“Then the detachment of troops and the captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound Him. And they led Him away to Annas first, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas who was high priest that year. Now it was Caiaphas who advised the Jews that it was expedient that one man should die for the people. And Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Now that disciple was known to the high priest, and went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest. But Peter stood at the door outside. Then the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to her who kept the door, and brought Peter in. Then the servant girl who kept the door said to Peter, ‘You are not also one of this Man’s disciples, are you?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ Now the servants and officers who had made a fire of coals stood there, for it was cold, and they warmed themselves. And Peter stood with them and warmed himself. The high priest then asked Jesus about His disciples and His doctrine. Jesus answered him, ‘I spoke openly to the world. I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where the Jews always meet, and in secret I have said nothing. Why do you ask Me? Ask those who have heard Me what I said to them. Indeed they know what I said.’ And when He had said these things, one of the officers who stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, ‘Do You answer the high priest like that?’ Jesus answered him, ‘If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why do you strike Me?’ Then Annas sent Him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.”
This summer is expected to go through some extreme fluctuations in weather patterns due to the abnormal climatical changes caused by the green house effect. Although the world is filled with such worrisome developments, I am sure that everything we do will go well, for God is truly with us.
Picking up the thread from this mornings sermon, I would like to continue to share with you this evening about the suffering Jesus faced. It is written in John 18:12-14, “Then the detachment of troops and the captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound Him. And they led Him away to Annas first, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas who was high priest that year. Now it was Caiaphas who advised the Jews that it was expedient that one man should die for the people.” The passage here explains that a Roman captain, along with his troops and the officers of the Jews, arrested Jesus and took him to Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas who was the High Priest for that year.
We come across countless events while reading the Bible, but when we look at the latter days of Jesus’ life, we see that they were filled with drastic events, from being violently arrested to being judged unfairly and despised, dying on the Cross, and rising up from the dead. Although Jesus ended His 33 years of life on this earth in this way, He left us with a promise that He would return again after ascending to the Kingdom of Heaven.
Some faithless people may think on account of today’s Scripture passage that Jesus was dragged like a common criminal because He was somehow powerless. So these people feel sorry for Jesus and believe in Him out of pity. In some ways, the opponents of Jesus who delivered Him to death who denounced and accused Him of wrongdoings, and persecuted and killed Him might seem as though they were men of great power. They did act as if they had the world under their thumbs, as though they had some great privileges. But in reality, they failed to realize that the day of suffering and judgment was waiting for all those who persecuted Jesus, tormented His disciples and arrogantly thought themselves to be powerful men.
John 18:19 says, “The high priest then asked Jesus about His disciples and His doctrine.” This passage means that those bent on murdering Jesus were trying to frame Him. So they asked Jesus, “What did you teach?” Jesus then answered them by saying, “I spoke everything openly without hiding anything. I taught in synagogues with many people gathered around, and so if you want to know about my teachings, ask them. They know what I said.” An unscrupulous man standing next to the High Priest then struck Jesus and scolded Him by saying, “How dare You answer the High Priest like that?” Jesus then said, “If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why do you strike me?”
A man named Annas appears in today’s Scripture passage, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas the High Priest for that year. So not just the High Priest but even his father-in-law possessed a great deal of power, to the extent that the troops, the captain and the officers of the Jews bound Jesus and dragged him to Annas to be judged.
It Is the Powerful in This World Who Persecuted Jesus the Most
In this present age, it is those professing to believe in Jesus who have turned into His persecutors and are acting as though they are men of great power. These people are not in a position to be persecuted, but are positioned as persecutors. But we must realize that they are not in a place at all to persecute Jesus, to strike Him, to stand against Him, or to denounce Him. It is a great mistake for these people to act as though they are somehow privileged, aristocratic and powerful. They must realize their proper place. They should not think that they can somehow avoid the judgment of God. Non-Christians are prone to think that they have some sort of power over Christians, but this is definitely not the case.
Those who do not believe in Jesus nor in the gospel of the water and the Spirit should realize that it is not because they are more powerful, smarter, more talented or more gifted than the believers that they are positioned as persecutors. In reality, they are far worse than the believers. Yet they think that they have all the power, but this is a great mistake. When Jesus proclaimed that everyone should be saved by believing in Him as the Savior, He never meant this as a begging. Rather, He said this for our own good. He said it so that people would be saved from sin, receive eternal life and be delivered from the judgment. All those who think that it’s a great prerogative not to believe are nothing more than fools.
