URC Daily Devotion 25 March 2024

St Mark 14: 53 – 65
They took Jesus to the high priest; and all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes were assembled. Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest; and he was sitting with the guards, warming himself at the fire.  Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for testimony against Jesus to put him to death; but they found none.  For many gave false testimony against him, and their testimony did not agree. Some stood up and gave false testimony against him, saying,  ‘We heard him say, “I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.”’  But even on this point their testimony did not agree.  Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, ‘Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?’  But he was silent and did not answer. Again the high priest asked him, ‘Are you the Messiah,  the Son of the Blessed One?’  Jesus said, ‘I am; and

“you will see the Son of Man
seated at the right hand of the Power”,
and “coming with the clouds of heaven.”’

Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, ‘Why do we still need witnesses?  You have heard his blasphemy! What is your decision?’ All of them condemned him as deserving death.  Some began to spit on him, to blindfold him, and to strike him, saying to him, ‘Prophesy!’ The guards also took him over and beat him.

What the Sanhedrin was doing that evening was beyond its usual remit. It had powers permitted by the ruling Roman authorities to regulate religious life, to rule on questions of religious law – even to try a Jewish king in exceptional circumstances!

But much to the frustration of the priests and their acolytes, they were not able to do the one thing they really wanted now – to get rid of the pesky preacher by having him executed publicly, something only the Roman rulers were empowered to do. One way or another, they had to “prove” that Jesus was breaking Roman law.

Frustrated, they set up what we might describe as a kangaroo court session, “a mock court in which the principles of law and justice are disregarded or perverted.” They took “evidence” so distorted and palpably false even they couldn’t bend it to their purposes. Then they probed and bullied until they finally extracted a response they could bend to show that Jesus was a threat to the Roman Empire. They said he claimed to be King of the Jews.

That wasn’t enough for these “men of God”, some of whom were so carried away that they began to mock and beat the helpless Jesus. There was no honour in their actions, and no justice.

If only we could claim now to live in a better world, but we can’t. The legal systems in countries across the globe are regularly perverted to ensure that powerful people, even leaders of great nations, can use or abuse them to silence dissent and rid themselves of potential opponents in blatantly fake trials.

Let us strive to ignore any temptation to become immune to such cruelty and injustice when we see or hear of it, remembering that Jesus is represented in each sufferer.

O Lord, open my eyes that I may see the needs of others
Open my ears that I may hear their cries;
Open my heart so that they need not be without succour;
Let me not be afraid to defend the weak because of the anger of the strong,
Nor afraid to defend the poor because of the anger of the rich.
Show me where love and hope and faith are needed,
And use me to bring them to those places.

Alan Paton

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