Before Annas and the Court of Caiaphas
[This chapter is based on
Matt. 26:57-75; 27:1; Mark 14:53-72; 15:1; Luke 22:54-71; John
Over the brook Kedron, past gardens and olive groves, and through the
hushed streets of the sleeping city, they hurried Jesus. It was past
midnight, and the cries of the hooting mob that followed Him broke
sharply upon the still air. The Saviour was bound and closely guarded,
and He moved painfully. But in eager haste His captors made their way
with Him to the palace of Annas, the ex-high priest.
Annas was the head of the officiating priestly family, and in
deference to his age he was recognized by the people as high priest. His
counsel was sought and carried out as the voice of God. He must first
see Jesus a captive to priestly power. He must be present at the
examination of the prisoner, for fear that the less-experienced Caiaphas
might fail of securing the object for which they were working. His
artifice, cunning, and subtlety must be used on this occasion; for, at
all events, Christ's condemnation must be secured.
Christ was to be tried formally before the Sanhedrin; but before
Annas He was subjected to a preliminary trial. Under the Roman rule the
Sanhedrin could not execute the sentence of death. They could only
examine a prisoner, and pass judgment, to be ratified by the Roman
authorities. It was therefore necessary to bring against Christ charges
that would be regarded as criminal by the Romans. An accusation must
also be found which would condemn Him in the eyes of the Jews. Not a few
among the priests and rulers had been convicted by Christ's teaching,
and only fear of excommunication prevented them from confessing Him. The
priests well remembered the question of Nicodemus, "Doth our law
judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?" John
7:51. This question had for the time broken up the council, and thwarted
their plans. Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus were not now to be
summoned, but there were others who might dare to speak in favor of
justice. The trial must be so conducted as to unite the members of the
Sanhedrin against Christ. There were two charges which the priests
desired to maintain. If Jesus could be proved a blasphemer, He would be
condemned by the Jews. If convicted of sedition, it would secure His
condemnation by the Romans. The second charge Annas tried first to
establish. He questioned Jesus concerning His disciples and His
doctrines, hoping the prisoner would say something that would give him
material upon which to work. He thought to draw out some statement to
prove that He was seeking to establish a secret society, with the
purpose of setting up a new kingdom. Then the priests could deliver Him
to the Romans as a disturber of the peace and a creator of insurrection.
Christ read the priest's purpose as an open book. As if reading the
inmost soul of His questioner, He denied that there was between Him and
His followers any secret bond of union, or that He gathered them
secretly and in the darkness to conceal His designs. He had no secrets
in regard to His purposes or doctrines. "I spake openly to the
world," He answered; "I ever taught in the synagogue, and in
the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said
The Saviour contrasted His own manner of work with the methods of His
accusers. For months they had hunted Him, striving to entrap Him and
bring Him before a secret tribunal, where they might obtain by perjury
what it was impossible to gain by fair means. Now they were carrying out
their purpose. The midnight seizure by a mob, the mockery and abuse
before He was condemned, or even accused, was their manner of work, not
His. Their action was in violation of the law. Their own rules declared
that every man should be treated as innocent until proved guilty. By
their own rules the priests stood condemned.
Turning upon His questioner, Jesus said, "Why askest thou
Me?" Had not the priests and rulers sent spies to watch His
movements, and report His every word? Had not these been present at
every gathering of the people, and carried to the priests information of
all His sayings and doings? "Ask them which heard Me, what I have
said unto them," replied Jesus; "behold, they know what I
Annas was silenced by the decision of the answer. Fearing that Christ
would say something regarding his course of action that he would prefer
to keep covered up, he said nothing more to Him at this time. One of his
officers, filled with wrath as he saw Annas silenced, struck Jesus on
the face, saying, "Answerest Thou the high priest so?"
Christ calmly replied, "If I have spoken evil, bear witness of
the evil: but if well, why smitest thou Me?" He spoke no burning
words of retaliation. His calm answer came from a heart sinless,
patient, and gentle, that would not be provoked.
