Harmony of the Gospels

 


harmony of the gospels   
Trial By Caiaphas, Council, and Following Indignities   
Matthew 26:57, 59-68; Mark 14: 53, 55-65 (focal passage); Luke 22:54, 63-65; John 18:24   
   
Tom Lowe   
1/31/2008 

 
 Here we have Christ’s arraignment, trial, conviction, and condemnation, in the religious court, before the great Sanhedrim, of which the high priest was president, or judge of the court. The judge is the same Caiaphas who had recently said that it is necessary to put Christ to death, guilty or not guilty (John 11:50). Therefore, it can be said of him that he was prejudiced against Jesus. 
Location: Jerusalem
Date: Jesus’ Final Week

And they led Jesus away to the [1]high priest: and with him were assembled all the chief priests and the [2]elders and the [3]scribes. (Mark 14:53)
 And they that had laid hold on Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled. (Matthew 26:57)
Then took they him, and led him, and brought him into the high priest’s house. And Peter followed afar off. (Luke 22:54)
Now Annas had sent him bound unto Caiaphas the high priest. (John 18:24)

It is generally agreed that Mark records here the trial before Caiaphas. The trial before Annas is found in John 18:12-14, 19–23.
The three groups mentioned along with the High Priest (chief priests and the elders and the scribes) comprised the Sanhedrin or council, an official group of seventy-one men who held religious and civil authority in Israel. However, during the last forty years before the fall of Jerusalem (a.d. 70), executions required approval by Roman authorities. That explains why the trial before Pilate followed this one.
The Sanhedrin could only act as a grand jury and prepare a charge for which the criminal could be tried before the Roman governor. The high priest presided over the court, and the court sat in a semi-circle in such a way that any member could see any other member. The students of the Rabbis sat facing the court. They were allowed to speak on behalf of the person on trial but not against Him.
Christ was hurried away to Caiaphas’ house (He lived in the palace assigned to the high priest.).  And there, though, in the dead of the night, all the chief priests, and elders, and scribes, who were there in secret, were assembled and ready to receive the prey; they were that sure He was guilty. They’re intention was to convict Him of a crime punishable by death, since they were unwilling to assassinate Him, because that could lead to a riot and repressive measures by the Romans.

And the chief priests and all the council sought for witness against Jesus to put him to death; and found none. (Mark 14:55)
Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death; (Matthew 26:59)

They arrested Him as if He was a criminal, but now they did not have anything to charge Him with; therefore, they searched for witnesses who would appear against Him; they were not interested in anyone that would speak in favor of Him. They interrogated some with questions intended to entangle them in their plot against the Lord. Bribes were offered to others, if they would accuse Him and they tried to frighten some if they would not. It is even possible that a few witnesses were already lined-up prior to Jesus’ arrest but they didn’t coordinate their stories. In Jewish trials the witnesses served as the prosecution giving their testimony separately. To convict a person for a crime, the Mosaic Law required precise agreement in the testimony of at least two witnesses ([4]Deuteronomy 17:6). The chief priests and elders were authorized by the law to prosecute and punish false witnesses ([5]Deuteronomy 19:16-17); but in this case they were ringleaders in a crime that flies in the face of all justice.

For many bare false witness against him, but their witness agreed not together. (Mark 14:56)
But found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. (Matthew 26:60a)

The body of seventy-one religious leaders was presided over by the high priest. On this particular night, the Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes and elders who were the religious leaders that comprised the Sanhedrin showed an utter disregard for the rules under which they operated. They were not supposed to meet at night or during any of the Jewish feasts. They were not supposed to bribe witnesses to commit perjury. A death verdict was not to be carried out until a night had elapsed. Unless they met in the Hall of Hewn Stone, in the temple area, their verdicts were not binding.
In their eagerness to do away with the Lord Jesus, the religious authorities did not hesitate to stoop to break their own laws. Their determined efforts produced a group of false witnesses but they failed to produce united testimony. Some misquoted the Lord as threatening to destroy the temple made with hands, and within three days, to rebuild another, made without hands. What Jesus actually said is found in [6]John 2:19. They purposely confused the temple in Jerusalem with the temple of His body.

