Harmony of the Gospels


(29) Condemnation By The Council

Matthew 27:1; Mark 15:1; Luke 22:66-71 (focal passage)

Tom Lowe


Date: Friday of Jesus’ Final Week
Location: Jerusalem


This is the account of Jesus’ trial before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin. He makes an undeniable claim that He is the Messiah and Son of God.


The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool. — Psalm 110:1

And as soon as it was day, the  [1]elders of the people and the  [2]chief priests and the  [3]scribes  [4]came together, and led him into their  [5]council, saying, (Luke 22:66)
When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death: (Matthew 27:1)
And straightway in the morning the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council, and bound Jesus, and carried him away, and delivered him to Pilate. (Mark 15:1)

We left Christ in the hands of the chief priests and elders, condemned to die, but they could only show their teeth; about two years before this the Romans had taken from the Jews the power of capital punishment; they could put no man to death, and therefore early in the morning another council is held, to consider what is to be done. And here we are told what was done in that morning-council, after they had slept for two or three hours.

At daybreak (5:00–6:00 a.m.), the elders ... led Jesus away to their council, or Sanhedrin. The members of the Sanhedrin asked Him outright if He was the Messiah. Jesus said, in effect, that it was useless to discuss the matter with them. They were not open to receive the truth. But He warned them that the One who stood before them in humiliation would one day sit on the right hand of the power of God (see Psalm 110:1).

This hearing is the third stage of the religious trial. They discussed in detail the charges and how they would present them in order to gain the death sentence. It took place before the Sanhedrin in the morning to make the trial official.

The trial held at night could not sustain a verdict since it was illegal for several reasons. First, no case was to be completed on the same day it was begun unless the defendant was acquitted. Secondly, a night was supposed to elapse before the verdict was pronounced “so that feelings of mercy might have time to arise.” In this case the religious leaders seemed intent on stifling any feelings of mercy, and their one purpose was “to put him to death.” However, since night trials were unconventional, they convened a morning session to give legal validity to their verdict. Third, when an official body like the Jewish Sanhedrin, by the unofficial and illegal action of its members, goes in search of witnesses against Jesus, when it brings Jesus before Annas, a man who no longer had any judicial authority (though he probably still exercised a tremendous amount of influence), when the high priest attempts to force the prisoner to testify against Himself, the only fair conclusion is that we are dealing here with a case not of justice but of the perversion or miscarriage of justice.

Under Roman rule the Jewish leaders had no authority to inflict capital punishment. It was for that reason that the apostle Mark adds, “They bound Jesus, and carried him away, and delivered him to Pilate, the Roman governor.” Though their hatred of everything Roman was intense, they were willing to “use” this power to satisfy a greater hatred. Opposition to Jesus unites the bitterest foes.

Art thou the Christ? tell us. (Luke 22:67a)

So now, this imposing body, with Caiaphas in charge, is asking Jesus to make a statement which can be used by them to formulate a charge sufficient to have Him put to death! If He will now only cooperate and tell them that He is the Christ—with all the political overtones they could read into this confession (that He is the Messiah, the Jewish King)—He could be accused before the Roman authorities of being a danger to the state and destroyed. It is for this reason that they asked Him the question whether He is the Christ, and not because they would really want to know whether He is or not.

The Sanhedrin subjected Christ to the same set of questions He had been asked in the nighttime trial, and the answers He gave were essentially the same (see Matthew 26:63-66 and Mark 14:61-64).

And he said unto them, If I tell you, ye will not  [6]believe: (Luke 22:67b)
And if I also ask you, ye will not answer me, nor let me go. (Luke 22:68)
Hereafter (from now on) shall the  [7]Son of man [8] sit on  [9]the right hand of the  [10]power of God. (Luke 22:69)

What Jesus is saying amounts to this, “No mater what I say, you will certainly not believe me, for you are prejudiced. And if I put a question to you regarding this matter in order that by this method you might be led to the right answer, you will certainly not answer.” He declined to answer directly, because He knew that answering was useless. He knew they would not believe Him because earlier He had asked some of them about John’s authority and they had refused to answer (see Luke 20:1-8). At that time they had revealed their blindness to spiritual insight. Thus, if He asked them anything at this time to help clarify the matter before them, they would not answer.