Some people think that because they don’t believe in God, God would somehow be troubled by this, and since they can persecute the believers, they think they have a great deal of power. But when looked through spiritual eyes, it is the completely opposite. If they knew the punishment that awaits them for not believing in God, they would not be laughing and sneering at all. In reality, it is God, His Son Jesus Christ, and those of us who believe in this Jesus Christ that have the real power. It is we the believers in the gospel of the water and the Spirit who have everlasting life, have received the remission of sins, and are the truly privileged, and are God’s people and His servants that have received His special love and salvation.
Yet many people still refuse to believe in Jesus and persecute Him instead, asking to be cursed out of their own volition. Even though Jesus the Almighty has compassion for them and puts up with their antics so that they would be saved from sin by faith, these people don’t realize this and so by doing this are standing against Him. They think, “They are bothered so much because of my refusal to believe. What should I do? Should I believe now, or wait a bit longer? I think I will hold out a bit more just to give them more trouble, and then believe.” But such thoughts are nothing more than self-conceited delusion.
Would anyone mentioned in today’s Scripture passage who persecuted Jesus, from the High Priest to his father-in-law, the Roman soldiers and the Jewish officer, ever escape from their judgment and suffering? No, all these people were destined to face even more terrifying judgment and punishment. They were arrogant only because they did not know the terrible judgment that was waiting for them. Such people should realize that they are still alive only because the One with the real power, the truly Almighty One, has patience and is waiting for them to turn around.
Who can dare to persecute Jesus? Who can dare to persecute those who believe in Jesus? It’s only because the Almighty God who has all the power and authority is tolerating them with patience waiting for these sinners to have a chance to repent and turn around. When this last chance is thus given, they should realize the mercy of God and His love and power, and they should submit before Him.
One Should Not Misconceive
No one should think that it is somehow a great prerogative to persecute Jesus and His believers. Such people should realize that they have absolutely no authority to do this. And they must turn around.
Take a look at this world. There is no need to look any farther than your own family, relatives and close friends. Don’t these unbelievers act as if they had a great deal of power? They sometimes treat Christians as though it is a great sin to believe in Jesus. Even though they have not been harmed by any Christians at all, they often treat them as if the believers have wronged them. What wrong have the people of faith ever done to them? Yet they still act as though it is their duty to insult the believers gratuitously, stand against and persecute them, as if they have the right to oppose them. These people must turn around as soon as possible, realizing that they will face the terrifying judgment of God. They must realize who they really are and believe in Jesus. They must step inside the blessed Kingdom of the Son of God by faith.
Many people have misunderstood Jesus, thinking that since He was crucified for sinful human beings, He will love them always no matter what. But the reality is so very different. Although Jesus does love them, when they challenge the Lord to such an intolerable extent, even His unconditional love becomes exhausted.
First Thessalonians clearly states that God will judge both the believers and the unbelievers. Jesus said that He would deal with those who don’t believe in God according to their faithlessness. He will judge the unbelievers according to their unbelief, and for those who don’t believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit even though they know it, He will also judge them exactly according to their sins. There is a Korean proverb that goes, “A mere puppy is unafraid of a tiger.” As this proverb says, many people are so ignorant of themselves that they arrogantly stand up against God and His Anointed by saying; “Let us break their bonds in pieces and cast away their cords from us” (Psalm 2:3). But God who sits in the heavens will laugh at them, for it is so ridiculous that such weak beings would dare to challenge Him, the Omnipotent (Psalm 2:4).
As Jesus endured His suffering, His persecutors were triumphant as though they had some sort of power over Him, but the reality was very different. These people were truly foolish. I admonish you to realize that it’s because Jesus is love that He is willing to forgive sinners and patiently waits for them to turn around. You have to grasp here that those who have as yet not been born again cannot stand against the truly born-again. The born-again can easily defeat 10,000 people who have not been born again. With their faith and wisdom, and not fists, they can withstand a million non-believers, and even hundreds of millions. Yet despite this, those who have not been born again of water and the Spirit, the foolish ones who have no virtue at all, are still living in self-conceit today, just as they had done so in the past.
Is there anything to learn from Annas, Caiaphas or Judas here? There is nothing virtuous about someone who betrays his own teacher for 30 pieces of silver! On human ethical grounds alone, even those who have not been remitted from sin would not do what Judas did. Jesus had taken Judas under His wings and taught him precious truths, fed him and clothed him. It’s simply unthinkable for anyone to betray such a teacher.
What about the chief priests then? They thought of themselves as powerful men, but what authority did they really have? At that time, the office of the High Priest was rotated on a yearly basis. The first High Priest of this earth was Aaron, and the last earthly High Priest of mankind was his descendant John the Baptist. The real earthly High Priest is John the Baptist, and the heavenly High Priest is Jesus alone. Real authority belongs to them. The false ones may seem to possess authority, but if you look more closely, it is all nothing more than a lie. As the Passion Week is upon us, those who are persecuting and threatening Christians must look back, ask themselves on what authority they are doing these things, and repent from their wicked ways.
