November 1, 2010 David Balzer

Mark 14:43-72: Questions & Answers

Questions. There are OBVIOUS questions. “What time does the 10:29 bus arrive?” And TRICKY questions. “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?” And there are just plain DUMB questions. “So Thorpy, how does it feel to be the Olympic champion?”

SOME questions can pin a person to the wall. Any good CURRENT AFFAIRS HOST knows how to ask the DIFFICULT question. The SHARP question. The one that gets right to the heart of the problem. That make the politician, or the dodgy businessman, squirm. And we think, “I’m glad it’s not ME who has to clash with them!”

People like Kerry O’Brien, or Helen Wellings, or Mike Munroe.

But they don’t have to be HARD and TOUGH to be good. Some people manage to do a BRILLIANT job asking questions/ by being NICE. These people somehow manage to get celebrities to reveal their deepest secrets with a smile and a wink. People like Michael Parkinson. Or Rove McManus.

I heard Rove interviewing Helena Bonham Carter, the actress, about her new movie. And he somehow managed to convince her to explain how she’d broken wind to ease the tension before shoooting an embarrassing scene. And then when I thought he’d gone too far, he got her describe the noise! And she did it! And she loved it!

People who ask good questions can be very impressive.

And then there’s the opposite. People who ask questions that are SO STUPID they’re funny. Norman Gunston and Dame Edna Everage were the pioneers. Maybe that says something about Australians?

They were the first to master the art of asking a celebrity the ridiculous question with a straight face. The movie star, or musician just has no idea how to take it all. They either join in the gag, or get more and more annoyed. Which makes for great television, and is just what we want to see.

And recently, in England, Ali G, and the Kumars at No. 42, have come on the scene. Doing the same sorts of things.

And while the GOOD interviewers show you HOW IMPRESSIVE they are with their brilliant questions. All that Ali G, or Norman Gunston, manage to do/ is show you how mind-numbingly STUPID, and BLATANTLY IGNORANT, they are. I just want to cringe, and hide my head under a pillow when I hear interviews from these sorts of people.

Questions don’t just tell you something about the person who’s being ASKED the question. We can also learn a lot about the person who’s ASKING the question.

And “questions” is what we’ve got in the passage today. Questions FROM Jesus. And questions TO Jesus. And even questions to Peter ABOUT Jesus.

And we can learn a lot about the people who are ASKING the questions. And about the people who are BEING ASKED. And we learn about JESUS as we look at these questions. And about what it means to follow him.

1. Questions FROM Jesus – Who am I, and what is my kingdom like? (43-52)

Let’s look at the first section. Remember, we’re in the Garden of Gethsemene. And Jesus has just announced that THE HOUR HAS COME. The hour he’d just prayed might pass from him.

But, in the end he gives in to his Father’s will. And His Father says “Time’s up. The hour’s here. Time for the kingdom of God to arrive”.

All the CONFLICT and DISAGREEMENTS and DEBATES have come to a head. It’s the authorities versus Jesus. They’ve been looking for their chance. And now they’ve seen it, and they’re grabbing it with both hands. It’s time for the showdown.

Jesus can hear the crowd as it comes up the hill. He can hear their angry, excited voices. Perhaps he can see the torches. Hear the clank of metal, and the heavy thump of solid wooden clubs.

But it seems like EVERYONE has got things wrong. Everyone EXCEPT Jesus/ sees a rebel leader stirring up a rebellion. And the rebel needs to be squashed. Or perhaps lifted to the throne. Depending who’s side you’re on.

And so the religious leaders send a mob. The crowd bring their weapons. Even the disciples take swords.

And even Judas seems to be expecting trouble. Because he arranges a secret signal, so Jesus can be arrested quickly and quietly. Without fuss. Or violence. Look at v44.

(Mark 14:44-46 NIV)  Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.” {45} Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. {46} The men seized Jesus and arrested him.

The priests had wanted to get Jesus out of the way – quickly and quietly. Without starting a riot. And it looks like they’ve done it.

Until Peter steps up to the plate. He’s brought his sword. And when he sees Jesus being arrested, he takes a swipe at whoever’s closest. And someone loses an ear.

