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SHARPER THAN A BLADE
This Chapter is somewhat extended, and revised as below, from its original condition, in Evidence and Reality ... Ch. 1
In Ch. 5, above, there were three illustrations of the words of Christ, used in the survey of the wonder of the Messiah.
One of these related to His answer when an official of the High Priest (or his associate) struck Him. If I have done wrong, bear witness of it, and if not, why do you strike Me ? was its tenor.
As in all narrative, it is always possible to take one piece of it, and leave the rest as not necessary for one's purpose, or at times, even essentialise it, depending on the purpose, making sure merely that if it is in inverted commas, it is word for word, and if it is not, it is a precise, apt, just and due summarising.
this case, however, the phase of the development of proceedings of
Luke 22 is different from that in John 18:23. There an initial appeal to
the public nature of His words during the day, is make the stimulus for
a slap from the official. Here things have moved along. The irritable sounding
call is now, "If you are the Christ tell us!"
Probably, it would seem, the appeal to the public character of His utterances,
this was followed by the tempestuous demand. That in turn, as recorded
of that stage of the proceedings in Luke 22:67-69 provides us with a pearl;
or to use our current imagery, a sharpness a razor might envy. Both of
these aspects of the case will now be considered in their intent and portent.
They will show the rapid fire exposure of the whole ungodly and ungainly
FIRST SLAP SITUATION
'SIX' OF THE WORST
have looked at something of this scene in Ch. 5 above, but now it is time
to seek deeper.
Six elements readily appear for the case as it progresses. First however, let us remind ourselves that in John we are also provided with the early reply of Jesus to the question of His doctrine:
"I spoke openly to the world. I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where the Jews always meet, and in secret I have said nothing."
"Why do you ask Me ?
"Ask those who have heard Me what I said to them. Indeed they know what I said!"
At the slap, the words are these:
"If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil, but if well, why do you strike Me ?"
1) The appeal is to the public character of His discourse. NOTHING in secret has been cooked, prepared, stewed, given like dope to the minds of those being 'conditioned'! This is the first part of the impact of His reply.
If it were subversive, why the need for this haste and arrest in the middle as it were, of nowhere: that is, while He is quiet and not speaking. If it were dangerous, why was the danger so long so freely borne ? What is the matter with the official party, with all its power, deployed now at night, that it is unable to protect the people when they are obviously been duped (if that WERE the case). If the ‘dangers’ in the broad daylight were ignored, and people then left to their alleged peril, why must the authorities now actin this surreptitious swoop, when nothing is happening to the point at all! It is inconsistent.
2) There is more. If it really were dangerous, perilous, requiring the paraphernalia of police to protect people, something awful in its pollution, why was it suffered so FREELY in public ? One should have thought that many stirrings would have occurred, warnings being given, people being questioned, officials being despatched to learn first hand, priests mingling with the crowd with due and true pastoral concern, bringing things up to authority diligently, the authority in turn personally witnessing these things and knowing first hand IF IT WERE SO WRONG!
In other words, the question of Christ the Subversive is tainted. How was it so long borne, so feebly pursued, so freely permitted, not merely over time, but in manner, so that in the public places it was a part of Israel's life, as was the case with the former prophets, who were, however, in some cases killed and in Jeremiah's, imprisoned.
Why hands off for so long ? and again, why freedom so liberal ? why so little for so long and why so much now, and so suddenly, with the power of arms, in such darkness ?
3) This is not yet finished, not by much is it over!
Thus also implied is this: If Christ had spoken in some obscure synagogues, hidden in the hills, in some inconspicuous if open places, and the officials only slowly had become aware of His activities, then perhaps there might have been some question of their coming to a slow realisation resulting in the intemperate haste of the evening arrest.
However He had OFTEN spoken in the very precincts of the TEMPLE, like a mouse dancing with delight on the mouse trap! How is it that it did not utilise its spring, so taunted, act when so openly displayed as ineffective, IF IT WERE TO BE A CASE FOR A TRAP! Would some 'spy' use a public loud speaking system in the KREMLIN, in the days of Stalin's terror, for YEARS and then have the KGB come for him at night, in the third year! Obviously, this is no lack of information case: it is nothing requiring action AT NIGHT. It has been witnessed freely, publicly, intimately, continually, and in the THRONE ROOM, if you will, of the officials, in the heart of their symbolic structures, in the very midst of their power, for years.