And there arose certain, and bare false witness against him, saying, (Mark 14:57)
At the last came two false witnesses, (Matthew 26:60b)

We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands. (Mark 14:58)
And said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days. (Matthew 26:61)

But neither so did their witness agree together. (Mark 14:59)

The words He was charged with saying were spoken during His early Judean ministry on the occasion of His first cleansing of the Temple. When they are recited they seemed to threaten the temple, which the religious rulers had turned into an idol. Now, there was a problem with these false witnesses; their stories did not agree.  They garbled and misrepresented Jesus’ statements. One swore that He said, “I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days” (see John 2:19-22); the other swore that he said, “I will destroy this temple, that is made with hands”, and “within three days, I will build” not it, but “another made without hands.” These two differ enough that—their testimony was not sufficient, and it certainly was not enough to charge Jesus or any man with a capital crime.

And the high priest stood up in the midst, and asked Jesus, saying, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee? (Mark 14:60)
And the high priest arose, and said unto him, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee? (Matthew 26:62)

He was urged to be his own accuser. At one point, the high priest stood up fuming at Christ’s continual silence, and said, “Answerest thou nothing?” He said it so he would appear to be a man of justice and fair dealing, but in reality his purpose was to entangle the Lord, so that they might discover something that they could use to support the accusations against Him ([7]Luke 11:53-54; 20:20). We may imagine the air of arrogance and contempt this proud high priest displayed as he addressed our Lord Jesus. The irony here is that Jesus was silent, although He often silenced those that picked quarrels with Him.

But he held his peace, and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked him, and said unto him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? (Mark 14:61)
But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God. (Matthew 26:63)

And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the [8]right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. (Mark 14:62)
Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, [9]Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. (Matthew 26:64)

He did not reply the first time the high priest questioned Him, but when He was asked under oath whether he was the Christ, he confessed that he was, thus acting in obedience to [10]Leviticus 5:1. Caiaphas asked, “Art thou the Son of the Blessed?” that is the Son of God? Dr. Hammond comments that the Jews, when they named God, generally added, blessed for ever; and thence the Blessed is the title of God, a peculiar title that avoided using God’s name, and which is applied to Christ in [11]Romans 9:5.
To prove that He is the Son of God, He speaks of His second coming; "Ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power ([12]Psalm 110:1; [13]Daniel 7:13); that Son of man that now appears so poor and despicable.
Now you see and trample upon Him ([14]Isaiah 53:2, 3), But soon you shall see and tremble before Him’’ 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.
Now, you would think that His words should have startled the court and that they should have postponed the trial until they looked closer at the facts. When Paul was before Felix he spoke about the judgment to come, and the judge trembled, and adjourned the trial ([15]Acts 24:25). But these chief priests were so miserably blinded with hatred and rage, that, they laugh at fear, and were not afraid.

Then the high priest [16]rent his clothes, and saith, What need we any further witnesses? (Mark 14:63)
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. (Matthew 26:65)

The high priest understood what Jesus meant. He tore his clothes (probably his undergarment because he was forbidden by law to damage the priestly robes.) as He was required to do at the sound of blasphemy. In this case, it was a sign of his righteous indignation against this supposed blasphemer. He was the one Israelite who should have been most ready to recognize and receive the Messiah, but in spite of that he was the loudest in his condemnation. But not only him; the entire Sanhedrin agreed that Jesus had blasphemed, and condemned Him saying He was deserving of death (v. 64).

Ye have heard the blasphemy: what think ye? And they all condemned him to be guilty of death. (Mark 14:64)
What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death. (Matthew 26:66)

The other members of the Sanhedrin agreed that he was a blasphemer, and, as such, He was guilty of a capital crime. The Mosaic Law required death by stoning for the crime of blasphemy  ([17]Leviticus 24:15-16).
The question seemed to be a fair one, “What think ye?” But it was really full of prejudice and is proof that Christ had been prejudged, because the high priest had said, “Ye have heard the blasphemy.” In Christ’s case Caiaphas gave his decision (judgment) first; however, as president of the court, he should have voted last. So they all condemned him to be guilty of death. The verdict reveals their spiritual ignorance. Jesus’ confession should have initiated at least some investigation, and with all the facts available, established its truth. Instead, they cried blasphemy because they viewed Jesus as a mere man. Strictly speaking Jesus’ words were not blasphemy, but Caiaphas regarded them as such because Jesus clamed that He had power and privileges equal to God’s, but no mere man could have that much power.
The two friends (Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathia) He had in the great Sanhedrim were not there; it is probable that they were not notified of the meeting or they chose not to attend because they knew that the members had already made up their mind and for that reason no one would listen to them.

