Monday, September 1, 2008

The Case Against Christ

I tried to find every accusation against Jesus that occurred before His trial. I did not include any charges leveled at him during the trial as, a trial is not properly a place in which new accusations are brought, but rather a place where previously made accusations are either validated or refuted. I also thought the trial of Jesus as a sham, with little attempt at any kind of fairness and that any accusations made there were only made for the convenience of the accusers.

What can we learn from the accusations made against Jesus? I thought it interesting to look at the accusations of Christ. I am not so far removed from His accusers as I might wish. In yesterday's Sunday School class, one of my 5th grade boys asked why didn't Adam just resist Eve's temptation of the eating of the forbidden fruit. I think it is a question that many of us have pondered upon and yet having myself pondered this same question, in my past I have surely succumbed to my own temptations of the world. It is so easy to decry the failings of others, while at the same time ignoring the same seeds within myself. I look down upon the Pharisee's, but am I so very different from the accusers of Christ? After this little study, I find that I may not be as far removed from them as I would like to think I am. . .

1. He committed Blasphemy
Matthew 9:2-3 And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee. (3) And, behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemeth.
Mark 2:7 Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only?
Luke 5:21 And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, Who is this which speaketh blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?
John 5:18 Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.
John 10:33 The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.

Jesus performed works that no man could possibly do. He accomplished healings and feedings and the driving out demons from men. These works were all in the physical realm. These could all be seen, but the even greater miracle of wiping a man's past clean by the forgiving of his sins, is not something that one could see with eyes or feel with hands. The accusers could not deny that the lame walked and that the blind could see after a touch from Jesus. They were forced to admit His doing of what they saw happening in the physical realm. There was no possible way for them to deny it. They had to accept his ability to heal the wounds and disfigurement of the flesh. To accept His ability to forgive sin and heal the wounded relationship between man and God took an act of faith on their part and that they were unable and unwilling to grant Him.

Something was quite obviously special about Jesus. He did things no man could do, again this had to be accepted. There was no choice, but when Jesus claimed a special relationship with God, again something unseen that would explain His power to perform miracles, the abhorrence and hatred came forth from their hearts.

The accusers fault was in having no faith in things that could not be seen with the eyes. They gave credit for the seen. They gave condemnation for the unseen. They could not deny His power to change the world in physical ways, but they did deny his power over the spiritual world. . . They could not deny Him credit for Godlike powers over the physical. They did deny Him credit for His powers in the spiritual.

What does it mean for me:
Be careful, be aware, of how in others I may grudgingly grant credit for works, that I can see, which I cannot deny, but then cast doubt on the unseen within them. . .I must give my brothers and sisters all the benefit of doubt. I must have an assumption, until shown clearly otherwise, that those around me have intentions of doing good. I may not always understand, as surely others have at times misunderstood my actions. I must not cast stones from within my heart out of my own doubt and cynicism.

2. He associated with sinners
Matthew 9:10-11 And it came to pass, as Jesus sat at meat in the house, behold, many publicans and sinners came and sat down with him and his disciples. (11) And when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto his disciples, Why eateth your Master with publicans and sinners?
Mark 2:16 And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners?
Luke 5:30 But their scribes and Pharisees murmured against his disciples, saying, Why do ye eat and drink with publicans and sinners?
Luke 7:39 Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.
Luke 15:1-2 Then drew near unto him all the publicans and sinners for to hear him. (2) And the Pharisees and scribes murmured, saying, This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.

The Hebrews were not evangelists. They were more concerned with isolating themselves from the world around them, with protecting themselves from the corrupting influences of surrounding cultures and maintaining their own relationship and good standing with God than having any concern in reaching out to other people. They are God's chosen people and their special relationship with God is passed through their genealogy, through their decendency from Abraham and subsequent involuntary circumcision a few days after birth. If you are not reaching out to people as in being concerned with their salvation, there is no point in associating with sinners and prostitutes and publicans. Nothing much good can come from such associations, for yourself. Jesus associated with those who were neither living holy nor righteous lives, not to approve or to condone their unholy, unrighteous ways, but to bring them into a relationship with Him, into a relationship with God and from that, for them escape the fires of hell, in short for them to be saved. . .

What does it mean for me:
People are brought to Jesus through relationships. I would not be in church today, but for a relationship with a man who did not forget me, after he came to God. He thought more than just about his own salvation and kept up his association with me when it would have been far easier and less trouble for him to only fellowship with saints. We're not to be unequally yoked with unbelievers. We are to fellowship with the saints. . .,but!!! Jesus sent His disciples to cross the countryside staying in the homes of, living in intimate contact with, those who needed to hear the Good News. . .This meant being involved in their lives, going to the cities where they lived, frequenting the places where they ate and slept and worked. The message of the Gospel would have gotten nowhere far if the believers all remained in the upper room. . .

