PART TWO: “WHAT IS HIS NAME?”

What follows flows from the first reflection on Mark 14:53-65. Familiarity with the gospel portion and with the first reflection is highly encouraged. That first reflection focused on Jesus’ silent faithfulness to His Father and the necessity of Christ’s silence for the unfolding of His love for us. Reflecting on Jesus’ silence during his great trial helps us to trust in Him even amidst trouble. We also see that, out of faithfulness to God and love for our neighbour, we, too, may be called to reflect His faithful silence.

In the current reflection, Jesus breaks his silence with a sonic boom. This word repels some in horror; but for those with ears to hear, Jesus’ redefinition of what it means to be “messiah” evokes the greatest hope.

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crown-of-thorns-golden-crown

WHO IS REALLY IN CHARGE HERE? WHO IS ON TRIAL?

In contrast to Jesus’ quiet faith, the high priest is losing his cool. The high priest is controlled by the flesh. His salivating has slowed, for now he seems worried that his meal will somehow get away. Here is one of a few inklings that point to the fact that “the real trial is not the apparent trial. Not Jesus but the Jews who accused and “tried” Jesus are on trial” (Leithart, Delivered from the Elements of the World). Perhaps it is not the cheese that is being hunted, but the rat.

Jesus’ humility and silence, his apparent powerlessness “strips the masks of righteousness and piety from the face of the powers” (Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, 105). Soon to be strung up on a cross for all passersby to mock, Jesus, by his silent trust in God, is beginning to “make a public display of [the rulers and authorities]” (Colossians 2:15). Jesus’ silent faith unmasks the powers’ façade.

In his frustration, the high priest changes tactics. He confronts Jesus with a direct question, regarding Jesus’ relationship to God and his own identity and mission: “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” (Mark 14:61). Jesus had wiggled his way out of such a question before (see John 10:24-39). The truth is that Jesus was reticent when it came to sharing his mission. This is highlighted in the Gospel of Mark in particular.

 

MESSIANIC SILENCE DUE TO MESSIANIC BAGGAGE

Jesus knew the title “messiah” came with a lot of baggage. The hope at the time was for the messiah to be a ruler who brought freedom from the nations and righteousness to the people: “May he judge Your people with righteousness and Your afflicted with justice. …. May he also rule from sea to sea … And his enemies lick the dust. … And let all kings bow down before him, All nations serve him. …. May there be abundance of grain in the earth on top of the mountains…. (Psalm 72:2, 8, 9, 11, 16).

And so Jesus shied away from the title of messiah throughout his three-year career. He was the messiah, and he knew it, but he didn’t want people to make him into an earthly king (John 6:15). So, instead of referring to himself as the christ, Jesus chose to refer to himself as the “Son of Man.” According to the new testament scholar, George Ladd, Jesus purposely chose this title because it was “… a term that appears in Daniel but that was not widely used in contemporary Jewish hopes…” (Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament 155).

Jesus understood that his way was through death and that his kingdom “is not from here” (John 18:36). When Jesus asked his disciples who they thought he was, Peter was still partially spiritually blind when he confessed that Jesus is the messiah, the christ. For Peter rebuked Jesus after he further taught them  “… that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. And He was stating the matter plainly” (Mark 8:31-32). Peter is not here troubled by Jesus’ claim to future exaltation; no, Peter is troubled that Jesus is claiming that he will be a suffering servant.

 

BREAKING THE SILENCE

Because Jesus was unwilling to share with the crowds that he was the messiah; because his own disciples did not understand his redefinition of “messiah;” and because, in this scene before the Sanhedrin he has been so strongly silent before his slaughterers, it is essential to pay attention as Jesus breaks his silence to respond to the high priest’s question. “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” (Mark 14:61).

Hays puts it this way: “And at last, after all the hints, veiling, and mysterious evasion, Jesus shatters the silence: ‘I am’” (Hays, Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels, 60-61).

Rowan Williams sets the scene more completely, drawing attention to both the whole gospel and the trial scene: “…Jesus breaks his silence – not only the silence he has kept during the trial so far, but also, more significantly, the silence of the whole Gospel. All the way through he has held back, has forbidden any mention to be made of his status as God’s Son” (Williams, 5).

For this reason, Jesus’ word of response absolutely “shatters the silence.” His response comes as something of a sonic boom.

The response of the high priest and the rest of the Sanhedrin result. Jesus speaks and they tear their clothes in horror; they hear Jesus and, to an extent they had not before, they detest him.