Those Who Persecute Jesus Must Contemplate Their Behavior
In my own household, many of my relatives think ill of me. Even though I have never done anything to deserve this, which is how I have often been treated after believing in the Lord.
I had been taking care of my nephews, but after I met the Lord, I could no longer help them. I just could not find the means to take care of them as I was trying to serve the Lord faithfully. To help them, I had to make money, but this left me with little time to serve the Lord. Even before that, I couldn’t help them as much as I wanted to as I was not a rich man, but I still thought that I did my best.
When I met the Lord, and I could no longer help my nephews as I had to serve the gospel, and because of this my relatives blamed me. They tarnished me with so many accusations and made me look like such a bad person, but when I listened to what they were saying, much of it was just unreasonable. Many times I wondered to myself what it was that I had done to them to deserve to hear such nasty words. Everything I had done to help my nephews, they considered it only as a rightful duty. And now that I was no longer able to help them, my relatives thought that I was doing something scandalously inappropriate. So I was deeply distressed, feeling that all my previous efforts were in vain.
My family members thought that I was making a lot of money. In general, pastors in Korea are paid quite well. Most of them get paid several thousand dollars a month at least, and in some large churches, it’s not unusual for the monthly salary to exceed $10,000. If I did not help my nephews even as I was living in luxury, then that would have been wrong. But the reality was I did not have any money to help them. Whatever money I had, it had to be spent to serve the gospel. My relatives gave me much grief, saying that I was not helping my nephews even as I was ministering as a pastor.
But I did not consider their treatment regrettable. No matter how harshly they criticized me, I told them that whatever money I had, I would spend it all to serve God. You probably have some relatives like mine; you probably have some relatives who treat you as though you were doing something grievously wrong, stand up against you and persecute you, just because you believe in Jesus. But we have done nothing wrong to them. On the contrary, it is these very people who don’t believe in Jesus is what is wrong. Yet sadly, we are treated as though we have done something greatly wrong.
It’s not just families and relatives, but friends can also persecute you. Have you not felt that your friends are ignoring you and mocking you for no other reason than the fact that you believe in Jesus? Some of my friends even tried to force me to drink liquor when I told them that I believed in the Lord. I once told such friends that if they really wanted to, they could try to force me to swallow even a single drop of liquor. I said to them, “If I swallow even a single drop, I will give up my faith in Jesus and follow you for the rest of my life to torment you. So if that’s what you want, pour that drink over me! What’s so wrong to believe in Jesus?”
Many people mistakenly think that Christians should be persecuted and oppressed. They have this misconceived idea that Christians must be trampled upon time after time like worms. They think, “Since I don’t believe in Jesus, they are begging me to believe even though I am persecuting them. They will beg even more if I continue to persecute them.”
But that is a mistaken notion. Who should be begging whom? Jesus is the Savior, while we were sinners. We were all destined to be judged and cast into everlasting destruction. So who can be confident and before whom? Sinners are in no position to be confident in themselves, but rather to beg for their salvation. Yet despite this, some of them still judge on their own fallacious thoughts and persecute Christians. This is completely wrong. They are the ones who must repent.
The World Must Indeed Kneel before Us
The world must kneel before us who have the true faith in God. Sinners must beg us to teach them the Truth. They must ask us not to forsake them. That’s because if we forsake them, they will face destruction for sure. But we have not forsaken them. What is tragic is that they just don’t know the Lord who has saved us. That is why we must spread this good news to the world. Because we are indebted to Jesus for His love, we have the duty to do so. No matter what kind of persecution we face, we must realize that people persecute us not because they have the right to do so, nor because we deserve to be persecuted, but because they do not realize what they are doing. We must therefore carry out our work unwaveringly and preach the gospel even to them. We must continue to shout to the world to believe in Jesus.
There are some people who condescend on us just because we have faith in God. There is no need for us to show humility to such people. It is not wrong to believe in Jesus. On the contrary, what is wrong is the mindset of those who are persecuting us the true believers in Jesus, they mistakenly thinking that they are powerful. Tragically, even many Christians in the world still have this mindset and actually act like this. When such people become afraid of their judgment, they suddenly claim to believe in Jesus, singing hymns and hanging a cross around there necks. But to call on the name of Jesus and believe in Him only out of convenience is not really knowing and believing in Jesus as one’s Savior. To know and believe that Jesus has saved us through the gospel of the water and the Spirit is to truly believe in Jesus. But many non-believers including nominal Christians don’t even want to find out about this, and instead try to find fault with everything we do.
