The last time I read the passage below, it occurred to me that this confrontation Jesus endures stands in stark contrast to Elijah’s showdown with Ahab in I Kings 18. It looked like Elijah faced certain defeat against 450 prophets of Baal, and the scorn of a powerful, unrepentant king. But God’s presence swept in with a fantastic flash of fire that most likely singed the eyebrows off the false prophets. That day, the people fell on their faces in belief and those who served Baal met their destruction.
But here, in this moment with Jesus, misguided high priests and self-promoting Jewish Council members scorn him, spit upon him, and condemn him to die. There is no demonstration of omnipotence, no breathtaking rescue. Only the sting of a slap on his cheek. Only the vicious whispers of hate. Only the cold spit of contempt.
The knowledge of what God could have done in that moment grasped in the reality of what he chose not to do is overwhelming to me. The truth of it is hard to bear. I think about all the times I’ve rebelled, fought back, insisted on my own selfish way and yet – my salvation is completely dependent on Jesus’ restraint that day. His willingness to not do what he could have easily done, and give the thing that no one would give for him – is the heart of my redemption. In order for him come to my rescue, he had to relinquish his right to be rescued that day before hateful accusers. He knew this part of God’s story would need to bring me to my knees in belief through a preposterous sacrifice.
Oh the depths of this bizarre love has claimed me heart and soul.
More later on the epilogue of that sacrifice and how it unhinged history.
Mark 14:55-65 (The Message)
The high priests conspiring with the Jewish Council looked high and low for evidence against Jesus by which they could sentence him to death. They found nothing. Plenty of people were willing to bring in false charges, but nothing added up, and they ended up canceling each other out. Then a few of them stood up and lied: "We heard him say, ‘I am going to tear down this Temple, built by hard labor, and in three days build another without lifting a hand.’" But even they couldn’t agree exactly.
In the middle of this, the Chief Priest stood up and asked Jesus, "What do you have to say to the accusation?" Jesus was silent. He said nothing. The Chief Priest tried again, this time asking, "Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed?"
Jesus said, "Yes, I am, and you’ll see it yourself: The Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Mighty One, arriving on the clouds of heaven."
The Chief Priest lost his temper. Ripping his clothes, he yelled, "Did you hear that? After that do we need witnesses? You heard the blasphemy. Are you going to stand for it?"
They condemned him, one and all. The sentence: death.
Some of them started spitting at him. They blindfolded his eyes, then hit him, saying, "Who hit you? Prophesy!" The guards, punching and slapping, took him away.