In the Fulness of Time/Part 149

By: Dr. Thomas O. Figart; ©2011
Throughout the trials by the Jews, a number of illegal practices can be noted, the first of which was that the trial before Caiaphas was held at night. A second illegal procedure was that witnesses (false ones) were brought against Jesus, but none in His defense.

Previous Article

The Trial before Caiaphas and the Council. Matthew 26:57-68

The False Witnesses. Matthew 26:57-63a

Mt. 26:57-63a “And they that had laid hold on Jesus led him away to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the scribes and elders were assembled. But Peter followed him afar off unto the high priest’s court, and went in, and sat with the guards, to see the end. Now the chief priests, and the elders, and all the council, sought false witnesses against Jesus, to put him to death, but found none; yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At the last came two false witnesses, And said, this fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days. And the high priest arose and said unto him, Answerest thou nothing? What is it which these witness against thee? But Jesus held his peace.”

An interesting preliminary hearing before Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas, is given in John 18:12-27, but is not recorded by the synoptic Gospels. It is not clear why Annas was involved, because his retirement was forced upon him and his position was given to his son-in-law. One suggestion is that at this juncture Caiaphas was stalling for time in order to assemble a quorum of the Sanhedrin, so Jesus was shifted to the home of Annas for a little while. Whatever the reason, Annas then sent Jesus to the hall of judgment “where the scribes and elders were assembled” with Caiaphas as the presiding officer. A parenthetical statement (verse 58) reveals that Peter went into the high priest’s court; again only John 18:15-18 mentions the influence of “another disciple,” probably John, who was known to the high priest, who spoke to the maid who kept the door and brought Peter in. Peter wanted to see “the end,” that is, what the outcome of the trial would be.

Throughout the trials by the Jews, a number of illegal practices can be noted, the first of which was that the trial before Caiaphas was held at night. A second illegal procedure was that witnesses (false ones) were brought against Jesus, but none in His defense: Many false witnesses came” (verse 60), but: “their witness agreed not together” (Mark 14:56). Finally two false witnesses came accusing Jesus of saying that He was: “able to destroy the temple of God and to build in three days” (verse 61) or, as in Mark 14:58, “We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands and within three days I will build another not made with hands.” Jesus said neither of these things; rather He said that if they, the Jews, destroyed “this temple” that in three days “I will raise it up” (John 2:20). John 2:21 interpreted this as: “But he spoke of the temple of his body.”

Even if the desecration and destruction of a holy shrine was considered worthy of death among ancient nations, including the Jews, as some believe, still, this is not what Jesus said, nor what He meant. What He did say was, “If you destroy this temple (this naos, or holy sanctuary); and what He meant was: “If you destroy my body.” Thus, even if the Jews continued for the next three years to refer this saying to mean the physical Holy of Holies, they could not accuse Him of blasphemy. They would have to accuse themselves for destroying the Temple! The most they could hold against Him was the claim to be able to rebuild in three days, a temple which had already taken 46 years to construct! The manner in which they answered Him three years before, (cf. John 2:19) was so sarcastic in unbelief, that, to bring it against Him now would be to deny what they themselves thought of Him before!

By not answering the charges of the two false witnesses, Jesus made their words sound all the more ridiculous. Caiaphas, too, must have realized the weakness of this false testimony even though he asked Jesus to reply.


The True Witness. 26:63b-68

Mt. 26:63b-68 “And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless, I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. Then the high priest tore his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy! What further need have we of witnesses? Behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy. What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death. Then they spat in his face and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands, Saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who smote thee?”

When Jesus refused to reply, Caiaphas turned to the only real issue, the claim that Jesus had made earlier, that He was the Son of God. A few examples are: “Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he had not only broken the Sabbath, but said also that God was his Father (literally, “his unique Father,” patera idion) making himself equal (from isos, equal in Person) with God” (John 5:18). Then in John 8:58-59: “Jesus said unto them, Verily I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I AM. They took up stones to stone him…”; and in John 10:30-33, after Jesus said, “I and my Father are one. Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him.” When Jesus asked: “For which of those works do ye stone me? The Jews answered him saying, For a good work we stone thee not, but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.” On all of these occasions, Jesus was able to escape any formal trial or stoning, by miraculously eluding the Jews.

Standing in the hall of Caiaphas, having been betrayed by Judas and captured by His enemies, Jesus was again charged with blasphemy, this time before the Sanhedrin. Caiaphas was careful to use the words which placed the Hebrew under solemn oath: “I adjure thee thee by the living God, whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God.” so asking, Caiaphas revealed that the claim to Messiahship included the appearance of deity, and that this man Jesus had really made such a claim. Christ answered as simply and directly as humanly possible: “Thou hast said” (su eipas). This was exactly the reply which Jesus gave to Judas in verse 25 when he asked whether he would betray Christ. This was the common Jewish formula for affirming a statement just made, In fact, Caiaphas made a point specifically: “that he hath spoken blasphemy” and that they had heard it “from his own mouth” (Luke 22:71). If this is not enough, His reply as recorded in Mark 14:61 was: “I, I AM (Ego, Eimi), using the emphatic pronoun. But this is not all that Jesus claimed; He added: “Nevertheless (that is, even if you do not believe I am the Son of God) I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” This is a combination of Psalm 110:1, which the Pharisees could not answer in Matthew 22:41-46, and Daniel 7:13-14, which describe His power; first, at the right hand of God, and later over all the earth. These unbelieving Jews would see Him thus, but only as their judge!

Caiaphas then violated another judicial practice which called for a whole day to intervene between a trial and its verdict. He called for an immediate decision without further witnesses, and it was unanimous: “And they all condemned him to be guilty of death” (Mark 14:64). Finally, their insults and physical punishment were unconscionable, spitting in His face, hitting Him with their fists, blindfolding Him (Luke 22:64) and then daring Him to prophesy which one of them had slapped Him. Their own Scripture testified that they were fulfilling Isaiah 50:6 by their illegal infliction of torture upon Him: “I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair; I hid not my face from shame and spitting.”

And “In the fulness of time” He will judge all such unbelievers!

Read Part 150

Leave a Comment