John 18:19-21 “Meanwhile, the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. ‘I have spoken openly to the world,’ Jesus replied. ‘I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.’ When Jesus said this, one of the officials nearby struck him in the face. ‘Is this the way you answer the high priest?’ he demanded.”
“The truth hurts.” For Jesus, that meant physical pain at his trial. Clinging to the truth brought him a slap across the face. But the truth was painful for the rest of the men in the room that night, too. They were unable to face it. Jesus, himself “the Truth,” was on trial, but his judges were the ones who ended up convicted. Their guilt was exposed. The truth hurts.
That is why some won’t listen. Annas, the high priest, put on a pretty good show as prosecuting attorney. His examination of Jesus made it sound as if he really wanted to get to the bottom of the issue with Jesus and his teaching. But he was bluffing, and Jesus called his bluff.
First of all, Jesus spoke openly. He said nothing in secret. He wasn’t a false prophet trying to hide some of his less savory beliefs. His agenda had been an open one. Unless Annas had been on another planet the past three years, there was no reason for him to be unfamiliar with what Jesus was doing or suspicious of it.
Especially considering Jesus had done most of his teaching in the synagogues and the temple, “where all the Jews come together.” Annas was a high priest. His life was at the temple. “Haven’t you been in church lately, Annas?” “Aren’t you a Jew, and a religious leader?” How could he not know what Jesus had been teaching, unless he had willfully chosen not to listen?
The truths Jesus taught exposed a man like this. Annas was a priest, and a Sadducee. These were the Jews who denied the resurrection from the dead, the existence of angels, and all of God’s word after the book of Deuteronomy. Jesus himself is the resurrection and the life. His birth was announced by angels. Angels attended him after his temptation. Just this night an angel had come to him in the Garden of Gethsemane to strengthen him for this ordeal. Jesus’ preaching and ministry made frequent use of all God’s word. Annas had no interest in the truth Jesus taught.
Sometimes, we struggle with it ourselves. Sometimes we get our hearts set on something, and we know it’s off limits or out of line. We want to believe something so badly that we make up our stubborn minds about it, though deep inside we know it isn’t true. The truth is there in God’s word, clear as crystal. But we have our own agendas, our own lusts, our own goals, or our own priorities. “Don’t confuse me with the facts,” we sometimes hear people say, jokingly. But it’s no joke when we have set ourselves up against the truth of Jesus’ word.
At any ordinary trial, you expect witnesses. You don’t simply take the accused’s word for it. In Jesus case, they could have had hundreds, even thousands of witnesses to answer their questions.
“Why no witnesses, Annas? Why don’t you get at the truth that way? Why meet in the middle of the night, while everyone who could answer your questions is in bed?” Jesus wasn’t trying to avoid the issue. He was not ashamed of his teaching. But he knew that he wasn’t going to receive a fair hearing. They weren’t going to let him convince them that he was right all along. The verdict was predetermined. Annas and his colleagues held their trial under the cover of night, because the evidence showed that the judges themselves were guilty.
The witnesses are still available today. Thousands and millions know Jesus and his teaching. They can testify to his love, his mercy, and his forgiveness. But a whole world of people still fears the truth. They plug their ears and refuse to hear it. They do all they can to cover it up. They mock it, even condemn it, to silence their screaming consciences.
We are still witnesses today. We have heard Jesus’ teach us the truth about ourselves and his salvation. Don’t be afraid to answer those who put God’s truth on trial. Don’t be surprised if they respond by lashing out. Sometimes Jesus’ truth hurts, but it is also the only thing that can save our souls.