Clearly, guile and method are in view; and equally clearly, leadership has had problems of a paralysing kind, now being exposed to an evening entertainment approach, to resolve them.
Indeed, either they did not know if it was wrong earlier, or they were in debate, or they had been impressed and only now saw the danger; or else they feared the people and did not want a riot, or feared the Governor and did not want a complex situation with strife, or they found the sheer power and popularity of Christ grown to such proportions that only haste, night and darkness would suffice. This would be accentuated now that Lazarus was risen and the whole world (John 11:48ff.), as it were, in the land was at His feet (if not some of envious and fearful dispositions, at His throat, for their personal power or national skins). Just as the Egyptians resorted to making the populous segment of Israel in their land, to be slaves, for their safety, so now the authorities in Israel resorted to death.
Ironically, of course, it was for death, their own, that they imparted His; and as to Him, He was resurrected as He never ceased to affirm, in the third day (cf. SMR Ch. 6, Joyful Jottings 21-25, Matthew 16, 17).
4) Why should they ask Jesus Himself, as if it were not long and freely, most popularly known, open like a book for years to the eyes and minds of the persecutors ? Is HE to testify of some evil, as if they did not know how to find out without Him ? Or are they trying to find out MORE so that they could nail Him on the spot ? If they are trying to do that, why ? Is it a crime NOT to have said something, so that you incite to crime in order to secure guilt ? Does a police car come up to some dangerous young spark and say, Race you mate! bet you can't beat a police car!
Let's see what you can do!
Did they want Him to speak apart from His actions, so beautifully melded and wedded to His words and did they want hostility to be the witness to the words of peace ? How BRAZEN and HOSTILE they were displayed to be, and how unready for the words of God, the words of salvation, for which He came and which were His!
From this we find two things, one of which is the current point. IF CRIME is to be attributed to Him, why is it not cited! Are you to COMMIT a crime at request! Is this the way of justice ?
5) Why should they ask Him ? Is not the crime an open one, if it be one ?
Are to ask the house-breaker, Oh I say, old chap, was it you that they saw when that window was being broken ? They were not entirely clear if it was you or somebody else ? Would you mind telling us please ?
Are they so deficient in evidence that they have to ask the assumed culprit, already struck, itself a form of punishment ? are they, still worse, to have somebody not proven guilty to be openly attacked in their presence, on the basis of the open character of His work, and His implicit request for attestation from those affected by any 'crime' involving what in the world it was supposed to have been ? Is logic an offence ? Is reason to be whipped ?
6) His words indicate that what He has said is KNOWN ALREADY, so why is He not charged according to the most replete abundance of the evidence! He ALWAYS spoke openly, not just on a small number of select occasions. On the contrary, the place was thronged with His words, the throngs submerged in them, the air voluble with them. What is all this about a night arrest ?
Is the night a necessary element, and is the absence of the multiplied witnesses because of it, and because of the haste which did not EVEN SECURE THEM during the day, not an admission of the guilt of the governing body, disorderly, ill-prepared and acting as if ignorant, as if the case were strange and difficult! Difficult ? It is like a newsboy (if they still have them), calling out on the corner of Flinders St and Swanston St in Melbourne, where the crowds descend like an avalanche around 5 p.m. on week-days, over the years, being brought at NIGHT to a HASTILY assembly meeting of police, in some dark court, and being asked this question.
'My boy, what is it that you have been calling out in that crowded corner ?'
to be sure, but still...), 'I think you know, for I have been doing
it for years.
Ask any of the thousands who have heard me ? What are you trying to do to me ?'
ARE YOU THE CHRIST, TELL US ?
As we read in Mark, the answer was sharp and clear (Mark 14:62). In the end of the testimony, He not only told them directly, but added words of the most inflammatory possible kind, in terms of the truth, that is, He attributed to Himself the powers of judgment s in John 5:19-23, and identified with the Son of man of Daniel 7, whose majestic glory and glorious majesty is the area of the ultimate in divine intimacy and overall authority. Before God, He acts as God (cf. Psalm 45).
the important thing here is not only the disorder in the court, the flagrant
violation of any sense of justice at all, the mockery as the mode, but
the following words: "And many other things
they blasphemously spoke against Him." In
other words, the account is taking cardinal elements only, but the actuality
was multi-faceted, protracted and complex. Interchanges, clarificatory
or in the realm of artful elicitation, were the order of the day. Fuller
or shorter statements, like more or less astonishing acts of violence,
were to be expected.
