Treason and Triumph
October 20th, 1991 @ 10:50 AM
TREASON AND TRIUMPH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
10-20-91 10:50 a.m.
Once again we welcome the multitudes of you who share this hour of worship and proclamation on radio and on television. You are a part of our dear and precious First Baptist Church in Dallas. And this is the senior pastor, W. A. Criswell, bringing the message of the morning.
In our preaching through the Book of Mark, the Second Gospel, we have come to the last days in the life of our Lord. The title of the message, Treason and Triumph, and we read Mark 14:1, “After two days it was the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take Jesus by trickery and put Him to death.” The first verse of chapter 15, “Immediately, in the morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the Sanhedrin, and they bound Jesus, and led Him away, and delivered Him to Pilate” [Mark 15:1].
The beginning verses of chapter 16, the last one:
When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of Jesus, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him.
Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen.
They said among themselves, “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb?”
When they looked, they saw that the stone had been rolled away, even though it was very large.
And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed.
But he said unto them, “Do not be not alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. Just look at the place where they laid Him”—an empty tomb.
[Mark 16: 1-6]
There are two in the Bible recorded—there are two trials of the Lord Jesus. One was ecclesiastical, by the rulers of the religious part of the life of the Jewish people [Mark 14:53-65], and the other, trial by the Roman government [Mark 15:1-20]. The Roman government was very generous in its attitude toward the provinces that they had conquered. Some of the provinces were under the senate. They were senatorial and governed through a proconsul. Some of them were under the imperial Caesar and they were governed by a procurator. And if the province was volitive, it was given to the Roman emperor. And Judea was one of those volitive provinces and was governed by a procurator, who at that time was Pontius Pilate.
First, the trial under the ecclesiastical authorities [Mark 14:53-65]; our Lord was arrested about midnight in Gethsemane, and was taken before Annas [John 18:12-13]. Annas was by far the most powerful figure in the ecclesiastical establishment. Five of his sons were high priests. He was a high priest. And his grandson Matthias was a high priest. And his son-in-law, Caiaphas, was high priest at that time [John 18:13].
It was illegal in Jewish law for them to condemn a man to death in the nighttime. It had to be done in the sunlight. So between midnight and the rising of the sun, they had Jesus there before Annas. And they beat Him. And they slapped Him. And they spit on Him [Matthew 26:67-68, 27:29-31]. And they pulled out His beard [Isaiah 50:6]. He was bloody. In any way and in every way they could insult Him, they did it. They blindfolded Him, and struck Him, and said, “You are a prophet. What is my name? Who hit You?” [Luke 22:63-65]. Then being in an ecclesiastical court, after sunrise, they had by that time gathered the seventy members of the Sanhedrin, presided over the high priest Caiaphas, and they accused Him of ecclesiastical blasphemy. “This is the man who is going to tear down the temple [Matthew 26:61; John 2:19], and this is the man who blasphemes the name of God” [Matthew 26:65]. So they condemned Him to death [Matthew 26:66, 27:24-26].
The Roman government had taken away the authority of death from those provinces, kept it in their own hands. That occasioned the necessity of taking the Lord Jesus to Pontius Pilate, the procurator [Matthew 27:2]. Out in front of the Praetorium, the mob gathered. They refused to enter into the house because it was the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and there might be a piece of bread in there, and they would be unclean [John 18:28]. Isn’t that the most astonishing thing you ever heard of in your life? They are plotting the death of the Son of God [Matthew 27:2], yet they would not enter the house, lest there be in it a piece of leavened bread [John 18:28].
So Pilate came out to them [John 18:29]. And there was the mob led by the ecclesiastical establishment of Judea. Now they knew that they could not accuse Him of ecclesiastical blasphemy. They had to do it in some kind of a civil context. You remember in the eighteenth chapter of the Book of Acts when Gallio, who was a nephew of Seneca, had before him the Christians, and they accused them of religious matters, Gallio pushed them away [Acts 18:12-16]. Well, that would have happened here were it not that they changed their accusations of the Lord Jesus from one of ecclesiastical demeanor to one of civil disobedience.
So they accused Him of saying that He was a King, and that meant an insult to the Emperor Caesar; and they accused Him of forbidding tribute, of paying taxes to Caesar [Luke 23:2]. But when Pilate heard their accusation he caught that—“He is a King.” And he took Jesus inside the Praetorium, the old palace of Herod the Great, and asked Him—and the Greek is very emphatic—“You, Thou, are You a King?” [Luke 23:3]. Standing there before him bloody, with His beard plucked out [Isaiah 50:6], pummeled and beat, dressed in peasant robes; “You are a King?” And once again, that Greek emphatic word, “Thou sayest that I am a King” [Luke 23:3]. That’s the strongest affirmative that the Greek language could present.
