The Religious Trials

The chief captains and officers, realizing that Jesus was offering no resistance to them, seized and bound Him, and led Him to the house of Annas, the high priest, John 18. 13. Thus they sought to humiliate Him, but the Lord reminded them that they had no need to bind Him as a robber, when they could have taken Him at any time in the temple, where He had been teaching the people, Matt. 26. 55. Jesus was first led to the house of Annas, where His trials began, with all their manifold indignities. These trials were of two kinds: Religious, Civil.

The Religious Trials

These were in three stages.

(1) Before Annas, John 18. 19-24. There Jesus was merely asked concerning His disciples and His doctrine. In reply to this query the Lord referred the high priest to those whom He had taught. One of the high priest’s officers, incensed at Jesus’ reply, struck Him with the palm of his hand - scant justice this, as the Lord reminded the officer. Annas therefore sent Jesus, 18. 24 R.V., bound unto his son-in-law, Caiaphas, who was the official high priest that year.

(2) The Trial before Caiaphas, Matt. 26. 57-68, in the high priest’s palace, v. 58. There Caiaphas presided over the Sanhedrin, v.59. This was first for the purpose of finding witnesses against Jesus - an impossible task. Two false witnesses were found, who gave different accounts of Jesus and His words concerning the building of the temple. One quoted Jesus as saying that He was able to destroy the temple, and build it in three days, v.61.

The other bore witness that Jesus said, “I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands”. In places the witnesses did not agree, Mark 14. 59. What a travesty of justice! To this charge Jesus gave no reply. Then the high priest put Jesus on oath “by the living God”, to which He must reply, Lev. 5. 1. He was asked if He were “the Christ, the Son of God”, Matt. 26. 63. To this Jesus answered in the affirmative, Mark 14. 62, whereupon the high priest rent his clothes, a gesture of horror at His admission that He was the Messiah, even though He was then in poverty and shame. But Jesus added that one day His judges would again meet Him crowned in glory and honour - the Son of man, sitting at God’s right hand, and coming in the clouds of heaven. This statement the high priest and elders reckoned as blasphemy, and demanded a sentence of death, Mark 14. 64. They claimed that there was no need of further witness.

Then followed the disgraceful scene of the judges of Jesus mocking Him, spitting upon Him, covering His face, buffeting Him, and commanding Him to prophesy who had smitten Him, a mock game of blind man’s buff. They also “reviled him with strokes of rods”, Mark 14. 65 R.V. marg. Thus they reviled Him, Luke 22. 75. What disreputable conduct for the religious leaders of Israel! What insults to heap upon the Holy One of God! Thus did the Passion of Jesus continue!

Yet not a word of reproof escaped His lips; not a complaint; not a murmur; not a word of rebuke; not an expression to indicate how much He felt it all. He was slowly drinking, in willing submission, the cup of sorrow which His Father had apportioned to Him, John 18. 11.

It was at this stage that Peter, the lion-hearted, so miserably failed his Lord, and on three occasions that morning he denied any knowledge of Jesus. The Lord heard the three-fold denial, culminating in a bout of cursing and swearing on Peter’s part. It was followed, as predicted, by the second crowing of the cock, Mark 14. 72. At that time Peter must have been near to the Lord, who turned and looked upon him, Luke 22. 61. This was not a look of censure for Peter, but rather in the Lord’s look Peter saw the answer to the Lord’s prayer, 22. 31, 32. It was an indication of the Lord’s words of restoration for Peter. What grace for the failing disciple on the part of his loving Master!

Another religious trial awaited Jesus.

(3) The Official Meeting of the Sanhedrin. This must take place to formulate the charge with which to present the prisoner to Pilate. The previous trial, before Caiaphas, was illegal, for the Sanhedrin could not properly sit in judgment except in daylight, and the whole of the previous proceedings had taken place during the night. This the chief priests and scribes corrected as soon as daylight came, Luke 22. 66, when they brought Jesus before a properly constituted Sanhedrin. Their first question to Jesus was whether or not He was the Christ, that is, a king in opposition to Caesar. To this query Jesus gave no answer, knowing full well that they would not believe Him. They then asked Him if He were the Son of God, to which Jesus replied, “Ye say that I am”, v. 70.


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