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What should you do when you are accused of something unfairly? Listen to this lesson to learn that no one has ever been treated more unjustly than Jesus Christ when He was arrested and put on trial on trumped-up charges. Hear who was on the “kangaroo court” who wanted to kill Him and were seeking people willing to lie against Jesus. See His example of a relaxed mental attitude which shows confidence that God is always in control even when injustice is taking place. Get a clear picture of Christ’s love for us as He allowed Himself to be spat on, hit, and ridiculed on our behalf.
Also included in this class is Luke 22:54, 63–65.
Click on the Notes link below to view the list of 22 Rules Broken at Yeshua’s Trial.
Trial 2: Condemned for Being the Messiah
Matthew 26:57, 59–68; Mark 14:53, 55–65; Luke 22:54, 63–65
Matthew Lesson #178
November 19, 2017
“Our Father, we are so thankful for the way in which You have worked in this congregation through the Holy Spirit and through Your Word. We’re thankful for Your provision for so many things in this congregation.
“Above all we’re thankful for the folks here who are focused on Your Word, dedicated to learning Your Word, growing spiritually, and letting their thinking and their lives be shaped by Your Word, desiring to enjoy that fellowship, that relationship with You on a day-by-day basis, recognizing that the only way that we can experience the fullness of our salvation is as we walk with You by means of God the Holy Spirit.
“Father, we pray that we might not grow lax in our spiritual life, in our spiritual growth, or become distracted by the details of life, but that we might continue our focus upon You, for it is our desire to glorify You in all that we say and do.
“Father, as we study Your Word today, we pray that God the Holy Spirit would make clear to us what transpired during this horrible time in the life of our Lord, but a time that was necessary for our salvation that led to His paying the penalty for our sin on the Cross.
“We pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”
Open your Bibles with me to Matthew 26:57; we’re going to move into the second trial.
We got through sort of an introduction to the trials last week and the first trial before the former high priest Annas, who was also the father-in-law of the man who was the current high priest at the time, Caiaphas, and we looked at that in the Gospel of John.
Today we’re going to look at the second and the third trials. The third trial is basically a rubberstamp of the second trial; we will cover that rather briefly, nothing of great significance that’s going on there.
For the next several weeks, we’re going to be looking at the trials and the denials of Jesus. The denial of Jesus here is Peter’s denial of Christ, which takes place between the second and the third trial. But for teaching purposes, we will cover the second and third trial this morning, and then we will talk about Peter’s denials next week.
As we examine how our Lord faced and handled undeserved suffering—the false accusations that were brought against Him, and the illegal actions that took place by both the religious and government authorities—it should give us some things to think about.
As we think about our own response to undeserved suffering, our own response to the governing authorities, we may think they’re illegitimate. They may be demanding things that we think are not right or constitutional or even legal. How we handle that individually in our own soul: we’re given an example here in the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the Gospels we see that Jesus went through six trials. In literature, they are sometimes referred to now—or people want to call them—hearings; Dr. Fruchtenbaum calls them just two trials with three different stages in each one.
But basically, there are six different trials when Jesus is brought before six different authorities that arrived at their decisions.
They’re broken down this way: there are initially three religious trials conducted by the Jewish authorities, and they are trying to come up with an indictment against Jesus that would be worthy of death. They have been plotting since His first year of public ministry to put Him to death.
Last week we looked at the first trial before Annas. He is the former high priest, but he’s the real power behind the high priesthood. The current high priest is Caiaphas who conducts the second trial. Caiaphas is his son-in-law, and there will be five of his sons in addition, who will all be high priests during the next 30 or 40 years.
He’s got a lock on the power in Judea, and he is as corrupt as he can be. He is the godfather of godfathers. He is corrupt, he intimidates people, and he’s embezzling money. There’s no crime that takes place that’s not really under his control. We see that mentality that pervades the religious authorities as they are examining the Lord Jesus Christ.