Christ suffered keenly under abuse and insult. At the hands of the
beings whom He had created, and for whom He was making an infinite
sacrifice, He received every indignity. And He suffered in proportion to
the perfection of His holiness and His hatred of sin. His trial by men
who acted as fiends was to Him a perpetual sacrifice. To be surrounded
by human beings under the control of Satan was revolting to Him. And He
knew that in a moment, by the flashing forth of His divine power, He
could lay His cruel tormentors in the dust. This made the trial the
harder to bear.
The Jews were looking for a Messiah to be revealed in outward show.
They expected Him, by one flash of overmastering will, to change the
current of men's thoughts, and force from them an acknowledgment of His
supremacy. Thus, they believed, He was to secure His own exaltation, and
gratify their ambitious hopes. Thus when Christ was treated with
contempt, there came to Him a strong temptation to manifest His divine
character. By a word, by a look, He could compel His persecutors to
confess that He was Lord above kings and rulers, priests and temple. But
it was His difficult task to keep to the position He had chosen as one
The angels of heaven witnessed every movement made against their
loved Commander. They longed to deliver Christ. Under God the angels are
all-powerful. On one occasion, in obedience to the command of Christ,
they slew of the Assyrian army in one night one hundred and eighty-five
thousand men. How easily could the angels, beholding the shameful scene
of the trial of Christ, have testified their indignation by consuming
the adversaries of God! But they were not commanded to do this. He who
could have doomed His enemies to death bore with their cruelty. His love
for His Father, and His pledge, made from the foundation of the world,
to become the Sin Bearer, led Him to endure uncomplainingly the coarse
treatment of those He came to save. It was a part of His mission to
bear, in His humanity, all the taunts and abuse that men could heap upon
Him. The only hope of humanity was in this submission of Christ to all
that He could endure from the hands and hearts of men.
Christ had said nothing that could give His accusers an advantage;
yet He was bound, to signify that He was condemned. There must, however,
be a pretense of justice. It was necessary that there should be the form
of a legal trial. This the authorities were determined to hasten. They
knew the regard in which Jesus was held by the people, and feared that
if the arrest were noised abroad, a rescue would be attempted. Again, if
the trial and execution were not brought about at once, there would be a
week's delay on account of the celebration of the Passover. This might
defeat their plans. In securing the condemnation of Jesus they depended
largely upon the clamor of the mob, many of them the rabble of
Jerusalem. Should there be a week's delay, the excitement would abate,
and a reaction would be likely to set in. The better part of the people
would be aroused in Christ's favor; many would come forward with
testimony in His vindication, bringing to light the mighty works He had
done. This would excite popular indignation against the Sanhedrin. Their
proceedings would be condemned, and Jesus would be set free, to receive
new homage from the multitudes. The priests and rulers therefore
determined that before their purpose could become known, Jesus should be
delivered into the hands of the Romans.
But first of all, an accusation was to be found. They had gained
nothing as yet. Annas ordered Jesus to be taken to Caiaphas. Caiaphas
belonged to the Sadducees, some of whom were now the most desperate
enemies of Jesus. He himself, though wanting in force of character, was
fully as severe, heartless, and unscrupulous as was Annas. He would
leave no means untried to destroy Jesus. It was now early morning, and
very dark; by the light of torches and lanterns the armed band with
their prisoner proceeded to the high priest's palace. Here, while the
members of the Sanhedrin were coming together, Annas and Caiaphas again
questioned Jesus, but without success.
When the council had assembled in the judgment hall, Caiaphas took
his seat as presiding officer. On either side were the judges, and those
specially interested in the trial. The Roman soldiers were stationed on
the platform below the throne. At the foot of the throne stood Jesus.
Upon Him the gaze of the whole multitude was fixed. The excitement was
intense. Of all the throng He alone was calm and serene. The very
atmosphere surrounding Him seemed pervaded by a holy influence.