The scene after Jesus’ confession strikes one as wild, as somewhat frenzied. But first, what does Jesus say? What exactly is his word of response?

 

“I AM”

Some might argue with me here, but I think it significant that at this high point of revelation, Mark records that Jesus says “I am” (Mark 14:62). The response is different in Matthew, who records “you have said it…” (Matthew 26:64). The two are making the same point, but from different angles.

The way that Mark portrays the scene really draws our attention to the words of the Lord to Moses, when Moses asks who he might say God’s name is:

13 Then Moses said to God, ‘Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel, and I will say to them, “The God of your fathers has sent me to you.” Now they may say to me, “What is His name?” What shall I say to them?’14 God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM’; and He said, ‘Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you”’” (Exodus 3:13-14).

This is what we as the listeners of Mark’s gospel hear. It is true that Jesus is simply replying to the high priest’s question and Jesus “I am” is an affirmative, “yes.” The high priest would have likely understood Jesus’ response only on this level. But it is as if two consonant notes are being struck at once. One is a simple affirmative to the claim of being messiah; the high priest hears this note. We hear the second note – that Jesus is God, the great I AM.

 

“THE VOICE OF THE LORD BREAKS THE CEDARS”

The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars;

Yes, the LORD breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.

(Psalm 29:5)

Yet even on this note of simple affirmation, Jesus qualifies what he means by “messiah.” After the affirmative answer, he continues: “… and you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”” (Mark 14:62). Jesus’ affirmation confirms his claim to be messiah; yet, His word of confirmation comes with a two-pronged explanation. Indeed, “Jesus … presses the point further” (Hays, 60-61). This time Jesus does not allude to himself as the suffering servant, but instead boldly claims an exalted authority over his judges.

Breaking the sound barrier the first time, Jesus claims to be the king who reigns, after his death, at the right hand of God (Psalm 110:1). With the second boom, Jesus affirms that he is the judge that all will meet at the end of history as we know it (Daniel 7:13).

I will unpack the meaning of these two bold claims, as far as I am able, in future posts. What is fitting is praise.

Ascribe to the LORD, O sons of the mighty,

Ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.

Ascribe to the LORD the glory due to His name;

Worship the LORD in holy array.

(Psalm 29:1-2)

 

“BOTH TOO TRIUMPHANT AND NOT TRIUMPHANT ENOUGH”

Richard Hays well summarizes the import of our discussion here; allow me to quote at length:

At this point, as at so many others, Mark affirms continuity with Israel’s tradition while also simultaneously insisting on transforming innovation. Jesus is the Son of David, the Messiah, as Bartimaeus had perceived and as the title Christos asserts. But the meaning of Christos is transposed to a new key and subjected to an inversion. The Messiah is more than a new military leader and pretender to the throne; he is the Son of God who is to be enthroned in the heavens and recognized as David’s Lord. The Davidic image, it turns out, is ‘both too triumphant and not triumphant enough.’ It is not triumphant enough because it fails to suggest the cosmic, apocalyptic scope of the Messiah’s victory over supernatural foes; at the same time, it is too triumphant because it fails to reckon with suffering and death as the means of winning the victory.

[T]he most explicit royal imagery in Mark’s gospel appears in the passion narrative. … Yet, in the midst of the mocking, the reader of the Gospel discerns that the taunts are ironically true. Jesus really is the King of Israel, but he will demonstrate his kingship not by coming down from the cross but by enduring it. Jesus’ death redefines kingship – but does not renounce it. Indeed, in his stunning reply to the high priest’s interrogation, Jesus explicitly affirms that he is the Christos (14:61-62), as readers of the Gospel have known from its first sentence” (Hays, Echoes, 55-56; the bolding is my doing).

In other words, Jesus is the Messiah, but not the type of messiah most were expecting. He is the king, the anointed one, the messiah who, as the Suffering Servant saves people by dying for their sins, in their place. And not only that, but He is the Anointed, Messianic, Suffering Servant who will reign beside the Father, and judge the nations. On the one hand, Jesus was less than what people desired the messiah to be; how shameful and vile he seemed to be in his suffering, humiliation and death. On the other hand, Jesus’ exalted nature and role was more than people could stomach. As usual, humanity cannot handle something too hot or too cold; we are always looking for what our own eyes judge to be right.

Who Jesus affirmed himself to be was completely unacceptable to the high priest. Jesus’ reply evoked a primal response in the Sanhedrin. In the following three verses the cruelty intensifies: Jesus is spat at, blindfolded, punched, mocked about being a prophet [though what he endured was the same fate as the prophets], and slapped. That is, they utterly rejected him and repudiated Jesus and what he did and said and was. They distanced themselves utterly from Jesus.

