Matthew 26: 57- 68

Then those who had seized Jesus led him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders had gathered. And Peter was following him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and going inside he sat with the guards to see the end. Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward and said, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days.’” And the high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your judgment?” They answered, “He deserves death.” Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him, saying, “Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?”

Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. And a servant girl came up to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean.” But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you mean.” And when he went out to the entrance, another servant girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” And again he denied it with an oath: “I do not know the man.” After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Certainly you too are one of them, for your accent betrays you.” Then he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know the man.” And immediately the rooster crowed. And Peter remembered the saying of Jesus, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.

Understanding And Applying the Text

Those who seized Jesus led him to Caiaphas. The Romans had removed the judicial power from the high priest. But there was still some remnant of the judicial authority from the Law. (Deuteronomy 1:8) The high priest did keep some authority. This was over matters Rome cared little about.

This made ruling easier. The Romans could delegate small or nuisance problems to those they ruled. This gave an illusion of self-rule. The Romans considered the Jews’ religious problems a nuisance. That is why later Pilot would say. “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” (John 18:31a)

Because of this remnant of power retained by the high priest, they brought Jesus to Caiaphas. Caiaphas could not give the final sentence. He needed to hand Jesus over to Pilot.

Caiaphas was also named Joseph. Josephus, tells us Valerius Gratus appointed him high priest. Valerius Gratus was governor of Judea. He became governor when Simon, the son of Camithus, was deposed from that office.

Matthew and the other gospel writers only give Caiaphas’ surname. It is because he was better known by that name.

Matthew tells us Peter followed at a distance. Some point to this and Peter’s future denial of Christ as Peter’s cowardice. I do not see it that way. I see this and Peters going into the High Priest’s courtyard as an act of bravery. Why would he follow? Peter may have been looking for an opportunity to rescue Jesus. Was he afraid? I am sure he was. But his Lord was in trouble. As we will see the denial of Jesus was not a sudden change of heart. It was a gradual slip into a full-blown denial of his Lord.

Peter went in and sat with the guards. He was in the belly of the beast. He had good cause to be afraid.

The description of this kangaroo court points to the ineptitude of the council. It appears they had problems finding witnesses. And the ones they had were false witnesses. They could not gen up good false witnesses. They could not even twist what Jesus said into a charge that would stick. They were Jesus’ best defense.

Jesus stood there in silence. Several have pointed to many irregularities in the trial. This is not evidence of the historical unreliability of the events. It is evidence of how far Jewish leaders went to rid themselves of Jesus.

While Jesus’ best defense was silence. But he did not want an acquittal. He could have remained silent when the Chief priest stood up and asked if He was the Christ.

This was a strange question. The Chief Priest was claiming to claim to be the messiah was a crime. But they all claimed they were expecting the Messiah to appear. But, the council had already determined to put Christ to death. They satisfied their hatred with this as a pretense of sacrilege.

It is clear they needed some help. And Jesus’ answer enraged his enemies. Christ answered “Yes.” But the answer was a, “yes but.” Yes, but you have no idea who or what the Messiah is.

Jesus said “from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (v64) Jesus spoke of the process of exaltation to the right hand of the Father. It began with His humiliation and death. The Jewish leaders “see” Jesus exulted in the resurrection reports of the soldiers (28:11-15). Then again with Stephen’s testimony. (Acts 7:56).

This kangaroo court should give us pause. The priests were so blinded by their rage and prejudices they could not see the truth when it stood in front of them. We need to allow God, i.e. scripture to correct us. Sometimes Scripture will say something that offends our sensitivities. We all have errors in our theology. We must not allow our prejudices to cause us to turn from the grace and mercy Christ has for us.

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