Caiaphas had regarded Jesus as his rival. The eagerness of the people
to hear the Saviour, and their apparent readiness to accept His
teachings, had aroused the bitter jealousy of the high priest. But as
Caiaphas now looked upon the prisoner, he was struck with admiration for
His noble and dignified bearing. A conviction came over him that this
Man was akin to God. The next instant he scornfully banished the
thought. Immediately his voice was heard in sneering, haughty tones
demanding that Jesus work one of His mighty miracles before them. But
his words fell upon the Saviour's ears as though He heard them not. The
people compared the excited and malignant deportment of Annas and
Caiaphas with the calm, majestic bearing of Jesus. Even in the minds of
that hardened multitude arose the question, Is this man of godlike
presence to be condemned as a criminal?
Caiaphas, perceiving the influence that was obtaining, hastened the
trial. The enemies of Jesus were in great perplexity. They were bent on
securing His condemnation, but how to accomplish this they knew not. The
members of the council were divided between the Pharisees and the
Sadducees. There was bitter animosity and controversy between them;
certain disputed points they dared not approach for fear of a quarrel.
With a few words Jesus could have excited their prejudices against each
other, and thus have averted their wrath from Himself. Caiaphas knew
this, and he wished to avoid stirring up a contention. There were plenty
of witnesses to prove that Christ had denounced the priests and scribes,
that He had called them hypocrites and murderers; but this testimony it
was not expedient to bring forward. The Sadducees in their sharp
contentions with the Pharisees had used to them similar language. And
such testimony would have no weight with the Romans, who were themselves
disgusted with the pretensions of the Pharisees. There was abundant
evidence that Jesus had disregarded the traditions of the Jews, and had
spoken irreverently of many of their ordinances; but in regard to
tradition the Pharisees and Sadducees were at swords' points; and this
evidence also would have no weight with the Romans. Christ's enemies
dared not accuse Him of Sabbathbreaking, lest an examination should
reveal the character of His work. If His miracles of healing were
brought to light, the very object of the priests would be defeated.
False witnesses had been bribed to accuse Jesus of inciting rebellion
and seeking to establish a separate government. But their testimony
proved to be vague and contradictory. Under examination they falsified
their own statements.
Early in His ministry Christ had said, "Destroy this temple, and
in three days I will raise it up." In the figurative language of
prophecy, He had thus foretold His own death and resurrection. "He
spake of the temple of His body." John 2:19, 21. These words the
Jews had understood in a literal sense, as referring to the temple at
Jerusalem. Of all that Christ had said, the priests could find nothing
to use against Him save this. By misstating these words they hoped to
gain an advantage. The Romans had engaged in rebuilding and embellishing
the temple, and they took great pride in it; any contempt shown to it
would be sure to excite their indignation. Here Romans and Jews,
Pharisees and Sadducees, could meet; for all held the temple in great
veneration. On this point two witnesses were found whose testimony was
not so contradictory as that of the others had been. One of them, who
had been bribed to accuse Jesus, declared, "This fellow said, I am
able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days."
Thus Christ's words were misstated. If they had been reported exactly as
He spoke them, they would not have secured His condemnation even by the
Sanhedrin. Had Jesus been a mere man, as the Jews claimed, His
declaration would only have indicated an unreasonable, boastful spirit,
but could not have been construed into blasphemy. Even as misrepresented
by the false witnesses, His words contained nothing which would be
regarded by the Romans as a crime worthy of death.
Patiently Jesus listened to the conflicting testimonies. No word did
He utter in self-defense. At last His accusers were entangled, confused,
and maddened. The trial was making no headway; it seemed that their
plottings were to fail. Caiaphas was desperate. One last resort
remained; Christ must be forced to condemn Himself. The high priest
started from the judgment seat, his face contorted with passion, his
voice and demeanor plainly indicating that were it in his power he would
strike down the prisoner before him. "Answerest Thou nothing?"
he exclaimed; "what is it which these witness against Thee?"
Jesus held His peace. "He was oppressed, and He was afflicted,
yet He opened not His mouth: He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He openeth not His
mouth." Isaiah 53:7.
At last, Caiaphas, raising his right hand toward heaven, addressed
Jesus in the form of a solemn oath: "I adjure Thee by the living
God, that Thou tell us whether Thou be the Christ, the Son of God."
