Gateway to the Classics: St. Mark by J. Paterson Smyth
St. Mark by  J. Paterson Smyth


God Tried by Men—Men Tried by God

St. Mark XIV. 53 to XV. 15.

T RY to be very solemn and sympathetic in teaching the sufferings of the Lord. Pray very earnestly that God will touch the children's hearts deeply by the story.

Recapitulate last Lesson—Gethsemane, Betrayal, Midnight Arrest. Now at midnight the Court of Sanhedrim assembled—summoned together in the night to be ready when the band came in from Olivet with the prisoner.

§ 1. God Tried by Men

Most astonishing sight on earth. The Judge of Mankind at the judgment bar of men! The Saviour of Mankind about to be killed by those whom He came to save! Think what a mockery. His judges are the men who hated Him for rebuking their sin, the men who sent out spies to trap Him, the men who tried to kill Him. Was there likelihood of fair play? Could these men, with their spite and cant and hypocrisy and self-seeking, form any true judgment as to character of the loving, self-sacrificing Christ? No more than a bat could judge the sunshine. They called witnesses—for what? to find out the truth? (iv. 55). Determined that He must die. Little they thought that thus they were doing what He wanted. He, too, was determined that He should die.

Picture scene—The palace of high priest probably thus—(1) First the porch,  with pillars and porter's lodge. (2) From this doors opened into the court(v.  66), a long apartment open in middle to the sky. (3) Beyond this, reached by steps, the judgment room  where the trial took place. Get class to make mental picture of it, with the judges assembled, and the Lord before them, pale and tired, with strong cords binding His hands, and "beneath in the court" (court,  not palace,vv.  54, 66) Peter and the servants warming themselves. It seems when all fled, Peter and John ashamed, and came back (John xviii. 15); but afar off (v.  54); door-keeper knew John, and let them in. This is how we get the account of the trial. They saw it. Tell me about the false witnesses (vv.  55-60). Did the witnesses succeed? It seemed as if He would get off free. They could not condemn Him. Was high priest pleased to see it? (v.  60). Could not sit still—so angry at his failure, and calm, dignified silence of prisoner. "Why don't you answer?" he cries. Could He have explained this story about Temple? But He knew it would be no use. They only wanted an excuse to condemn Him. Did He get fiercely angry? Did He ever in His life get fiercely angry? Yes (Mark x. 14); but it was for others' sake, never for His own. He could be fearfully angry at one who had led a little child astray; but He could be grandly patient and silent when they were cruelly ill-treating Himself. What a beautiful soul was His! He is trying to make us like that. Are we  trying? At last the high priest gets an answer. Stung beyond endurance at the quiet silence of the Lord, he asks—what? No more silence now. Calmly solemnly the answer comes: "I am." And what more? How grand, God-like the answer! What a mean, unjust trial! If He had said "No," they would say "an impostor." He said "Yes," and they cried—what? Then comes the horrible, brutal treatment. We almost shrink from reading it. Fancy those brutal creatures cuffing and boxing Him; spitting in His face; tying bandages across His eyes, to make Him guess who struck Him! And afterwards the mocking soldiers whipping Him till the blood came, and flinging an old red horse-cloth over His bleeding shoulders, in mockery of a king, and crushing down on His forehead a crown of sharp thorns till the blood trickled into His eyes! Oh, how could they! And He was their God! their Saviour! Is it not horrible? Yet, is it not beautiful to see such noble suffering! And is it not very touching for us?

"I bore all this for thee;

What canst thou bear for Me?"

§ 2. Man Tried by God

But another trial going on in the courtyard. What? Peter being tried. Poor Peter—found it much easier to be religious and confident in the upper room (ch.  xiv. 31). We never know till tested. Ashamed of running away, he had come in now, and tried to seem at ease, sitting with servants at fire, but very frightened. Would they find out about Malchus's ear? Suddenly without preparation his testing begins. How? (v.  67).

Did you ever tell a lie when suddenly asked, and you had not time to decide? So Peter now. A sudden temptation like that is a good test of us. Cultivate habit of bold, transparent truth, always, and then you will never be taken unawares. Then he tried to escape this girl; out into the porch where the groups of people waited. But the girl followed Him and repeated charge. What happened? How did the third suspicion come? Galilean accent—country brogue. Peter now utterly terrified. What a horrible thing (v.  71).

So God's testing of Peter was over. Peter had utterly, shamefully failed. Oh, how could he! With the Master who loved him being persecuted to death, and all the world against Him, would it not be better to suffer anything than desert Him? And in a minute he saw this himself. In the cold, grey dawn outside he heard the cock crow, and just then they were hurrying out the Lord, condemned to death. And as He passed out He gave Peter that one look of unutterable pain that nearly broke poor Peter's heart.

Could Christ ever forgive such a sin? Such sorrow as Peter's will always bring forgiveness. St. Clement tells that Peter never forgot this sin—that whenever he heard a cock crow he would get out of his bed and cry again to the Lord in shame and tears. See how sweetly the Lord forgave him. Even on the cross and in the Hades world He was thinking of poor Peter. Think of the touching message He left with the angels for the women at the tomb: "Go and tell my disciples and Peter—Peter, who has denied Me—Peter, who is breaking his heart, and thinks I have cast him out for ever—tell him especially." Oh, no wonder Peter so fond of Him. No wonder that burst of eager, passionate devotion: "Lord, Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I love Thee!"

(If there is time, there is a very interesting study of another "man tried by God," in Pilate's case (ch.  xv. 1-5). Wanted to save Christ, but afraid. See all his shifts and subterfuges to save Him. But could not dare much for the right. So his name in Creed for eternal disgrace: "Suffered under Pontius Pilate."


(1) Is it possible for us to deny Christ?

(2) What Christ deserves from us:

"I did all this for thee;

What hast thou done for Me?"

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