Jesus before the Council
53 They took Jesus to the high priest's home where the leading priests, the elders, and the teachers of religious law had gathered. 54 Meanwhile, Peter followed him at a distance and went right into the high priest's courtyard. There he sat with the guards, warming himself by the fire.
55 Inside, the leading priests and the entire high council were trying to find evidence against Jesus, so they could put him to death. But they couldn't find any. 56 Many false witnesses spoke against him, but they contradicted each other. 57 Finally, some men stood up and gave this false testimony: 58 "We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this Temple made with human hands, and in three days I will build another, made without human hands.'" 59 But even then they didn't get their stories straight!
60 Then the high priest stood up before the others and asked Jesus, "Well, aren't you going to answer these charges? What do you have to say for yourself?" 61 But Jesus was silent and made no reply. Then the high priest asked him, "Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?"
62 Jesus said, "I AM. And you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God's right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven."
63 Then the high priest tore his clothing to show his horror and said, "Why do we need other witnesses? 64 You have all heard his blasphemy. What is your verdict?"
"Guilty!" they all cried. "He deserves to die!"
65 Then some of them began to spit at him, and they blindfolded him and beat him with their fists. "Prophesy to us," they jeered. And the guards slapped him as they took him away.
Jesus is brought to the home of the high priest, while Peter follows from a distance. The Sanhedrin is convened and several false witnesses come forward to testify against Jesus. When it's obvious that no real evidence is to be forthcoming, the high priest asks Jesus directly if he is the Son of God. Jesus says that he is, and the high priest demands that he be sentenced to death for blasphemy. Council members and guards alike then begin mocking and beating Jesus.
The high priest's home (Mark 14:53)
While the "full Sanhedrin, with seventy-one members, normally met in the assembly hall in the temple," only twenty-three members "were necessary for a quorum."1638 Being under the rule of Rome, the Sanhedrin itself had no authority to impose the death penalty. For these reasons, this first trial of Jesus should be understood as "a preliminary 'court of enquiry'"1639 or "a Grand Jury."1640 Of course that fact in no way diminishes the multiple illegalities associated with these proceedings, including: soliciting false testimony; demanding that the defendant testify against himself; failing to wait one full day between the reaching of the verdict and the carrying out of the sentence (death); and subjecting the accused to verbal and physical abuse.1641
One source explains why such a "hasty night meeting" was necessary:
This hasty night meeting was deemed necessary because: (1) In Jewish criminal law it was customary to hold a trial immediately after arrest. (2) Roman legal trials were usually held shortly after sunrise (cf. Mark 15:1) so the Sanhedrin needed a binding verdict by daybreak in order to get the case to Pilate early. (3) With Jesus finally in custody they did not want to delay proceedings, thereby arousing opposition to His arrest. Actually they had already determined to kill Him (cf. Mark 14:1-2); their only problem was getting evidence that would justify it (cf. Mark 14:55). Perhaps also they wished to have the Romans crucify Jesus to avoid the people's blaming the Sanhedrin for His death.1642
Many false witnesses (Mark 14:56)
"In Jewish trials the witnesses served as the prosecution, giving their testimonies separately."1643 Jewish law demanded that the sworn testimony of two or three witnesses was necessary to convict someone of a crime. If, however, the witnesses were found to be lying, then the false witnesses were to receive the punishment that would have been inflicted on the accused (see Deuteronomy 19:15-21). Thus not only should the false testimony of the witnesses have brought the trial to a screeching halt, but those same witnesses should have received the punishment the Sanhedrin was seeking for Jesus - namely, death.1644 The accusation regarding destruction of the Temple was very serious indeed, as "[d]estruction of a worship place was a capital offense in the ancient world."1645
Answer these charges (Mark 14:60)
"Caiaphas was getting frustrated. Now his only hope was to get Jesus to say something that would give them evidence to convict him. The religious leaders had tried and failed on prior occasions to trap Jesus with trick questions (Mark 12:13-34); here the high priest simply stood up in this revered group and spoke directly to Jesus. He may have been hoping that Jesus was ignorant enough to not realize that the witnesses had invalidated themselves. Caiaphas tried to make up in intimidation what was lacking in evidence. He asked Jesus to answer his accusers and then to explain the accusations against him."1646
Jesus refused to participate in this travesty of justice. "Jesus refused to say anything. He had nothing to say to the group of liars who had spoken against him, and he had no reason to explain a bunch of false accusations."1647 Until, that is, the high priest asked him directly if he were "the Messiah, the Son of the blessed God?" (Mark 14:61). As made clear in Matthew's gospel, the high priest made a "demand in the name of the living God" (Matthew 26:63) - that is, he placed Jesus under a solemn oath to tell the court who he really was.