To this appeal Christ could not remain silent. There was a time to be
silent, and a time to speak. He had not spoken until directly
questioned. He knew that to answer now would make His death certain. But
the appeal was made by the highest acknowledged authority of the nation,
and in the name of the Most High. Christ would not fail to show proper
respect for the law. More than this, His own relation to the Father was
called in question. He must plainly declare His character and mission.
Jesus had said to His disciples, "Whosoever therefore shall
confess Me before men, him will I confess also before My Father which is
in heaven." Matt. 10:32. Now by His own example He repeated the
Every ear was bent to listen, and every eye was fixed on His face as
He answered, "Thou hast said." A heavenly light seemed to
illuminate His pale countenance as He added, "Nevertheless I say
unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right
hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven."
For a moment the divinity of Christ flashed through His guise of
humanity. The high priest quailed before the penetrating eyes of the
Saviour. That look seemed to read his hidden thoughts, and burn into his
heart. Never in afterlife did he forget that searching glance of the
persecuted Son of God.
"Hereafter," said Jesus, "shall ye see the Son of man
sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of
heaven." In these words Christ presented the reverse of the scene
then taking place. He, the Lord of life and glory, would be seated at
God's right hand. He would be the judge of all the earth, and from His
decision there could be no appeal. Then every secret thing would be set
in the light of God's countenance, and judgment be passed upon every man
according to his deeds.
The words of Christ startled the high priest. The thought that there
was to be a resurrection of the dead, when all would stand at the bar of
God, to be rewarded according to their works, was a thought of terror to
Caiaphas. He did not wish to believe that in future he would receive
sentence according to his works. There rushed before his mind as a
panorama the scenes of the final judgment. For a moment he saw the
fearful spectacle of the graves giving up their dead, with the secrets
he had hoped were forever hidden. For a moment he felt as if standing
before the eternal Judge, whose eye, which sees all things, was reading
his soul, bringing to light mysteries supposed to be hidden with the
The scene passed from the priest's vision. Christ's words cut him,
the Sadducee, to the quick. Caiaphas had denied the doctrine of the
resurrection, the judgment, and a future life. Now he was maddened by
satanic fury. Was this man, a prisoner before him, to assail his most
cherished theories? Rending his robe, that the people might see his
pretended horror, he demanded that without further preliminaries the
prisoner be condemned for blasphemy. "What further need have we of
witnesses?" he said; "behold, now ye have heard His blasphemy.
What think ye?" And they all condemned Him.
Conviction mingled with passion led Caiaphas to do as he did. He was
furious with himself for believing Christ's words, and instead of
rending his heart under a deep sense of truth, and confessing that Jesus
was the Messiah, he rent his priestly robes in determined resistance.
This act was deeply significant. Little did Caiaphas realize its
meaning. In this act, done to influence the judges and secure Christ's
condemnation, the high priest had condemned himself. By the law of God
he was disqualified for the priesthood. He had pronounced upon himself
the death sentence.
A high priest was not to rend his garments. By the Levitical law,
this was prohibited under sentence of death. Under no circumstances, on
no occasion, was the priest to rend his robe. It was the custom among
the Jews for the garments to be rent at the death of friends, but this
custom the priests were not to observe. Express command had been given
by Christ to Moses concerning this. Lev. 10:6.
Everything worn by the priest was to be whole and without blemish. By
those beautiful official garments was represented the character of the
great antitype, Jesus Christ. Nothing but perfection, in dress and
attitude, in word and spirit, could be acceptable to God. He is holy,
and His glory and perfection must be represented by the earthly service.
Nothing but perfection could properly represent the sacredness of the
heavenly service. Finite man might rend his own heart by showing a
contrite and humble spirit. This God would discern. But no rent must be
made in the priestly robes, for this would mar the representation of
heavenly things. The high priest who dared to appear in holy office, and
engage in the service of the sanctuary, with a rent robe, was looked
upon as having severed himself from God. By rending his garment he cut
himself off from being a representative character. He was no longer
accepted by God as an officiating priest. This course of action, as
exhibited by Caiaphas, showed human passion, human imperfection.