But everyone’s got it all wrong. Got JESUS wrong. He’s a DIFFERENT sort of King. And so Jesus asks the question. It’s a question that cuts right through the darkness of people’s misunderstanding and lack of faith/ like a piercing bright spotlight. It’s a Mike Munroe, or a Kerry O’Brien question. Look at v48.

(Mark 14:48 NIV)  “Am I leading a rebellion,” said Jesus, “that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me?

In other words “Is that REALLY what you think I’m on about? After all this time? You’ve heard me preaching”.

I’ve come to bring PEACE, not WAR. FORGIVENESS not HATRED. My kingdom’s about HUMILITY, and CHILDLIKE FAITH, and SERVANTHOOD. Not military might, or riches, or bosses, or authority”.

(Mark 8:34-35 NIV)  “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. {35} For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.

His followers were to take up their cross. But Peter had taken up his sword, instead. They saw it as a battle to be won. But, for Jesus, the mob, and the Garden, and the kiss/ were just a means to an end. One step further along the road to his death. And it was all to happen just like God had planned. And just like he’d revealed it in the Scriptures. That’s what he says in v 49.

And once people realise what Jesus’ attitude is/ they see the game’s up. There’s not going to be any battle. It’s no use standing behind Jesus if he’s going to give up without a fight. And so look at what they do. Verse 50. Everyone deserts him, and flees. Just like he said they would. Back in Ch 13.

Jesus has said that everything’s going to happen just as the Scriptures have said. God’s got it in control. In fact, he even said, back in ch 13, that they would all flee.

But his followers can’t see God’s controlling hand. They can only see a wild mob. The flash of swords. The angry shout of soldiers. Anarchy, not order. Betrayal, not faithfulness. A kingdom CRUMBLING, not a kingdom BUILDING.

And that’s often the way with US, isn’t it? God rules. Despite the way life sometimes looks. He’s got every minute of every day scripted. The ultimate running sheet.

People seem impressed that I put approximate times on the little orders of service I give people who are doing something in church. But it’s NOTHING compared to what God’s got. For everyone of us.

Every mistake we make. Every wrong turn we take. Every chance happening. God’s planned it. And he’s got a purpose in it. And it’s for our ultimate GOOD.

He’s got it all organised. But we run around like chooks with our heads cut off. As if the world’s falling apart. Instead of it happening JUST LIKE God designed it.

2. Questions FOR Jesus  – Who are you? (53-65)

Back to Jesus. The mob take him to the High Priest. He’s been waiting back at his house. And now it’s time for some questions FOR JESUS. Because the High Priest’s assembled a kangaroo court. There’s the Sanhedrin – perhaps 70 of the religious leaders. Pharisees, priests, and teachers.

And there’s also the guards. They’re not Roman soldiers. They’re Jewish. And they look after the high priest.

And then there’s THE FALSE WITNESSES. People who’ve been paid to lie about Jesus. But the problem is, they haven’t even got their stories straight. Because when they’re questioned one by one, their stories don’t even agree.

And then, we see what a TRAVESTY of a trial it is. Because the High Priest – the one who’s supposed to be the impartial JUDGE – stands up to QUESTION Jesus. It’s a Norman Gunston question. Because rather than the spotlight shining onto Jesus, the question only shows how guilty the High Priest is. Verse 60.

(Mark 14:60 NIV)  …”Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?”

“Defend yourself. Like a normal trial”

But it WASN’T a normal trial. Because the verdict’s already been decided. And so Jesus remains silent.

But the High Priest pushes the point. More questions. “Are you the Christ. The Messiah? The Son of the Blessed One?”

And NOW Jesus answers. Because the High Priest has actually hit the nail on the head. He’s got Jesus right. He IS the Messiah. He IS God’s Son. Look at v62. “I AM the Christ. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Remember where Jesus is quoting from? Daniel 7. And he’s already told HIS DISCIPLES that this is what will happen. Back in Ch 13. When the kingdom comes/ God will appoint his Son to sit at his right hand in glory. In other words, Jesus is saying “You might be asking who I am NOW, but pretty soon you’ll know FOR SURE”. And it’s coming so soon, YOU’LL see it!