3. He broke the rules of the Mosaic Law
Matthew 12:1-2 At that time Jesus went on the sabbath day through the corn; and his disciples were hungry, and began to pluck the ears of corn, and to eat. (2) But when the Pharisees saw it, they said unto him, Behold, thy disciples do that which is not lawful to do upon the sabbath day.
Matthew 15:1-2 Then came to Jesus scribes and Pharisees, which were of Jerusalem, saying, (2) Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? for they wash not their hands when they eat bread.
Mark 2:24 And the Pharisees said unto him, Behold, why do they on the sabbath day that which is not lawful?
Mark 3:2 And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him.
Mark 7:2 And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault.
Luke 6:1-2 And it came to pass on the second sabbath after the first, that he went through the corn fields; and his disciples plucked the ears of corn, and did eat, rubbing them in their hands. (2) And certain of the Pharisees said unto them, Why do ye that which is not lawful to do on the sabbath days
Luke 6:7 And the scribes and Pharisees watched him, whether he would heal on the sabbath day; that they might find an accusation against him.
Luke 11:37-38 And as he spake, a certain Pharisee besought him to dine with him: and he went in, and sat down to meat. (38) And when the Pharisee saw it, he marveled that he had not first washed before dinner.
Luke 13:13-14 And he laid his hands on her: and immediately she was made straight, and glorified God. (14) And the ruler of the synagogue answered with indignation, because that Jesus had healed on the sabbath day, and said unto the people, There are six days in which men ought to work: in them therefore come and be healed, and not on the sabbath day.
John 5:15-16 The man departed, and told the Jews that it was Jesus, which had made him whole. (16) And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day.
John 9:16 Therefore said some of the Pharisees, This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the sabbath day. Others said, How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles? And there was a division among them.

Jesus and His disciples did things which violated the strict rules of the Mosaic Law. He healed on the Sabbath. His disciples gathered grain and ate it as they walked across a field on the Sabbath. His disciples were observed not being careful about washing their hands before they ate. Jesus never denied any of these charges. The Mosaic Law contained some 613 rules or commandments. They were given as rules for God's people to live by. There is nothing wrong with the rules and Jesus said specifically that He was not there to abolish them, but to fulfill them. The point that the Pharisee's missed was that the rules of Moses Law were not intended to be given equal weight with one another. There were greater and lesser rules.

When Jesus was asked what the great commandment was, it was an attempt to trip Him up by getting Him to declare that some of the commandments of the Law were not important, but Jesus never denied the importance of all the Law, but rather gave indication that there was a hierarchy to the rules. According to Jesus there were two rules of the Law upon which all the others were based. The prohibition against doing work on the Sabbath or eating with unwashed hands was not of as great a weight as the instructions to Love God with all your heart and to love your fellow man as you love yourself. The Pharisee's very exactingly remembered the Sabbath, but forgot the foundation, they forgot to love their fellow man.

What does it mean for me:
When I first meet someone, I immediately begin categorizing them by their appearance. To an extent that is unavoidable. We must surely relate differently to a 5 year old boy, than to a 75 year old man, but we must be cautious and aware that those first impressions may not at all be accurate. I am inclined to begin judging people by their appearance. I look at their appearance, the outside of their cup and project that view of their outward appearance to their inward holiness. For a man, is he covered with tattoos or body piercings? Is his hair long, strangely cut or colored? For a woman, is her hair cut? Is she wearing makeup, jewelry, a dress, and or modest clothing? These things are surely important. Jesus never said that parts of the Law were without importance, but there are greater commandments upon which all these things are based. Jesus was clear, He never said the outside of the cup was completely unimportant, but He emphasized that the inside was of greater importance. Of first attention, concern yourself with the inside of the cup. I believe the same directive applies to our looking at ourselves and in our dealings with other people.

At times I speak with men at the jail, whose faces are marred by very crude tattoos. My mind is distracted by their appearance. I have trouble not thinking them to be unholy for their exterior appearance, when in fact they have had a change of heart and have given themselves to the Lord. Be careful. The heart can be changed in an instant, while the exterior might be permanently disfigured and scarred by the past. . .I am paying undue attention to the exterior of the cup. . .

4. He was possessed of or otherwise did works of the Devil
Matthew 12:24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils.
Mark 3:22 And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils.
John 7:20 The people answered and said, Thou hast a devil: who goeth about to kill thee?
John 8:48 Then answered the Jews, and said unto him, Say we not well that thou art a Samaritan, and hast a devil?
John 8:52-53 Then said the Jews unto him, Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest, If a man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death. (53) Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? and the prophets are dead: whom makest thou thyself?
John 10:19-20 There was a division therefore again among the Jews for these sayings. (20) And many of them said, He hath a devil, and is mad; why hear ye him?