“You are a King?”
“Thou say it. Yes, I am. I am the King of truth” [John 18:37].
“What is truth?” [John 18:38].
“And someday the King will come and reign over all of the earth. But My kingdom is not of this world” [John 18:36].
And Pilate went back out and said, “I find no fault at Him at all” [John 18:38].
But they knew their man, those Jewish people who were plotting His death. They knew Pilate, their man. He was a vacillating sovereign. So they said, “If you befriend this Man who says He is a king, then you are not a friend of Caesar, and we will accuse you to the Roman Emperor” [John 19:12]. So Pilate acquiesced, had Jesus beat [John 19:1], and turned Him over to the Roman soldiers to be crucified according to Roman custom [John 19:16]. And He died. He was killed. He was crucified [John 19:17-34].
One of the strangest things that you’ll read in legend and in myth, in the whole world, is the suffering and, many times, the death of the gods. That is one of the strangest things. If you read of Egypt, there is Isis and Osiris, a tragedy. Read of the mythological characters in Greece; there is Aphrodite and Adonis who was killed by a wild boar. Read it in Latin Rome; there is Venus and Vulcan.
One of the strangest things you’ll read here in the Bible, in the Book of Ezekiel:
God said to me, “Son of man, have you seen what the elders of the house of Israel do in the dark, every man in the room of his idols? . . .
Then He said to me, “Turn again, and you will see a greater abomination than this.”
So God brought me to the door of the north gate of the Lord’s house; and to my horror, I saw women—Jewish women—seated there, weeping for Tammuz.
That was the Sumerian Babylonian god and his paramour Ishtar. And there they are weeping for Tammuz, who is dying.
It is just universal. Here in America—if you go down to Mexico City, there southeast of Mexico City—those two enormous mountains. The highest in the American continent is McKinley, in Alaska, about 20,000 feet high. Those two, Popocatepetl—18,000 feet high; Iztaccihuatl—17,000 feet high and Popocatepetl stands there a citadel, and Iztaccihuatl, lying there covered in snow and in death. That is universal.
There’s a great difference that we see though in our Lord Jesus. He is dead. He is crucified [John 19:17-34]. But how different He is—had He never been raised from the dead [John 20:1-14], there would have been no one like our blessed Lord Jesus. His words—“Never a man spake like that Man!” [John 7:46], the officers of the temple avowed. He Himself said, “Heaven and earth may pass away, but My words will never pass away” [Matthew 24:35]. They may pass into proverbs. They may pass into literature. They may pass into law. They may pass into doctrine. But they will never pass away, the words of our Lord Jesus [Matthew 24:35].
The deeds of our Lord Jesus; how astonishing! We read in mythological literature—the seven great labors of Hercules, or Jason and the golden fleece. We read of Beowulf and the Knights of the Round Table, but none like our Lord Jesus—the whole creation of God in His hands [Matthew 28:18]; the wind and the waves [Matthew 8:27], and life and death [John 11:25-26]—all in the mighty work of the Lord Jesus. And His incomparable life; you can read the life of Gautama Buddha, of Mohammed, of the great philosophers and teachers of the world, but there’s none like the life of the Lord Jesus, humble and sweet and gentle and precious, the beloved Lord Jesus.
But the tremendous thing that avows the deity and the glory of our Savior is: the third day He was raised from the dead, the triumph of our Lord. Do you see how the Book of Mark closes, that last chapter and those last verses? It says here, “So then after the Lord Jesus” [Mark 16:19]—all the way through, He is called ‘Jesus.’ But after His resurrection, He is called the ‘Lord Jesus.’ He “sat down at the right hand of God” [Mark 16:19], the omnipotent Lord, Ruler of the heavens [Matthew 28:18], and someday King of the earth [Revelation 11:15].
One of the most unusual verses in the Bible is Romans 1, verse 4. Horizō, horizō, your word “horizon” comes from that. Horizō—marked out in a great circle where the earth and the sky meet. Horizō, pointed out, declared. Romans 1:4: “He is horizō, He is marked out, He is declared Son of God by the resurrection from the dead.” None like Him in the earth. God in the flesh [John 1:14]. Horizō, “marked out as the Son of God by the resurrection from the dead” [Romans 1:4].
And that became the glorious message of that little band of disciples, facing the whole world, preaching the unsearchable riches of the saving grace of the Son of God [Ephesians 3:8]. He can forgive our sins [1 John 1:9]. He can wash us clean in His blood [1 John 1:7; Revelation 1:5]. He can stand by us in the hour of our death [Psalm 48:14]. And He is coming again; our glorious, risen Lord Jesus [Acts 1:11; Revelation 1:7].
