Return to Sermons | Home

“Questions at the Cross: Why Do We Need Any More Witnesses?”
Mark 14:63


Pastor Kevin Vogts
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Dakota Dunes, South Dakota
Fifth Sunday in Lent—March 17, 2013

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

During Lent this year, for both our special evening and Sunday morning services, we are considering “Questions at the Cross,” questions asked by Jesus and others during the first Holy Week.  The entire sermon series is listed on the back of today’s bulletin.

This morning we continue with a rhetorical question the high priest asks when Jesus is on trial before him: “Again the high priest asked him, ‘Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?’ ‘I am,’ said Jesus. ‘And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.’  The high priest tore his clothes. ‘Why do we need any more witnesses?’ he asked.  ‘You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?’ They all condemned him as worthy of death.”

Today’s “Question at the Cross”: “Why Do We Need Any More Witnesses?”

In the hours before his death Jesus was put on trial in two venues, before the Jewish high priest and Sanhedrin, and before the Roman governor Pontius Pilate.  The Bible often depicts the entire story of sin and salvation as a courtroom drama, with you as the defendant.  The prosecutor in this cosmic drama is Satan.  The name Satan actually means “adversary,” and the word devil means “accuser.”  The book of Revelation says that Satan is, “the accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night.”

The judge in the cosmic drama of sin and salvation is the Son of God, Jesus Christ.  As Paul says in Acts, “For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed.”  That is why we confess in the creed, “He will come again with glory to judge both the living and the dead.”

The prophet Daniel has a vision of the final judgment in the heavenly courtroom: “As I looked thrones were set in place and the Ancient of Days took his seat. . . Thousands upon thousands attended him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him. The court was seated, and the books were opened.”

“Why Do We Need Any More Witnesses?”  Hebrews warns us, “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight.  Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”  The bad news is, no more witnesses are needed for your conviction and condemnation to hell.  Because, your life is an open book before God, who already knows even your secret sins.

Imagine an old-fashioned computer printout, one of those accordion stacks of folding paper.  How long of a sheet do you think it would take for the divine computers to print out a complete record of your sins?  Fanfold computer paper comes in cartons with a continuous sheet 3,375 feet long, almost 3/4 of a mile.  Imagine a printer spewing forth in a continuous sheet page after page of embarrassing, damming detail about all your sins, the paper stretching out for 3/4 of a mile.  But, do you really think even THAT would be long enough?

The thesaurus lists these synonyms for “immeasurable”:  limitless, vast, endless, astronomical, infinite.  That describes the debt of your sins: limitless, vast, endless, astronomical, infinite.  “Why Do We Need Any More Witnesses?”

What could put in your credit column to balance things out?  Well, obviously you’re here worshipping this morning.  Perhaps you’ve devoted your life as a faithful church member to serving the Lord and his church in various ways.  Perhaps you’ve done many other good works in your life, and avoided gross immorality.  Surely all that counts for something?

But, in today’s Epistle Reading from Philippians, Paul declares, “If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more . . . But whatever was to my profit, I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. . .  I consider them all rubbish.”  As far as earning your way into heaven is concerned, everything you would offer to offset your sins in God’s sight is actually rubbish.  As Isaiah says, “All our righteous acts are like filthy rags.”

Revelation says, “I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and the books were opened.” The debt of your sin is immeasurable, limitless, vast, endless, astronomical, infinite. But, here is where the cosmic courtroom drama takes a twist.

For, Jesus is not only up on the bench, pronouncing judgment upon you.  Jesus is also at your side, acting as your defense attorney.   John puts it beautifully in his 1st Epistle: “If anybody does sin, we have an advocate who speaks to the Father in our defense—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.  He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” 

In the cosmic courtroom drama Jesus is your advocate, who speaks to the Father in your defense.  Jesus doesn’t plead on your behalf not guilty, for you are guilty.  He doesn’t plead time off for good behavior, for your sinful behavior hasn’t earned it.  What does Jesus plead to Father in your defense?  “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.”  He pleads for you his own suffering, death, and resurrection, which pays for all your sins.

“Why Do We Need Any More Witnesses?”  That’s the next twist in this cosmic courtroom drama.  Jesus is not only the judge, not only your defense attorney, he is also your star witness, testifying on your behalf that you should be forgiven, because he suffered for you. “Why Do We Need Any More Witnesses?”  The Good News is, you don’t need any more witnesses to speak in your defense.  Because when your adversary Satan accuses you, you’ve got Jesus arrayed against him.  For in the cosmic courtroom drama of sin and salvation, Jesus not only serves as the judge, he himself is also your advocate who speaks in your defense, and your star witness, testifying on your behalf that you should be forgiven on account of his own suffering, death, and resurrection.

“I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and the books were opened.” Revelation then continues with the Good News that in God’s heavenly books there is something in your credit column that completely outweighs and cancels all the debt of your sin, something far more immeasurable, limitless, vast, endless, astronomical, infinite:  “And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life.” 

THAT’S what you’ve got in your credit column: Your name is written in the Lamb’s Book of Life.  All the debt of your sin is completely forgiven, erased from the books, FOREVER.  The printout of your sins is actually BLANK.  As the Lord says in Jeremiah, “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” Paul puts it this way in 2 Corinthians, “God was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, not counting men’s sins against them.”  Today’s Old Testament Reading from Micah beautifully describes your complete forgiveness, “You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.”

“Why Do We Need Any More Witnesses?”  The high priest asked that rhetorical question to condemn Jesus.  But, because Jesus was condemned for you, when you are troubled by your sins, when you wonder if God forgives you, when you fear God is angry with you, you can turn that question “Why Do We Need Any More Witnesses?” around, into a positive declaration, of the certainty of God’s love for you and your forgiveness.

 “For God so loved the world,” Jesus says, “that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned.”   Paul says in Romans, “God demonstrates his love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, we shall most surely be saved from God’s wrath through him!” The Lord himself testifies to his love for you and your forgiveness by sending his Son to be your Savior.  “Why Do We Need Any More Witnesses?”

“Search the scriptures,” Jesus says. “For these are the Scriptures that testify about me.”  And Paul tells Timothy, “The holy Scriptures are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”  The Lord himself testifies to his love for you and your forgiveness in the Scriptures.  “Why Do We Need Any More Witnesses?”

Paul says in Galatians, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have been clothed with Christ.”  And he tells Titus, “He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”  The Lord himself testifies to his love for you and your forgiveness in Holy Baptism.  “Why Do We Need Any More Witnesses?”

Paul says in 1st Corinthians, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? . . .  For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.”  The Lord himself testifies today to his love for you and your forgiveness in Holy Communion.  “Why Do We Need Any More Witnesses?”

The final verdict in the cosmic courtroom drama of sin and salvation is summed up in Psalm 130: “If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?  But with you there is forgiveness . . . for with the Lord there is mercy, and with him is full redemption.”  “Why Do We Need Any More Witnesses?”

Amen.

  Return to Top | Return to Sermons | Home | Email Pastor Vogts