He had a personal hatred for the Lord because he controlled all the money changers in the temple, so when Jesus came in at the beginning of His ministry and again at the end of His ministry and overturned the tables, that was a direct attack on the finances of the high priest.
Here is a great example of what Peter talks about, a passage we’ve been studying on Thursday nights, “For Christ also suffered once for sins ... the just for the unjust.”
Here we see the Just—the Righteous One—standing before the unjust and being judged by the unjust ones. It’s a perfect example of how the Lord Jesus Christ was totally relaxed during this time, and as He was in control, even as these earthly authorities were in rebellion against Him and seeking to control things, He was the One who was ultimately in control.
As we looked at the arrest of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane and then some things last week in the first trial with Annas, there are several laws or rules that have been established for just trials by the Pharisees and the religious authorities at this time.
I want to review those, but I want to make a comment. This is the list, I think it’s 22, that have been laid out by Dr. Fruchtenbaum, who’s done an excellent job in his four-volume work on Yeshua, the Life of the Messiah from a Jewish Perspective in laying these out.
When I was in seminary, I got an introduction to rabbinical theology and the Mishnah through a couple of courses I took under Dr. Allen Ross. Dr. Ross had just returned from Cambridge, where he had received his second doctorate—his PhD—in Rabbinical Studies. My term paper for that course was on the ways in which the trials of Jesus violated the Mishnah.
This is very controversial. You might read some people of a less than conservative stance, and they tend to try to say, “Well, we don’t really know if these laws were even in effect at the time.” That’s because the Mishnah itself was not codified until around AD 200—so for another 170 years or so.
But what was codified was a part of the oral tradition of the religious leaders of Israel; so this stuff wasn’t made up in the first or second century. There might’ve been a few modifications, we don’t know, but for the most part that which was codified in the Mishnah had been around for a long time.
Another thing that we should observe is that several of the things that are brought out by the Gospel writers are there in order to show that Jesus was being treated in an unjust manner and in a manner that violated these particular laws and protocols that were in place.
It’s interesting to note that in all of the previous places where the Gospel writers talk about the chief priests and the elders and the Sadducees and Pharisees, that when the Gospel writers identify the different religious groups that had it in for Jesus, the Pharisees are almost always mentioned—Scribes were a part of the pharisaical group—all the way up through the arrest of Jesus.
But what’s interesting is the Gospels never mention the Pharisees again after the arrest.
I’ve put all that together to say that it’s very possible that when the Sanhedrin met, they only needed a minimum of 23 people there, and there were 24 members of the Sanhedrin that were Sadducees.
There may not have been any or only one or two or very few Pharisees present at the trial, which would mean the Sadducees, who didn’t care about the Pharisees, could much more easily just ignore any of the pharisaical rules and laws. The group that did survive after the destruction of the Temple in AD 70 were the Pharisees, and they really gave birth to modern rabbinical Judaism.
It is very likely that these rules were in place, but the Sadducees just didn’t care, so you have a violation taking place of the protocols that had been agreed upon. Because once people want to rebel against God and reject God, it doesn’t matter what the laws are. They don’t care; it doesn’t matter what the rules are.
They don’t care if there are First Amendment rights. They don’t care if people ought to be treated with respect. If they are worshipers of God and the truth of God’s Word, then they need to be removed from the society, removed from culture, and not have any impact.
Here are five rules that have already been violated. These are the first five in Arnold’s list of 22:
1. There was to be no arrest by religious authorities that was affected by a bribe, and of course, Judas was bribed to betray the Lord.
2. No steps of criminal proceedings were to occur after sunset.
His arrest and the first two trials were conducted in the dark between sunset and sunrise.
3. Judges or members of the Sanhedrin were not allowed to participate in an arrest.
When the crowd, the multitude, came with the Roman cohort, they also came with members of the Sanhedrin, and so that’s a violation of law.
4. There would be no trials before the morning sacrifice, and the first two of these occurred before the morning sacrifice.