Claiming to be the Messiah (or Christ) alone would not have been enough to warrant a charge of blasphemy - insanity maybe, but not blasphemy.1648 However, "Jesus replie[d] with his authoritative 'I am' and a declaration of coequality with the Mighty One, as Son of man who will come visibly on the clouds of heaven (v. 62; cf. Psalms 110:1; Daniel 7:13)."1649 Claiming to be the Son of God, and then joining that to the Son of Man image as found in the book of Daniel, "certainly would have been blasphemy if untrue."1650 And, of course, the religious leaders did not allow for the slightest possibility that Jesus' claims were true. In essence, Jesus said that "[s]itting on the right hand of power, one day he would come to judge his accusers, and they would have to answer his questions (Revelation 20:11-13). This represented the highest view of Jesus' deity possible. Jesus used the highest titles for God's deity and then applied them to himself."1651
The high priest tore his clothing ... blasphemy (Mark 14:62, 63)
One Bible commentator provides the following info regarding the high priest:
As Matthew 26:3 informs us, the highpriest was Caiaphas. He occupied that office from A.D. 18-36, and was son-in-law of Annas (John 18:13). He was a rude and sly manipulator, and opportunist, who did not know the meaning of fairness or justice and who was bent on having his own way "by hook or by crook" (Matthew 26:3-4; John 11:49). He did not shrink from shedding innocent blood. What he himself ardently craved for selfish purposes, he made to look as if it were the one thing needful for the welfare of the people. In order to bring about the condemnation of Jesus, who had aroused his envy (Matthew 27:18), he was willing to use devices which were the product of clever calculation and unprecedented boldness.1652
Caiaphas accused Jesus of blasphemy - that is, "the sin of claiming to be God or of attacking God's authority and majesty in any way."1653 As one source notes:
By tearing his clothes, probably his inner garments rather than his official robes, the high priest showed that he regarded Jesus' bold declaration as blasphemy. To him, Jesus' words dishonored God by claiming rights and powers belonging exclusively to God (cf. Mark 2:7). This symbolic expression of horror and indignation was required of the high priest whenever he heard blasphemy. His reaction also expressed relief since Jesus' self-incriminating answer removed the need for more witnesses.
The Mosaic Law prescribed death by stoning for blasphemy (Leviticus 24:15-16). Without further investigation the high priest called for a verdict from the Sanhedrin. Since there were no objections they all condemned Him (cf. Mark 10:33) as worthy (enochon, "guilty, liable"; cf. Mark 3:29) of death.1654
All told, Jesus was subjected to two trials comprised of three hearings each:1655
hearing: First Jewish phase, before Annas
location: Jerusalem, court of Annas
reference: John 18:13-24
hearing: Second Jewish phase, before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin
location: Jerusalem, house of Caiaphas
reference: Matthew 26:57–68; Mark 14:53–65; Luke 22:54
hearing: Third Jewish phase, before the Sanhedrin
location: Jerusalem, meeting place of Sanhedrin
reference: Matthew 27:1; Mark 15:1a; Luke 22:66–71
hearing: First Roman phase, before Pilate
location: Jerusalem, at the Praetorium
reference: Matthew 27:2, 11–14; Mark 15:1b–5; Luke 23:1–5; John 18:28–38
hearing: Second Roman phase, before Herod Antipas
location: Jerusalem, before Herod Antipas
reference: Luke 23:6–12
hearing: Third Roman phase, before Pilate
location: Jerusalem, at the Praetorium
reference: Matthew 27:15–26; Mark 15:6–15; Luke 23:13–25; John 18:39–19:16
These hearings, as well as the character of the men conducting them, amounted to an absolute travesty of justice. As one source puts it: "For the absolutely sinless One to be subjected to a trial conducted by sinful men was in itself a deep humiliation. To be tried by such men, under such circumstances made it infinitely worse. Greedy, serpent-like, vindictive Annas (see on John 18:13); rude, sly, hypocritical Caiaphas (see on John 11:49-50); crafty superstitious, self-seeking Pilate (see on John 18:29); and immoral, ambitious, superficial Herod Antipas; these were his judges!"1656
A General's Objectivity
General Robert E. Lee was asked what he thought of a fellow officer in the Confederate army who had made some derogatory remarks about him.
Lee rated him as being very satisfactory.
The person who asked the question seemed perplexed. "General," he said, "I guess you don't know what he's been saying about you."
"I know," answered Lee. "But I was asked my opinion of him, not his opinion of me!"1657
Not an Enemy in the World
A reporter, interviewing an old man on his 100th birthday, asked, "What are you most proud of?"
"Well," said the old man, pondering the question, "I don’t have an enemy in the world."
"That’s wonderful!" said the reporter.
"Yep," added the centenarian, "I’ve outlived every last one of them."1658
Why did Jesus choose to endure such an unjust trial? In one sense, it was because his opinion of his accusers was much higher than their opinion of him. We also know that, almost as a bonus, Jesus' long-suffering was rewarded: he outlived his enemies.
Given the mind-set of the religious leaders, Jesus' claims were blasphemous. How could this man have the authority of God? Popular culture and modern thought still view Christ's claims as blasphemous, and if we express our faith, people will view us as bigoted and intolerant. They will be outraged by our claims to know the truth. Our belief that God controls our life violates their desire to have a human-centered life. Our view of moral law offends their belief that all values are relative to each person and situation. Our conviction about controlling our desires radically disagrees with their pleasure- and experience-oriented outlook. Be ready for the world to be morally outraged at your single-minded belief in Christ and his truth.1659
??? Discuss one current social, political, or religious issue in which the world is morally outraged at Christians' "single-minded belief in Christ and his truth."