THE FORCE OF THE PARALLEL FROM JEREMIAH
Let us now hear the words of Christ, cited in Luke, in answer to the question, Are you the Christ ?
"If I tell you, you will by no means believe. And if I also ask you, you will by no means answer Me or let Me go. Hereafter the Son of Man will sit on the right hand of the power of God."In answer, Christ first makes a fairly direct parallel with Jeremiah who had answered a royal query, when summoned by the wicked King Zedekiah, before whom he had already suffered much, even the risk of his life, from which doom he had been removed with difficulty by Ebed-Melech, a servant of the king. "I will ask you something," said the King. "Hide nothing from me."
The reply of Jeremiah, in 38:15, is strikingly akin to that which Christ, presumably purposefully, used in answering the query put to Him, in His own day on this earth. It was this:
"If I declare it to you, will you not surely put me to death ? And if I give you advice, you will not listen to me." That was the response of Jeremiah. It was true. The king would not listen; and he did not; and so came to have his sons slain before his eyes, and then his eyes put out by the barbarous King of Babylon, for his pains (II Kings 25:2-7). If he only HAD listened, for Jeremiah promised life and deliverance for the city of Jerusalem. If he would not listen, however, Jeremiah predicted peril for the king and doom for the city. This all happened.
Thus, in making what to those at that time so acutely versed in the Old Testament, was such a parallel statement, Christ was giving a warning, a challenge and providing an opportunity. if THIS did not strike their deaf ears, then would Big Ben do so, if they had been translated in time, and taken by helicopter to within a few feet of it, even as it was striking twelve. It was indeed twelve for Jerusalem, about to secure a blood bath in the coming times, and not one only! It was not however one which, at that time, which would clean.
The other side of the relevance of this close and famous word of Jeremiah, to Christ's own response to the corrupt High Priest was this. Not only was the King Zedekiah, not heeding the prophet, a king in folly, driven to his doom; as in that later day, was the parallel result for the High Priest's foolish hope for securing Israel's peace by murder of the Lord. Not merely, again, was the court official's way in Christ's day, a mere travesty from a heart already set on its ways, as was the case with the poor King Zedekiah, AFRAID of what would happen to him if he surrendered (nothing compared with what DID happen because he refused).
It was more, the parallel in the case, than merely that.
An implicit DEATH penalty had already nearly been placed on Jeremiah, his rescue being at the initiative of a SERVANT of the court. In terms of the parallel (cf. Matthew 23:31-36, something of its force mirrored in Acts 7:52), death as a penalty for Jesus would surely be in the air with the High Priest also. Had not Christ consistently and insistently told the disciples of His own forthcoming death (as in Matthew 16:21, 17:22-23)! Had not indeed, John the Baptist made it clear before Christ was so well-known ? (John 1:29). Had not Jeremiah in parallel insistently and persistently told of the coming fall of Jerusalem, amidst many appeals, and much sorrow (as in Jeremiah Chs. 5 and 9), so that in the end, heedless, it fell, and murder of heart was rising like a storm, against him who warned.
What then ? As this virtual DEATH penalty had already virtually been placed on Jeremiah, rescued not by the princes to whom the king so weakly committed him, but by the intercession of a SERVANT of the court, the death penalty from authorities lurked for Christ also, like a grinning hyena awaiting its leap. What Christ had foretold incisively, staggeringly to the disciples, His sacrificial contact with death (Matthew 20:28, 16:21, 17:22-23), now came with the darkness of this immoral and subversive night! The word of John the Baptist from the first is now in train for fulfilment.
The mortal destiny of the Immortal Christ was about to come, that it might be broken, His immorality demonstrated, and through Him the gift of eternal life as promised to those who would follow Him. Thus, in the divine hand in the midst of this outrage and folly, with all things in divine order, the profound disorder of the priesthood would stand in the sharpest possible focus and contrast, as they proceeded IN EFFECT, to write the death warrant of their own city. It was as if Christ were not only warning them (as indeed, all had been warned in Matthew 24:1ff.), but erecting a parallel with the Jerusalem of Zedekiah's day, which with witless enthusiasm for NON-RELIANCE on the word of the Lord, doomed itself. Doom 2 ? you really want to follow that parallel do you ?