By rending his garments, Caiaphas made of no effect the law of God,
to follow the tradition of men. A man-made law provided that in case of
blasphemy a priest might rend his garments in horror at the sin, and be
guiltless. Thus the law of God was made void by the laws of men.
Each action of the high priest was watched with interest by the
people; and Caiaphas thought for effect to display his piety. But in
this act, designed as an accusation against Christ, he was reviling the
One of whom God had said, "My name is in Him." Ex. 23:21. He
himself was committing blasphemy. Standing under the condemnation of
God, he pronounced sentence upon Christ as a blasphemer.
When Caiaphas rent his garment, his act was significant of the place
that the Jewish nation as a nation would thereafter occupy toward God.
The once favored people of God were separating themselves from Him, and
were fast becoming a people disowned by Jehovah. When Christ upon the
cross cried out, "It is finished" (John 19:30), and the veil
of the temple was rent in twain, the Holy Watcher declared that the
Jewish people had rejected Him who was the antitype of all their types,
the substance of all their shadows. Israel was divorced from God. Well
might Caiaphas then rend his official robes, which signified that he
claimed to be a representative of the great High Priest; for no longer
had they any meaning for him or for the people. Well might the high
priest rend his robes in horror for himself and for the nation.
The Sanhedrin had pronounced Jesus worthy of death; but it was
contrary to the Jewish law to try a prisoner by night. In legal
condemnation nothing could be done except in the light of day and before
a full session of the council. Notwithstanding this, the Saviour was now
treated as a condemned criminal, and given up to be abused by the lowest
and vilest of humankind. The palace of the high priest surrounded an
open court in which the soldiers and the multitude had gathered. Through
this court, Jesus was taken to the guardroom, on every side meeting with
mockery of His claim to be the Son of God. His own words, "sitting
on the right hand of power," and, "coming in the clouds of
heaven," were jeeringly repeated. While in the guardroom, awaiting
His legal trial, He was not protected. The ignorant rabble had seen the
cruelty with which He was treated before the council, and from this they
took license to manifest all the satanic elements of their nature.
Christ's very nobility and godlike bearing goaded them to madness. His
meekness, His innocence, His majestic patience, filled them with hatred
born of Satan. Mercy and justice were trampled upon. Never was criminal
treated in so inhuman a manner as was the Son of God.
But a keener anguish rent the heart of Jesus; the blow that inflicted
the deepest pain no enemy's hand could have dealt. While He was
undergoing the mockery of an examination before Caiaphas, Christ had
been denied by one of His own disciples.
After deserting their Master in the garden, two of the disciples had
ventured to follow, at a distance, the mob that had Jesus in charge.
These disciples were Peter and John. The priests recognized John as a
well-known disciple of Jesus, and admitted him to the hall, hoping that
as he witnessed the humiliation of his Leader, he would scorn the idea
of such a one being the Son of God. John spoke in favor of Peter, and
gained an entrance for him also.
In the court a fire had been kindled; for it was the coldest hour of
the night, being just before the dawn. A company drew about the fire,
and Peter presumptuously took his place with them. He did not wish to be
recognized as a disciple of Jesus. By mingling carelessly with the
crowd, he hoped to be taken for one of those who had brought Jesus to
But as the light flashed upon Peter's face, the woman who kept the
door cast a searching glance upon him. She had noticed that he came in
with John, she marked the look of dejection on his face, and thought
that he might be a disciple of Jesus. She was one of the servants of
Caiaphas' household, and was curious to know. She said to Peter,
"Art not thou also one of this Man's disciples?" Peter was
startled and confused; the eyes of the company instantly fastened upon
him. He pretended not to understand her; but she was persistent, and
said to those around her that this man was with Jesus. Peter felt
compelled to answer, and said angrily, "Woman, I know Him
not." This was the first denial, and immediately the cock crew. O
Peter, so soon ashamed of thy Master! so soon to deny thy Lord!
