Jesus Faces the Sanhedrin

And those who had laid hold of Jesus led Him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled. 58 But Peter followed Him at a distance to the high priest’s courtyard. And he went in and sat with the servants to see the end.

59 Now the chief priests, the elders, and all the council sought false testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, 60 but found none. Even though many false witnesses came forward, they found none. But at last two false witnesses came forward 61 and said, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.’”

62 And the high priest arose and said to Him, “Do You answer nothing? What is it these men testify against You?” 63 But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest answered and said to Him, “I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!”

64 Jesus said to him, “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

65 Then the high priest tore his clothes, saying, “He has spoken blasphemy! What further need do we have of witnesses? Look, now you have heard His blasphemy! 66 What do you think?”

They answered and said, “He is deserving of death.”

67 Then they spat in His face and beat Him; and others struck Him with the palms of their hands, 68 saying, “Prophesy to us, Christ! Who is the one who struck You?” – Matthew 26:57-68.

Summary

As Jesus is taken away to the high priest’s palace, followed afar off by Peter, His wicked religious accusers unsuccessfully seek perjurers who will substantiate their claim that Christ has blasphemed. Eventually they find two such false witnesses whose miserable testimonies are accepted by the high priest, while Jesus remains silent.

Under oath, the high priest asks Jesus to confirm whether He is ‘the Christ, the Son of God’. Jesus confirms this and states that He will be at God’s right hand in heaven and that He will come ‘on the clouds of heaven’. The prejudiced judge becomes the jury and the prosecutor. He finds Christ guilty of blasphemy, to the delight of the religious leaders, who declare Him worthy of death. (This is an unconstitutional nonsense, since the Jewish court should not put anyone to death for blasphemy in the Roman judicial system.) Jesus is abused and subjected to spitting, beating and insults.

Analysis

“And those who had laid hold of Jesus led Him away to Caiaphas the high priest” (v.57) — From the parallel in John 18:12, we gather that Jesus was taken first to the residence of Annas, who was really the power behind the office. Apparently Annas and Caiaphas lived in the same home, Caiaphas being Annas’ son-in-law. Selected members of the Sanhedrin were already being assembled there. The phrase, “the scribes and the elders,” along with the High Priest, describes the full designation of the Sanhedrin.

“sought false testimony against Jesus” (v.59) — This seems to imply that they were looking for two witnesses who could agree on some charge because OT legal precedent required two witnesses to condemn a person (cf. Numbers 35:30; Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15).

The Sanhedrin could not find two consistent testimonies against Jesus (Matt. 26:60-61). Finally they found two similar testimonies (cf. Mark 14:59) connected with Jesus’ statement about destroying the temple (cf. John 2:19).

There were many illegal elements in this night trial (see below). These Jewish leaders would have rationalized this by illegally sacrificing this one man to save the whole nation from Roman retaliation.

‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.’ (v.61) — This is an allusion to Jesus’ statement recorded in John 2:19, although He may have made the statement often. He was referring to His new resurrection body (cf. Matt. 16:21; 17:23; 20:19), which will be the new focus of worship for YHWH’s people. The sacrificial system is replaced by the once-and-for-all sacrifice of Christ (cf. Hebrews). The central focus of acceptance and worship has changed! Jesus is the new temple (cf. John 2:19-21), as are His followers (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 2 Corinthians 6:19).

“But Jesus kept silent” (v.63) — This was also true during his later trial which was recorded in Matthew 27:12, 14. This fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah 53:7.

And the high priest answered and said to Him, “I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!” — Self-incrimination by means of an oath was illegal but effective, for Jesus would not be silent in the face of an oath in the name of YHWH. The name “YHWH,” from Exodus 3:14, was from the Hebrew verb “to be,” which means the “ever-living, only-living God” (cf. Matthew 16:16). It was the covenant name for the God of Israel.

These leaders recognized that Jesus, at least by His words and deeds, was claiming to be the promised Messiah (note how the titles “Messiah” – the Christ – and “Son of God” are equated). They saw Him as one of many false Messiahs because He was not committed to the oral traditions and their authority.

“It is as you said” (v.64) — This same affirmative idiom is found in Matt. 26:25. It was somewhat ambiguous. Possibly Jesus was saying, “Yes, I am the Messiah, but not in the sense you think” (see Mark 14:62).

“Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” — These Hebrew scriptural idioms affirmed His self-understanding. Being at the right hand of the power (i.e., YHWH) was an allusion to Ps. 110:1. Coming on the clouds in heaven was an allusion to Daniel 7:13 (see Mark 13:26; Matt. 24:30; and Revelation 1:7). With these OT phrases, Jesus was asserting unambiguously His full and divine Messiahship. He knew this would lead to His death for blasphemy (i.e., claiming to be equal with God).

“Then the high priest tore his clothes” (v.65) — This was a sign of a deeply disturbed spirit caused by the “blasphemy” (cf. Acts 14:14). The penalty for blasphemy from Leviticus 24:15 was death. Jesus deserved to die on the basis of Deuteronomy 13:1-3 and 18:22 if He was not the Coming One, the Messiah, the Son of God, the Savior of the world. There is no middle ground here. Either He is who He claimed to be or He is a blasphemer who deserved death.

Verses 67-68 — It is uncertain whether these acts were perpetrated by the members of the Sanhedrin themselves or by their attendants. Mark 14:65 states they blindfolded Him, hit Him, and demanded He tell them who did it! This may be a fulfillment of Isaiah 53:3.


The Sanhedrin’s Illegal Night Trial (Matthew 26:57-68)
1. No capital trials were to be held at night.
2. A capital trial and punishment must not occur on the same day.
3. No trials were to be held on a feast day or the eve of a feast.
4. This particular morning was reserved for the saying of phylacteries (see Deuteronomy 6:8; 11:18).
5. This morning was also the time of the offering of gifts in the Temple (see Exodus 23:15).

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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