There have always been people like this, now as in the past. The people of the world during the age of the Roman Empire persecuted Christians to the extremes. The cruelty of this persecution was beyond description. The Roman Empire that had ruled the world with its secular power was corrupted from within, and it eventually came across a crossroads facing its ruin. It then accepted Christianity that it had persecuted until then as the state religion. It did so because it thought the only way to ensure its survival was to accept Christians and their faith and way of this life.
Constantine the Great was the one who adopted this policy. When the Roman Empire fragmented into the Eastern Roman Empire and the Western Roman Empire, the Romans declared Christianity as their state religion and sought to reform, but ultimately it was destroyed mainly by itself. But despite this the Roman Catholic Church survived and it could only secure a small state called Vatican City that is now ruled by the Pope. Although the Roman Empire has disappeared, Catholicism itself is still deeply rooted in every corner of the world.
The persecutors of Christians speak as though they have some great power, but in reality there is no one who is higher than Jesus. Jesus is the Master of you and me and of the entire universe, and at the same time He is the Judge. It is preposterous for any human being, who is no more than a creature, to boast of himself before the Creator and the Savior and to persecute those who believe in Jesus Christ.
Just because Jesus was crucified, do you think that Jesus is someone who always endures suffering? Do you think that now that He rose up from the dead after being crucified to death, He is somehow begging you to believe in Him? Do you think Jesus is thirsting after our love, as though He does not have enough love? No, if that’s how you think of God, you are completely mistaken. Jesus, who is God, is the merciful One who has fulfilled our salvation for our sake, He is telling us to believe in this for our own good, and He is pointing out the way of salvation for us. He is the Truth. He alone is the Truth. Yet despite this the people of this world think that they are the ones with the power, and they feel that it is their right to persecute Jesus and His believers, as though they owe something to them. This is a completely mistaken and misguided thought, one that is turned upside down.
A while ago, some people wanted to use our church building to hold a community meeting. They could not find a large enough space to hold the meeting, and so they wanted to borrow our church. But I told them to make use of the community center or look for a bigger church. Nowadays church buildings are often used for purposes other than worship for the wider community under the banner of “open church.” Churches have opened up so much that some of them even allow youths to hold secular concerts. But I can never allow this to happen. How dare they come to the place of worship and smoke and dance here?
Many people think that Christians are obligated to do something for them, but if there is anything that we owe them, it is only that we preach the gospel of the water and the Spirit to them. We have no other obligations. You have to realize this clearly. There is no reason for us to lower ourselves before the worldly people, nor do we have any duty or any favor to them. Our only hope is for them to be saved by God; we have no other duty to them.
Jesus Is Not Someone Who Perpetually Endures Suffering
Those who do not know Jesus or refuse to know or believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit are no better than beasts. The Bible says that even though human beings are precious, those who don’t realize their own preciousness are like the beasts that perish (Psalm 49:20).
As the Passion Week draws upon us, I would like to tell you that Jesus is not someone who perpetually endures suffering. Although Jesus died on the Cross, He rose from the dead and bore witness to us for 40 days. Even while He was on this earth, He said, “I will give up my life for you. The Shepherd will sacrifice Himself for the flock.” It’s not because our Lord was powerless that He died on the Cross. He did not beg anyone to believe in Him so that He could expand His influence. The Lord is the righteous and just King of kings, and He is the only Supreme Being.
When Jesus was baptized, He said to John the Baptist, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15). Here the word “thus” in Greek is “οϋτως” (hutos), which means “just in this way,” “most fitting,” or “there is no other way besides this.” And ‘all righteousness’ in Greek is “πάσαν δικαιοσύνην” (pasan dikaiosýnē), which means the fairest state that has no defect at all. This word in the ‘original Bible text’ shows us that Jesus took the sins of humankind onto Himself irreversibly in the most proper way through the baptism He received from John the Baptist. In short, Jesus has saved us justly and fairly. Because of our sins, we had to die, but to save people like us, Jesus had to come to this earth incarnated in the flesh, and accepted all the sins of the world by being baptized, and was ultimately crucified. He has saved us by dying in our place. None other than this is the righteousness and justice of Jesus. He has saved us justly and righteously. Above all else this is the Truth that I want to proclaim throughout the whole world.
If you don’t realize this Truth, and don’t believe in Jesus Christ who came by the gospel of the water and the Spirit, then don’t delude yourself into thinking that you have some sort of power. If you do this the day will surely come soon when you beat your chest in regret.
