Midweek 4 – 2022 LSB #’s 436, 422
Text – Luke 22:63-64
Now the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking Him as they beat Him. They also blindfolded Him & kept asking Him, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?”
WHEN YOU SEE SUCH BLIND IGNORANCE, WHAT DO YOU THINK?
This evening we’re going to look carefully at how St. Luke described the trial of the Lord Jesus before the Sanhedrin. Luke’s account is very focused, much more so than Matthew’s or Mark’s. After we ponder the reading closely, I want to mention one way you & I might react. I’ll mention this reaction because it’s not a good one. It is spiritually dangerous.
I’ll briefly describe it, & then suggest a different attitude of the heart as a response to what St. Luke has written for us. So, that is what’s coming in a few minutes – a warning & an encouragement. But first things first – let’s look carefully at Luke 22:63 to 23:1.
Many Christians remember the events of the night Jesus was betrayed. We remember them from all the Gospels & that includes Jesus’ trial before the Sanhedrin. To help us ponder what Luke offers, first I want to show you how different Luke is from the others.
That will help us focus not on what we remember from Matthew & Mark (which is true & right, of course!), but on what the Spirit inspired Luke to write, what is before us this evening. When Luke describes the Lord Jesus before the high council of His own people, he says less about that. Luke’s account is a lot shorter than Matthew’s or Mark’s, by around 40%.
We could say that Luke is not only shorter, it is simplified or stripped down. Really important people, for example, aren’t even mentioned. Luke does not refer to Caiaphas the high priest! We know that Caiaphas was there & I’m sure Luke knew it, too. But he decided & the Spirit guided Luke to leave that out – his Gospel is focused & streamlined.
Here’s another thing. Luke doesn’t tell us anything about witnesses against Jesus, nor
about false testimony, nor about the council trying but failing to get the witnesses to agree. No referring to the high priest tearing his robes, or anything at all like that, which is so familiar to us from reading Matthew & Mark. Again, all those things happened but Luke does not focus our attention on them at all. What does Luke give us?
He writes what the men who arrested Jesus were already doing to Him, & from that it comes clear where this is all going. A lot of people mistreated & abused the Lord as He moves toward the cross. Only Luke tells us that even before Jesus stands in front of the council, before the council has a chance to reject Him, the people who arrested Jesus were beating & mocking & blaspheming against Him, over & over & over.
As far as they’re concerned, this is going in a certain direction & it’s almost a done deal. It’s clear, it’s simple. Jesus will be condemned to die. So, notice this. Luke invites us to see that the council, the Sanhedrin, is speaking with one voice. As I mentioned, the high priest has faded into the background; Luke never even mentions him.
There are, of course, many people there, but it’s focused. And so, not once or twice, but three times, “they” speak to Jesus, with one voice: “And they said” (v. 66), “So they all said” (v. 70), & “Then they said” (v. 71). And at the last, “The whole company of them arose & brought Him before Pilate” (23:1). Evil is speaking with one, unified voice.
The Lord Jesus Himself also speaks. When the He replies to what “they” say to Him, He doesn’t answer in a way that gives “them” traction. He’s not going to help them get where they want to go. As Jesus said in the garden, “This is your hour.” It’s almost as if the Lord is letting go, allowing evil to have its way.
So, when they first say to Jesus, “If you are the Christ, tell us!” Jesus says, “If I tell you, you won’t believe. And if I ask you, you won’t answer.” “It’s like this,” Jesus says, “You don’t really care what I say. You are blindly against me. Your mind is made up, & nothing can change it. All you know is where you want this to go.” The Lord then adds what could be taken as a warning or as an invitation; He says, “From now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.”
It’s coming soon, very soon, Jesus says. My victory, my exaltation to God’s right hand. It is coming. Beware & repent. Believe. But Jesus’ words go right past them. They just want to get enough against Jesus so they can hand Him over to the Roman governor – Pontius Pilate –because only Pilate has the authority to execute Jesus.