5. There were not to be any secret trials, only public trials, and that too is violated.
What’s the application? If you think you are a victim of injustice, guess who preceded you? This whole idea that we have in this culture of victimization is just absurd. We’re all victims. We’re all victims of Adam’s sin, we’re all victims of sinful people.
The idea that somehow our parents failed us or our teachers failed us or somebody else failed us is just relatively different for everybody. But there’s no excuse that we can fall back on. Jesus was treated the worst, and He provides us the example. He did not play the victimization card, and neither should any Christian whatsoever.
That brings us to our start in the second trial—we’re told in Matthew 26:57—but Matthew skips past the trial with Annas.
He says, “And those who laid hold of Jesus …” that is, after the Garden of Gethsemane. First, they took him to Annas and then to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled. I pointed out last time that verb for “assembled” is the cognate to the noun for synagogue. That doesn’t mean it’s a synagogue, but it emphasizes that it has a religious connotation to it.
We know that at the end of this trial, Jesus will identify Himself very clearly as the Messiah. He identifies Himself as the Son of Man, who will be sitting at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of glory. He just states it very calmly but very forcefully, and that is the basis for their indictment. They’re going to indict Him and execute Him on the basis of Him being the Son of God. That’s the indictment.
He’s brought before Caiaphas whose full name was Joseph Caiaphas. He was the son-in-law of Annas, the former high priest. He came to power when Annas was removed or deposed from power in AD 15. There followed two to three years when other high priests were appointed; none of them lasted more than a year.
Finally, Caiaphas was appointed by Valerius Gratius, and was in power for almost 30 years, from about AD 18 until AD 37, which indicated he had a remarkable ability to schmooze the political leaders and to give them whatever they wanted. He was a master of wheeling and dealing and political expediency. He was the high priest and was basically the puppet of his father-in-law Annas.
It’s significant what he pointed out in John 18:14: John reminds us that it was Caiaphas who advised the Jews that it was expedient that one man should die for the people. The picture that I have there is what we believe is the ossuary—or the bone box, the burial box—of the bones of Caiaphas, and “Joseph ben Caiaphas” is inscribed on the end of that ossuary. The family burial site was discovered several years ago.
The statement that is alluded to there by John is from John 11:49–51, where Caiaphas is addressing the high priest, and he says to them, “You know nothing at all, nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.”
What he’s talking about is that this is a political event: maybe it’s good to give the Romans someone and then they will relax their pressure on us. John says there was a divine power behind this, and that he was prophesying without realizing it. John 11:51, “Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation.” That was an unintended prophecy on his part.
The second trial is going to take place before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin and they were going to meet in the home of the high priest.
Now this was a rather large place because it would accommodate all of these visitors. The Sanhedrin was usually made up of about 71 individuals, and they could all come in the courtyard. Of course, not that many showed up that night, I don’t believe. In this home there was one wing that was where Annas his Father-in-law lived; then Caiaphas and his wife and family were in the other wing.
These first two verses give us orientation to what happened. We’re going to follow two streams of action: One inside following Jesus, and one outside following Peter. We’re going to focus on what happened to Jesus.
In the parallel passages in Mark 14:53 and Luke 22:54 we read about their accounts of this time.
Mark says, “They led Jesus away to the high priest …”—he doesn’t name him—“… and with him were assembled all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes.”
Luke tells us this, “Having arrested Him, they led Him and brought Him into the high priest’s house. But Peter followed at a distance.”
In Matthew 26:59 we read, “Now the chief priests, the elders, and all the council …” That is the Sanhedrin; the literal word there, SUNEDRION, in the Greek. This is a formal meeting of the Sanhedrin. “… sought false testimony against Jesus to put him to death.”
There is another violation of the law. The Sanhedrin trials were not to be conducted anywhere except in the hall of judgment in the temple compound. They are not meeting at the legally prescribed location.
