By Gregg Bing
(Continued from Sep-Oct 2012 issue)
Following Jesus’ arrest in the garden of Gethsemane, the detachment of soldiers sent from the Jewish rulers led Him away “to Annas first, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas who was high priest that year” (John 18:13). According to the Jewish historian, Josephus, Jewish high priests in the first century were appointed by Roman governors. Annas was appointed high priest by Quirinius, but after several years of service was removed from office and replaced by his son-in-law, Caiaphas. Caiaphas was officially recognized as high priest, yet Annas still wielded great power and influence among the Jewish leaders. Annas and Caiaphas are both called “high priests” in Luke 3:2. Even after the day of Pentecost, Annas is listed first among the members of the family of the high priest (Acts 4:6).
Annas began by asking Jesus “about His disciples and His teaching,” no doubt hoping to find something in Jesus’ response they could charge Him with before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish legal council. Jesus, however, refused to answer questions about things that were common knowledge among the Jews, saying, “I spoke openly to the world. I always taught in the synagogues and in the temple, where the Jews always meet, and in secret I have said nothing. Why do you ask Me? Ask those who have heard Me what I said to them. Indeed they know what I said” (John 18:20-21).
One of the Jewish officers slapped Jesus’ face, saying, “Do You answer the high priest like that?” (John 18:22). We might question whether the officer himself was offended at Jesus’ statement or was directed by Annas to strike Jesus. Jesus reasoned, “If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil, but if well, why do you strike Me?” (John 18:23). Having concluded this preliminary interrogation, Annas sent Jesus on to Caiaphas, where the chief priests, scribes, and elders were already assembled and waiting (Matt. 26:57).
These members of the Jewish Sanhedrin “sought false testimony against Jesus” that they might “put Him to death, but found none” (Matt. 26:59-60). Many witnesses came forward and told their lies, but “their testimonies did not agree” (Mark 14:56).
The last two false witnesses declared, “We heard Him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.'” Jesus did utter similar words to these, but the testimony of these two witnesses was inaccurate, and “not even then did their testimony agree” (Mark 14:58-59). Jesus did not say that “He” would destroy the temple, and the temple He had reference to was not the temple in Jerusalem. Jesus was talking about the temple of His body, which “they,” the Jewish rulers, would destroy through crucifixion, but which God would raise up three days later (John 2:19-22).
After the testimony of these last two false witnesses, Caiaphas rose and asked Jesus, “Do You answer nothing? What is it these men testify against You?” Yet, “Jesus kept silent” (Matt. 26:62-63), fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy that, “as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth” (Isa. 53:7).
Caiaphas knew the testimony of these two false witnesses was not sufficient evidence to convict Jesus and put Him to death, so he demanded, “I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!” Jesus acknowledged that He was, saying, “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matt. 26:63-64). This is exactly what Caiaphas wanted to hear. He now had an accusation to bring against Jesus before the Council. Caiaphas “tore his clothes” to demonstrate his supposed indignation at Jesus’ words. “He has spoken blasphemy!” Caiaphas declared, “What further need do we have of witnesses? Look, now you have heard His blasphemy! What do you think?” The rest of the Jewish rulers answered, “He is deserving of death” (Matt. 26:65-66). How ironic that these wicked men accused Jesus of blasphemy, when they were the ones guilty of this terrible sin (Mark 15:29-33); they were the ones who deserved to die, not the sinless Son of God!
The Jewish rulers showed their hearts were filled with malice toward Jesus by mocking Him and treating Him with the worst type of scorn. They spit in His face and beat Him. They blindfolded Him, then the officers struck Him with the palms of their hands, saying, “Prophesy! Who is the one who struck You?” (Matt. 26:67-68, Luke 22:63-65). These Jewish rulers responded to their Messiah just as Isaiah prophesied: “He was despised and rejected by men … and we did not esteem Him” (Isa. 53:3). Their promised Messiah stood before them, the One anointed by God to be their King, the very Son of God, yet, they considered Him to be worthless.
Peter’s Denial of Jesus
When Jesus was first led to the houses of Annas and Caiaphas (which likely shared a common courtyard), Peter and another disciple followed at a distance to see what would happen to Jesus (Matt. 26:58). Since John is the only gospel writer who mentions this fact, many believe he was the other disciple. This other disciple, “who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to her who kept the door, and brought Peter in.” (John 18:15-16).
Peter followed them “right into the courtyard of the high priest,” where Jesus was being questioned by Annas. The servants and officers of the high priest had made a fire of coals and stood around it warming themselves, for it was cold that night. “And Peter stood with them and warmed himself” (John 18:15-18). Standing with these ungodly men, warming himself at their fire, trying to fit in with them and remain unnoticed, Peter left himself open to the temptations of Satan.