In reply, for the 2nd time, “they” speak: “So, you are the Son of God, then?” Again, Jesus’ answers is indirect: “You say that I am.” In other words, “Do you hear yourselves? You don’t even hear what you are saying, & you don’t believe what’s coming out of your own mouth.” Those accusing just want to get this whole mess over & done with.
So “they” speak for the third time: “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from His own lips.” Heard what? Well, they didn’t really need to hear anything from Jesus. They were so bent on destroying Him that they didn’t need any testimony at all.
But now they think that they have enough, & they’re ready to take Jesus to Pilate so that, as Jesus predicted, the Gentiles can torture & crucify & kill him. As Luke gives us the events, it is streamlined, focused, simple. With one voice, with one intent, the Sanhedrin is determined to eliminate Jesus. They are captive to their own unbelief.
Friends, you can describe unbelief in different ways. But here’s one: unbelief is blind ignorance. Blind ignorance. You see this in the Gospel of Luke. In the Nazareth synagogue in chapter 4, Jesus read from Isaiah & said that His ministry was all about, among other things, “recovering of sight for the blind.” He meant that literally, of course – He restored the sight of people who were physically unable to see. But there’s even more. There’s recovery of spiritual sight for people who are spiritually blind. In teaching His disciples, for instance, about how they needed to grow in their faith & understanding, Jesus said, “Can a blind man lead a blind man?” Unbelief is blindness & it is ignorance.
Perhaps we see this most powerfully in Jesus’s words from the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” Unbelief is blind ignorance. The problem when you are both ignorant & blind is, well, you don’t even realize what’s going on with you.
Luke has told us that Satan is behind all the evil that is coming against Jesus, but can you imagine that the Sanhedrin is aware of this? Are any of them thinking, “Well, Satan is really our master, & we are following him right now”? Anything is possible – but it’s hard to imagine that. More likely, they are blind & ignorant.
This means that the Sanhedrin was wrong that night in two ways at the same time. First, they thought that if they destroyed Jesus, they would be serving God & getting rid of a dangerous blasphemer. They were wrong about that. Second, the council members had no clue that their blind, ignorant plan would, in fact serve the purposes of the God whom they thought they knew.
Jesus is God’s Son. God’s plan in the world & for the world will produce the greatest reversal of all time. That happens in Jesus. The first will be last, & the last will be first. Jesus, the First, willingly becomes the last. The evil planned against Him will reach its goal. Even before the trial, they treated Him like a condemned man.
With one voice during the hearing & after, they reject Jesus & hand Him over to Pilate to die by Roman execution, on a cross. The First chooses in love to become the last, & the last will become first. The evil came against Jesus so that it would not have to come against you. Sin & Satan, even God’s righteous judgment itself, came against the innocent, pure Son of God. But on the 3rd day He stripped off the sin & guilt laid upon Him. His life destroyed death. Satan was overcome & defeated. God’s judgment was overturned by God Himself when the Son of Man was raised from the dead, to sit at the right hand of God’s power.
“They” meant it for evil. Yes, they did, in their blind ignorance, but God meant it for good. In His stunning reversal & grace, He surely did. Now – for ourselves & our life in Christ, what may we learn from this reading tonight? How might we respond & react to the streamlined, focused account of evil that speaks with one voice against the innocent Son of God?
I mentioned at the beginning of the sermon that there is way of reacting to this reading from which we should turn away; there’s one response we should reject. That response would be this: to ponder this streamlined account about focused evil & to say, “How could they do that? I would never do such a thing! I would never be so blind, or so ignorant!”
That response, my friends, would be a kind of pride, a sort of arrogance. “They” did that, but “I” would never do such a thing. Let me try to show you why that arrogance would be so dangerous to you. Friends, it was a similar sort of arrogance that helped blind & deceive the Sanhedrin in the first place.
This is how that might have worked. Why did they hate Jesus so? I’m sure there was more than one reason. But if you read the Gospel of Luke, people get upset, & the religious leaders of Israel get really upset, because Jesus won’t let them compare themselves with others & come out on top. Over & over, He rejected that kind of arrogance.