The hall that is spoken of there was an inner court of the Temple and was known as the LISHKAT HAGAZIT. It was one of five chambers in the Temple court that was north of the court of the Israelites. It was named GAZIT, either because it was of hewn stone or because it was cut off.
The root of that word has to do with something that is cut. It’s either referring to the stone that’s cut, or it is referring to the fact that it was cut off or a distinct location from the other chambers, according to the Talmud.
The Sanhedrin, when it met, was composed, if everyone was there, of 71 members, and it was carefully divided along party lines. Twenty-four seats went to the chief priests, who were all Sadducees.
Now remember, Sadducees are the liberals. They’re the ones who don’t really believe in the truth of the Bible. They don’t believe in resurrection. They don’t believe in the existence of angels, and so they are the theologically liberal wing. The Pharisees are the theologically conservative wing.
Twenty-four seats went to the Sadducees, 24 seats went to the elders, who are Pharisees, and 22 seats went to the scribes who were also Pharisees. That’s 46 to 24: the Sadducees were clearly outnumbered. One seat went to the high priest who was also a Sadducee.
Here we see a breakdown. All they needed in order to pass a judgment in a capital crime was a vote of 23, so they didn’t need really need to have any Pharisees present at all. All they had to do was have all the Sadducees there, and they could easily condemn Jesus to death, or at least recommend the death penalty that would be then taken to the Roman authorities.
To become a member of the Sanhedrin, the Midrash states that an elder must not be given a seat in the Chamber of Hewn Stone unless he has been appointed a judge in his own city. He’s got to work up the chain of command. He’s got to start off as basically a rookie and get appointed to a political position in his hometown.
After he has been there for a while, he can be promoted and given a seat on the Temple Mount. From there he can be promoted and given a seat in the Hel—that was another governing body. From there he could be promoted and given a seat in the Chamber of Hewn Stone, sitting with the Sanhedrin. So, politics, then as now, played a role in who was actually there and actually present.
The Sanhedrin came together, and in Matthew 26:59–60 we read, “Now the chief priest, elders, and all the Council sought false testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but found none.”
This is almost a laughable situation because you’ve got somewhere—I think between 25 and 40, but probably a little smaller number around 30—who’ve gathered together, and they just hate Jesus. They just despise Him. They despise what He’s taught. They despise His theology. They hate Him, and they want to murder Him. They want Him dead and out of the way. They’re blaming all their ills on Jesus.
They have brought together this kangaroo court, and they’re going to trump up these charges, manufacture charges, against Jesus. Yet they’re put a little bit off their game, because, if you remember back in Matthew 26:1, they didn’t want to arrest Him and kill Him during the feast time because they didn’t want to upset the multitudes. Their idea was let the whole Passover week get by, then they were going arrest and kill Jesus.
But Jesus exposed Judas at the Passover meal with the disciples. Judas knew that he had to leave, that if they were going to arrest Him, they had to do it right then. So, he went to the chief priests and said, “We’ve got to do it right now,” so they were thrown off their game. They thought they had another week.
They know they’re going to have to do this right then. They probably went to Pilate to get a cohort assigned to them. Then they’re running around, “We’ve got to have witnesses. We’ve got to get somebody”—they’re just off balance.
Jesus is there, and we can picture Jesus as relaxed, He’s in control. One after another, He hears these witnesses come out who are telling the most outlandish things about what they have heard Him say or what they’ve seen Him do. They’re telling these stories that have no basis in fact, and no two of them can agree with each other.
They may have had 10, 15, 20 different witnesses, and they’re just trying to find two that will agree with each other because according to the Law, they have to have two witnesses that can agree with each other. They are just frustrated; it’s becoming ridiculous. It’s a farce, and they know it, and Jesus sees it, and He’s just very relaxed.
This gives us an example of a relaxed mental attitude. I don’t know about you, but one of the things that does irritate me at times is injustice, and we see a lot of it in our world today. I’m not talking about the kind of injustice that the social justice warriors are demonstrating about. But the kind of injustice where you have everything from people who are treated wrongly in courts to various other political figures who somebody claims did something.