 

ON THE HOOK AND STAYING PUT

Jesus says enough to get himself killed. This is surely purposeful and calculated on Jesus’ part. Even before Pilate (Mark 15:1-5), Jesus’ brief words are enough to get himself on the hook, and his silence is enough to keep himself there. In doing so, Jesus is faithful to his Father, and living out his deepest love for us. Out of faithfulness and love, Christ’s humiliation proves to be power unto salvation, and his exaltation a great service for us.

 

 

FOR REFLECTION:

Has there been a time in your life when God’s words have spoken so loudly to you that they have redefined your understanding of Him?

Do you find it true in your own experience that God’s response to the world seems to be ‘both too triumphant and not triumphant enough’? How so?

How is it fitting that Christ is both humble and exalted? Why do we need Christ to be both?

PART ONE: “MY SOUL WAITS IN SILENCE FOR GOD ONLY”

enjoy_the_silence

PART ONE: “MY SOUL WAITS IN SILENCE FOR GOD ONLY”

The scene is striking. The Sanhedrin – the Jewish governing council – finally have Jesus within their grasp. Some wanted to destroy Jesus much earlier on in his ministry – for doing good on the Sabbath (Mark 3:6).

Now, they have successfully tempted one of Jesus’ closest friends to betray him, they have intimidated the others so that they scattered. Now they have Jesus right where they want him. Now they are in control. Now they are able to follow through with their heart’s desire. It is as if they have made arrangements at an exclusive restaurant and have prepaid for the exquisite meal; their mouths are watering.

Though they are beasts following their desires, they hide behind a thin veneer of justice. The judgment is set; now it is time to discover the right witnesses. As Rowan Williams has put it, there is “… the sense of bewildering absurdity in it all. The sentence is settled in advance; the problem is finding evidence.” Or, in the words of Psalm 62:4: “They delight in falsehood; They bless with their mouth, But inwardly they curse.”

And absurd it was. As Jesus had said only a few hours before: “Every day I was with you in the temple teaching…” (Mark 14:49). And yet, though they have stacked the deck against Jesus, their witnesses cannot agree with one another. There is some traction regarding Jesus’ saying that he will destroy the temple, but even that argument fizzles out. It seems as though dinner still has a heartbeat.

Louder than the cacophony of inconsistent witnesses is Jesus’ silence throughout. “He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He did not open His mouth; Like a lamb that is led to slaughter, And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, So He did not open His mouth” (Isaiah 53:7). Like Isaac’s relative silence and trust as he walked up the hill with Abraham (Genesis 22), or like the anointed and faithful David who never attacked, but always defended his own pursuer, King Saul, so was Jesus.

Perhaps Jesus was echoing Psalm 62, a psalm of David:

1 My soul waits in silence for God only;

From Him is my salvation.

2 He only is my rock and my salvation,

My stronghold; I shall not be greatly shaken.

3 How long will you assail a man,

That you may murder him, all of you,

Like a leaning wall, like a tottering fence?

4 They have counseled only to thrust him down from his high position;

They delight in falsehood;

They bless with their mouth,

But inwardly they curse. Selah.

5 My soul, wait in silence for God only,

For my hope is from Him.

6 He only is my rock and my salvation,

My stronghold; I shall not be shaken.

7 On God my salvation and my glory rest;

The rock of my strength, my refuge is in God.

8 Trust in Him at all times, O people;

Pour out your heart before Him;

God is a refuge for us. Selah.

9 Men of low degree are only vanity and men of rank are a lie;

In the balances they go up;

They are together lighter than breath.

10 Do not trust in oppression

And do not vainly hope in robbery;

If riches increase, do not set your heart upon them.

11 Once God has spoken;

Twice I have heard this:

That power belongs to God;

12 And lovingkindness is Yours, O Lord,

For You recompense a man according to his work.

 

Frustrated at Jesus’ silence , the high priest tells Jesus to defend himself. His answer, again, is the faithful silence of the pre-slaughtered lamb.

Don’t forget, Jesus is in one of the most serious of settings. The decisions meted out in courtrooms are life-changing. And yet he has chosen to be silent. Would you be silent as people slandered you? That is doubtful. You would not be silent – and with righteous indignation you would get upset at me or anyone else for challenging you: “How is it right to let false and evil words prevail?” It is a good question. Recall that Jesus was not silent before. He always had a way with words. He could turn any challenger or assailant away with a phrase or two. This is why Jesus’ silence here is so awe-inspiring. It is somehow glorious. Though he is a trapped animal, we see a glimpse here that Jesus is free. He is free by faith, by trust in his Father. He trusts, one way or another, that, “In the mount of the LORD it will be provided” (Genesis 22:14), that “God is a refuge for us” (Psalm 62:8), that “God is to us a God of deliverances; And to GOD the Lord belongs escapes from death” (Psalm 67:20).

