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Read Deuteronomy 13:1-11. Are we to believe every sign and wonder? Despite Christ’s miracles, the religious leaders at various times asked for a sign. To them, his miracles were not convincing. When Jesus finally gave them a sign, it was something to happen in the future. He said that as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days so would he be in the earth. The trouble with this sign was Christ had to die for it to be fulfilled.

The Jewish theologians were distrustful of miracles because of Moses’ warning. They thought of Jesus as a false teacher because he did not teach what they taught. They had created a large body of authority interpreting the law. As we know, Jesus did not follow their interpretations. In fact, he denounced the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 23:2, etc.). Because their authority was threatened, they could not open their eyes to see him for who he is. They could not believe that he is the Son of God because he didn’t look like they expected the Messiah to look. He wasn’t powerful, as a conqueror. He was friendly to Israel’s enemies. They were looking for something, someone different.

Does Moses’ warning have value for us today? [When antichrist comes, he will work miracles. Many people will be deceived by him. Even the very elect would be deceived if it were possible (Matthew 24:24).] What are some of the miracles scripture says antichrist will perform? [Calling fire from heaven, giving a statue life (II Thessalonians 2:9-12; Revelation 13:14-15)]

Standing before the Sanhedrin, Jesus was silent in his own defense much of the time. Do you find it hard to be silent when you are falsely accused? Jesus remained silent on some questions until adjured to answer in the name of God (Matthew 26:63). For the answer he then gave the priests condemned him. He told them he was indeed the Son of God. They saw this as blasphemy. He was making himself equal to God.Why do you think Jesus answered the council even though he knew it meant sure death?

17. Jesus before Pilate (5:45)

Matthew 27:14, John 19:9-10 Taken before Pilate, Jesus was again silent before many questions (Matthew 27:14; John 19:9-10). Criminals are often silent in our courts because they are taking the fifth amendment which protects them from incriminating themselves. Why do you think Jesus was silent?

When Jesus did speak, he spoke about truth (John 18:37). Why? Do you think he was trying to save Pilate? Some Eastern traditions say Pilate and his wife became Christians. We know that Pilate could have rubber- stamped the verdict of the Sanhedrin. Emperor Tiberias had issued orders which told him to accommodate the Jews in religious matters. Instead, he decided to give Jesus a Roman trial, perhaps really wanting to see justice done, perhaps only wanting to thwart the pesky Sanhedrin. Under Roman law, Jesus was entitled to a defense. Since he would not speak up for himself and since no one else took his defense, Pilate became both advocate and judge. Scripture tells us Pilate realized Jesus was innocent and tried to save him. Yet in the end Pilate proved to be merely a politician. He caved in and did what was easiest. For complex political reasons he feared losing his sta- tus as a “friend of Caesar,” and also the Jews were threatening a messy riot.

Jesus declared before Pilate that he was a king (John 18:36,37). Although this was technically grounds for a death penalty, Pilate’s questioning showed him that Christ was not a direct threat to Caesar. Describe Christ’s kingdom. Why does he say it is not of this world?

Pilate’s wife warned him not to have anything to do with “that innocent man” Jesus (Matthew 27:19). Did she recognize truth? Was she close to the kingdom of God?

Pilate had Jesus flogged. Why? [He was trying to appease the Jews by giving Jesus a penalty lighter than the death sentence.]

Later Pilate thought he saw a way to free Jesus. He would offer the people a choice between Christ and a murderer. The people chose the killer (Matthew 27:15-21; Mark 15:6-11; Luke 23:13-23). How do we choose Barabbas over Jesus in our world today?

Stoic philosophers had given the Romans an ideal of the noble-minded man. Their ideal was a man dignified and reasonable. Jesus demonstrated great dignity and clear thinking when standing before Pilate. Do you think Pilate had this ideal in mind when he said, “Behold the man”?

Finally Pilate condemned Jesus but washed his hands saying, “I’m innocent of this man’s blood” (Matthew 27:24). Could Pilate really wash his hands of Jesus?

Pilate is often seen as just a politician doing what is expedient. Where do you see today in our world, in govern- ments, even in religion, the same kind of compromise for expediency sake? Is it ever justified?

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