Theme: On trial in a case of life or death.
This weeks lessons show that we are the ones on trial.
Then those who had seized Jesus led him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders had gathered. And Peter was following him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and going inside he sat with the guards to see the end. Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward and said, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days.’” And the high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your judgment?” They answered, “He deserves death.” Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him, saying, “Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?”
Most people are fascinated with trials, particularly trials of great men or trials that affect the flow of history. In recent days millions followed the impeachment of President William Jefferson Clinton by the house managers, in which the trial was conducted by the Chief Justice of the United States and the verdict was rendered by the United States Senate. While the trial unfolded, people from every walk of life dropped what they were doing in order to follow the developments on television, and the communications media seemed at times to be covering almost nothing else.
The same thing happened after the break-in at the Democratic campaign headquarters in the Watergate complex in Washington, DC., in 1972. The chief defendant never came to trial—President Richard Nixon resigned his office, effective August 9, 1974, over two years later—but many of his staff did, and scores were imprisoned. At the peak of the investigations, when the Ervin Committee began televised hearings in the Senate Caucus Room in 1973, businessmen brought television sets to their offices, bars turned theirs to cover the day-by-day deliberations, and the Public Broadcasting System, which reran the days’ hearings for the evening audience, enjoyed the greatest response to any programming in its history.
If we think further back in time, we may recall the trials of Socrates before the leaders of Athens, Charles I before the English Parliament, Aaron Dreyfus in France, Mary Stuart in England, Aaron Burr in America, and the Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg in Germany.
These trials have captivated millions. Yet no trial in history has so challenged the human race or so charged our emotions as the trial of Jesus of Nazareth by the Jewish and Roman authorities in Palestine in A.D. 30 Walter M. Chandler, a former member of the New York bar of lawyers and author of an outstanding book on the trials of Jesus, wrote, “These [other] trials, one and all, were tame and commonplace, compared with the trial and crucifixion of the Galilean peasant, Jesus of Nazareth. These were earthly trials, on earthly issues, before earthly courts. The trial of the Nazarene was before the high tribunals of both heaven and earth; before the Great Sanhedrin, whose judges were the master-spirits of a divinely commissioned race; before the court of the Roman Empire that controlled the legal and political rights of men throughout the known world.”1
1 Walter M. Chandler, The Trial of Jesus a Lawyers (Atlanta: The Harrison Company, 1956), p. xvi.
According to Walter Chandler, why was Jesus’ trial the most famous in history?
Ask God to enable you to grasp the details contained in this weeks lesson.