You know the game: “Well, sure I’m a sinner, but at least I’m not as bad as he is.” Or, “I’ve made mistakes in life, but how could they do that?” But you can’t play that game if you’re going to reckon with Jesus. This is Luke’s gospel has to say regarding that. In chapter 4, people in the Nazareth synagogue try to kill Jesus because they thought that they had a special “in” with Him because He was from their hometown. In so many words, Jesus tells them they’re no different than Gentiles, because God wants to show mercy to everyone the same. It’s a level playing field with God. No comparisons allowed.
In Luke 7, Jesus is at the house of Simon the Pharisee, & he lets a broken, sinful woman (literally!) pour out her gratitude on his feet, & wipe his feet with her hair! The Pharisee thinks Jesus is ignorant, that He’s not a prophet because he doesn’t know “what sort of woman this is.” But Simon is the blindly ignorant one, because he’s thinking, “I’m not unclean like her.”
That Pharisee was not ready to admit, like the woman did, that he too was supposed to honor Jesus, he was indebted to Jesus, he needed to be forgiven by Jesus. When Jesus forgave her sins, Simon, & others like him, could not handle it.
In Luke 15, Jesus tells three parables in a row. He says that a great celebration happens before God when “one of those people” repents. Jesus is among them like a father who runs out to welcome an unclean, shameful son who does not deserve to be treated like a son at all. To the father in the parable, that is, to Jesus – the older brother & the younger brother are the same.
Then there’s the parable in Luke 18 where a Pharisee & a tax collector are praying in the temple. The Pharisee says, “I thank you God that I am not like other men, or even like that tax collector.” Jesus said that Pharisee went to his home still guilty & condemned.
Over & over again, Jesus seeks to destroy the arrogance that compares. He destroys the pecking order; He cancels the comparison game; in His presence, there are no distinctions. This is nothing more or less than utter grace, but they hated him for that. And by nature so would I. And so would you.
Therefore, when we read of the evil, blind ignorance of the men who handed Jesus over to Pilate, don’t give in to arrogance. Don’t think, “I would never do that.” Instead, I invite you & beseech you to think this: “There but for the grace of God go I.” Let there be in your heart a godly fear over the evil you & I are capable of, if the blindness & the arrogance overcome us.
This is not a fear that somehow we’re not Christians or that we’ve not been claimed by Jesus. But it’s a godly fear that remembers that we don’t get the credit for our faith. As we sometimes say, to God alone be the glory.
So, tonight I invite you to a godly fear, & then this as well. I invite you to embrace a compassion for people who are trapped in blind ignorance, back then & also today. Compassion. I say that because you see this very compassion from Jesus, on the following afternoon. Yes, Jesus’s enemies meant it for evil; they did, & it was sin – not to be winked at or condoned.
But when you read about them or see this in people today, ask God to put compassion in your heart for those people. The world around us is in chaos – but it always has been, ever since Genesis 3.
Sin & wrong are still sin & wrong, but when the greatest evil in the history of the world was happening – when nails were being pounded into His hands & feet – Jesus prayed, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.”
Compassion – when we read these verses from long ago, & when we see spiritual blindness & ignorance in our world also today. Ask God to help you show compassion for those who do not know & who cannot see. As we hear this word of God from Luke, we pray God will grant us humility & a godly fear, instead of arrogant comparing.
And finally, there is this: a grateful wonder. This reading can help us again to a sense of wonder that our God – almighty, all-knowing, all-majestic, all-everything – would work in the world in the ways that He does. You can’t stop His desire to save; you can’t keep His plan from happening. Even human blindness & ignorance bow before Him. They meant everything that they did to Jesus for evil. And it was evil, but God meant it for good, & His Son died as the innocent one in our place, & He rose in victory & authority to forgive & to save. What a wonder our God is!
And what a grateful wonder is the response of our saintly nature to God’s mercy. Through no merit or intelligence or superiority or anything in us, God has opened our eyes & enlightened our minds to know & believe in this Jesus. To God be all the glory – all the glory – for our faith this Lenten season, & always.
May God use you & me to offer the message of Jesus to whomever we meet. For all are precious to Him. In the name of the Father & of the Son & of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet