Matthew 26:57-58 (KJV) And they that had laid hold on Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled.  But Peter followed him afar off unto the high priest’s palace, and went in, and sat with the servants, to see the end.
Audio of Message:
Why did Jesus come to this earth? The Bible tells us that:
1 Timothy 1:15 (KJV) This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.
Our Lord said:
Mark 2:17 (KJV) They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.
Luke 19:10 (KJV) For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.
Jesus came into this world to restore our relationship with God. The Bible tells us in Romans 3:23 that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. We all are born separated from God. We all are born sinners. Jesus came to bring us back into a right relationship with God, with Him Who is the Author of life. Jesus said:
John 10:10 (KJV) I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.
Jesus Did Not Come To Make Us “Religious”
He Came To Make Us “Relational”
He Came To Bring Us Into God’s Family
Religion And Self Righteousness
Sent Christ To The Cross
When Jesus was seized He was not first seized by the government, nor by anarchists, but by RELIGION. We read:
vs 57 they that had laid hold on Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled
The High Priest of Israel was supposed to lead people toward God, not away from God. The High Priest was supposed to stand between Israel and God, to be the Mediator between the Lord and His people. But the High Priest had drifted away from God. Verse 58 speaks of the High Priest’s Palace. The High Priest was not supposed to be in a palace. He should have lived among the people, representing God to them, telling them to look for the Messiah Who was to come. But Caiaphas no longer represented the Lord, but he represented religion.
There are 783,137 words in the King James Bible. Of those 783,137 words, the word “Religion” is only used five times in three texts – Acts 26:5; Galatians 1:13-14 and James 1:26-27. Of those five times the word “Religion” is only used ONCE in a positive manner:
James 1:27 (KJV) Pure RELIGION and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.
Religion does not know Christ, nor can it. Religion is man’s attempt to make himself right with God. Christ came of God ands for God to bring us to God.
Religion hired a traitor to betray Jesus with a kiss. Religion grabbed Jesus and drug Him to the Chief Priest. The Scribes and the Elders of Israel gathered together, not to give Christ a fair trial, but sought to murder Him by falsehood. We read:
Matthew 26:59-60 (KJV) Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death;  But found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. …
Religion sought false witnesses against Jesus, to put Him to death. Religion does the same thing today. It twists the words of Jesus out of context. It violates the Law of God by false witness. The Ninth Commandment is:
Exodus 20:16 (KJV) Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
Religion does not bear false witness against a person, but against the person of God. It is a grievous thing to slander someone, to create lies about them and spread it. But how much more is it a horror to spread lies about God? Religion slithered into the Garden of Eden and said:
Has God really said that you should not eat of this Tree?
God knows that in the day you eat of it, you will be like Him,
Knowing evil and good.
Religion slanders God and mocks Christ. Religion was in the heart of Cain when he killed his brother Abel. Religion said:
I know that God requires a blood sacrifice for sin,
But I think the fruit of the field is just as good.
When God would not accept religion’s offering, and would not hear religion’s modifications to the will of God, then religion killed Abel. Jesus told the religious Scribes and Pharisees:
Matthew 23:33-39 (ESV) You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell? 34 Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town, 35 so that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. 36 Truly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation. 37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 38 See, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
God calls man into a relationship with Him through the Messiah, Jesus Christ. Religion rejects the Messiah. It seeks to kill Him.
Religion Would Prefer That Man Follow God
From Afar, Not Up Close
Religion would prefer that you come to God NOT as kings and priests, but that you come to God through a priest. The High Priest can have a palace when everyone must go through him for forgiveness of sin. The High Priest of religion hates Christ because Christ came to be our High Priest.
When Christ was born, Herod sought to kill Him
because He WAS competition for Herod’s throne.
When Christ ministered, Religion sought to kill Him,
because He IS competition for Religion’s throne.
Christ came to bring each believer into union – a close union – with God. What does the Scripture say?
Revelation 1:5-6 (NKJV) and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, 6 and has MADE US KINGS AND PRIESTS to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Saved by faith in Him, every child of God is a king for we are of His Royal Family. Saved by faith in Him, every child of God is a priest, and Christ is our High Priest. We have direct access to God through Him if we but pursue it. Christ is our High Priest. The Scripture declares:
Hebrews 3:1 (KJV) Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and HIGH PRIEST of our profession, Christ Jesus;..
Hebrews 4:14-16 (KJV) Seeing then that we have a GREAT HIGH PRIEST, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.  For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.  Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
Hebrews 5:9-10 (KJV) And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him;  Called of God an HIGH PRIEST after the order of Melchisedec.
Religion does not like this. Religion wants you following Jesus from afar, going through the middle man, not having direct access. Religion uses ritual and symbol, and false witness. It is religion today that is minimizing what God has said. It is religion that is normalizing the abnormal, bearing false witness.
But religion cannot stand up to scrutiny.
Matthew 26:60-61 (KJV) … At the last came two false witnesses,  And said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days.
Religion loves to take Christ out of context.
In the beginning of His ministry Jesus came into the Temple and discovered that Religion was making money selling sacrifices to the people. Jesus turned over the tables of the money changers, and ran the animals out of the Temple. Jesus declared:
“Take these things away! Do not make My Father’s house a house of merchandise!”
“This is to be a House of Prayer!”
The Religious were upset that Jesus stirred up the moneychangers. They asked Jesus:
“What sign of authority will You show us that You are allowed to do this?”
John 2:19 (NKJV) “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
This confused the religious, as they had no relationship with God through Christ. They replied:
John 2:20 (NKJV) “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?”
The Bible tells us that Jesus was speaking of the temple of His body.
The sign of the resurrection is proof that Jesus acts for God.
In Him is life, abundant life, life that cannot be ended.
I suspect the “false witness” that rose up against Jesus was one of the moneychangers who was still upset over the loss of the profit that day. “I heard this fellow say that I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days”. Religion twists His words. It wants to enslave you.
Religion Rejects The Christ
Throughout this mock trial Jesus has stood silent. Truth does not have to defend itself against a lie or a liar. Finally in frustration Caiaphas says:
Matthew 26:62 (KJV) … Answerest thou nothing?
what is it which these witness against thee?
But Jesus said nothing. I wish I could learn to do that. People ask me crazy things sometimes, and I feel compelled to just come back with something, anything. I guess it’s pride rearing its ugly head. How much better to just stand on the truth. These people fumbled around trying to convict an innocent person of blasphemy. When it didn’t work, Religion tried to get Jesus to incriminate Himself. Finally in frustration Caiaphas asked:
Matthew 26:63-64 (KJV) … I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God.  Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.
“Are you the Christ, the Messiah?” Caiaphas asks. Jesus says: “It is as you have said”. Yes, He is the Messiah. When Jesus spoke the the Samaritan Woman at the well she said:
John 4:25 (ESV) … “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.”
John 4:26 (ESV) Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”
Jesus Christ is the Messiah.
When John the Baptist was imprisoned he sent his disciples to Jesus asking:
Matthew 11:3 (NKJV) “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?”
Jesus told the disciples:
Matthew 11:4-6 … “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: 5 The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. 6 And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”
Jesus did things only the Messiah could do. Is Jesus the Messiah? Are You the Messiah, Caiaphas asks Jesus. And Jesus says “It is just as you have said”. Does Caiaphas come to Christ? Religion will never come to Jesus. We read:
Matthew 26:65-68 (KJV) Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy.  What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death.  Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands,  Saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee?
We cannot of ourselves draw near to God unless we come through Christ. God wants an intimate and daily relationship with His Children through Christ Jesus our Lord. When we drift from Christ, spit in His face, beat on Him and mock Him, we refuse to enter the door of relationship with God.
What a terrible thing this is.
I want to turn our attention from religion to one who had a relationship with Christ. Let’s look just a moment at Peter.
No Christian Is Strong When Following Christ from Afar
Matthew 26:58 (KJV) But Peter followed Him afar off …
Peter had previously told Jesus:
Matthew 26:33-35 (KJV) Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended.  Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.  Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples.
Peter declared he was strong enough to stay with Christ, to never deny Jesus. We have no strength in ourselves. Our strength is Jesus. Our strength is His power in us. We are to cling to Him, to read His Word, to draw near to Him as sheep to a Shepard. He is our strength.
What causes Peter’s terrible downfall?
First, He Tries Following Jesus From Afar. The weakest you will ever be is far from Christ. You cannot afford to have a once a week or once a month or twice yearly relationship with Christ.
When you were saved dear Christian you were called not to Religion but to the Savior’s side. The safest and most powerful place you can be is close to Jesus, close to His Word, close to His Family, His Church, close to Him in prayer and closely heeding His Word.
We all need to be like Joshua was as he entered the Promised Land. He said:
Joshua 24:15 (KJV) … choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.
Or as Elijah spoke on Mount Carmel:
1 Kings 18:21 (NIV) “How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.”
The faith that Christ calls us to is to follow Him – not just part time, but daily. We are to draw as close to Jesus as possible, loving Him, serving Him.
Second, Peter Tried Blending In With The Crowd. If you belong to the Lord you are no longer your own. You are bought with a price. Glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s. You are no longer a part of the darkness, but are the Light of God. You do not belong huddled in among the lost pretending to be lost with them. You are God’s people. Shine for Him! Glorify Him. Live because Christ lives in you.
Following the Resurrection of Christ Jesus comes to Peter and asks him this question.
Peter, do you love Me?
Peter said “Yes, Lord, I love You”. Jesus told Peter “If you love Me, feed my little Lambs”. Then Jesus asked Peter again:
Peter, do you love Me?
Peter said “Yes, Lord, I love You”. Jesus told Peter “If you love Me, feed my Sheep”. Then Jesus asked Peter again:
Peter, do you love Me?
Peter said “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep”. What was the point? If you love Jesus, don’t follow Him from afar. Live for Him. Do what He has called you to do. Give as He has called you to give. Be the light that Christ has called you to be.