|Series Theme: Jesus Christ, the Son of God|
|Meditation No. 15|
|Meditation Title: From his own lips|
Lk 22:67-71 If you are the Christ," they said, "tell us." Jesus answered, "If I tell you, you will not believe me, and if I asked you, you would not answer. But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God." They all asked, "Are you then the Son of God?" He replied, "You are right in saying I am." Then they said, "Why do we need any more testimony? We have heard it from his own lips.
It is possible that if our Muslim sceptic, who I have referred to a couple of times, has followed these meditations he might come to the heading of this one and say, Ah, at last! but in saying that would, I suggest reveal an inability to take in the point that has been made a number of times, that through the words and actions of Jesus he has a multitude of times proclaimed who he is, even though he has not used the words, I am the Son of God. Jesus' way of teaching and, indeed, of revealing himself, was to use enigmatic teaching or declarations that would only be understood by seekers. He very clearly explained the reasoning for this very specific style when he was telling the Parable of the Sower (see Mt 13:10 -17). In such a manner he kept the religious leaders guessing and put off the evil day of his arrest until after he had been ministering for three years.
It was only as we come to this time, and he has allowed himself to be arrested and falsely tried does he speak out, when no longer does he want to hold back, because this is clearly the agreed time for him to be put to death. This was the symbolic Passover time when lambs had originally been slain to avert the judgement of God (Ex 12). Even now he is not going to flout the truth because he is not wanting to provoke an argument, merely to let sinful men have their way and condemn him.
In the verse immediately before our verses above we find that: At daybreak the council of the elders of the people, both the chief priests and teachers of the law, met together, and Jesus was led before them. So here we have a body of men who would be particularly versed in the traditions of the Jewish people and in the meanings of the Old Testament prophecies. They start out by asking him if he is the Christ or the Messiah. Now that, in itself, would not be particularly damning. The worst charge could be fraud. To simply say he was God's deliverer for His people when they believed he was not, was not a capital offence deserving death. Jesus realises this and so pushes it on a stage. First he refuses, it seems, to say outright that he is, because of their unbelief. Note he presses them on their unbelief. That would have made them hostilely defensive. His objective is to project the unpalatable truth unpalatable at least to them so that they will respond to their sinful hearts and condemn him. Like many atheists today they had made up their minds before assessing the situation.
So, to press it on another stage he dangles another Old Testament concept before them: But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God. The Son of Man? That was imagery from Daniel's visions. We have mentioned it before but it does bear repeating: In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. (Dan 7:13,14) Thus this son of man, this human figure, was such a one that required the whole world to worship him. Now, as we've observed before, you only worship God, so this figure must be an expression of God in human form and these religious leaders surrounding Jesus know that deep in their hearts, hence they demand, Are you then the Son of God? Note that is their language, to which Jesus replies, You are right in saying I am. This straight forward affirmation of the truth provokes the response of condemnation.
They take him away to Pilate to get Pilate to crucify him but it is only John, thinking on this many years later, who realises the significance of the eventual, almost desperate, shout of the Jews to Pilate, The Jews insisted, "We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God. (Jn 19:7) Everything in them didn't want to say these words. Jesus had almost forced them to say the words themselves at the trial, but before Pilate they keep on asking for Jesus' death because he claimed to be the Messiah, the King of the Jews. It is only when Pilate keeps rejecting these claims that they come out with this apparent blasphemy he claimed to be the Son of God. This made Pilate afraid and so he still tries to release Jesus but eventually, under the pressure from the crowd, he gives way and sends him to be crucified.
Now strangely, my Muslim correspondent is correct. Jesus did not himself claim to be the Son of God using those words, I am the Son of God but he did agree quite clearly with those words. Why the difference? I believe he wanted the Jews themselves to speak out the words, the Son of God, so that they could never say they didn't really know what he was claiming. It came from their own lips and so by their own lips they judged themselves.
Now if our antagonist is still quibbling, it is now time to bring on the final damning evidence, because the trial that we have considered was the second trial that is recorded, at dawn when the Jewish elders were added in. When Jesus was first arrested he was taken in the High Priest's palace in the middle of the night and cross examined. It is at that preliminary trial that we find, The high priest said to him, "I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God." "Yes, it is as you say," Jesus replied. (Mt 26:63,64). The High Priest used the most solemn oath possible to demand that Jesus tell who he was, and he links Messiah and Son of God. He, at least, does understand the link. Are you the Son of God? Yes! Again it is the Jewish High Priest who has to use the words, but Jesus completely agrees with them!
In Marks version of what happened we find, Again the high priest asked him, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?" "I am," said Jesus. (Mk 14:61,62). The enigmatic I am is reminiscent of John's many I Am sayings which point back to Exodus 3 when God named Himself as I Am.
Just a minute says our sceptic, you've got different words. What is important to realise as we try to get inside what really happened, is that these four Gospel writers were not approaching their tasks with the same mindset that we might do it in the twenty-first century. We would know that we are going to be held accountable to others who will question our every detail. For us, details are vital. For the four Gospel writers, details are not vital, just the overall truth. This side of heaven we'll not know some of the precise words used but the bulk of the words and the meanings behind them are the same. At the two trials Jesus is asked, Are you the Son of God? and on both occasions he replies, Yes! At last the many enigmatic references are made concrete. This IS the unique Son of God he said it!