we could say to emphasize those two truths, the glory of Christ and the sinfulness of man.
 
Maybe it’s to emphasize the necessity of Christ's atoning death for sin, not just the sin of the lost but the sinfulness of the saved.
 
Maybe it’s to contrast the faithfulness of Christ with the faithlessness of Peter.
 
It could be so we see the consistent love of Christ against the fickle denial of Peter.
 
But ultimately, while it is all that, I think it is to exalt Jesus as the King of Glory.
 
How are you going to exalt somebody in an arrest and indictment and in a mock trial in which He's spit on and punched around and pushed and abused and mocked?
 
The only way you can do it is by contrast.  And I will tell you, in fact, Peter would tell you, no matter how humiliated Jesus is, even when He is down this low, He is still infinitely above us.
 
And the Holy Spirit shows us somebody who was much lower than Jesus, who became much more humiliated and much more degraded than Jesus. And that somebody is Peter. And I will remind you, Peter was no run‑of‑the‑mill follower of Christ.  Peter was a pretty hot commodity.
 
He was chosen and called by Jesus Christ Himself.  In terms of natural ability and personality, he was probably the greatest of the disciples.  He was quite an individual. And yet when he is laid alongside the Lord here in Scripture, he looks so pitiful and worthless.
 
And the point is not to humiliate Peter, but to lift up Jesus.  So what do we see in these two dramas?
 
First, in the Lord, we see the exalted, sinless, victorious King of Kings and Lord of Lords who willingly and voluntarily gave His life for us.
 
And in Peter we see ourselves.  We are nothing without Christ.  If you are lost, come to Him today for salvation.  If you are saved, follow closely and humbly serve the Lord.
 
Let’s pray. . .

 

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