The next thing you know everybody’s throwing him under the bus, and there’s no legal procedure. There are no corroborating witnesses. There is a total ignoring of the rule that we are innocent until proven guilty, and we see this kind of injustice. I know some of you probably get as irritated at something like that as I do, which means that we’ve lost our relaxed mental attitude.
The Lord maintains His relaxed mental attitude, and He shows us how we are to handle it; that He is in control. God is always in control when we’re seeing these things happen in the world around us. It may happen at work; it may happen at school. These kinds of things happen throughout our culture, and they’re more common.
One test you can take for yourself, just quietly, between you and the Lord, is what happens when you sit down, and you hear or read some news item, and you immediately see this injustice, and you just get irritated.
I had written this in my notes this morning, and five minutes later I see this alert on my phone that a group of social justice warriors are going to take a knee at the Houston Texans football game today, and I’m immediately irritated. The Holy Spirit is saying, “OK, you just wrote that. Now we’re going to test you a little bit.”
We have to develop a relaxed mental attitude that the Lord is in control even when injustice is taking place. The greatest injustice in all of human history is what is taking place right here before us, and the Lord is totally relaxed and totally in charge.
They’re trotting out these false witnesses, and, of course, that violates another law because they are they can’t find two witnesses that can agree with each other. It breaks the law.
Another law says that during the trial, the defense has the first word before the prosecutor could present their accusations. Jesus has not had the first word; He’s the defense. The prosecutors are presenting accusations, but they can’t agree with each other, and it also gets a little bit comical.
We read in Matthew 14:55, “Now the chief priests and all the council also sought testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, but found none.”
In Matthew 26:60 it also says, “Even though many false witnesses came forward, they found none. But at last two false witnesses came forward.”
Matthew 14:61, “But at last two false witnesses came forward and said, ‘This fellow said, “I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.” ’ ”
Mark’s account helps us to understand the conflict and the problem. Mark 14:58, we read the statement: “We heard Him say, ‘I will destroy this temple ...’ ”
You see the difference: one statement says Jesus said, “I’m able to destroy the temple.” The other one says He said, “I will destroy the temple.” They don’t agree with each other. They’re talking about the same event, but they can’t agree as to exactly what He said. Is He able to or is He going to do it? Neither one of them are right.
This is referring to something Jesus said back in John 2:19 at the beginning of His ministry, where Jesus said, “… ‘Destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up’.”
When He said “destroy,” it’s a second person plural. He’s saying, “Y’all destroy this Temple.” He didn’t say anything about what He was going to do to the Temple. He’s basically saying, “If y’all destroy the Temple, I will build it up, I will raise it up in three days.”
Of course, as John goes on to explain in John 2:21–22, He was talking about the Temple of His body and His future resurrection, which the disciples recalled after He rose from the dead.
They can’t get these two false witnesses to agree with each other, and yet they’re trying to get some kind of blasphemy charge brought against Jesus related to the Temple. This violates the rule that there had to be two or three witnesses, and their testimony had to agree in every detail.
That’s based in Deuteronomy 19:15–19 where we read, “One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established.”
By now almost all of you know about these claims that came out against Judge Roy Moore running for the Senate in Alabama. You should have been amazed and indignant that anybody automatically condemned him, and yet we had all these moderate Republicans who were condemning him within seconds; yet there’s no confirmatory witness.
It’s all “he said, she said,” and somebody may say, “Well, you know you have five or six different women who’ve come forward and claimed that he did X, Y, or Z,” but then now you have a host of women that he grew up with, some were former girlfriends, those he dated, who are all saying just the opposite. It’s a “he said, she said,” and the law has to work in the favor of the individual and the innocent.
Where do we get these ideas of the need for two or three witnesses? It comes from our biblical heritage. It comes out of the Mosaic Law that we can’t just condemn somebody just because somebody makes a horrible claim about their behavior.