This is the impact of the word of the Lord to the priests on this occasion, solemn, sobering, but they were inveterate in hatred, incandescent in envy, filled with their own ways of the fruit of which, as in Proverbs 1, their city and people would eat.
Indeed, In the category of sowing the wind and reaping the whirlwind (Hosea 8:7), this was in the ultimate depths. In parallel, it was like the king sentencing himself, in Jeremiah's day, by refusing the most extraordinary new offer of clemency (Jeremiah 38:14ff.). Just as the King then in that day refused, because he had his own heedless program, and feared to follow wisdom, so the canny priests in Christ's day were being reminded of the parallel with Jeremiah, not only by wild thrust from his advice, but in the wild devastation coming to the city which then - as now with Christ - refused its deliverance. In the case of Jeremiah, it was through rejecting even at that late time, noted in Jeremiah 38, an almost incredible mountain of mercy in a new offer, for the Lord IS good and merciful; now with Christ Himself, it was through the rejection of their King in person, and not only was death ALMOST delivered to Him, but about to be brought to pass altogether.
They were willing to kill Mercy and betray Goodness. What then, with this escalation of folly since that drastic day of Jeremiah in interview with King Zedekiah, would be the result for the acme of folly ? Indeed, as in Leviticus 26, the time was to come when for an era, Israel would start with the destruction of Jerusalem (more intensive on the part of the Romans this time, than on the part of the Babylonians in the past), and continue until they would at last say, "Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord" (Matthew 23:38). This would be a large era (Evidence and Reality Ch. 1); but it would apply as Christ declared, confirming Moses.
The word of God as one entity APPLIES. God is one, His word is one; when He comes incarnate, One God speaks, and the result is one. As Christ in the humiliation of Messiahship, that vehicle for murder as well as power, spoke as commanded (John 12:48-50), so the Father confirmed by His divine will (John 11:38-44, 12:27-31). Christ declares; the thing happens, whether short-term or long term. You open the eyes, there it is. . When God declares what is to be inveterately and surely (cf. Jeremiah 33), then action of any other kind goes. When He acts, who can stop Him ? In simple terms, no one and nothing (Isaiah 14:27). The other place where you see this, here in scripture, is in the world. They match. They never disagree.
close parallel to the words of the prophet Jeremiah, then, on the part
of Christ, was a clear warning, an exhortation and an appeal, a grave nod
to the index of thought, a testimony in form that laced and enriched the
testimony in meaning to come with it.
NATURE OF THE RELATIONSHIP OF
CITED IN LUKE AND JEREMIAH
Jeremiah if a false prophet, could be put to death (Deuteronomy 13). Hence his reference to it, in speaking to the enquiring King, not only because of what he had just suffered in the stinking well, sinking to the near extinction of life, from which his rescue was timely. So Christ, if claiming falsely to be the Messiah, and hence appearing to the disbeliever to be a false prophet, could be put to death; or they could try to secure this 'favour' from Pilate, the Roman Governor, at their request, made on religious grounds, as indeed later they did.
Hence, telling the unbelief of nocturnal birds of prey, that He was the Christ was like a death penalty. He was making their prior prejudice apparent, just as their failure to use proper rules of evidence made their guilt obnoxious. In this, the parallel with Jeremiah is intense.
Now Jeremiah went on to dwell on the point that EVEN IF he should give Zedekiah advice, the royal ear would not hear, not heed, not act while there was still time. That King was in the midst of a situation of approaching doom, himself, as clear as was that for Japan after New Mexico yielded a positive mushroom cloud. However for long he had utterly failed to alter his ways, and even some alleviation of the oppression, had been only temporary (Jeremiah 34).
Christ here did not say, "If I tell you, you will not listen," but rather, "If I ask you, you will by no means answer Me or let Me go!"
What then would He ask, especially, what could He ask that would be akin in any style to Jeremiah's word to Zedekiah, since this seems so patent a parallel ? Why, Christ could ask the Court, who after all were but men, as He had asked the disciples,
Whom do you say that I am ?He could ask them to attest that He was a true prophet of God, and hence should be heeded, so that they might escape the doom coming to both themselves and to the city. As true, of course, He would truly be the One whom He claimed, the Messiah. Thus He could give to them, His oppressors the opportunity to declare their faith.
This differs from the Jeremiah case in this, that Jeremiah was not the Messiah, but - exalted as such a post is, a prophet only. He was infinitely less than the Christ, therefore, whose goings, says Micah, have been from eternity.
