The Death of the Law, or: Where Reprogramming Begins (Luke 22:66-23:25)

In the beginning, God created a man and gave him the freedom to choose obedience or disobedience. But as we heard last week, the serpent — who was Satan — told Adam that true freedom comes from disobedience. So Adam chose disobedience, for himself and his wife. And Genesis tells us that their eyes were opened. They realized at once that they had made a terrible, terrible mistake.

And then, we are told, they heard God coming.

Now there is a popular idea out there that Adam and Eve heard God strolling in the garden in the cool of the day, taking his evening walk, and then they were afraid and hid.

But if you were to go and read that verse in Genesis — that’s Genesis 3:8 — your modern bible will probably have a footnote telling you that “the cool of the day” could be translated “the wind of the day.”

And if we were able to go back and read this verse in the original ancient Hebrew language, we would find that the Hebrew is a lot stronger than our English translations can capture. In the Hebrew, this verse says something like, “And they heard the voice of God coming through the garden on the wind of the day.”

Adam and Eve did not hear God taking his evening walk in the garden. They did not hear the still, small, gentle voice of God calling out to them. They heard the voice of their Creator blasting through the garden, carried on the winds of the day. They heard the Judgement of God coming!

So of course they hid.

But obviously no one can hide from God’s Judgement. So God calls them out and puts them on trial. He is the judge, they are the defendants. He conducts an investigation, confirms they are guilty, and then he sentences them to exile from the garden. He sentences them…to slavery.

Adam had freedom as the son of God; and the law of God guaranteed his freedom.

But then, when Adam chose disobedience, the law of God guaranteed his slavery. Slavery is always the consequence of disobedience.

And this is where we begin to see just how devilishly clever Satan was. He took God’s good law, which was the source of Adam’s freedom — and he twisted it into the source of Adam’s slavery.

Today, we going to see that Satan does it again. He is going to take God’s good law, which was supposed to be the source of life for God’s people — and he is going to twist it into the source of Jesus’ death.

In the beginning Adam was put on trial. He was found guilty under God’s law. And he was condemned to slavery and death.

Today, Jesus will be put on trial. He will be found guilty under God’s law. He will be condemned to slavery and death.

And just like last week we will be asking this question: why? Why would Jesus submit to this process? What is he trying to accomplish?

So with that question on our minds, let’s pick up where we left off last week: the leaders of Jerusalem have arrested Jesus. They have taken him to the high priest’s house. They are waiting for sunrise, when they can legally begin the trial. And no doubt they have been sending out messenger boys to gather together every parliament member they can find.

And so, Luke tells us, [66] At daybreak the council of the elders of the people, both the chief priests and the teachers of the law — the parliament — met together, and Jesus was led before them.

The trial begins. And they get right to the point: [67] “If you are the Messiah,” they said, “tell us.”

The parliament members are saying, “Convince us!”

And here again, we can hear Satan’s voice saying, “If you really are the Messiah, prove it!”

Jesus answers, “See, here’s the problem, guys: If I tell you, you will not believe me, [68] and if I asked you, you would not answer.”

Basically, Jesus is saying, “Look, we both know that whatever I say or do here, you are going to find me guilty.”

And then he goes on to make this very bold statement: [69] “But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.”

Now, this is a bold statement because Jesus is reminding the parliament about a five-hundred year old vision recorded by the Prophet Daniel.

In this vision, Daniel sees a divine being enter God’s throne room, riding on clouds of glory, like a limousine carrying him into God’s presence. But the strange thing about this, Daniel says, is that this divine being has the body of a man; so Daniel describes him as a “Son of Man”. And then Daniel goes on to say that this Son of Man rules alongside God; in fact, this Son of Man is equal with God, so equal that the whole world worships this Son of Man as if he is God!

What Daniel saw in that vision was God the Son returning home to God the Father. He has slain the beast. He has destroyed the dragon. He has finished his work. And now it is time for the Son to sit down beside his Father and rule over all creation for the rest of eternity.

So when Jesus makes this statement, “From now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of God,” he is saying, very clearly, “I am the ‘Son of Man’ Daniel saw. Which means I am the Son of God. I am equal to God. I am about to finish my work, and return to my Father. Right now you think you are my judges. But from now on, I am going to be your judge!”