Now he may be guilty; he may not be guilty, but we have to operate on the rule of law, which says that you can’t condemn somebody unless there are two or three witnesses. Not one witness of five different acts, but two or three witnesses of individual acts.
Witnesses, in certain situations, can even be scientific witnesses, like DNA or something like that, but, of course, none of that existed in this particular case. We always have to give someone the benefit of the doubt based on the law unless, of course, there’s hard evidence. Even if we know they’re probably guilty; that’s how our system operates. But apparently not anymore, especially in a hostile, political environment.
So they make these various claims, and there is a contradiction between the two witnesses’ claims: did He say “I am able,” which is just potentiality, or did He say He would destroy the Temple?
They can’t get them to agree; and therefore, they can’t come up with a crime that they could take to a Roman court in order to get the death penalty. Because at this time the Jews were not allowed to execute anybody on their own. They had to bring up the charges, get the evidence, and then take it to the Roman authorities to get their permission.
In all of this, as we sit back, and we can chuckle or laugh at what the comedy must’ve been like trotting out all these witnesses with all these different false claims and manufactured claims about Jesus, one person is not there with a relaxed mental attitude, and that is Caiaphas.
As each witness comes forward and fails to corroborate another witness, he’s getting more and more upset, until finally after hearing this, he sees that they’re close enough: “Let’s just make it work, even if it violates the law,” and he’s going to enter into his own little drama and distract everybody from the legalities and assume that they have said the same thing.
He jumps up and says to Jesus, Matthew 26:62–63, “… Do You answer nothing?” Aren’t You going to say anything? Because throughout all of this, Jesus is sitting there calmly and quietly and never says anything. He’s probably chuckling a little to Himself as He sees the frustration mount.
He is going to call upon Jesus to say something. This again is a violation of the laws related to evidence. No accused was to testify against himself. This was to avoid two situations: first, that if a man wanted to have suicide by government, he couldn’t confess to some crime that was a capital offense. Secondly, somebody could not twist his words and pervert justice in the trial.
What we see is that Jesus exercises His civil rights. What is important to see here is that Jesus operates within the law. We have a lot of discussion about what do you do when the government is outside the law, and this government is clearly outside the law, but Jesus stays within the law, and He is using the law in order to expose what’s going on.
The result is going to be the same, but He stays totally within the law. He keeps silent, and this angers Caiaphas even more, and so Caiaphas probably screams at Him, “I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Messiah …” CHRISTOS is the Greek translation of Messiah. I like to keep it in Jewish terms because that really focuses us on the issue. “… Tell us if You are the Messiah, the Son of God!”
We need to stop here just a minute, maybe slow down and understand what’s going on. Jesus is indeed the Messiah. He is going to answer in Matthew 26:64 and say, “It is as you said.”
That comes across a little awkward for us. What does that actually mean? You may remember a time in recent years when there was sort of a slang that if somebody said something and we agreed with it, we said, “You said it!” What we meant by that was, “I agree with you.”
This is the idiom of that day also, and that’s exactly what Jesus said. If we look at the Greek, He just says, “You said it.” In other words, “You’re right.” That’s what that idiom means. He is agreeing that He is the Messiah, that He is the God-anointed and appointed Deliverer for Israel, Who was promised and prophesied since the Garden of Eden.
He is also affirming that He is the Son of God. This term “Son of God” is an important term to understand. We think of the Son of God as Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity. Some people may think of “Son of God” as God has a child. You may see this in some cults. The term “Son of God” is not talking about “Who’s your daddy.” The Son of God is an idiom that’s talking about what is a person’s character.
If someone is characterized by foolishness, then they’re called the “son of a fool.” If someone was a prophet, they might be called the “son of a prophet.” If somebody is destructive, they were called the “son of Belial.”