The disciple John, upon entering the judgment hall, did not try to
conceal the fact that he was a follower of Jesus. He did not mingle with
the rough company who were reviling his Master. He was not questioned,
for he did not assume a false character, and thus lay himself liable to
suspicion. He sought a retired corner secure from the notice of the mob,
but as near Jesus as it was possible for him to be. Here he could see
and hear all that took place at the trial of his Lord.
Peter had not designed that his real character should be known. In
assuming an air of indifference he had placed himself on the enemy's
ground, and he became an easy prey to temptation. If he had been called
to fight for his Master, he would have been a courageous soldier; but
when the finger of scorn was pointed at him, he proved himself a coward.
Many who do not shrink from active warfare for their Lord are driven by
ridicule to deny their faith. By associating with those whom they should
avoid, they place themselves in the way of temptation. They invite the
enemy to tempt them, and are led to say and do that of which under other
circumstances they would never have been guilty. The disciple of Christ
who in our day disguises his faith through dread of suffering or
reproach denies his Lord as really as did Peter in the judgment hall.
Peter tried to show no interest in the trial of his Master, but his
heart was wrung with sorrow as he heard the cruel taunts, and saw the
abuse He was suffering. More than this, he was surprised and angry that
Jesus should humiliate Himself and His followers by submitting to such
treatment. In order to conceal his true feelings, he endeavored to join
with the persecutors of Jesus in their untimely jests. But his
appearance was unnatural. He was acting a lie, and while seeking to talk
unconcernedly he could not restrain expressions of indignation at the
abuse heaped upon his Master.
Attention was called to him the second time, and he was again charged
with being a follower of Jesus. He now declared with an oath, "I do
not know the Man." Still another opportunity was given him. An hour
had passed, when one of the servants of the high priest, being a near
kinsman of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked him, "Did not
I see thee in the garden with Him?" "Surely thou art one of
them: for thou art a Galilean, and thy speech agreeth thereto." At
this Peter flew into a rage. The disciples of Jesus were noted for the
purity of their language, and in order fully to deceive his questioners,
and justify his assumed character, Peter now denied his Master with
cursing and swearing. Again the cock crew. Peter heard it then, and he
remembered the words of Jesus, "Before the cock crow twice, thou
shalt deny Me thrice." Mark 14:30.
While the degrading oaths were fresh upon Peter's lips, and the
shrill crowing of the cock was still ringing in his ears, the Saviour
turned from the frowning judges, and looked full upon His poor disciple.
At the same time Peter's eyes were drawn to his Master. In that gentle
countenance he read deep pity and sorrow, but there was no anger there.
The sight of that pale, suffering face, those quivering lips, that
look of compassion and forgiveness, pierced his heart like an arrow.
Conscience was aroused. Memory was active. Peter called to mind his
promise of a few short hours before that he would go with his Lord to
prison and to death. He remembered his grief when the Saviour told him
in the upper chamber that he would deny his Lord thrice that same night.
Peter had just declared that he knew not Jesus, but he now realized with
bitter grief how well his Lord knew him, and how accurately He had read
his heart, the falseness of which was unknown even to himself.
A tide of memories rushed over him. The Saviour's tender mercy, His
kindness and long-suffering, His gentleness and patience toward His
erring disciples,--all was remembered. He recalled the caution,
"Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift
you as wheat: but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not."
Luke 22:31, 32. He reflected with horror upon his own ingratitude, his
falsehood, his perjury. Once more he looked at his Master, and saw a
sacrilegious hand raised to smite Him in the face. Unable longer to
endure the scene, he rushed, heartbroken, from the hall.
He pressed on in solitude and darkness, he knew not and cared not
whither. At last he found himself in Gethsemane. The scene of a few
hours before came vividly to his mind. The suffering face of his Lord,
stained with bloody sweat and convulsed with anguish, rose before him.
He remembered with bitter remorse that Jesus had wept and agonized in
prayer alone, while those who should have united with Him in that trying
hour were sleeping. He remembered His solemn charge, "Watch and
pray, that ye enter not into temptation." Matt. 26:41. He witnessed
again the scene in the judgment hall. It was torture to his bleeding
heart to know that he had added the heaviest burden to the Saviour's
humiliation and grief. On the very spot where Jesus had poured out His
soul in agony to His Father, Peter fell upon his face, and wished that
he might die.
