Religion Sentenced The Messiah to Death
Last Sunday was Easter. I’m sure we all got dressed up in our nicest clothes, put on our biggest smiles, even though we fought with each other all the way there, and scurried on to the church building for our Easter service. For many, this was the only time they will gather with the Church all year, maybe one of two times. I’m sure we all heard pretty much the same message, the message of the cross of Christ.
I believe that Easter is the most important holiday we celebrate every year. It is imperative that we remember what Christ did for us on the cross, although we need to remember it more often than once a year.
Think about it; Christ’s suffering began long before the cross. It began on that morning when He left the perfection of Heaven to come here to this broken earth. Picture in your mind a king leaving his palace to live in the gutters as a homeless man; this was infinitely worse. Christ left a place more perfect than anything we could imagine, to come here, be born in the feeding trough of a stable, live a life of poverty, spend three homeless years ministering and being rejected, only then to be betrayed by one of His own, beaten and crucified. And, He did all this for me, wow!
Today I don’t only want to talk about the Easter story; I want to look a little deeper into why He was crucified. Look at Mark chapter 14, starting at verse 53 and going through verse 64. These verses are the section where Christ has been brought before the Jewish council in a mock trial.
First of all, there was no due process here. Jesus was taken from the garden and brought before the council in the middle of the night. Verse 55 tells us, “Inside, the leading priests, and the entire high council were trying to find evidence against Jesus, so they could put him to death. But they couldn’t find any.” So, after they brought Him before the council, they began their investigation, but couldn’t find anything, so what did they do next? The passage tells us in verses 56 through 59 that they brought in many false witnesses to testify against Him, but they couldn’t get their stories straight, so even in that kangaroo court, they had to throw out those witnesses.
Finally, in the act of desperation, the high priest stood up and asked Jesus, “Well, aren’t you going to answer these charges? What do you have to say for yourself?” Mark 14:60. But Jesus didn’t answer him. Next, the high priest asked Him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” Verse 61. This time Jesus did answer him. Mark 14:62 says, “Jesus said, ‘I am. And you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven.’” Side note; if anyone tells you that Jesus never claimed to be God, take them to this verse. At this point, the Jewish leaders condemned Jesus to death for blasphemy.
The point of all this is to ask the question, why were the Jewish leaders so focused on condemning Jesus to death? Did they believe He was blaspheming? To answer this, we need to go back to the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. Look at the first two verses of John chapter 3. The beginning of John 3 is the story of Nicodemus coming to ask Jesus some questions. In verses 1 and 2, it says, “1 There was a man named Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader who was a Pharisee. 2 After dark one evening, he came to speak with Jesus. ‘Rabbi,’ he said, ‘we all know that you have come from God to teach us. Your miraculous signs are evidence that God is with you.’” Take a look at what Nicodemus, a Jewish religious leader, said to Jesus. Nicodemus said, “WE ALL know that you have come from God.” Who? All the Jewish leaders. You see, the Jewish leaders all knew that Jesus was from God, and they all probably at least suspected that He was the Messiah, which is why they had to get rid of Him.
These religious leaders had a good thing going. The people did whatever they told them to do, they had positions of authority and power, all respected them, and the people gave them whatever they asked. Religion had made these guys rich and powerful, sound familiar? They had a good thing going and weren’t about to give it up for anyone, not even the Messiah!
Because of their misinterpretation of scripture, they thought Christ was here to set up His Kingdom, and that would put them on the street. So, what did they do about it? In their ignorance, they fulfilled the scripture, “But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed.” Isaiah 53:5. They kept their position, but at what cost? These men sold their souls for religion.
Sadly, many of us today are right back where these men were two thousand years ago. We are so caught up in our religion and traditions that we have forsaken Jesus. Read the New Testament. Jesus and His disciples spent their entire ministry fighting religion. Paul kept saying how he left the religion of his fathers to follow Christ.
There is only one verse in the New Testament that portrays religion of any kind in a positive light, that verse is James 1:27, which says, “Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.” You see, the only religion that God recognizes as pure and genuine is not religion at all in the sense that we know it. What God sees as true pure and genuine religion is simply, taking care of widows and orphans and keeping yourself pure from the world.
Lets all purpose in our hearts to practice God’s religion, not man’s. Let’s practice caring for widows and orphans while keeping ourselves pure. Don’t let the world or its religion corrupt you, don’t conform to its mold as it says in Romans 12:1-2. And, show God’s love, that’s true religion.