The servant girl who kept the door, seeing Peter warming himself by the fire, looked intently at him and said, “You also were with Jesus of Nazareth,” (Mark 14:67), but Peter denied it, saying, “Woman, I do not know Him” (Luke 22:57)—his first denial. Peter went out on the porch and the rooster crowed the first time.
After Annas sent Jesus on to the house of Caiaphas, the same servant girl who first questioned Peter, saw him again, and said to those who stood nearby, “This fellow also was with Jesus of Nazareth, one of His disciples” (Matt. 26:71, John 18:25). Peter again denied with an oath, “I do not know the Man!” (Matt. 26:72)—his second denial.
A little later, those who stood by came up and said to Peter, “Surely you also are one of them, for your speech betrays you.” Peter began to curse and swear, saying, “I do not know the Man!” (Matt. 26:73-75)—his third denial. While he was still speaking, the rooster crowed the second time. The Lord turned and looked at Peter, and Peter remembered the words Jesus had spoken to him earlier that evening, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times” (Luke 22:61, Mark 14:72). Peter, realizing what he had done, went out and wept bitterly (Matt. 26:75).
All these things were done in the middle of the night: the interrogation of Jesus by Annas, the “trial” before Caiaphas, and the ridicule and abuse of Jesus. Clearly these wicked men wanted to hide these proceedings from the Jewish multitudes, seeing that these so-called “trials” were illegal under Jewish law. To make everything “official” and “legal” another trial was held the next morning, at dawn.
Before the Sanhedrin
“As soon as it was day, the elders of the people, both chief priests and scribes” (Luke 22:66) “plotted against Jesus to put Him to death” (Matt. 27:1). They consulted with “the whole council (Sanhedrin)” (Mark 15:1) and, once again, asked Jesus, “If You are the Christ, tell us.” Jesus answered, “If I tell you, you will by no means believe. And if I also ask you, you will by no means answer Me or let Me go. Hereafter the Son of Man will sit on the right hand of the power of God.” Then they all said, “Are You then the Son of God?” So He said to them, “You rightly say that I am.” And they said, “What further testimony do we need? For we have heard it ourselves from His own mouth” (Luke 22:66-71).
Having confirmed before the entire body of the Sanhedrin that Jesus was, in their eyes, guilty of blasphemy, it was time to take the next step. The nation of Israel was under Roman rule, therefore, the Jewish leaders had no authority to put Jesus to death. They would need the approval of the Roman governor, so, the whole multitude of them bound Jesus, led Him away, and delivered Him to Pontius Pilate the governor of Judea (Mat. 27:2).
When Jesus’ betrayer, Judas Iscariot, saw that Jesus had been condemned to death, he was filled with remorse. He “brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, ‘I have sinned by betraying innocent blood,'” but they wanted nothing more to do with this pitiful man. Judas “threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself” (Matt. 27:5).
Some contend that Judas repented of his sin in betraying Jesus, but the Scriptures do not support this idea. Though the King James Version says that Judas “repented,” the Greek word used is not “metanoia,” the typical word for a “change of mind,” but “metamelomai” which means to “sorrow or care about afterward.” There is no indication Judas had any real change of mind and heart regarding his sin in betraying Jesus. He was merely sorry about the way things turned out. While Judas never believed in the Lord Jesus, he probably never imagined Jesus would actually be condemned to death.
Consider the difference between Judas’ and Peter’s responses to their sins. When confronted with his sin, that of denying Jesus, Peter went out and wept bitterly. Judas, on the other hand, went out and hanged himself; not the act of a truly repentant heart. Jesus summed up Judas’ spiritual condition with these words: “It would have been good for that man if he had never been born” (Mark 14:21).
The chief priests picked up the thirty pieces of silver, but they reasoned, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, because they are the price of blood” (Matt. 27:6). You can see what was important to these religious leaders. They worried about the details of the law, but missed entirely the true spirit and meaning of the law (see Matt. 23:23). Putting “blood money” in the temple treasury was unlawful, but what about plotting to put a Man to death? Who had paid this “blood money?” Who had sought false witnesses against Jesus to carry out their wicked intentions?
The chief priests consulted together and decided to use the money to buy a potter’s field to bury strangers in, thus fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah.
“Then I said to them, ‘If it is agreeable to you, give me my wages; and if not, refrain.’ So they weighed out for my wages thirty pieces of silver. And the LORD said to me, ‘Throw it to the potter’—that princely price they set on me. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the LORD for the potter.” (Zech. 11:12-13)
The details given in this prophecy are a powerful testimony to the inspiration of the Scriptures: the amount of money Jesus would be betrayed for—thirty pieces of silver; the place the money would be thrown—into the house of the Lord (temple); and what the money would be used to buy—a potter’s field.
Next Issue: “Jesus Before Pilate”