At about 3AM on this faithful Wednesday, Jesus was dragged into the palace of the high priest, His hands tied together in front of Him, His captors clinging firmly to His arms.
The palace of the high priest was elegantly built – from the huge flashy gate, to the well-nurtured garden, to the outstanding latest model duplex, in a courtyard spanning about three football fields. These religious leaders who were meant to live as servants of the people, leading exemplary godly lives, were living flamboyant opulent lives, serving their own bellies. It was in this monumental edifice that the great Sanhedrin, consisting of 71 members – the high priest, chief priests, scribes (principal teachers) and elders (principal church rulers) – were gathered. They had left the comfort of their beds, fought the urge to sleep, only to partake in the trial of Jesus, the prey their evil trap through Judas had caught.
This great Sanhedrin all stood in the large hall in the high priest’s palace that served as a courtroom, as Jesus was being hurled in. He was brought before the bar, the high priest sitting as judge, the other members of the Sanhedrin as the prosecutors, and some members of the Jewish community as witnesses. For though this court had resolved to condemn Him even before the commencement of a trial, yet they needed the evidence against Him from the trial, to put a better colour upon it. In order to achieve their aims, they assembled false witnesses to testify against Christ.
The crimes properly cognizable in their court were false doctrine and blasphemy. So, Caiaphas, the high priest began by asking, “Rabbi, who are your disciples? What are their names?” Christ remained silent. Then Caiaphas continued. “How many are they? Of what country are they?” Still no answer from Christ. “What is now become of them all? Where are they? Why do they not appear?” The high priest toled this line of questioning hoping to charge Him with sedition, and present him as dangerous to the Roman government and the Jewish church.
But Christ would not bulge. For He remained silent. Then Caiaphas proceeded to ask Him about His teachings. “I’m aware you taught a lot of heresies, contrary to what the Law of Moses prescribes. You claim that you have brought a new commandment which you call the commandment of Love and that the moral laws of Moses should be abolished. You also claim that you are the Way to God, being the Son of God, and that ceremonial laws and sacrifices through God’s temple and God’s high priest should be abolished.” Caiaphas asked about His teachings, hoping to charge Him with heresy and bring Him under the penalty of the law against false prophets. “Rabbi, won’t you answer my questions?”
Then Christ bulged. “I have spoken openly to the world,” He replied. “I always taught in synagogues or at the temple, where all the Jews come together. I said nothing in secret. Why question me? Ask those who heard me. Surely they know what I said.” This Christ said, tacitly charging the judges with illegal proceedings. For they asked about His teachings, having already condemned them; and asked Him, instead of others who heard Him, His teachings being made manifest to their consciences. For he does not indeed speak evil of these rulers.
But these evil men could not stand the reprimand Christ just made; their consciences echoing the absurdity of their flawed proceedings. So a tall, lanky official standing close by, walked quickly to Christ and slapped He in the face, demanding, “Is this the way you answer the high priest?” “If I said something wrong,” Jesus replied, “testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?”
Then the high priest, desiring to make some headway, decided to call up witnesses, “May we hear the witnesses.” Then the first witness came and took the stand, and gave his testimony. Then the second, and third. And five other witnesses, yet they found none they could make anything of, for they could not take the evidence together, or give it any colour of truth or consistency; not even with they themselves being judges.
Finally, two witnesses came up that seemed to agree in their testimony. They said, accusing Christ. “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’” Really? Is that what I said? Christ thought. I said ‘If you destroy this temple,’ speaking of my body which you would seek to destroy, ‘In three days I will raise it up.’ But Christ would not speak up against their testimony. For what purpose will it serve? They were set to condemn Him. For it was His cross to bear.
Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” But Jesus remained silent. Not as one sullen, or as one self-condemned, or as one astonished and in confusion; not because He wanted something to say, or knew not how to say it. But because His hour was come; He would not deny the charge, but was willing to submit to the sentence.
Since all had failed, and they could not find any charge with which to accuse Him, they tried contrary to the law of equity, to make Him accuse Himself. And would do that under an oath. “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” Caiaphas demanded. “I am. And from now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven to execute judgement on the people of the world.” Jesus answered.
That was the last straw that broke the camel’s back; that was the evidence they were looking for. In an outright show of hypocrisy, with the intent to send a message to the court’s audience that the words spoken by Christ were a reproach to God, Caiaphas rent His clothes; for while he feigned an abhorrence of blasphemy, he himself became the greatest blasphemer, having forgotton the law which forbade the High Priest in any case to rend his clothes.
Then he announced to the court, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?” “He is worthy of death,” they yelled. A group of elders came in front of Christ, pushed him and spat on His face, shaming Him. Several others came from all sides and buffeted Him. After blindfolding Him, they slapped Him with the palms of their hands, to add pain to His shame. Then some said, “Prophesy to us Messiah, who hit you?”, making sport of Him.
Food for thought: (1) To discharge us from all accusations, our Lord Jesus submitted to this, to be unjustly and falsely accused. (2) When Christ was made sin for us, he was silent, and left it to his blood to speak; He stood mute at the world’s bar, that we might have something to say at God’s bar. (3) Pain and shame are the basest human experiences. For both came with sin, and both were taken away through Christ.
Scriptural references: Matthew 26:59-68; Mark 14:55-65; Luke 22:54-71; John 18:19-24; Romans 8:33; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Colossians 2:14; Hebrews 12:24;