And as soon as it was day, the elders of the people and the chief priests and the scribes came together, and led him into their council, saying, Art thou the Christ? tell us. And he said unto them, If I tell you, ye will not believe: And if I also ask you, ye will not answer me, nor let me go. Hereafter shall the Son of man sit on the right, hand of the power of God. Then said they all, Art thou then the Son of God? And he said unto them, Ye say that I am. And they said, What need we any further witness? for…we ourselves have heard out of his own mouth?
What think ye of the Christ?
And if Jesus is the Christ, what will ye do with him?
That was then, that is always the question, God’s question to the world, that must be answered, and according to which the world is judged.
And also that part of the world that is called “church” must be confronted with this searching question, and must give its answer. , In fact, that part of the “world” must appear before the bar of God’s justice first of all. (It must appear as a leading witness and defendant. It must play a leading role in the answer to this scrutinizing question that is embodied in the cross!
Always judgment must begin at the house of God!
Thus it had been foretold by the prophets of old. Indeed, the Lord would come! And He would come to His temple! But to that temple, that house of God, He would come as Judge! And “who may abide the day of His coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner’s fire, and like fuller’s soap: and he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.”. Hence, it had been said of that day of the Messiah that “it shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.” . Yet, the house of God would not perish in the fire of that judgment, for unto them that fear the name of Jehovah the Sun of righteousness would rise on that day, with healing in his wings. . . .
The judgment of the Church!
For the Church would be tried, judged, condemned!
And the vials of God’s wrath would be poured out upon her in that hour of judgment!
And in and through the separating and refining process of that judgment the sin of the Church would be exposed in all its horror of iniquity, the chaff would be burned, the axe would strike at the root of every fruitless tree, but the wheat would be gathered into the garner. Thus John the Baptist had explained the meaning of His coming. Thus gray-headed Simeon had predicted as he held the child Jesus in his arms: “Behold, this child is set for a fall and rising again of many in Israel, and for a sign that shall be spoken against. . . . that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” Luke 2:34, 35. And thus the Lord Himself, had not only definitely declared more than once, but so had plainly signified by driving out of the temple those that had turned it into a den of robbers. . . .
The judgment of the house of God!
The condemnation of the Church, yet her salvation!
For Man’s church must be condemned and destroyed; God’s Church in Christ must be purified and saved!
The true Church and the false; the Bride and the adulterous woman!
The one is called Jerusalem, the City of the living God, the daughter of Sion; the other is spiritual Sodom and Gomorrah!
And always the one rises from within the bosom of the other!
As one Church they appear in the world. Especially was this true in the old dispensation, when the law was superimposed upon the promise. O, indeed, also in the new dispensation it is true that all is not Israel that is of Israel, and that the carnal seed always springs up and develops and grows in power among the seed of the promise, but now the true Church may separate from the false, and preserve for herself the truth. In the days of the law, however, the Church was confined within the limits of one nation, bound by one law. It worshipped in one temple, was ministered unto by the same priesthood, reigned over by one king. And when the false church corrupted all these institutions, what could the righteous do? . . . .
Now is the judgment of this world! . . . .
For this false church is essentially “world.”
Nor is there a more wicked, abominable, hypocritical, self-righteous, self-complacent, outwardly pious and inwardly corrupt, part of the world than this false, apostate church, this wicked, cruel, blood-thirsty adulteress!
It is that church that stones the prophets, and then builds their tombs! It is she that kills the righteous, and then garnishes their sepulchers!
Upon her head is all the blood of the saints! . . . .
And she, too, must answer the question: what will ye do with Jesus that is called Christ?
Art thou the Christ?
Ah, the false church, as it was chiefly and competently represented at that time by the Jewish council, would rather have avoided the question!
Somehow they apprehended that if they would be compelled to ask that question, they would by that very fact be summoned before the tribunal of God, to answer His question: what will ye do with Jesus, the Christ? . . . .
And so, they had tried to avoid the question!
On Wednesday of the last week of Jesus’ earthly life, these leaders of the Jews had held an informal meeting to consult how they might kill Him. For the matter had become urgent, especially since the raising of Lazarus,. And two items of their wicked program had then been definitely established: they would try to kill Him by subtlety, and not on the feast day! Thus they would avoid all official procedure and all publicity. And they would not be compelled to answer God’s question: what will ye do with the Son of God? . . . .
But God’s program differed radically from theirs, and it must be worked out.
Jesus must be officially tried. The Church must face God’s question. And the trial and judgment of God must be conducted as publicly as possible, before all the world! The plans of the council were completely frustrated, especially by Jesus’ dismissal of the traitor they had hired for the realization of their wicked schemes. And in that darkest of nights they come against the Lord with a band of soldiers, armed with swords and staves, bind Him, and lead Him away captive to try Him in their council.
What think ye of the Christ?
That is the question.
And well they are qualified to answer it for the whole church of Man of all ages! The Sanhedrin was the highest Jewish tribunal. It consisted of seventy one members, the high priest always presiding. Even though its power had been considerably curtailed by the Romans, and though they had no longer authority to try cases that involved capital punishment, yet its actual power and influence was still great. And an able representation of the false church it was. The very ablest men of the nation had a seat in that court: elders and scribes, the high priest and the chief priests, men well versed in theological questions, and that knew the law,. And they were acquainted with Jesus of Nazareth. Often they had sent delegations to watch Him. They had been witnesses of His teaching in synagogue and temple. Often they had seen His mighty works. . . .