This is in a sense related to the charge of blasphemy. It builds upon the denial of Jesus. At first His physical healings, etc. seemed to be viewed with wonder and amazement, but as the prospect of Jesus being the 'Son of Man', His being the Messiah spread, some way needed to be found to refute the miracles that He was performing. Therefore if what He was doing was not of God, and it was not God's power by which these things were accomplished, then the only other power seen as being able to accomplish the feats of Jesus, would be the power of the devil. Jesus was very clear, the only way to judge a tree is by the fruit that it bears. A rotten, nasty, awful tree cannot produce wonderful and delicious fruit. And in the reverse a good tree will not bear worm filled and infected fruit. Devils do not cast out devils, they spawn them.

What does it mean for me:
I need to be careful when I am critical of the accomplishments of others. Is envy a component in my criticism? Are the works good works? and am I questioning the motivation for the performance of or the means behind the good works? Do I trivialize the accomplishment of others by attributing their success to 'luck' or some how an unfair advantage? That is the same that was done to Jesus. When His miracles could no longer be denied, the means by which they were accomplished were attacked.

5. He was presumptuous

Matthew 13:54-57 And when he was come into his own country, he taught them in their synagogue, insomuch that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works? (55) Is not this the carpenter's son? is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James, and Joses, and Simon, and Judas? (56) And his sisters, are they not all with us? Whence then hath this man all these things? (57) And they were offended in him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honor, save in his own country, and in his own house.
John 6:41-42 The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven. (42) And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven?
John 6:52 The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us his flesh to eat?
John 8:57 Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?

We know that Jesus was a completely humble man. There was no pride within Him. He did not do His works to draw attention to himself. Many times he instructed that the recipient of a healing, "tell no one about it." And yet, His detractors were 'offended' by His rising above His humble beginnings. They would only accept a Messiah from an exotic land or from gilded palace halls. His actions and wonderful teaching lifted Him above all of His peers. Again it was not possible to attack the works or His words, therefore they attacked His character, not by His character being prideful in of itself, but as His works being a symptom of a character that was prideful. That reversal of judging the tree bad because the fruit was good betrayed their own heart.

What does it mean for me:
If a man paints a beautiful painting, there are two very different ways of looking at what he has done. I can either appreciate the beauty that he has brought into the world through his effort, or I can decry his character for so desiring attention that he will go to such lengths as to paint a painting so as to receive attention for it. When someone sings a beautiful solo at church, do I worship with them and appreciate the most beautiful voice that God has given them to share with us? Or do I fret about how egotistical they must be to sing in front of the church and thereby receive all the attention and approval from their beautiful voice?

6. He lied
John 7:47-49 Then answered them the Pharisees, Are ye also deceived? (48) Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on him? (49) But this people who knoweth not the law are cursed.
John 8:13 The Pharisees therefore said unto him, Thou bearest record of thyself; thy record is not true.

On what basis was their determination that he lied? The Pharisees were being told things they did not understand. They were being told things that broke with their past experience, but the fact that they had not seen these things before did not make them lies. When calling someone a liar, it is not sufficient merely to hang the label upon them. Some proof, some contradiction in what they have said needs to be shown. You may say that their words are difficult to comprehend or you can admit that you have trouble believing them, but that in of itself does not make them out as a liar. If your only appeal is, "What does everyone else say?" the evidence of 'everyone' believing something does not make it true or right. . .That is not evidence of anything but of your mistrustful heart. . .

What does it mean for me:
In the first passage (John 7:47-49) the leaders of the temple were deriding the officers who had been sent to arrest Jesus and did not. The officers heard Jesus and were convinced of His being something very special. (John 7:46) The officers answered, Never man spake like this man. The officers heard with their own ears and were convicted, now the detractors of Christ appealed to the authority of the rulers. I know Jesus. I know that the Bible is the Word of God. I know the Bible is literally true. The world tells me that what I believe is wrong. The world appeals to the authorities, to the rulers of their religion of science, to the high priests of their temple to convince me that the Bible is a liar and that Jesus is a fraud. That fact that they do not understand and do not believe is not evidence of anything, but their lack of faith and belief in God. . .Do I listen to them and make excuses for the Bible? I have then joined the chorus of those calling Jesus a liar. . .

This is a little study that I did for my own benefit, that I thought I would share with you.

I love you my God. . .
I thank you my Lord. . .


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