When the kingdom comes. When God raises me from the dead. You’ll see who I really am. And then you won’t need to ask the question.

And it’s not quite what the High Priests was wanting to hear. Verse 63. More Norman Gunston questions. This time to the rest of his cronies.

(Mark 14:63-64 NIV)  The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked. {64} “You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?”

And the questions do their work. They show the leaders for what they are. They all condemn him as worthy of death. Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, “Prophesy!” And the guards took him and beat him.

They mockingly command him to prophesy. But they’re so blind they can’t see that he already has. “You will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

3. Questions ABOUT Jesus – Are you with the Nazarene? (66-72)

That’s the second set of questions. We’ve seen questions FROM Jesus. We’ve seen questions TO Jesus. And in this next section we see questions ABOUT Jesus.

And the spotlight turns on Peter. While all this has been going on, we’ve sort of forgotten about Peter. Peter gets a lot of bad press. But at least when everyone else fled. Peter followed Jesus. Sure, it was at a distance. But at least he followed. And back in v 54, it says he followed Jesus RIGHT INTO THE COUTYARD of the High Priest. So close to Jesus, he could almost TOUCH him.

But does he side with Jesus? Does he sit down with his master? NO! Verses 54. He sits down with THE GUARDS.

And while the travesty of a trial is going on upstairs, Peter is having some problems of his own. Look at v66. A servant girl recognises him. And asks the QUESTION. The hard-hitting question. The Mike Munroe question. “Weren’t you with Jesus?”

But Peter denies it. And backs away. But the girl persists. Follows after him. Like Helen Wellings on the trail of a shonky builder. Microphone shoved into his face. “You’re one of them!”

Again Peter denies it. Then some others join in. “Of course you are. We can tell by your accent!”

And Peter realises that he’d better put on a good show. Make up in bluster and bravado/ what he lacks in credibility. He calls down curses on himself, and SWEARS to them. “I swear I don’t know him”

And just then the rooster crows. It’s sometime around 3 am. And immediately Peter remembers Jesus’ words. “Before the rooster crows you will disown me three times”. And Peter breaks down and weeps.

Jesus called on Peter to take up a CROSS. But he’d taken up a SWORD INSTEAD. He called on Peter to DENY HIMSELF, and Peter had denied JESUS instead.

It seems like the end of the road. But it’s not. The hour still hasn’t come.

The questions have been asked. And the answers have been given. And things are clearer. The religious leaders and the mob have got Jesus wrong. They see a blasphemer, or a revolutionary. Peter has got Jesus wrong. He expected a certain type of strength, and is ashamed when Jesus seems to give in.

But it’s still not the end. Jesus has announced that the hour has come. The process has begun. But it’s not here yet.

Back in chapter 13 he warned the disciples that tough times were ahead. The toughest times EVER. Times when it would seem like MEN were in control, rather than God. And his message was TO KEEP WATCH. Because noone knew when it would come.

It might be in the evening. But evening’s gone. That was at the Last Supper. It might be at midnight. But midnight’s come. That was in the Garden. It might even be when the rooster crows. But that’s past too.

And the hour still hasn’t arrived.

And though Peter’s in despair. It’s not the finish. Perhaps the hour will come at DAWN.

The hour when the kingdom will arrive. When the Son of Man will come. When the King will be crowned. But it will be a coronation like no other. A desolation. An abomination. A despicable horror like no other.

King Jesus will be crowned on a CROSS. Dying the shameful death of a criminal.

But it’s a victorious death. Not the death of a revolutionary – the end of a movement. It’s The death of a Saviour. The Saviour of the world.

The questions in this section have shown Jesus for who he really is. A king like no other. A Saviour like no other. A lord who demands that we follow him That we take up a cross. Not a sword. Who demands that we deny ourselves. Not deny him.

How do YOU measure up in the light of these questions? Do you see who Jesus is? And will you SHOW that by taking up your cross? And by denying yourself?

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