JESUS BEFORE THE SANHEDRIN
Kv.; 63b,64 “The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”64“You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
In ch.16, when Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”(16:15,16) He gave the right answer and expressed his view of Jesus. Right afterward, however, Jesus told his disciples that he would suffer from the religious leaders and be killed, but he would be raised on the third day. This statement shocked the disciples. Peter rebuked him for his negative words. But Jesus said to him, “Get behind me, Satan! You are stumbling block to me: you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (16:23)
Since then, Jesus’ prediction came true. He was arrested and led to Caiaphas the high priest. This passage tells us about what the concerns of God and merely human concern mean. Then, what are the concerns of God ? And what are human concerns?
I. Jesus before Caiaphas with the Sanhedrin.(57-68)
Read verses 57-58. “57 Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled. 58 But Peter followed him at a distance, right up to the courtyard of the high priest. He entered and sat down with the guards to see the outcome.”
We can see in these verses that Jesus was among the Sanhedrin in the house of Caiaphas. The Sanhedrin was a political group of 71 members. (59) With the high priests, they were all ready to kill Jesus.
What happened to Peter? He followed Jesus at a distance, entered in the courtyard and sat down with the guards to see the outcome. What does it mean ‘Peter followed him at a distance’? Apparently, he followed along at a distance behind the arresting troop while his master was taken to trial before the religious leaders in order to see the outcome. In this way, he would be safe, and at the same time, he would keep his loyalty. His following at a distance seemed to be right, however, ‘the safe distance’ suggests that his mind was between his own loyalty and fear.
Like Peter, many Christians follow Jesus at a distance even though they fully know Jesus carried the heavy cross and died on that cross for their sins. They keep their distance from Jesus for their own secure life. They believe that they follow Jesus faithfully, but they struggle endlessly between their loyalty to Jesus and their fear of their own security. Eventually, as Jesus clearly points out in 16:23, they are concerned about their own security much more than the concerns of God. Excusing their own situation and compromising with the world becomes their lives. What is the result of human concerns? We disown Jesus. (v. 75)
What was the situation of our Savior Jesus? Read verses 59-61. “59The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. 60But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward. Finally, two came forward 61and declared, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’””
These verses show that the Sanhedrin meeting emerged that night. They all gathered together to find false evidence against Jesus, but could not find any. It was their dilemma. Then, two witnesses brought them a made-up testimony, but not worthy to execute him to death. Apparently, there was no false evidence at all in Jesus’ messianic ministry, rather, there was always amazing healing and miracles and teaching for all of them. In fact, the religious leaders observed and acknowledged that he came from God. (Jn.3:2) But the Sanhedrin were looking for any false evidence against him. Actually, they proved Jesus was innocent. How was Jesus’ response? He remained silent. He didn’t have to respond to such false witnesses and wicked intent. The high priest was nervous and frustrated.
Read verses 63-64. “63 But Jesus remained silent. The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” 64 “You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.””
What kind of high priest was Caiaphas in the time of Jesus? He was designated by the Romans while Annas, his father-in-law, was the high priest traditionally. He was obviously not a real high priest in the view of the Jews. But he led the Sanhedrin to kill Jesus. Although the Sanhedrin was composed of different sects, they worked together to look for false evidence against Jesus.
Now, when Jesus remained silent without any answer, the high priest, in frustration, questioned him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” He sounded forceful to get Jesus to answer him honestly. Then Jesus said to him, “You have said so.” For this question, Jesus answered right away. Why? And what did his answer mean? It sounds like ‘you said it for me,’ or, ‘you testify that I am the Messiah, the Son of God under oath by the living God.’ Essentially, he meant, 'It is as you said.' On the other hand, he also meant "you yourself knew that I am the Messiah, the Son of God" Then he added, “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Why did Jesus add his identity?
The title of the Messiah is basically common knowledge among all the Jews as the son of David and the Son of God, as the Davidic king, God’s Anointed, who would rule his people forever. (16:16, Ps.2:7, 89:26-27) So when Caiaphas said, “You are the Messiah, the Son of God,” he meant the Messiah, the Son of God is the political king. But Jesus said to them, “…you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” This phrase is quoted from Dan.7:13-14 and Ps.110:1-2 to illustrate his real identity. He clarifies before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin that he is not a human messianic deliverer, but God’s Messiah, the heavenly King. He declared that they will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven. In fact, he identifies himself as equal with God, saying, ‘sitting at the right hand of God.’ It was a big challenge to the Sanhedrin.
What does his challenge mean to us? Humanly speaking, although he was arrested and led by them to be falsely accused and killed, he initiated the circumstance and confirmed his identity in front of the religious leaders. This challenge revealed his innocence and that he was sinless. Moreover, he exposed their religion was evil, killing innocent blood. The Sanhedrin tried to find any wrong evidence in Jesus’ life, but they found nothing; however, they determined to kill him by anyway. The high priest also testified that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of God. But intentionally, he tried to deny him as the Messiah and wanted to kill him. So they all exposed their evilness before Jesus and in history.