And some began to spit on him, and to cover his face, and to buffet him, and to say unto him, Prophesy: and the servants did strike him with the palms of their hands. (Mark 14:65)
Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands, (Matthew 26:67)
Saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee? (Matthew 26:68)
And the men that held Jesus mocked him, and smote him. (Luke 22:63)
And when they had blindfolded him, they struck him on the face, and asked him, saying, Prophesy, who is it that smote thee? (Luke 22:64)
And many other things blasphemously spake they against him. (Luke 22:65)

The scene that followed the verdict was extremely grotesque. It is made worse if you know that it was started by national religious authorities. Some members of the Sanhedrin began to [18]spit-on the Son of God, to blindfold Him, and to challenge Him to name His assailants. It is almost incredible that the worthy Savior should have to endure such abuse by sinners. The officers (temple police) joined in the scandal by playing a game they called Hot Hand that included blindfolding Him, hitting Him with the palms of their hands, and ordering Him to tell them who struck Him.
Isaiah 52:14 predicted hundreds of years before, “His visage was so marred more than any man.”

 

 

 [1]HIGH PRIEST —a chief priest of the Hebrew people, especially of the ancient Levitical priesthood traditionally traced from Aaron. “Head priest,” “the great one from his brothers,” and “ruler of the house of God” are literal translations of references to this officer (Lev. 21:10; 2 Chr. 19:11). The high priest was the supreme religious head of his people. Aaron held this position above his sons that was to continue in the firstborn of successive holders of the office. The high priest was distinguished from his fellow priests by the clothes he wore, the duties he performed, and the particular requirements placed upon him.

 [2]ELDERS—members of the great council or Sanhedrin (because in early times the rulers of the people, judges, etc., were selected from elderly men)

 [3]SCRIBES — members of a learned class in ancient Israel through New Testament times who studied the Scriptures and served as copyists, editors, and teachers.

 [4](Deuteronomy 17:6) At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death; but at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death.

 [5](Deuteronomy 19:16-17) If a false witness rise up against any man to testify against him that which is wrong; Then both the men, between whom the controversy is, shall stand before the LORD, before the priests and the judges, which shall be in those days;

 [6](John 2:19) Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.

 [7](Luke 11:53-54; 20:20) And as he said these things unto them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to urge him vehemently, and to provoke him to speak of many things: Laying wait for him, and seeking to catch something out of his mouth, that they might accuse him… And they watched him, and sent forth spies, which should feign themselves just men, that they might take hold of his words, that so they might deliver him unto the power and authority of the governor.
 
 [8](right hand of power) Jesus’ glorified position is next to the throne of God. The power is another reference to God.

 [9](hereafter) Mathew uses the term hereafter  meaning “some future time”

 [10](Leviticus 5:1) And if a soul sin, and hear the voice of swearing, and is a witness, whether he hath seen or known of it; if he do not utter it, then he shall bear his iniquity.

 [11](Romans 9:5) Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.

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

 [13](Daniel 7:13) 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.

 [14](Isaiah 53:2, 3) For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

 [15](Acts 24:25) And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.

 [16](Rent) To cleave, break, tear open—which was done by the Jews to their clothes in cases of extreme indignation or in deep grief.

 [17](Leviticus 24:15-16) And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, Whosoever curseth his God shall bear his sin. And he that blasphemeth the name of the LORD, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him: as well the stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemeth the name of the LORD, shall be put to death.

 [18](spit on) For the Jews to spit in another’s face was the most gross and most hateful form of personal insult (Deuteronomy 25:9).
 

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