And the Jewish parliament understands very well what he just said. [70] They all asked, “So…just to be perfectly clear (for the record): you are claiming to be the Son of God?”

And Jesus says, “You say that I am.”

[71] Then they said, “Why do we need any more testimony? We have heard it from his own lips.”

Jesus, a human being, has just claimed that he is the Judge of Judgement Day.

Just like Adam and Eve in the garden, the Jewish parliament has just heard the voice of their Creator arriving in Judgement. But where Adam and Eve had their eyes opened so they could recognize the terror of Judgement when it arrived, these parliament members are calloused and blind.

Adam and Eve, at the beginning of human history, were still God’s children when God’s voice came to them on the wind; they had not yet been exiled. But these Jewish elders are the children of the serpent, they are the products of generation after generation of slavery, and so they can’t even hear God’s voice when he speaks to them with a human voice. They experience no fear. They feel no regret. God pronounces judgement upon them! — and all they hear is the proof they need to put him to death.

[1] Then the whole assembly rose and led him off to Pilate.

Pilate is the Roman governor. He has two jobs: collect taxes, keep the peace. And this is a tough job, actually, because the Jewish people were notoriously rebellious and hard to control.

So Pilate has to practice this delicate balancing act: he cannot be too soft, or the Jews will start a revolution. But he cannot be too hard either, or the Jews will start a revolution!

So the Jewish parliament — knowing how hard Pilate has to work to keep everything balanced — tell Pilate that Jesus is throwing off the balance. [2] They began to accuse him, saying, “We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Messiah, a king.”

“This guy is trying to start a rebellion and set himself up as king, and he is telling the people not to pay their taxes.”

Obviously the taxes bit was a complete lie. But it doesn’t matter, because Pilate is really interested in the “claims to be a king” bit.

[3] So Pilate asked Jesus, “Sooo…king of the Jews issit?”

And basically Jesus says, “If you say so.”

And this is a very clever answer Jesus just gave. Because — this is how it works:

Pilate now has to make a difficult decision. If he says, “This guy is not claiming to be king of the Jews!” then Jesus will live! But the Jewish parliament will be upset. And they can make Pilate’s life difficult.

But, if Pilate says, “Yes, this guy is claiming to be king of the Jews!” then Jesus will die, the Jewish parliament will be happy — but the common people could be very upset. After all, up until now, Jesus has been very popular with the common people of Jerusalem. Who knows what kind of rebellion might begin if their favourite guy is killed?

So Pilate decides he does not want to risk upsetting the crowds, especially during Passover week. He says, “There’s no evidence. I find no basis for a charge against this man. Not guilty! Case dismissed…!”

[5] But they insisted, “He stirs up the people all over Judea by his teaching. He started in Galilee — way up in the north! — and has come all the way here, causing trouble with every step!”

And instantly Pilate realizes he has a way out: “Oh, this guy is from Galilee, is he? In that case, take him to King Herod of Galilee. This is not my problem, this is Herod’s problem!”

So parliament has to drag Jesus across town to where Herod is staying for the Passover holidays. And probably they were pretty irritated with each other, like, “You just had to bring up Galilee didn’t you?” and the other guy is like, “Hey, dude, how could I know he was gonna do that?”

But when they finally get to Herod’s palace, Herod is delighted. He’s been wanted to see Jesus for a long time — ever since Chapter 9, actually, after he beheaded John the Baptist. Why? Because, verse 8, from what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform a sign, or some sort like.

Herod wants to see a magic show.

[9] He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer.

Why not?

Well, if you remember, in the early parts of Luke, Jesus had this same problem: people came to see him because they only wanted miracles done for themselves. They were using him. They were not interested in having a relationship with him. They were not interested in accepting him as king. They were not even interested in listening to what Jesus had to say!

And Jesus warned the people that if they did not stop their silly obsession with miracles and start listening to him — that they would lose their ability to hear the good news.

Well, guess what? Here’s Herod, obsessed with miracles. He doesn’t actually care what Jesus has to say.

So Jesus doesn’t even bother to speak to him.