It was in sleeping when Jesus bade him watch and pray that Peter had
prepared the way for his great sin. All the disciples, by sleeping in
that critical hour, sustained a great loss. Christ knew the fiery ordeal
through which they were to pass. He knew how Satan would work to
paralyze their senses that they might be unready for the trial.
Therefore it was that He gave them warning. Had those hours in the
garden been spent in watching and prayer, Peter would not have been left
to depend upon his own feeble strength. He would not have denied his
Lord. Had the disciples watched with Christ in His agony, they would
have been prepared to behold His suffering upon the cross. They would
have understood in some degree the nature of His overpowering anguish.
They would have been able to recall His words that foretold His
sufferings, His death, and His resurrection. Amid the gloom of the most
trying hour, some rays of hope would have lighted up the darkness and
sustained their faith.
As soon as it was day, the Sanhedrin again assembled, and again Jesus
was brought into the council room. He had declared Himself the Son of
God, and they had construed His words into a charge against Him. But
they could not condemn Him on this, for many of them had not been
present at the night session, and they had not heard His words. And they
knew that the Roman tribunal would find in them nothing worthy of death.
But if from His own lips they could all hear those words repeated, their
object might be gained. His claim to the Messiahship they might construe
into a seditious political claim.
"Art Thou the Christ?" they said, "tell us." But
Christ remained silent. They continued to ply Him with questions. At
last in tones of mournful pathos He answered, "If I tell you, ye
will not believe; and if I also ask you, ye will not answer Me, nor let
Me go." But that they might be left without excuse He added the
solemn warning, "Hereafter shall the Son of man sit on the right
hand of the power of God."
"Art Thou then the Son of God?" they asked with one voice.
He said unto them, "Ye say that I am." They cried out,
"What need we any further witness? for we ourselves have heard of
His own mouth."
And so by the third condemnation of the Jewish authorities, Jesus was
to die. All that was now necessary, they thought, was for the Romans to
ratify this condemnation, and deliver Him into their hands.
Then came the third scene of abuse and mockery, worse even than that
received from the ignorant rabble. In the very presence of the priests
and rulers, and with their sanction, this took place. Every feeling of
sympathy or humanity had gone out of their hearts. If their arguments
were weak, and failed to silence His voice, they had other weapons, such
as in all ages have been used to silence heretics,--suffering, and
violence, and death.
When the condemnation of Jesus was pronounced by the judges, a
satanic fury took possession of the people. The roar of voices was like
that of wild beasts. The crowd made a rush toward Jesus, crying, He is
guilty, put Him to death! Had it not been for the Roman soldiers, Jesus
would not have lived to be nailed to the cross of Calvary. He would have
been torn in pieces before His judges, had not Roman authority
interfered, and by force of arms restrained the violence of the mob.
Heathen men were angry at the brutal treatment of one against whom
nothing had been proved. The Roman officers declared that the Jews in
pronouncing condemnation upon Jesus were infringing upon the Roman
power, and that it was even against the Jewish law to condemn a man to
death upon his own testimony. This intervention brought a momentary lull
in the proceedings; but the Jewish leaders were dead alike to pity and
Priests and rulers forgot the dignity of their office, and abused the
Son of God with foul epithets. They taunted Him with His parentage. They
declared that His presumption in proclaiming Himself the Messiah made
Him deserving of the most ignominious death. The most dissolute men
engaged in infamous abuse of the Saviour. An old garment was thrown over
His head, and His persecutors struck Him in the face, saying,
"Prophesy unto us, Thou Christ, Who is he that smote Thee?"
When the garment was removed, one poor wretch spat in His face.
The angels of God faithfully recorded every insulting look, word, and
act against their beloved Commander. One day the base men who scorned
and spat upon the calm, pale face of Christ will look upon it in its
glory, shining brighter than the sun.
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