No matter what, Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the living God. Only the Messiah Jesus is innocent and sinless. Anyone who is against him exposes their sins before him just like the high priest and the Sanhedrin. Apostle Paul had the same experience, but by the grace of Jesus, he converted to Jesus and became his instrument for world salvation. As Jesus declared, everyone will see the Son of Man sitting at hand of God and coming on the clouds of heaven.
What was Caiaphas’ response to Jesus’ reply? Read verses 65-66. “Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?” “He is worthy of death,” they answered.”
He tore his clothes because Jesus said, “you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” In the view of Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin, Jesus deserved death, for he had spoken blasphemy and made himself to be divine.(Lev.24:16) They all agreed that ‘he is worthy of death.’ Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists, and others slapped him and blindfolded him.(67-68, Mk.14:65) They treated and regarded him as the worst sinner.
In truth, Jesus plainly spoke to the Sanhedrin about his identity, but they couldn’t understand him at all. Self-centered sinners obviously can never understand the Son of God. From the beginning to now, this arrested Jesus exposed all men’s false religion, false activity and the false things. He saw that he must die on the cross and open the way of salvation for them. Stephen in Acts, by the Holy Spirit, saw this Jesus ‘standing at the right hand of God’ (Ac.7:55-56) as Jesus declared before the Sanhedrin.
What is the meaning of the word, ‘Blaspheme’? It means simply to slander, to insult, and so on. For believers, disobedience, like resisting God’s will, is blasphemy, intentional rejection of the gift of salvation and against the Holy Spirit (12:32).
Apparently, Jesus held onto the things of God and willingly took men’s trials and their mistreatment based on the will of God. Simon Peter, on the other hand, was concerned about his own life. What happened to him?
II. Peter denies Jesus.(69-75)
Read verses 69-70. “Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him, “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said. But he denied it before them all, “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said.”
Since Peter followed the arrested Jesus at a distance and entered the courtyard of the high priest, he sat out with the guards in the courtyard and warmed himself by the fire. A servant girl stared at him, and then charged that he was also with Jesus of Galilee. It was a sudden challenge for him. When his own personal safety was threatened by the girl in public, he just denied it, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” After that, he left the warmth of the fire, for he realized that there was no security around there.
Where did he move to? Read verses 71-72. “Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.” He denied it again, with an oath. “I don’t know the man!””
The gateway was the cold and shadowy entryway of the courtyard and was close to the street. It seemed to be secure, but then another girl confronted him and talked the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.” Peter was scarcely challenged and lost his mind, saying with an oath, “I don’t know the man!” In this way, he tried to prove himself that he was not a follower of Jesus. His mind was unstable, and he felt he would be arrested too. In that situation, after a little while, some of the people standing there went up to Peter and challenged him, saying, “Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.” Then Peter began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!”(73-74a) He must have cursed himself and lied to protect himself and his own life-security.
Simon Peter fled when Jesus was seized and arrested, and then he followed Jesus arrested at a distance behind the troops. In this way, step by step, he denied his master. This process did not only happen for Peter. Christians who try to protect themselves for the things of men follow same the pattern as him in their lives. They keep going up and down in circumstances and making faults and denying Jesus.
What happened to Peter when he firmly denied Jesus? Read verses 74-75. “Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!” Immediately a rooster crowed. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.”
Here, Peter’s attitude tells us two very important lessons in the time of crisis: to remember the word of Jesus and to weep bitterly. When Peter remembered Jesus’ prediction, then he remembered his confession, ‘I will never disown you’(35) and so, he admitted his false confidence and surrendered to his master. In that attitude, he went outside and wept bitterly. This bitter weeping, Paul calls ‘godly sorrow.’ “Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” (2 Co.7:10-11) Peter’s godly sorrow brought him to repentance and salvation. But Judas Iscariot’s worldly sorrow brought him to death. He didn’t remember Jesus’ prediction as his warning for him; he ‘went outside and hang himself’.(27:5) We must not deal with our own sorrow in our way but humbly bring it to Jesus in prayer.
Our Lord Jesus was willingly arrested and trailed by men. He was humbly silent and led like sheep to the slaughter before its shearers. (Is.53:7) But he clarified his heavenly identity as the Messiah, the Son of the living God before the high priest and the Sanhedrin without any hesitation. He knew of our false life under the power of the devil. By his wounds we are healed, by his suffering in trials and on the cross, he took up our life of pain and agonies.
It is time to identify ourselves as Jesus’ followers through this passage. It is time to turn away from the things of men and the life of blasphemy by Jesus’ grace.
“The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” 64“You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
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