And the whole time, [10] the chief priests and the teachers of the law were standing there, yelling their accusations.

So eventually Herod gets tired of the non-magic show. The King of the Jews comes down off his throne and joins in the fun with his soldiers. The king lowers himself to the level of his common soldiers. And dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate.

When Herod put a kingly robe on Jesus and sent him back to Pilate, he was basically confirming Pilate’s verdict. He was saying, “this guys is harmless. Who cares if he thinks he is the king of Jews? I mean, seriously: he has no army, he has no power, this whole thing is a big joke. So just let him go!”

And Luke tells that from that day onward Herod and Pilate became friends—before this they had been enemies.

So this time Pilate calls everyone together: the chief priests, the rulers — the parliament — and the people.

Remember, it’s the people that are really dangerous. The Jewish parliament knows it: that’s why they arrested Jesus at night. And Pilate knows it too: that’s why he calls the crowds in. He wants them to hear his verdict of Not Guilty. He wants them to know that he is not going to give them a reason to start a riot. Or a Bersih rally.

So he says to them, verse 14: “You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found him ‘not guilty’. [15] I sent him to Herod, and Herod found him ‘not guilty.’

[16] “Therefore, here is my compromise: I will punish him and then release him.”

Pilate is saying, “I will have him whipped for causing trouble — that should keep you parliament guys happy — and then I’m going to let him go — and that should keep you common people happy.”


And then, unexpectedly, the crowd turns against Jesus. Out of nowhere, [18] the whole crowd shouted, “Away with this man! Release Barabbas to us!” Now, [19] (Barabbas had been thrown into prison for an insurrection in the city, and for murder.)

This guy Barabbas is actually a real terrorist, who had been captured and found guilty by the Romans. He is scheduled to be executed along with two other terrorists.

But the people ask for his release. Why? Because it was a Roman custom, all over the empire, to release popular prisoners during festivals, sort of a, “Here’s your freedom fighter back, happy New Year! Don’t say I never did anything nice for you.” It was something the Roman government would do to keep the people guessing, keep the people voting for them.

And this is the Passover, the most important Jewish festival of the year. So the people are saying, “Well, hang on, if you want to celebrate Passover by releasing a prisoner, release Barabbas, not this guy!”

And Pilate is a bit surprised. [20] Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again.

[21] But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!”

And [22] for the third time Pilate speaks to them: “Why? I thought this guy was popular? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore — here’s my compromise — I will have him whipped and then I’ll let him go!”

[23] But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed.

And we have to remember: it’s the people that are really dangerous. Pilate can make parliament angry and get away with it; he can make King Herod angry and get away with it; but if he upsets the people, and they start a riot, a revolution…?

At the very least Pilate would lose his job, and possibly his life.

[24] So Pilate decided to grant their demand. [25] He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will.

And the question we are left asking is: why did the people suddenly flip-flop and join in the judgement against Jesus?

The last time Luke mentioned the crowds, at the end of Chapter 21, he said they were coming early in the morning every day to hear Jesus teach. The last time we heard about the crowds, they loved Jesus! That’s why parliament had to be so secretive about their plans for his arrest.

So what happened between then and now?

Well, we are learning something about the people’s true motivation for loving Jesus. See, just like Herod — who was excited to see Jesus as long as he thought he was going to get to see magic tricks — the people loved Jesus as long as they thought he was going to be the Messiah, God’s chosen king. Jesus was there in the temple every day criticizing the government, talking about the need for change, and telling everyone that he is the guy who is going to bring Judgement Day. The people loved that kind of talk!

But then, one morning they wake up, they go to the temple as usual to hear Jesus talk some more…and Jesus never shows up. “Where is he? Oh: he’s been arrested? That doesn’t make any sense! I thought he was the Messiah, I thought God was on his side — but if he’s been arrested, then God must not be on his side. He must not be the real Messiah, he’s just another one of those fakers, a false Messiah, a false prophet.”

This is what would have been going on in the minds of the people as the news of Jesus’ arrest spread across Jerusalem that morning. And so when the moment came and Pilate said, “Hey, this guy is not actually dangerous, I’m going to let him go” — well, by that point, Jesus had completely lost credibility with the people. They don’t want to hear that Jesus is harmless. They want to hear Jesus say, “Ha ha, Pilate, that’s what you think! But actually I am the Master of the Universe!”