The Lord referred them to his second coming, for proof of his being the Christ, but they refused to accept His claim of deity as being true: "Hereafter shall the Son of man sit, and be seen to sit, on the right hand of the power of God, and then you will not need to ask whether he be the Christ or not.’’ The idea that the Messiah would be seated at the right hand of God was accepted even in Jewish circles. As to the expression “the power of God,” here the reference is to God in all His majesty and greatness. Jesus could see beyond the sufferings of the cross to the glories of the throne (see Philippines 2:1-11)

Then said they all, Art (Are) thou (you) then (therefore) the Son of God? And he said unto them, Ye say that I am. (Luke 22:70)

Jesus called Himself the Son of Man, referring to Daniel’s vision of the Son of man that came near before the Ancient of days, ([i]Daniel 7:13-14). But they understood that as the Son of Man He was also the Son of God. Therefore, they would use His own words as proof that He was a madman and an enemy of Rome.  They asked Him plainly if He was the Son of God. There is no question what they meant; they inferred that He set up himself as the Son of God. To them, the Son of God was One who was equal with God. The Lord Jesus answered “You rightly say that I am” ([ii]Mark 14:62). That was all they needed, for now they heard Him speak blasphemy, claiming equality with God? There was no need for further testimony. But there was a problem. In their law, the penalty for blasphemy was death. Yet the Jews were under Roman power and they did not have authority to put prisoners to death. So they had to take Jesus to Pilate, and he would not be the least bit interested in a religious charge such as blasphemy. So they had to make political charges against Him.

And they said, What need we any further witness? for we ourselves have heard of his own mouth.(Luke 22:71)

This would be the ground for His conviction; that He said He was the Son of God and that He was equal with God; claims that no mere man could make. What they failed to understand was that He was no mere human. He was both the Messiah and Son of God. So the high priest yelled out, what need we any further witness? And then he tore his garments ([iii]Matthew 26:65;  [iv]Mark 14:63). It was true, they did not need any more witnesses to prove that He said he was the Son of God, they had it from his own mouth; but they did need proof that he was not the Son of God, before they could condemn him as a blasphemer. This accusation will not carry any weight with Pilate, because he is a pagan. But with the masses of the people whom they must now at all costs incite against the Savior, this will be a tremendous force. They could not accept that it was possible He might be who He said He was. If it was true, they would bring upon themselves a horrible feeling of guilt for putting Him to death? They cannot believe that He was the Messiah, even though He was endowed with divine power and grace, and had performed messianic miracles. They could not believe in Him, because of His appearance. He did not appear as they expected, in worldly pomp and grandeur. Their eyes being blinded with the desire for a military Messiah, who would defeat the Romans and then rule over Israel with pomp and ceremony, but that was not what Jesus came to give them, so they rush on into the procedure for prosecuting the Lord Jesus Christ, as the horse into the battle. In rejecting Jesus, they were acting on behalf of the nation.
The “religious trial” was now over. The next step was to put Him through a civil trial and convince the Roman governor that Jesus of Nazareth was a criminal worthy of death. The Son of God was to be crucified and only the Romans could do that.

Some liberal theologians say that Jesus never claimed to be God and we wonder what they do with this official trial and this passage currently before us.



 [1]THE ELDERS--presbuterion, “an assembly of aged men,” denotes the Council or Senate among the Jews,

 [2]CHIEF PRIEST (high priest) — It was lawful for the High Priest to perform the common duties of the priesthood; but his chief duty was, once a year on the day of atonement, to enter into the Holy of Holies (from which the other priests were excluded) and offer sacrifices for his own sins and the sins of the people, and to preside over the Sanhedrin, or Supreme Council, when convened for judicial deliberations. According to Mosaic Law, no one could seek the office of high priest unless he was of the tribe of Aaron and descended from a high priestly family; and once the office was conferred, it was held until death. But from the time of Antiochus Epiphanes and through the time of their Roman masters the Jews power to appoint their priest was assumed by the ruling power at the time. The offices were no longer filled by descendents of Aaron nor were conferred on anyone for life. The office could be transferred from one to another according to the will of the military rulers. That's why it came to pass, that during the one hundred and seven years intervening between Herod the Great and the destruction of the holy city, twenty eight persons held that honored position.

