The Fear of Man
Historiography is a selective process. We don’t know the names of many privates or corporals from the Civil War, and not every battle makes it into our history books. Like any historian, Luke had to be selective. Like any good historian, Luke chose just the right details to make his point well. He tells us nothing about the trial before Annas (John 18:12-24) or even the night-time trial before Caiaphas (Matt. 26:57-68). Nor does he mention the false witnesses arrayed against Jesus or the charge of blasphemy. Luke does not seem to want us distracted from what he sees as holding these trials together, viz. the fear of man.
The principal reason the Jewish leaders hated Jesus was because their reputations were diminished before him (see Luke 16:15). And the reason they grabbed him at night was a more primal sort of fear, the same fear that caused Peter to deny his Lord. And Pilate, though regarding Jesus as innocent, condemned him to please the Jews and prevent a riot. The whole trial hangs together on the fear of man.
Yet Jesus gives us an example in his response to these trials. He does not cave into the fear of men. He lived by the instruction he gave:
“I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!” (Luke 12:4–5 ESV)
An Example to Follow
Enduring the cruelty of his mockers, who beat him mercilessly, who marred his blindfolded face beyond recognition, Jesus, the eternal Son of God, the Second Person of the Omnipotent Trinity, neither retaliated nor retreated. Rather, he “made the good confession” (1 Timothy 6:13 – though Paul is referring to His testimony before Pilate, his testimony before the Jews used the same verbiage). And he entrusted himself to the One who judges justly (1 Peter 2:23). In so doing, Jesus gives us an example to follow (1 Peter 2:21).
Our tendency is to demand immediate justice. But Jesus endured patiently. It seems strange to us that we should be expected to exhibit the same patience, but the real oddity is that a disciple should expect better treatment than his master. Mature faith embraces suffering and persecution as a gift of God (1 Peter 2:19; Phil 1:29) and recognizes that it is the calling of every Christian (1 Peter 3:9).
Jesus also gave us an example to follow in his answer to the Jewish leadership: “If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I ask you, you will not answer. But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” (Luke 22:67–69 ESV) The leadership was not rejecting Jesus because they lacked evidence. They rejected Jesus because they did not belong to his flock (John 10:24-27). While we can never know who is elect and who is reprobate, we do not have the power to change who they are (1 Cor 2:4-5). Our task is to announce and plead and pray. But when we face obstinate rejection, we leave them with a warning (Luke 9:5) as Jesus did (Luke 22:69).