If someone is divine, full deity, they’re called the Son of God. So that that noun at the end of the “son of” phrase is the characteristic or the attribute that is being emphasized. When Jesus is the “Son of man,” that emphasizes His humanity; when Jesus is called the “Son of God,” that emphasizing His full deity.
Jesus clearly agrees with him, Matthew 26:64, “You said it. Nevertheless, I say to you hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power.” That was a circumlocution. The Jews didn’t like to say the Name of God, so sometimes they would use other terms to refer to God.
In the Mark parallel it’s recorded as “The Right Hand of the Blessed One.” It is simply saying the same in reference to the full deity of God. He’s claiming to be the Son of man who they will see sitting at the right hand of Power.
That’s tying together two important passages: Daniel 7:14 and Psalm 110:1, that the Messiah is seated at the right hand of God. He’s clearly making a claim to deity, and they understand it, which is why you get this reaction of the high priest, who tears his clothes, claiming that this has been blasphemy.
Let’s look at the background there: What does this term “Son of man” mean? This comes from Daniel 7:13–14. Daniel has seen a panorama of the future kingdoms on the earth. At the end of history there is this scene where the Ancient of Days is seen—that’s God the Father—and “One like the Son of man” comes to the Father, and He’s given the kingdom. That’s what is described here:
“One like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven …”—that’s the same language Jesus uses as He’s before Caiaphas. Daniel sees Him coming with the clouds of heaven. “… He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom…”—but what’s the next line?—“… that all peoples, nations, and languages shall serve Him.”
That includes the Romans. It’s a “gotcha moment” for Caiaphas, because he can sit look at this and drive this point home that Jesus is claiming He’s the Son of man who is going to rule over the Romans. Isn’t He being a traitor? Isn’t that something that the Romans would be concerned about? But he’s going to focus on His claim to deity and claim that that is blasphemy.
Very quickly, several things happen here:
First, the high priest tears his garment.
Now the high priest was prohibited, under most circumstances, from tearing his garments. If his wife died, if someone in his family died, he was not to show any kind of grief whatsoever. He was it to be impartial and not emotional.
Leviticus 21:10 at the end, the one “who is consecrated to wear the garments …”—that’s the high priest—“… shall not uncover his head nor tear his clothes.”
He is to be an impartial unemotional, non-emotional leader. Caiaphas violates that and he probably tears his inner garments, which would signify that blasphemy has taken place. Again, we have a violation of the Law. The high priest is forbidden to rend his garments. This, of course, is a violation of the Mosaic Law as well. So, he tears his garments and violates the Law one more time.
Another thing that happens at this point is that he claims that Jesus has spoken blasphemy. That’s a false claim because Jesus has not committed blasphemy. Blasphemy meant that He misused the name of God. In fact, the Talmud, which I know is 200 or 300 years later, has this to say, which reflects the Jewish tradition:
“If the accused blasphemes and reviles, but is not however guilty of pronouncing the unutterable name of God …”—that would be the blasphemy. So, if He says all kinds of things, but doesn’t utter the name of God, “… it’s enough that He be scourged.” In other words, you can say all kinds of blasphemous things about God, but if you don’t pronounce His name, you’re going to be scourged, but you’re not going to be executed.
Scourging Jesus isn’t going to be enough; they want Him executed. Caiaphas has just jumped on this and immediately ratchets it up as if Jesus had committed blasphemy, and everybody else is just going to go along with him. This is the height of injustice.
Caiaphas then will turn to the other chief priests that are there and say, “Well, what do you think?” He is calling for a verdict, and they say, “He is deserving of death.” They’ve got what they think will be evidence that they can take to the Roman authorities, and then they can have Jesus executed.
Again, they’ve broken the Law related to two or three witnesses. They’ve also broken the Law related to a person condemning himself by his own words. Another Law that they’ve violated at this point is that the verdict in a capital trial could not be announced at night, and so they’ve come to this verdict at night.