Peter Leithart notes, aptly: “Though he was mortal, though he feared death, he was not determined by the fear of death, did not live [according to the flesh]. He went to death and laid down his life, giving it up in the Spirit to his Father, trusting that his Father would vindicate him in the end.”

Jesus’ faithful silence is important for another reason as well, but more on that in a future posts.

 

FOR REFLECTION:

Has God been silent lately? Can you trust that He has some good reason? Is He perhaps speaking loudly in some other way that you have closed yourself off to?

In what situations, if any, do you think God is calling you to faithful silence?

When God is silent we often question His love; but here we see that God’s silence may also come from his deep desire to love us – to be the lamb who takes our sin. Though it is true that “Your footprints may not be known” yet it is still true that “You led your people like a flock” (Psalm 77:19).

ONCE AGAIN

On Monday morning I will begin a multi-post reflection on Jesus’ trial before the Sanhedrin in Mark 14:53-65.  Having been encouraged by a few friends, I’ve once again decided to try my hand at blogging.

Monday’s post is: PART ONE: “MY SOUL WAITS IN SILENCE FOR GOD ONLY”

The Scripture passage is not long. I encourage you to take a minute to read it before Monday’s post comes out. Below is a sample of Monday’s post.

I aim to post one part this four-part reflection on the next four Mondays.

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enjoy_the_silence

PART ONE: “MY SOUL WAITS IN SILENCE FOR GOD ONLY”

The scene is striking. The Sanhedrin – the Jewish governing council – finally have Jesus within their grasp. Some wanted to destroy Jesus much earlier on in his ministry – for doing good on the Sabbath (Mark 3:6).

Now, they have successfully tempted one of Jesus’ closest friends to betray him, they have intimidated the others so that they scattered. Now they have Jesus right where they want him. Now they are in control. Now they are able to follow through with their heart’s desire. It is as if they have made arrangements at an exclusive restaurant and have prepaid for the exquisite meal; their mouths are watering.

…..

AFFLICTION AND COMFORT

You have placed me here.

You have given me your Word, the good news of the Gospel.
This message is for sinners.
     This message is for me…. Continue reading

HOW TO BE FRUITFUL

How can I be fruitful?    This is an important question. It is a question that we ask ourselves often, but in different ways. We often think in terms of effectiveness, progress and fulfillment, happiness.

Recently, I was struck by Jesus’ advice regarding fruitfulness, found in the Gospel of John: Continue reading

The Dawning of the New Creation – Matthew 28:1-10

A Resurrection Sunday Sermon:

The importance of the resurrection:

The resurrection of Christ must not be downplayed.“[The resurrection] stands as the heart of the early Christian message”  (Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament, 353). In fact, “… the resurrection of Jesus is at the heart of the Christian gospel. Without the resurrection, Jesus’ ministry ends in defeat. But everything changes if ‘he is not here, for he was raised, just as he said’ (28:6)” (Turner, Matthew, 682).
Continue reading

The Presence of the Future

The church can learn from the woman who was so confident she would date one day that she adamantly proclaimed: “I am not SINGLE! I am in a long distance relationship with a man who lives in my future
Continue reading

Twice-Condemned?

Imagine a small town in which a man had killed another man and was caught. The murderer stood before judge and jury, was found guilty, sentenced to death, and died at the hands of the town’s hangman. Continue reading

“Why Is He Eating With Tax Collectors and Sinners?” (Mark 2:16)

A.B. Simpson, the founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, once wrote that, “[Jesus] was always overshadowed by the cross which at last He bore on Calvary” (The Cross of Christ, 26). Continue reading

Custody

I have a poor grasp of time, which is why I can’t remember when it was that my friends moved to Korea (or, that is, began moving to Korea). Was it a year ago? Anyways, I do remember their love for our Community Night crowd and the fact that they left behind a few very nice suits in case anyone from Community Night was in need.

I was beginning to feel like those suits had been hanging in my office for a bit too long when, lo and behold, a man dropped in a few Saturday nights ago and was going to a hearing regarding his daughter’s custody. The suit fit absolutely, positively perfectly!

Thanks Doug and Ann!