Our world is a complicated place within which to live out a life of faith. Amid the normal rush and stress of the everyday mundane, the social and political climate around us beckons us to distraction away from our calling to make disciples. With no intention of forgetting our Savior’s commission, a well-intentioned desire to do earthly good can easily come at the expense of eternal value if the proclamation of the Gospel is set aside, minimized, or forgotten.
While most likely writing to believers living in Rome during the chaotic upheaval of the early to mid-60’s under Nero’s rule, Mark sought to remind and encourage them with the gospel, the “good news” of Jesus Christ, including faithfulness in communicating the truth about Jesus in the face of persecution.
In this regard, Mark leaves his readers a compelling example from the ministry of Jesus as He stood before His accusers a few short hours from when He was to be crucified for the sin of the world.
Mark 14:55-65 (NASB)
55 Now the chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, and they were not finding any. 56 For many were giving false testimony against Him, but their testimony was not consistent. 57 Some stood up and began to give false testimony against Him, saying, 58 “We heard Him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands, and in three days I will build another made without hands.’” 59 Not even in this respect was their testimony consistent. 60 The high priest stood up and came forward and questioned Jesus, saying, “Do You not answer? What is it that these men are testifying against You?” 61 But He kept silent and did not answer. Again the high priest was questioning Him, and saying to Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” 62 And Jesus said, “I am; and you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” 63 Tearing his clothes, the high priest said, “What further need do we have of witnesses? 64 You have heard the blasphemy; how does it seem to you?” And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death. 65 Some began to spit at Him, and to blindfold Him, and to beat Him with their fists, and to say to Him, “Prophesy!” And the officers received Him with slaps in the face.
- Jesus wasn’t compelled to defend Himself (Mark 14:55-61a).
In an effort to condemn Jesus, nay-sayers were gathered to bring accusation against Him while using His words against Him. His words were twisted, removed from their context, and misquoted in an attempt to discredit Him and accuse Him of threatening violence against the temple. After hearing their convoluted and inconsistent testimony, the high priest challenged Jesus to answer His accusers and mount a defense. Jesus simply remained quiet.
Though He had indeed spoken of the destruction of the temple (John 2:19-21 and Mark 13:1-2) He did not attempt to correct their misquotations or justify His statements. Equally important to note, Jesus did not attempt to engage them in a theological discussion or debate as to the truths He had taught in those specific contexts. To do so would have redirected the moment from His work as Savior to one of self-vindication. In other words, Jesus would have made the focus “self” rather than the Son serving the will of the Father.
Likewise, we too must be vigilant in our public witness for Christ to proclaim HIM and not US. Proclaiming the gospel isn’t about defending our faith, so to speak. It is proclaiming the work of God in Christ. While it is true that we need to be able to discuss theological principle and answer questions, concerns, and critical statements about the Bible, it is incumbent upon us to not do so at the expense of speaking the gospel. Debating the finer points of theology is well and good, but only Christ crucified saves sinners.
- Jesus wasn’t compelled to prove Himself (Mark 14:65).
The aftermath of Jesus’ testimony was one of verbal mocking and physical abuse. If Jesus truly was the Son of the Most High without question He should be able to say who it was that struck Him though He was prevented from seeing. In the same way Jesus was silent before His accusers, He remained silent before His tormentors. He made no effort to prove who He was. He cared not to vindicate Himself. With minimal effort on His part He could have proven beyond doubt His identity, but He didn’t.
It wasn’t for Him to vindicate Himself. His place was not to put His glory on display. That was for the Father to do. His place was to suffer and die for sin. It is a temptation we all face. We desire to be vindicated and will go to great lengths to vindicate ourselves. When we do, we at once become consumed not with the will of the Father but with our own sense of self-promotion.
- Jesus spoke only what was pertinent at the moment (Mark 14:62).
It was only when He was asked if He was the Son of God did Jesus answer, and answer He did! He not only gave affirmation to the question but He also answered with thoroughness so as to leave no doubt the significance of what that meant.
His affirmation was of His eternal identity (the great “I AM”), His messianic ministry (the Son of Man), His redemptive authority (sitting at the right of God), and His future work (coming with the clouds…a reference to judgment). The only point that mattered was for them to know who they were condemning and what that meant. It is true, Jesus was indeed speaking of Himself in this instance but He was speaking in terms of His redemptive mission to deal with sin, in submission to the Father.
We must continually strive to be more like Jesus in our witness and giving answer to those who ask of our hope. In doing so, let us proclaim God’s work of redemption as over and above all lesser things.