All right, then you say, “How do you know that? How do you know He was raised from the dead [Matthew 28:5-7], and that He ascended into heaven? [Acts 1:9-10]. How do you know that?” In two ways; first, historical affirmation; our Lord was slain, killed [Matthew 27:32-50]. They watched Him die, and He is buried in a tomb hewn out of solid rock [Matthew 27:58-60]. And the opening to that grave was covered with a great stone [Matthew 27:65-66]. And there He lies.
What makes you think that He was raised from the dead? By historical affirmation. Our Lord was raised from the dead, first, because His body was gone [Matthew 28:1-6]. “Preacher, all they had to do to circumvent and to deny the preaching of the apostles was, You say He is raised from the dead? Here’s His body.” That’s all they had to do. They had His body. His body was under a Roman guard [Matthew 27:66]. “You say He is raised from the dead? Look, here’s His body. Not only that, preacher, back yonder in that time, the Egyptians, who were their neighbors, embalmed the dead.” I have seen bodies in Egypt that are four thousand years old. To this very day, when a preacher stands up and preaches that Jesus was raised from the dead—“Show us His body.” You wouldn’t have a word to say.
All right; the other part of that, “We have to admit we don’t have His body. His body is gone. The disciples stole it away, stole it away.” How they could do that under the eyes of a Roman guard would be unthinkable, but the psychological truth of that is this. Those men, the disciples of our Lord, the apostles of our Lord, those men laid down their lives for Jesus. Everyone of them was martyred, everyone of them. The one exception is John. John was exiled, banished to die of exposure and starvation [Revelation 1:9]. Everyone of them was martyred. Everyone of them was killed.
Tell me, can a man lay down his life for a lie? It is unthinkable! It is psychologically impossible. Those men who were martyred, tell me they laid down their lives for a lie? It couldn’t be. It was because they saw Him [Acts 1:2-3]. It was because they knew Him alive. It was because He was the Lord of death, King over the grave [1 Corinthians 15:55-57]. They preached and paid for it with their lives. That is the historical affirmation.
I speak now of the experiential, pragmatic affirmation, that Jesus is alive. You don’t have to think about that particularly. Just try it. Just try it. You try it, whether He is alive or not. “O Mohammed, come down with your seventeen wives, and with your sword, by which you propagated your faith, and bring that sword here to Dallas and slay everybody in this city that won’t accept you as a prophet, Mohammed.” It doesn’t work. “O Gautama the Buddha, open for me the gate into nirvana, into the nothingness of nothing. Take away the sight of my eyes and the hearing of my ears and the feeling of my heart, and let me be nothing into Nirvana, oh, Buddha, Gautama.” It doesn’t work.
Maybe the great philosophers, “O Socrates,” no, that didn’t. “O Plato,” O Lord, no! “O Aristotle!” good night alive! “O the modern philosophers, like Immanuel Kant, come into my heart and forgive my sins.” Bah! It doesn’t work. Maybe I can try it with historical figures. “O George Washington, the father of my country; oh, Abraham Lincoln,” bah! It doesn’t work. It doesn’t work.
I say, try it. Experientially, you try it. “O precious Lord Jesus, blessed Lord Jesus. You who said, ‘Come unto Me all ye who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest’” [Matthew 11:28]. You who said, ‘Peace, I leave with you, My peace give I unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. But do not let your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid’ [John 14:27]. O Lord Jesus, come into my heart. Forgive my sins [Romans 3:23, 6:23]. Write my name in the Book of Life [Revelation 20:15, 21:;27]. Live in my soul. Bless the circle of my home and family. Bless the work unto Thy hands and ours. Dear precious Lord Jesus, be to me strength and help from God. And Lord, when the day comes, and I stand at the portals of death, You stand by me, Lord. And open for me the gate of heaven. O blessed Lord Jesus, I trust Thee, give Thee my heart and my life. Amen” [Romans 10:9-13].
And something happens. Something happens. I am a new man. I am a different person [2 Corinthians 5:17]. Jesus lives in my heart, and in my house and home, and in my life. Try it—an experiential affirmation of the resurrection of Jesus from the dead [Matthew 28:5-7].
If Jesus Christ is a man
And only a man, I say,
That of all mankind, I will cleave to Him
And to Him will I cleave alway.
But if Jesus Christ is a god
And the only God, I swear
I will follow Him through heaven and hell,
The earth, the sea, and the air!
[“The Song of a Heathen” by Richard Watson Gilder”]
The commitments of our lives to a living Lord; and that is the preaching of the gospel. And if you will accept Him [Romans 10:9-13], I will see you in heaven someday.