Hence the substitute for the 'advice' which Jeremiah could give to the King, was the QUESTION which Christ could give to the persecutors:
WHO AM I ? YOU answer.
The point would thus become this.
It is for you to answer, rather than I, at this stage, for the real question is not, as has been made clear so often and so very publicly, in so many ways and for so long a time, who I declare Myself to be, but WHOM YOU DECLARE ME TO BE.
It is really, in the eternal dimension, and the ultimate, YOU who are on trial. My judgments will be overturned in innocence (as in Isaiah 50, Psalm 22); but yours as in Psalm 2, where the dissidents from the Messiah sent from above, are exposed, have a result which is very different. My words are unheeded but will be fulfilled; yours are in power now, but will die with you in shameful horror, and aweful testimony against this city. It is so even for the city for which Christ wept (Luke 19:42ff.), because in this their day, they would not heed.
What a profound message this carries for all who consider Christ!
What then is Christ declaring as He shows up their perfidy and time-serving, city-serving, tradition-serving folly, merely multiply and intensifying the follies of Israel's authorities in Jeremiah's day ! There He is, constantly affirming the way to peace and rest, joy and harmony with God, and there are they about to kill more than a prophet, yes their own King. There are the alternatives.
In this, is your deliverance. In this, is your hope. In that is revolution of the utmost kind, depravity to the uttermost, so what do you expect!
Here is your office as men, where not as gods, judges, lampooners of true majesty, and vocal yokels of unbelief, you are now revealing your inveterate prejudice to your own assured destruction.
That such thoughts were deep in the heart of Christ is seen most clearly in Luke 19:35-48:
"And they threw their own clothes on the colt, and they set Jesus on him. And as He went, many spread their clothes on the road. Then, as He was now drawing near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen, saying:
‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!'
"And some of the Pharisees called to Him from the crowd, 'Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.' But He answered and said to them, 'I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out.'
"Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, 'If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. “For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.'
"Then He went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold in it, saying to them, 'It is written, "My house is a house of prayer," but you have made it a "den of thieves." '
"And He was teaching daily in the temple. But the chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people sought to destroy Him, and were unable to do anything; for all the people were very attentive to hear Him."
Hear you see the gamut of things implicit in the confrontation by the nocturnal assailants to which we are currently attending.
You see here on that Palm Sunday, the following relevant elements.
1) His fame was notorious and abundant.
2) The place ascribed to Him was that of deity, the Messiah (as in Isaiah 48:16, Psalm 45, Micah 5, Zechariah 12,Psalm 118).
3) He had been PUBLICLY challenged on this, but dismissed the challenge and accepted the place accorded to Him.
4) In so doing, He had testified to the effect that so obvious, manifest, clear and assured was His post as the Son of God, that if human voices were stricken dumb, the very stones would cry out. In this, there is even more, for the 'stones' have an archaic signification as well, as the silent witnesses of much for long. Thus, the whole incubus of prophecy was upon the Messiah, and as Paul implies in Galatians 4:4, it was now the 'fulness of the times' for it was the date prescribed by Daniel (SMR pp. 886ff.), and the works required to identify the Messiah had been performed most amply (cf. for example, Matthew 11:4ff.). Thus the whole history of revelation, if He were not the Messiah, would be squashed, squelched underfoot as by Hitler's latter jack-booted soldiers, so expert in clearing out the Jews for the slaughter*1.
Little more categorical, summary and sovereign could be imagined, more public, more incontestable and better known, then, than Christ's words. Had not those very authorities been INVOLVED at the time! What then is all this hou-ha about what He had or had not said! Was it not by this time the common property of the nation, to the one superb in situation, or lowly in status, alike!
5) As we have seen above, Jesus wept over Jerusalem, at this time, foreseeing and declaring with a poignancy of grief and a depth of personal anguish, that it would be destroyed, because it had failed to recognise its ambassador from heaven, its Governor from glory (cf. Jeremiah 23:5ff., 30:21-22 with Ezekiel 34, Hosea 13:14, Psalm 2). Thus the concepts of interchange with the 'mighty', dialogue with disputants, drama with devilries, confrontation with the critics, in the midst of His divine depth of passion for His people and compassion on them, for the results of their folly, are not only both present previously and now cumulatively, but conjoined in this intimate way. Indeed, the partial parallel with Jeremiah merely intensifies the case. What does so the more is this, that the result is deep in the annals of Jewish tragedy, echoing from history when the city was destroyed before; and now it is to be deeper yet in a new chapter incapable of further intensification!
