March 20, 2016 (Palm Sunday)

By John Ulrich, Senior Pastor

Mark 14:53-15:15

In our current series, a 168-hour countdown to the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, we will look today at the three trials of Jesus, Peter and Barabbas.  These trials not only raised and answered critical questions about Jesus during Biblical times, but they also help us respond to the unanswered questions about Jesus in our own lives today.

1.  The Trial of Jesus Christ (Mark 14:53-65)

The legal trials, procedures where they condemned Jesus to death, began with an appearance of Jesus before the counsel of the Sanhedrin (priests and teachers of the law).  When these religious leaders could find no solid evidence against Jesus to convict Him, they questioned Him directly.

Unlike Jesus’ previous admonitions to others not to reveal His identify, Jesus here openly claimed deity, quoting from Daniel 7:13:  “I am” [the Christ]. “You will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” He had also previously claimed He would destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days (Mark 14:57). Jesus was then condemned by His own words and sent to Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, for sentencing.

The Jews pressed charges of blasphemy against Jesus, but the claims He made were actually true. Ignoring the evidence, the guards even mocked Him, telling Him to “Prophesy!” (Mark 14:65), but He had been prophesying throughout His ministry, especially of the events that were to occur around His death.

For us today, Jesus is still making claims through the many lives around us that have been transformed by Him.  What is our personal response to all the evidence around us that promises us that we can have peace through Him?

2.  The Trial of Peter (Mark 14:66-72)

In contrast to Jesus’ standing His ground and confirming His identity to the Sanhedrin, Peter would act as Jesus had predicted at the Last Supper and disown Jesus three times. In increasing severity, Peter denied Jesus to a servant girl privately, to the same girl publicly, and finally with cursing and swearing to a group of others standing around him (Mark 14:66-71).

Would we respond in failure, like Peter, when our Lord is unpopular with others, or would we stand up like some Christians in Syria today, with grave plots already purchased, but exclaiming, “We have never been so free.” (Dallas Seminary magazine/newsletter).

3.  The Trial of Barabbas

In His trial before Pilate, Jesus’ direct claim to be “king of the Jews” (Mark 15:2) was thrown out by Pilate as not crime-worthy: “What crime has he committed?” (Mark 15:14).  In the end, Pilate released Barabbas, a known murdering insurrectionist, as a token of goodwill to the Jews, and condemned Jesus to death, simply “to satisfy the crowd” (Mark 15:15).

Jesus and Barabbas actually had many similarities:  both were Jewish, well-known, prisoners accused of crime, had the same sentence of execution. They even had the same name:  From the Old Testament we learn that Barabbas can be split into – “Bar” (meaning son of) and “Abba(s)” meaning father. The meaning of the name Barabbas is the “son of the father,” identical to the only Son of the Father, Jesus Christ.

The major difference, however between Jesus and Barabbas was that one never committed a crime and the other guilty one did.  Here the writer, Mark, is showing us that the only way for a guilty man (Barabbas) to go free is to kill/crucify the innocent man (Jesus).  Indeed, Jesus’ purpose on earth was to set the guilty free by giving  “His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45).

Today, we have all done wrong in our behavior, our minds, our hearts. Jesus answered our question of “Who is going to pay for my sins?” by surrendering His life for us, paying the price so that we can go free.

Prayer, reflection and action:

Help us to act now, lower our defenses, and be attentive to Your Spirit as we answer the questions about Jesus Christ that remain in our lives.  What are we going to do about Jesus Christ’s claims, His lack of popularity, His sacrifice? Are we going to believe His claims and identify with Christ, or ignore Him before men?  Are we going to gratefully acknowledge and worship our Lord who pays for our sins, or drift away on our own from God?