There Is No Time for Bravado
Time goes by so fast that a week passes by in the blink of an eye. Today is the Lord’s Day and tomorrow is Monday, but Saturday will come around in no time. Doesn’t time fly by like this? That is why time is said to pass by like a river. With time passing by like this, the day will soon come when we will all stand before the throne of God’s judgment. No one can stop the passing of time. Therefore what is really important for us is how well we use this passing time and its hours.
Do you have any time to live in bravado? Is there any time for anyone to pretend to have the power that he doesn’t have? Even though we have received the remission of sins by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, there still are many people who do not believe in this gospel. Those who have been born again through the gospel of the water and the Spirit are making the most of the rapidly passing time and using it for worthwhile causes. In contrast, those who have not been born again are wasting their time only to persecute the born-again, and they are living in false bravado pretending to be powerful. But there is no time for them to put on such bravado.
As time passes us by, December will come and go, and soon 2008 will be upon us. A sister at our Church moved here from Seoul as soon as she graduated from high school. I still remember when she came here just after graduating, but time has gone by so fast that she will turn 30 next year. That’s how fast time goes by.
Even though everyone knows how fast time flies, not everyone realizes that he is living with some imaginary power that he doesn’t actually have. Everyone must therefore be freed from such delusions, realize that they will be judged unless they believe truly in Jesus, turn around and have faith in Him. People must become ‘servants of the gospel’ rather than its persecutors, obey God rather than disobeying Him, live by their faith in Jesus rather than trusting in their own power, and change their mindsets so as to live for the benefit of others rather than just for themselves. Don’t you all agree?
My fellow believers, even if you believe in Jesus, you cannot achieve anything if you live just yourself. In contrast, if you live for the benefit of others, there will be so much that you can accomplish. Those, who have been truly born again through the gospel of the water and the Spirit, live to serve the Lord and His gospel instead of serving themselves; that is why they have so much work to do. If our workers in Korea were left alone, they will all fizzle away. We have to come up with opportunities for them to work. This too is serving the Lord.
Some people think that since I am a pastor, I only want to be served. But whenever our workers are gathered together I always tell them, “Is it you who are serving me, or is it I who is serving you? Am I making a living on your backs? Or are all of us living united together?” I ask them these questions clearly. Just as you are a servant of the gospel, so am I a servant of the gospel. In other words, we the righteous are all serving the gospel in God; none of us is living off someone else’s labor and trying to be served. All of us the righteous are living to serve the gospel. For me to entrust you with various tasks and making it possible for you to labor is my way of serving the Lord. This is how I serve the Lord because that’s what I am able to do, and you are also serving the Lord from your assigned position with your heart, your time and your body.
What all of us must grasp clearly here is that sinners have no power. Those who have not been born again have no power at all. Yet even so, they still put on air pretending to be powerful. Such people are like those who persecuted Jesus in His days. Do you think that there will be no judgment for such people? Do you think that those who don’t believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit will be able to escape from God’s judgment? No, the Lord said that He will pay them back by a ten thousand-fold. He said that He will cast them into the everlasting fire of hell. Therefore, all those who act as though they are powerful even as they have not been born again must repent as soon as possible. Those who arrogantly flaunt themselves with money will suffer under the weight of their money without fail.
To disbelieve is not a privilege. To believe is the real privilege and power. The greatest misconception that people around the whole world have is the notion that it is somehow their own privilege and authority that they don’t believe in Jesus as their Savior. This is an utterly fallacious idea. God said clearly that He will cast out into fire all those who don’t believe in Him. He made clear that those who did not believe in Him would be destroyed. It is God’s just judgment that such people should suffer. The peoples of the world must realize this fact. Those who are deluded into thinking that they have some sort of power must now come to face their actual situation and repent before those who have the authority of God.
As the Passion Week draws upon us, I would like the emphasize the following point one more time: There are so many people who have gone astray in this world that we must have compassion for them and preach the gospel to them. They have nothing in reality. Yet they don’t even realize this, and so they live on mere bravado. We must let them know this fact clearly. If your family members, relatives or friends persecute you, mock you and try to dominate over you as though they have all the power, I want you to let them know what their actual circumstances are and what their future will be. Teach them that anyone who does not believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit will face the just judgment of the Lord and be cursed to receive the everlasting punishment of the fire of hell.
Teach them also that if they believe in the power of God and the gospel of the water and the Spirit, they will receive great blessings. Help them realize how they have been bluffing all this time, and make them recognize that persecuting Jesus and His believers is not a great prerogative. It is our duty as the born-again to preach the gospel of the water and the Spirit to them, and to thus enable them to be truly saved and enjoy the real power.