6) If someone had gone to the Kremlin, and after and indeed during years of teaching against Communism, had proceeded to some of the churches under the heel of the KGB in notoriously many cases (they even had a KGB representative, one learns from the glasnost era, in the WCC!), and if such a person should cast out the false priests, the stooges, then surely the powers of the USSR would not have been idle! Even more surely, they would not have had any ground for pretence that they really needed to know what he had said. It was notoriously clear. There was no hiding it.
Had that happened in the USSR of that day, it would have been - in that case - a national sensation!
have allowed Him (as seen from John 2) to have gone for years, and to have
repeated the purging performance (as in John 2, Luke 19), makes it clear
that nothing of KNOWLEDGE was their need. SOMETHING had inhibited their
action to a degree so amazing, it would like sniffing ammonia, and mistaking
it for a perfume! Moreover, as to the priesthood, they were anything but
They were incensed! (cf. Mark 14:63ff.); and even insensitive to
the scent of Majesty, they were the judges proclaiming Jerusalem to a
destruction and usurpation which would last far more than the death of Christ
for 3 days: for their penalty would last millenia.
SHED ON DARKNESS
BY THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD
Thus as often most manifest with Jesus the Christ, there is immense depth in His thoughts, in His references and in the results of IGNORING THEM! That of course is precisely what one would expect of the Son of God, come as man to man, and for man.
The priestly party however, to its own destruction, continued to do, just as with Zedekiah, precisely what its own will declared, following murder and manipulation, in the face of an overwhelming truth which neither they nor any other could contain. The destruction to come in their own case, however, in yet another dimension, was far vaster; for not 70 years' exile in Babylon, as predicted by Jeremiah (Chapter 25), but 1900 or so years of exile in the world, would follow before long, for the whole nation!
Thus from Jesus the Christ, there is to be seen indeed immense depth in His thoughts, in His references and in the results of IGNORING THEM! This however the priestly party to its own destruction, continued to do with its own peculiar passion, its consuming negativity, just as Zedekiah in his weakness followed departure from the word of God as if it had been a divine vocation! Shame indeed is the promotion of fools, as Proverbs tells us (3:35), and not to believe in God is the acme of unwisdom (Proverbs 1, 8). The destruction to come in their own case, however, was far vaster, no date being set this time for the restoration nevertheless promised (Luke 21:24), though the ELEMENTAL NECESSITY for it would be their receiving of His Majesty, Jesus Christ as King, and indeed incarnate God (Zechariah 12:10), in marked contrast to the rejection made when He was in the flesh.
Small wonder then that Christ in so many ways, to so many groups and castes of people, here with subtlety, there in openness, here with parable, there with lament, made things so clear. It was like talking to those in Hiroshima, before the bomb. But no! they WOULD continue just as they were, and condemn the one who warned. So be it, but it was a matter of the uttermost depth in the heart of Christ that this people so warned, so given testimony as none ever did or could give (John 15:21-23), so presented with the ANSWER in His own person, should display the admittedly predicted, but no less horrible for all that, dispassion, disbelief and so appeal for disaster, as a ship-wrecked human flotsam might ask for help!
How inverted, how perverted the ways of men, how too well illustrated in this! How the red heart of violence, arid like the Australian centre, pulsating like a body in fever, and the dead heart of sanctified sin, the whitewashed sepulchre syndrome, the graves on which men walk without knowing situation noted by Christ: oh how it continues, acrid to the death, dead in its acridity!
Let us however return from our reflection to the plight of the persecutors, of which they were so astutely oblivious, blinded like brilliant fools with the sparks of their own gullibly glittering but ignorant wisdom.
Thus the reference of Christ to what might be their ANSWER if He QUESTIONED them, would imply their lack of faith, lack of willingness to attest Him; indeed, it was all too obvious in their clandestine and ludicrous proceedings, and obvious endeavours to snare Him then now more privatley, as so often publicly before (as in Luke 11:50-53).
This time however not logic, not truth but power in the darkness was the method, the weapon, and how they wielded it, exasperated from years of loss, of rebuttal, of exposure (as in Matthew 21:33-46, 22:42-46), by this Mandated Man, this Messiah of Majesty, their Lord, until as we read here, they no longer dared to ask Him any public questions. Now! power would prevail over the mouth, and darkness over the light. The Light of the World could be extinguished in the dark! When would it shine again!
