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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Condemned By The Righteous

2013-03-03 Condenmed By The Righteous

Mark 14:53-65
53 They took Jesus to the high priest; and all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes were assembled.

55 Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for testimony against Jesus to put him to death; but they found none. 56 For many gave false testimony against him, and their testimony did not agree. 57 Some stood up and gave false testimony against him, saying, 58 "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.'" 59 But even on this point their testimony did not agree.

60 Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, "Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?" 61 But he was silent and did not answer. Again the high priest asked him, "Are you the Messiah,[j] the Son of the Blessed One?"

62 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.'"

63 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, "Why do we still need witnesses? 64 You have heard his blasphemy! What is your decision?" All of them condemned him as deserving death.65 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.


We're in Part 2 of our series of messages for Lent. These are based very loosely on Adam Hamilton's book, 24 Hours That Changed the World. If you aren't in the Sunday School class that's studying the book, or if you don't already have a copy of the book, I really want to encourage you to get one, because it will help you get ready for Easter in some very fresh ways.

And getting ready for Easter is what we're doing during these 40 days and nights of Lent. Tonya had a great Children's Sermon last Sunday, which you will remember the rest of your life. She held up a handful of dryer lint and said, "This is lint, l-i-n-t; and this is Lent - L-e-n-t," and went on to explain the difference. If you weren't here, go back and watch the rerun on the website, or just ask her to re-enact it. Because it's genius. You will never, ever forget the meaning of L-e-n-t.

A lot of us grew up in churches that didn't celebrate church seasons, like Lent. I like church seasons and I'm glad Presbyterians normally keep them. Because church seasons remind us that nobody, not even the church, has to be the same way all the time. There's a time and a season for everything. And Lent's a time for looking into your soul and asking, "Am I ready for Easter? What's holding me back from really, really getting Easter?"


Last Sunday, we talked about the sleepy disciples who couldn't stay awake when Jesus asked them to do nothing. We talked about how hard it is for all of us to do nothing well. The inability to do nothing well holds us back from really, really getting Easter.

And I remember saying that I had a lot of sympathy for the disciples because I equate sitting still and doing nothing with being slothful, sluggish, and sinful. And I'm pretty sure a lot of you agreed.

This Sunday, my little imagination association games get even more uncomfortable. Because the scripture today is about the religious leaders. The men who wore robes and told the people what the scriptures meant. The men who practiced Robert's Rules of Order in their sleep, dreaming only dreams that progressed decently and in order. The guys who kept the rules and honored the traditions - and kept the people keeping the rules and kept the people honoring the traditions - for the people's own good - for the good of the religion - for the good of the country - for the good of God.

It's a lot of responsibility. And, because I probably kind of resemble those overweight men with furrowed brows and receding hairlines (and that's always how I imagine them). Because I kind of resemble them, I have some sympathy. Because they were only doing what they thought was right. They were only doing what was in the best interest of preserving decency and order. They wanted to be faithful to what God had called them to do.

That's why they sentenced Jesus to death.


One of the things that Andrew Peterson said at the concert last Sunday night, is that, "Your greatest strength is also your greatest weakness." I've been thinking about that one all week.

It's true, isn't it?

I mean, think about your greatest strength. Go ahead, I'll wait. It may take a moment to narrow it down to just one. It's hard when all of us are above average. It's not bragging if it's true.

OK. Now, keep thinking about that one, greatest strength. Your superpower.

Has it ever gotten you in trouble?

Have you ever used your superpower for evil instead of good?

Have you ever gotten on someone else's last nerve because you simply exercised your powers?

OK, now let's talk about other people.

I know people whose selfless dedication to their greatest strengths have caused them to get divorced.

I know people whose need to uphold their strengths causes their children to hate them.

I know people whose drive to exercise their God-given abilities has reduced other people to weakness.

Do you know people like that?

And if you do, you also know that most of the time, most of the time, they just - don't - get - it.

They're so blinded by their strengths, their good strengths, their God-given strengths, that they can't see how weak it's making them.

Their greatest strength is also their greatest weakness, and they have no clue. Don't you just wanna spank them? Would not do one bit of good. Why not? Because they're more interested in the good their strengths can do, can potentially do, are doing for the world, for God, for you (even if you can't understand it).

What's your greatest strength?

How does it get twisted into your greatest weakness?

And almost immediately - here's what I do, and maybe you do, too. I think, "Oh sure. I see the point. I can see how my greatest strength might, hypothetically, be my greatest weakness. I get that.

"But it's not like I'm killing anybody."

"Like, Jesus."


You see, here's my real point of sympathy for the religious officials in the scripture. I don't think they were afraid for themselves. I don't think they they thought Jesus was going to take their toys away. They could see this poor, itinerant preacher in chains and know he wasn't a personal threat. I don't think they acted selfishly.

I think they thought they were acting - selflessly - for the good of the people. I think they thought they were using their strength for the good of all.

I think they were acting for the good of their people, maybe even for the good of Jesus himself.

And that's the scariest part.

Their good intentions became their greatest act of evil. Their greatest strength was their greatest weakness. And they didn't have a clue.


The good news in this story is a little hard to see. You sort of have to wait until Easter.

But I think there's a hint of good news if you take the statement and turn it around.

If your greatest strength is also your greatest weakness, then, is it also true that your greatest weakness is also your greatest strength?

Is your greatest weakness also your greatest strength?

Think about that one over lunch today. If you're having trouble figuring out your greatest weakness, just ask someone in your family.

I know somebody whose greatest weakness became the greatest strength, and you do, too.

Because it's Jesus.

The weakness of Jesus became the greatest strength of all. Ever.

The weakness of Jesus is what gives us strength.
The weakness of Jesus is what gives us hope, gives us courage, to stand up to power that's gone to people's heads and say, "I am."

To say, "You may say this, or you may threaten that, but I am. I am. And you can't take that away. You may hurt me, you might even kill me, but even then, I am. I matter. And what's right in me will go on."

Christ's greatest weakness is our greatest strength.

And nothing, nothing in life or death, can separate us from the love, and strength, of Christ Jesus, our risen Lord.