Forsaken by His disciples, Jesus is now led away to trial.  First of all, He must appear before the Sanhedrin, headed up by Caiaphas the high priest.  The Jews knew that they had no grant from the Roman authorities to execute a criminal, but if their politically powerful religious establishment condemned Him, they were certain Pilate would go along with them.  It is worthy of note that at least two members of the Sanhedrin, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathae, were believers in Jesus, and must have been absent when this mock trial occurred.  Meanwhile, Peter had at least regained his courage to the point where he placed himself on the periphery of the crowd to see what would happen to his Master.

To give their proceedings the appearance of conformity with the Mosaic legal code, the council sought witnesses against Jesus.  Like Jezebel of old, they were willing to produce false witnesses if only they could destroy the master of the vineyard.  But so pure and spotless was the character of Jesus that they could make no reasonable case against Him.  No matter how many witnesses they put up against Him, they could not agree regarding any capital crime He had committed.

Surely they must have grown nervous, as the farcical nature of the proceedings became apparent to all present, but at last they found two false witnesses (the number of witnesses demanded by Moses to legally establish a crime) who came up with the same story.  Their witness was based on fact, but had been misconstrued by them.  They say that Jesus had claimed He was able to destroy the holy temple and rebuild it in three days.  As we learn from the second chapter of John’s gospel, Christ did indeed say after His first cleansing of God’s house that He would destroy the temple and in three days raise it again.  But He spoke then of the temple of His body, and prophesied of His own resurrection.  But neither these witnesses nor the council gathered against Christ were interested in His actual intent.  All that mattered was that they had finally found a story that it appeared they may be able to make stick.

Having found a plausible accusation, the high priest demanded of Jesus, “What is it which these witness against Thee?”  But the Lord Jesus, fulfilling the prophecy that He would be like a lamb dumb before its shearers, answered not a word.  He had often dispensed with temptations and accusations of far greater gravity than this.  But now that His hour would come, He would not utter a word which would keep Him from the cross.

Exasperated by His silence, the high priest takes matters a step farther, adjuring Him in the Name of God to declare whether He is the Christ, the Son of God.  This plainly illustrates that they knew who Christ claimed to be, and also that they were fully abreast of Old Testament teaching concerning the Messiah.  God’s anointed must be His own Son, the One David spoke of Who would break the heathen with a rod of iron.  These reprobates could not but have known that Jesus had fulfilled so many Messianic prophecies that it was madness to reject Him, but in their blindness they cared only that He was a threat to their worldly position.

Now Jesus speaks, but only to utter the truth, and a truth which was sure to inflame their rage and seal His doom.  Assuming to Himself the grand pomp and title of Daniel’s Son of Man, He informs the high priest and the council that they shall one day see Him sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.  This was a claim not only to be the Messiah, but a claim of royal divinity.  Christ employs here the language of Daniel 7:13, 14, which we can be sure His interrogators noticed: “I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought Him near before Him.  And there was given Him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages should serve Him: His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.”  What a majestic claim the Lord Jesus boldly makes, even at the moment of His greatest apparent weakness!

Enraged by the Lord’s claim to be God’s divine Son, and the rightful Ruler of the nations, the high priest rent his clothes and declared Christ a blasphemer.  Now they could dispense with witnesses, since all the council had heard Him.  And, truly, if this were a mere sinful man, it would have been blasphemy, a sin for which Moses demanded death.  But Jesus had given ample evidence that He was no mere man, and that His claim to be the Son of God was no idle boast.  It was they who were criminals for disbelieving Him, when He had given every convincing proof that an honest man could request.

 

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