Instead Jesus just stands there. He says nothing. He does nothing. And the people, in their disappointment, in their anger at having their hopes lifted up and then dashed…they take God’s good law and they beat Jesus to death with it. Their voice here is Satan’s voice, saying, “If you really are the Messiah, you had better prove it! If you don’t prove it, then you must be a false prophet. And in that case, according to God’s law, you deserve death.”

And not just any kind of death, by the way. The people say, “Crucify him!” They are saying, “Hang him on a tree!” They know, very well, that God’s law says, “Anyone who is hung on a tree is under God’s curse.” They don’t want to just kill Jesus’ body; they want to cast his soul into hell.

This is the most terrible vengeance the people can ask for: they are calling down the Judgement of God upon Jesus’ head.

So, in the beginning, Satan used God’s good law to bring Adam down to slavery and death.

Here, Satan uses God’s good law to bring Jesus down to slavery and death.

But it’s actually worse than that. See, in the garden, Satan used a serpent — an animal, a creature without free will — to enslave Adam. This time, Satan uses his human slaves, creatures who were supposed to have free will. He uses the exact people Jesus came to set free. By doing it this way Satan is saying to Jesus, “Do you see how completely you have failed? These slaves belong to me; they have chosen to belong to me; they will always choose to belong to me.”

And again we are left asking this question: why did Jesus have do it this way? Why didn’t he just stand up during his trial and say, “You know what, I’m sick of this. Look: I really am the Messiah, here’s my proof — boom! (fry Satan, fry the Romans, fry the corrupt priests) — I am the Son of God, from now on I will be sitting at the right hand of my Father ruling the world, congratulations, you are now living in the kingdom of God.” He had the power; why didn’t he use it to just remove Satan and set us all free?

Well, because even without Satan there to rule us, we would have continued to live as slaves. This is actually a common human problem, well-documented by scientists: people who have been slaves for a long time actually forget how to live as free people. Psychologists see this sort of thing all the time with people who have escaped from an abusive relationship. Even though the abuser is gone, the victim often continues to live according to the rules the abuser used to control and punish them. Even without the abuser there to rule over them, victims of abuse often continue to mentally abuse themselves. They continue to live in slavery, even though the slave-master has been removed.

Well, the human race is just like that, except on a global scale. We were all born into Satan’s abusive, controlling kingdom, a kingdom that uses the law to control and punish us. So even if Jesus had stood up during his trial, destroyed Satan’s kingdom and created God’s kingdom — we would have continued to live in slavery to Satan’s version of the law. We would have continued to live in constant fear of breaking God’s law again, and being condemned to death again, just like Adam was.

So Jesus had to remove that fear. We saw last week how Jesus defeated Satan by choosing obedience where we could not. But defeating Satan is not enough. Jesus also needs to defeat Satan’s law of sin and death. He needs to rescue us from the fear of judgement.

And really Jesus has been saying this all the way through Luke. He has been telling everyone, “Listen! God’s law is actually about compassion, not about judgement and death!” But no one yet has understood what he is saying. They’ve all been brainwashed by slavery to Satan’s law and they do not know how to think God’s thoughts anymore.

That is why Jesus had to let himself be bound by the law of sin and death, just like Adam was, just like we all have been. He had to be bound by those chains in order for him to burst those chains from within, and show us that we have nothing to fear from the law anymore. He had to be condemned by the system in order to break the system from within.

Only then could he begin to teach us how to live as free people.   

So: Jesus went on trial and was condemned under the law. Why? To set mankind free from actual slavery to Satan and from mental slavery to the law.

But what are the practical effects? What difference does Jesus’ trial and condemnation make in our lives today? What does our Father want us to believe or do because of Jesus’ victory over Satan and the law?

First, our Father wants us to understand that even though we were all born as slaves under the law of sin and death, those chains are broken! Our slavery is a mental slavery; it is not real. Jesus has disarmed the powers and authorities and made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross. He has restored the law to what it was meant to be: the law of compassion. Which means we can stand up and walk away from Satan’s slavery any time we want!

