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The Matthew Series - A travesty of justice

Matthew 26:57-68 New International Version (NIV)

Jesus Before the Sanhedrin

57 Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled. 58 But Peter followed him at a distance, right up to the courtyard of the high priest. He entered and sat down with the guards to see the outcome.

59 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. 60 But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward.

Finally two came forward 61 and declared, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’”

62 Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” 63 But Jesus remained silent.

The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”

64 “You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”[a]

65 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy.66 What do you think?”

“He is worthy of death,” they answered.

67 Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him68 and said, “Prophesy to us, Messiah. Who hit you?”

Everything about this passage tonight is to convey the absurdity of the trial that the true judge of the earth is subjected to. The true judge is unjustly judged so that the unjust could be escape judgement.

Why this matters will be explained at the end of the message; however, when we see what has happened here, it truly changes everything.

So let’s dive in and firstly look at:

  1. The injustice of this trial

Everything about this trail is a travesty of justice; it flights in the face of human decency and of the Laws of the Jews. It is shown clearly to be what it is; a trial in search of a verdict.

There is a power principle that most modern civilised cultures have adopted is a heritage of English common law and a profound piece of legislation. This is the idea of ‘innocent until proven guilty’. This idea is that the “burden of proof” lays with the accuser. This protect people against mob justice and kangaroo courts. The Accusers have to prove without a shadow of a doubt that the accused man is guilty of what they are accused of.

Now, English common law finds its root in the Jewish Law which also teaches that if you accuse someone it has to be backed up with the confirmation of two or more witnesses and if it is found out that you are falsely accusing someone then the punishment that you sought for the accused will fall on you.

So, just pick this up the trail starts with people coming through and falsely accusing Jesus, however, none of these false accusers are brought to trial. In fact, they cannot get their stories together. So, the leaders have violated the Law, in their search for “justice”.

This passage is packed with broken Laws, in fact the whole trial is a joke. The leaders of Israel show themselves to be utterly corrupt. Almost every act violates some Law that they are charged to uphold.

This all culminates in the end of the trial when they gather around and slap him – another absolute travesty.

This was a process of justice done completely unjustly, and it had to be that because Jesus was the only true innocent that ever lived. This stands clearly here in this passage. However, in the midst of this injustice comes Jesus statement. Which leads us to point two:

  1. The justice to come

In verse 62 we read;

The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”

64 “You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”[a]

Jesus saying that the Son of Man will come from the clouds of heaven is an unmistakeable reference to Daniel 7. Now, the Sanhedrin would be absolutely familiar with the reference that Jesus is making. We might not; so let me catch you up.

Daniel builds up this image of the Son of Man, who is God’s anointed who will come to administer God’s justice and rule at the end of time. Now Jesus makes a clear statement form the unclear statement in Daniel.

In Daniel the Son on man comes from the Ancient of Days and comes with the clouds of heaven, however Jesus says that He is sitting at the right hand and on the clouds of heaven comes. The connection to the Jews was perfectly clear; Jesus is affirming that he was the Messiah, yet, he was making clear that Messiah would not simply be a proxy for God’s justice. In other words simply a man set apart by God to administer His rule and justice. No, Jesus was making equality with God absolute.

In all this Jesus was making the claim that He was and is the true judge of all the world. To come on the clouds was to be the one who judges, it was to be the one who would bring the reign of heaven to earth.

Effectively, Matthew has being establishing this reality for us over most of his book.

What I want you to see here, is that the true judge of the earth was being judged. And he was being judged unjustly. God became like us and endured our punishment. This leads us to…

  1. The just counted among the unjust

So Jesus, the judge of the earth, was unjustly punished, his trial was a travesty of justice. What does this mean?

Well what is happening here speaks deeply to our personal reality and expectation of life. We all have a sense of goodness. Everyone here, and in the world wants to be good. In fact, I read an article last week of how Swedish sociologist had discovered that mankind has an inherent sense of good. They argued, I believe falsely, that we therefore all have a innate ability to achieve that good.

The first part of their study was right; we know instinctively that there is right and wrong. We long deeply to be right and live in a just world. Where they get it wrong is in the thinking that we can achieve that good.

Now, I am not saying that everything that we do is base evil, that we are all running around with uncontrollable evil and just express it at every chance. What I am saying is that all of us have a sense that we do not live up to “the ideal”.

Franz Kafka, in his book the trial brings this to a reality and exposes beautifully how we all live with a deep sense of guilt and a sense that we don’t measure up in some way or another. Even when we have done nothing wrong, we have a sense that we aren’t measuring up.

And the fact is that we don’t measure up; the phrase, “I’m only human after all” comes to mind. We are inherently corruptible and comprisable beings. This hangs over us causing all sorts of sociological and phycological problems.

We live in a generation that says all we need is acceptance, but that doesn’t help. It doesn’t cure the sense of guilt and inadequacy that we all have. In fact, it might make it even worse. Because having people say you are okay when you don’t feel okay makes you feel even less okay.

We don’t need acceptance we need acquittal. We don’t need someone to say that we are okay when we know that we are not. We need deep and real assurance that that it will actually be okay, that we will pass the grade of life that we know we are failing.

And that is what Jesus came to do, and is doing here. He is bearing our injustice, and taking it upon himself. He is becoming the sacrifice that will actually atone for and deal with our guilt once and for all time.

The Writer to the Hebrews pick up on this and says in Hebrews 2:17

17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

The word “propitiation” is the Greek word ἱλάσκομαι (hilaskomai) which literally means he became a means to appease. What is he appeasing? The judgment! He is dealing once and for all time with the crisis of our souls. He is making it right. He is making it that we can be sure that we will pass the grade, that we will be okay when the coming judgement happens. We will pass the test of life.

Why will we pass the test; because he has already taken it; he took our failures and shortcomings upon himself and bore them, bore the real world, and spiritual consequences of what we deserve. And then we receive his reward, by faith!

Because Jesus went through your trial, and faced justice for you it is going to be okay. It really is!

This leads me to 3 quick applications to all this.

  1. How this changes everything

If this is actually true. This means three things firstly;

  1. We can bear injustice - Because he bore ours

If Jesus took upon himself our injustice, we can bare the injustices of others. Think about it. If someone acts poorly towards you an inflicts pain upon you can bear it because firstly you know that it is not the full extent of the punishment you actually deserve (Christ got that), but moreso, you have acted unjustly towards God and He took your sin upon Himself. If he loved you that much, you now can love others with the same love.


  1. We can hope in real justice - Because he ensured we can bear it

If the story of Jesus is true then the whole story of creation is moving towards a consummation of justice. Everything will be set right, everything will be made just. Jesus came to bear our injustice so that when real justice comes we can bear it, because we will be seen as His and not counted as our sins deserver, because Jesus already paid for them.

That means you and I can actually hope in real, impartial justice. You can long for the day when God will come and make everything that was hidden light; because your hidden darkness has already being brought into the light of Christ’s sacrifice.


  1. We can forgive ourselves and others - Because, in Christ, we are already declared free

The beauty of all this is that you are not trying to convince yourself that you are something that you are not. You are not saying I’m okay, when your sin, your hopelessness, your pain tells you otherwise. You are showing yourself that God has dealt with it. God has indeed paid the price that you know you could not. It will be okay, because God has already done what is necessary for you to be okay.

We can truly forgive ourselves and others, not by ignoring the problem, but by seeing that the problem is already perfectly paid for in the cross of Jesus.

Your sins, your failures have already been accounted for. You will make the grade, not because you can live a perfect life. But because he already did, and then traded His life for yours.

This is our hope, this is our joy, this is gospel – good news!

Let’s pray.

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