 [3]SCRIBES--in the Bible, a man learned in the Mosaic Law and in the sacred writings, an interpreter, and teacher. Scribes examined the more difficult and subtle questions of the law; added to the Mosaic Law decisions of various kinds thought to elucidate its meaning and scope, and did this to the detriment of religion. Since the advice of men skilled in the law was needed in the examination in the causes and the solution of the difficult questions, they were enrolled in the Sanhedrin; and are mentioned in connection with the priests and elders of the people.

 [4]CAME TOGETHER—to gather together, to gather; to bring together, assemble, collect; to be gathered i.e. come together, gather, meet.

 [5]COUNCIL or SANHEDRIN [SAN hee drun] — the highest ruling body and court of justice among the Jewish people in the time of Jesus. Headed by the high priest of Israel, the Sanhedrin was granted limited authority over certain religious, civil, and criminal matters by the foreign nations that dominated the land of Israel at various times in its history. The Sanhedrin was exercising this limited power when it charged Jesus with the crime of blasphemy but then sent him to Pilate, the Roman official, for a formal trial and sentencing.

The Council consisted of 71 members, namely, prominent members of the families of the high priest, elders and scribes. The Jews trace the origin of this to Num. 11:16. The more important causes came up before this tribunal. The Roman rulers of Judea permitted the Sanhedrin to try such cases, and even to pronounce sentence of death, with the condition that such a sentence should be valid only if confirmed by the Roman procurator.

 [6]BELIEVE--used in the NT of the conviction and trust to which a man is impelled by a certain inner and higher prerogative and law of soul.

 [7]SON OF MAN—used by Christ himself, no doubt, in order that he might allude to his Messiahship and also that he might designate himself as the head of the human race, the man, the one who both furnished the pattern of the perfect man and acted on behalf of all mankind. Christ seems to have preferred this to the other Messianic titles, because by its lowliness it was least suited to foster the expectation of an earthly Messiah in royal splendor.

 [8]SIT—to sit down; fig. to remain, reside:— dwell, sit (by, down).

 [9]THE RIGHT HAND—dexios { dex-ee-os’}
a) the right, the right hand.
b) A place of honor or authority.

 [10]POWER Dunamis { doo’-nam-is} same word is used for dynamite. Meanings:
1. strength power, ability
2. inherent power, power residing in a thing by virtue of its nature, or which a person or thing exerts and puts forth
3. power for performing miracles
4. moral power and excellence of soul


______________________Scripture Reference________________________

  [i](Daniel 7:13-14) “I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.” The description of the Ancient of Days here resembles that of Christ in Revelation 1. But this identification is somewhat obscured in verse 13 by One like the Son of Man coming before the Ancient of Days. Then it would read as if Christ were coming before Himself. Perhaps it is best to think of the Ancient of Days here as being God the Father. One like the Son of Man would then be the Lord Jesus, coming before the Father to be invested with the kingdom.

 [ii] (Mark 14:62) “And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.”  The Lord Jesus told the high priest that he would yet see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming back to earth with the clouds of heaven. By this He meant that the high priest would yet see Him openly manifested as God. During His First Advent, the glory of His deity was veiled in a human body. But when He comes again in power and great glory, the veil will be removed and everyone will know exactly who He is.

  [iii](Matthew 26:65) 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.

  [iv](Mark 14:63) Then the high priest rent his clothes, and saith, What need we any further witnesses? 


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 “There are only two constants in the world: Christ and change.” —Lyle Schaller

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