But we don’t want. That is the problem, isn’t it! We are still afraid of the law. We cannot break free from a slave mentality by just wishing for it. Our minds have to be deprogrammed from Satan’s interpretation of the law, and reprogrammed with Jesus’ interpretation of the law. We have to be delivered from the law of judgement and death and returned to the law of compassion and life.

So…how ah?

Well, reprogramming begins here, in this passage, with the voice of God.

Remember, in the beginning, Adam and Eve listened to the voice of the serpent. And the next thing they heard was the voice of judgement coming through the garden on the wind of the day.

Today we have heard that voice of judgement again: “From now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.” The first time that voice spoke, Adam and Eve became slaves to the law of sin and death. This time it is different. The voice of judgement speaks…but it is not parliament, Herod, Pilate, or the people who slaves to the law of sin and death. Instead it is the Son of Man himself — the Son of God — who by speaking with that voice of judgement guaranteed that he would be bound by the law of sin and death.

Jesus took the condemnation of the law upon himself. Therefore there is now no more condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus! If you are a Christian, the law of sin and death cannot hurt you anymore.

If you are not yet a Christian, you should know that Jesus hears everyone who calls out to him. Ask him to set you free and he will. Ask him to reprogram your brain, take away your fear of the law, of sin, death, and judgement, and he will.

What difference does knowing this make? How does this freedom reprogram us and change our lives?

Well, friends, you tell me!

How would it change your life if you knew, really knew, that no matter what happens you would not be condemned? that no matter how you sin, or how you are sinned against, you will not be judged, but forgiven?

Here are at least three changes we can be looking for in our lives, evidence that we are growing beyond our slave mentality:

For one thing, we will begin to love God’s law and learn to use it for compassionate purposes. When we had a slave mentality, we saw the law as a weapon to be used against us; and we saw it as a weapon we could use on other people. That is what the Jewish parliament did: they felt bound and enslaved by God’s law — and then they used God’s law to bind and enslave Jesus. But as we are delivered from our slave mentality, we will begin to experience God’s law as a source of life, and we will begin to work within God’s law to bring life to others. That is one reason we regularly read the 10 Commandments in our worship: we want to be familiar with our Father’s voice. We want to learn how to live according to God’s law — not because we are afraid of his judgement, but because we want to make our Father proud.

For another thing, we will begin to see our relationship with God change. When we had a slave mentality, we lived a life of exchange: I do something for you, and you do something for me. If you don’t give me what I want, I reject you and go find someone else who will. That is what King Herod did when he met Jesus. And that is definitely what the people of Jerusalem did: they were willing to proclaim Jesus king as long as they thought he was going to do things their way — but when he chose the path of weakness…finis. But as we are delivered from our slave mentality, we will begin to experience a new kind of relationship with God: no longer master and slave, but Father and Child. It will be a relationship of trust: even when our Father does not always give us what we want we will continue to follow him, because we know that he would die to give us what we need.

And third, as our relationship with God changes, we will begin to see our relationships with each other change in the same way. We will learn to stop using the law to beat each other with; instead, we will learn how to lift each other up even in the midst of disappointment.

So, in summary, this is what our Father wants us to believe and do:

He wants us to recognize that we were slaves to Satan and to the law, but we do not have to be any longer.

He wants us to know there is now no more condemnation for those who have joined Jesus’ kingdom. So if you have not yet asked to join, ask! — and you will be accepted.

And then our Father wants us to know that we will be reprogrammed. At first we all have many bad habits; our minds continue to operate in slave mentality because that’s all we know. But our Father is telling us to look! and see that he is doing good things for each one of us. Over the years, as he heals us, we will see his good law begin to come alive for us. We will see new hearts of faith and trust growing within us. We will discover depths of relationship we never knew could exist.

And all these things are gifts to us from our Father, the fruits of the true freedom that Jesus, our brother, won for us when he broke the chains that bound us to the law of sin and death.

Brothers and sisters, listen! Just like Adam and Eve, we get to hear the voice of God. But it is no longer the voice of judgment; it is the voice of our Father.

We don’t have to be afraid anymore.

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