Jesus’ Life and Ministry
“He Is Liable to Death”
JESUS, bound as a common criminal, is led to Annas, the influential former high priest. Annas was high priest when Jesus as a 12-year-old lad amazed the rabbinic teachers at the temple. Several of Annas’ sons later served as high priest, and presently his son-in-law Caiaphas holds that position.
Jesus is probably first led to the home of Annas because of that chief priest’s longtime prominence in Jewish religious life. This stopover to see Annas allows time for High Priest Caiaphas to assemble the Sanhedrin, the 71-member Jewish high court, as well as to gather false witnesses.
Chief priest Annas now questions Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching. However, Jesus says in reply: “I have spoken to the world publicly. I always taught in a synagogue and in the temple, where all the Jews come together; and I spoke nothing in secret. Why do you question me? Question those who have heard what I spoke to them. See! These know what I said.”
At this, one of the officers standing near Jesus slaps him in the face, saying: “Is that the way you answer the chief priest?”
“If I spoke wrongly,” Jesus replies, “bear witness concerning the wrong; but if rightly, why do you hit me?” After this exchange, Annas sends Jesus away bound to Caiaphas.
By now all the chief priests and the older men and the scribes, yes, the whole Sanhedrin, are beginning to assemble. Their place of meeting is evidently the home of Caiaphas. However, to hold such a trial on the night of a Passover is clearly against Jewish law. But this does not deter the religious leaders from their wicked purpose.
Already, weeks before when Jesus resurrected Lazarus, the Sanhedrin had determined among themselves that he must die. And just two days earlier, on Wednesday, the religious authorities took counsel together to seize Jesus by crafty device to kill him. Imagine, he had actually been condemned before his trial!
Efforts are now underway to find witnesses who will provide false evidence so that a case may be built against Jesus. However, no witnesses can be found who are in agreement in their testimony. Eventually, two come forward and assert: “We heard him say, ‘I will throw down this temple that was made with hands and in three days I will build another not made with hands.’”
“Do you say nothing in reply?” Caiaphas asks. “What is it these are testifying against you?” But Jesus remains silent. Even in this false charge, to the humiliation of the Sanhedrin, the witnesses cannot make their stories agree. So the high priest tries a different tactic.
Caiaphas knows how sensitive Jews are about anyone claiming to be the very Son of God. On two earlier occasions, they had rashly labeled Jesus a blasphemer worthy of death, once having mistakenly imagined that he was asserting that he was equal to God. Caiaphas now craftily demands: “By the living God I put you under oath to tell us whether you are the Christ the Son of God!”
Regardless of what the Jews think, Jesus really is the Son of God. And to remain silent could be construed as a denial of his being the Christ. So Jesus courageously replies: “I am; and you persons will see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of power and coming with the clouds of heaven.”
At this, Caiaphas, in a dramatic display, rips his garments and exclaims: “He has blasphemed! What further need do we have of witnesses? See! Now you have heard the blasphemy. What is your opinion?”
“He is liable to death,” the Sanhedrin proclaims. Then they begin to make fun of him, and they say many things in blasphemy against him. They slap his face and spit into it. Others cover his whole face and hit him with their fists and say sarcastically: “Prophesy to us, you Christ. Who is it that struck you?” This abusive, illegal behavior occurs during the nighttime trial. Matthew 26:57-68; 26:3, 4; Mark 14:53-65; Luke 22:54, 63-65; John 18:13-24; 11:45-53; 10:31-39; 5:16-18.
◆ Where is Jesus led first, and what happens to him there?
◆ Where is Jesus next taken, and for what purpose?
◆ How is Caiaphas able to get the Sanhedrin to proclaim that Jesus is deserving of death?
◆ What abusive, illegal behavior occurs during the trial?