Alas for the nation, that question must now be asked with a renewed sense of urgency, and a deepened sense of pathos, for the need now as that then, is intense, immense, and the price of further delay is all but incalculable. Mercifully, however, the time is to come (Zech. 12:10), when they will repent of the murder of the Messiah, and it is about that time that the world will learn something not a little further of its own sins, and of its own killing of Christ in the heart, as the nation of Israel had killed in the flesh (cf. Hebrews 10:28-29, John 3:19,36). We must remember also, that this, it is not a racial matter, for it is PRECISELY FROM THAT RACE that the Christian church itself was begun! The apostles were Jewish... And what comes to this world now, is an enlarged and more inveterate version of what has already come to that forerunner, Israel! (cf. the provocation of II Peter 3:1-5, and the peremptory finale noted for this world as that chapter continues to its end, as the world to its own).
As we read in Isaiah 51:17-23, 59:15-20, 63:1-6, 66:9-16, as in Micah 7:15ff., Jeremiah 30:12ff., Joel 3, Habakkuk 3, Ezekiel 37-39 and Romans 11:25ff. with Deuteronomy 32:43ff., the time comes when the assailants of Israel find that the Jew is not the dummy substitute for the display of their own sins. It becomes an occasion for the display of their own follies!
Such a time would indeed appear to be near to our very contemporary doors (cf. Answers to Questions Ch. 5), but the world does not heed, not any more than did Zedekiah heed Jeremiah, or the priestly power, heed Jesus though He was, as He is and remains, the very Christ! Of Him there was, is to be and has been but one, just as there is ONE GOD (Isaiah 45:18, 43:10-11, 48:16, 52-53). The Redeemer being God, and the Creator being God, there is only one; and He has come to do what mercy desired, love directed and wisdom declared on this earth, and He has done it. Next is its inspection tour! (Zechariah 14:5, Hebrews 7-10, Acts 1:7, II Thess. 1-2).
Failing to receive Him, and hence rejecting Him, they would naturally invoke the death penalty, which would at the same time remove from them the physical presence of the unanswerable Christ, the healing marvel, the popular Prince, the core and treasure of God's mercy.
It is strange, how men will do these things; but they do, and they suffer. The lament however is as real today, as ever, for God does not change. Thus there is always time for the ungodly to turn to the Lord; and His mercy is ever a joy to Him (Micah 7:19-21, Ezekiel 33:1 with Luke 15:7); for "there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety nine just persons who need no repentance."
IS personal, and loves persons, has actually acted personally, and with
no mere personableness, has prevailed so that it is like a new environment,
pollution free, for man that is offered within, attested without, and is
to be amply provided, governed in glory; but most do not treasure it, and
unbelieving against all reason, truth and evidence, testimony and indeed
need, they continue to travail in their tasks of sin, as if the very life
of the world depended on it. In fact, it depends on their NOT so acting,
but, like Zedekiah, like the Sanhedrin of yesterday, they will not hear;
and if asked, they will not answer.
In fact, since He was AND IS the Messiah, such horrors were to come not only from Hitler, but for centuries before in Europe, and indeed Russia in its pogroms, through the whole nauseating affliction of pious pretenders, grabbing from the Jews, while asserting evils of them.
It is God who afflicts, and when man makes himself mentor, he suffers, as did Europe - and no less Russia, in its two horrendous wars, with all that preceded these, and in her case in between them as well! How did Europe suffer, even she who in so many nations for so long had so harassed, mocked and derided a fallen people, who however have future hope for many of them (as in Micah 7! cf. Jeremiah 30:16-17 and The Biblical Workman Ch. 1), and there is no small national action as well!
It was to come, and in no small degree, is already fulfilled since 1948, both the restoration, the high-impact astounding wars (as in Zechariah 12), stupendous in their disproportion and amazing in victory against such organised and long-standing nations, and on the other hand, the continuing tension regarding Israel, because though God has been faithful in restoring them (cf. Ezekiel 36:22 cf. SMR Appendix A), they have not as a nation yet been faithful in blessing Him who came in the name of the Lord! The conditions continue to apply.
God has His own points to
make (Ezekiel 37:25-28), and will of course duly make them. Truth is not