All of this was to avoid any kind of a rush to judgment. Furthermore, according to their laws, another law said that in the case of capital punishment, the trial and the guilty verdict could not be at the same time. They had to be separated by at least 24 hours.
They are violating that law, and then they’re voting by acclamation, and it was according to law to be done by individual vote count, where the youngest would vote first, and then the elders so that the young ones would not be influenced by their heroes, their mentors within the Sanhedrin.
Also, it says that they all agreed, and according to their law, a unanimous decision for guilt showed that the person was actually innocent, that the only way they would have a unanimous vote is if there was collusion, and if there was something wrong being done, so that verdict would be thrown out.
There are a number of these different things that happened, and then we learn in Matthew 26:67 that something else happened: after they announced that verdict, “… they spat in his face and beat Him ...”
Mark tells us they blindfolded Him, and they struck Him with the palms of their hands. This is the second time the Lord is physically abused, mistreated. The first time was the Roman soldier in John 18. This now is the second time that He is abused, and this also violates the Law.
Judges were to be humane and kind. A person who was condemned to death was not supposed to be scourged or beaten beforehand. So, this also is a violation. If he was beaten there were penalties that were assigned to that.
If someone hit the accused with their fist, then they would pay a fine of four denarii. One denarius was equal to a day’s wages, so four denarii was equal to four days wages. So, if somebody punched you with a closed fist and you were the accused, then they would be fined four days’ wages.
If you were more greatly insulted and somebody slapped you with the open palm, that was punishable by a fine of 200 denarii, which is the equivalent of 200 days’ wages, so that’s almost seven months’ worth of wages.
And if you spat in someone’s face, that was even more insulting and that was a fine of 400 denarii, which is more than a year’s wages.
Jesus suffered all of those indignities, and they weren’t holding any of the men on the Sanhedrin accountable. They’re also ridiculing Him and “… saying, ‘Prophesy to us, Christ! Who is the one who struck You’?”
Slides 26, 27
Of course, this verdict is not legal because it’s before the sun came up, and so we are going to have a third trial that’s described in Matthew 27:1–2, “When morning came …”—they had to wait for dawn for the morning sacrifice—“… all the chief priests and elders of the people plotted against Jesus to put Him to death …”—again, emphasizing the conspiracy—“… and when they had bound Him they led Him away and delivered Him to Pontius Pilate the governor.”
Matthew 27:1 refers to the fact that they had to come back together after the sun came up. Now they would condemn Him again and announce the sentence. Then they would take Him to Pilate, and that would begin the Gentile stage or the Roman stage of the trial, which we will come to the week after next, because next week we’re going to look at what transpires between the second and the third trial, and that is the denials of Peter.
The thing to remember from this is that none of us can claim to be victims of injustice more than Jesus. Yet Jesus, who’s the perfect Son of God and was not guilty of anything whatsoever, is punished unjustly.
He stands before all of His creatures there who condemn Him and yet He is relaxed and calm because He realizes God’s in control. He rests in God. That’s what it means to “cast your care upon Him because He cares for us.” So, we don’t have any excuse to lose our relaxed mental attitude.
“Father, thank You for what we learn as we study Your Word, from what we learn about our Lord’s trials, the injustice, how He is the greatest victim of all victims, and yet He gives us an example of how to relax and trust in You.
“Father, we pray that You might strengthen and encourage us as we face challenges of a much lesser but similar nature in our own lives, that we learn to relax and trust in You.
“Father, we pray that if there is anyone listening to this message or here this morning, and they’ve never trusted Christ as Savior, they’re not clear on salvation, that they would come to realize and recognize that it is this perfect Individual who is the eternal Son of God and full humanity, that He died on the Cross as a result of these trials, He will be sentenced to be executed, and there on that Cross He died in our place, the Just for the unjust, paying the penalty for our sins that we might receive the free gift of eternal life by simply believing or trusting in Him.
“Father, we pray that You would challenge us with what we’ve learned today, and we pray this in Christ’s name, amen.”