What will ye do with Jesus the Christ? . . . .
That is the question.
And even now they desperately try to avoid it.
Bad enough it is that they must follow the way of judicial procedure. Bad enough that even this procedure already condemns them, and exposes them as instruments of the devil. For such was, indeed, the truth. Even apart from the chief question that must be answered, the entire trial only served to set forth in clearest light the innocence and righteousness of Jesus, and their own wickedness and evil designs! . . . .
For their present sessions were illegal.
Four such sessions we may distinguish as having been held that night and in the early hours of the morning. There was a session in the apartments of Annas, the father-in-law of the high priest, where a preliminary hearing was held, which led to nothing, but served the purpose to gain time for the convocation of the Sanhedrin in the hollow of the night. There was a second session in the apartments of Caiaphas, after the council had convened. It was in this meeting that a desperate but vain attempt was made to concoct an accusation against Jesus, and to find witnesses to sustain it. (In the early morning a third meeting was held, in which the Savior was officially placed under oath, and put before the question whether He were the Christ, the Son of the living God, and where He was condemned to death. And lastly, a fourth meeting was held in the absence of the Lord, to deliberate upon the question whether they should bring Him before the Roman governor for the confirmation of their death sentence.
But how all these meetings were to the condemnation of the judges!
The entire procedure was illegal, a work of darkness!
For, first of all, though they had no authority to try capital offenses, yet they had determined that the Lord should be put to death even before they had tried Him and they actually pronounced the death sentence! Secondly,’ their sessions were begun at night, which they were not permitted to do, and which characterizes the whole trial as a work of darkness! Thirdly, they wire evidently gathered in the palace of the high priest, while the council chamber was the only legal place for official transactions by the Sanhedrin. Fourthly, and what is much worse, they had no charge! They had captured the Savior and led Him into their council, but when He stood before them, they knew of no accusation against Him! Fifthly, there were no witnesses, and they endeavor to find witnesses from their own body, not to Sustain or corroborate a charge, for there was no accusation, but to invent one!
O, Jerusalem, Jerusalem! . . . .
Thou that killest the prophets!
What will ye do with Jesus the Christ?
Already it becomes plain what will be their answer to this most important question!
Gathered in the hollow of the night!
Condemning Jesus to death without authority! Capturing Him without a single charge against Him! Failing even in their most determined attempt to find a consistent testimony against Him!
O, cruel adulteress!
Already it becomes manifest what is in thy adulterous heart!
Yet, say it, openly, definitely:
What about the Son of God?
Art thou the Christ?
O, but the question may not be avoided!
God’s question must be answered. In God’s courtroom the Sanhedrin, and the whole false church must give an answer to His searching query: what will ye do with Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the living God?
Yes, yes, it is evident that they would rather avoid the issue. For they like to maintain their appearance of righteousness and piety,. They are extremely, painstakingly religious, these leaders of the Jews, as the false church always is. They prize highly their reputation. They seek the honor of men. The Christ question must therefore be avoided. Jesus must be exposed as a malefactor, and as such He must be condemned. Even after they have killed the Son of Man, they must be able to place an extra wreath of honor on the graves of the prophets.
And so, they seek other evidence.
But God will not have it so: what will ye do with Jesus? . . . .
That is the question in God’s court!
The high priest becomes irritated at the constant silence of Jesus: why does He not answer the charges brought against Him? And, finally, all their efforts to incriminate the Lord having failed completely, the high priest and the whole council realize that they must face the issue. The Christ question must be put! And by mouth of the president the council places the Anointed of God under oath to tell them before the face of God, whether He be the Christ the Son of the living God! . . . .
And the Lord breaks His silence: I am! And ye shall see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of God and coming with the clouds of heaven!
Now again: what will ye do, if Jesus be the Christ?
The false church stands condemned by its own answer! For, indeed, they still attempt to maintain their pious appearance. They call Jesus’ testimony blasphemy. They feign indignation. The high priest rends his high priestly robe. The council maltreat Him, buffet Him, smite Him, spit upon Him, blindfold and mock Him. But what of it? They have spoken the language of Antichrist, for they have denied that Jesus is the Christ! And why should not Jesus be the Christ? Did they not know? Had He not revealed the Father? Had He not done many wonderful works? Did not all the prophets testify of Him? Had not John the Baptist pointed Him out? Had He not received the witness of God? Why should not Jesus be the Christ? . . . .
They do not want Him to be!
A Christ after their own heart, one that will walk with them in darkness, and receive the honor of men, one that will not condemn their hypocritical piety, they seek!
But this Jesus they hate!
Now is the judgment! . . . .
Hour of wrath and utter desolation: God pours out the vials of His wrath over Sion!
But in that hour God’s own Servant, His anointed High Priest, willingly turns to the place of execution, that He might bear away the sin of His beloved Church forever!
For even though the false church is condemned, and must perish, Sion must be redeemed through justice. The Church of God may never perish! And when men nail the Christ to the accursed tree, and God makes that cross the place of execution, He is there, the High Priest, to change that cross into the altar of His perfect sacrifice. . . .
And in His resurrection the Church emerges from the fire of judgment, justified!
Sion is redeemed through judgments
Glory to God!