Before Annas and the
Court of Caiaphas
OVER the brook Kedron, past gardens and
olive groves, and through the hushed streets of the sleeping city, they hurried Jesus. It
was past midnight, and the cries of the hooting mob that followed Him broke sharply upon
the still air. The Saviour was bound and closely guarded, and He moved painfully. But in
eager haste His captors made their way with Him to the palace of Annas, the ex-high
Annas was the head of the
officiating priestly family, and in deference to his age he was recognized by the people
as high priest. His counsel was sought and carried out as the voice of God. He must first
see Jesus a captive to priestly power. He must be present at the examination of the
prisoner, for fear that the less-experienced Caiaphas might fail of securing the object
for which they were working. His artifice, cunning, and subtlety must be used on this
occasion; for, at all events, Christ's condemnation must be secured.
Christ was to be tried
formally before the Sanhedrin; but before Annas He was subjected to a preliminary trial.
Under the Roman rule the Sanhedrin could not execute the sentence of death. They could
only examine a prisoner, and pass judgment, to be ratified by the Roman authorities. It
was therefore necessary to bring against Christ charges that would be regarded as criminal
by the Romans. An accusation must also be found which would condemn Him in the eyes of the
Jews. Not a few among the priests and rulers had been convicted by Christ's teaching, and
only fear of excommunication prevented them from confessing Him. The priests well
remembered the question of Nicodemus, "Doth our law judge any man, before it hear
him, and know what he doeth?" John 7:51. This question had for the time broken up the
council, and thwarted their plans. Joseph of Arimathaea and Nicodemus were not now to be
summoned, but there were others who might dare to speak in favor of justice. The trial
must be so conducted as to unite the members of the Sanhedrin against Christ. There were
two charges which the priests desired to maintain. If Jesus could be proved a blasphemer,
He would be condemned by the Jews. If convicted of sedition, it would secure His
condemnation by the Romans. The second charge Annas tried first to establish. He
questioned Jesus concerning His disciples and His doctrines, hoping the prisoner would say
something that would give him material upon which to work. He thought to draw out some
statement to prove that He was seeking to establish a secret society, with the purpose of
setting up a new kingdom. Then the priests could deliver Him to the Romans as a disturber
of the peace and a creator of insurrection.
Christ read the priest's
purpose as an open book. As if reading the inmost soul of His questioner, He denied that
there was between Him and His followers any secret bond of union, or that He gathered them
secretly and in the darkness to conceal His designs. He had no secrets in regard to His
purposes or doctrines. "I spake openly to the world," He answered; "I ever
taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret
have I said nothing."
The Saviour contrasted His
own manner of work with the methods of His accusers. For months they had hunted Him,
striving to entrap Him and bring Him before a secret tribunal, where they might obtain by
perjury what it was impossible to gain by fair means. Now they were carrying out their
purpose. The midnight seizure by a mob, the mockery and abuse before He was condemned, or
even accused, was their manner of work, not His. Their action was in violation of the law.
Their own rules declared that every man should be treated as innocent until proved guilty.
By their own rules the priests stood condemned.
Turning upon His questioner,
Jesus said, "Why askest thou Me?" Had not the priests and rulers sent spies to
watch His movements, and report His every word? Had not these been present at every
gathering of the people, and carried to the priests information of all His sayings and
doings? "Ask them which heard Me, what I have said unto them," replied Jesus;
"behold, they know what I said."
Annas was silenced by the
decision of the answer. Fearing that Christ would say something regarding his course of
action that he would prefer to keep covered up, he said nothing more to Him at this time.
One of his officers, filled with wrath as he saw Annas silenced, struck Jesus on the face,
saying, "Answerest Thou the high priest so?"
Christ calmly replied,
"If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil: but if well, why smitest thou
Me?" He spoke no burning words of retaliation. His calm answer came from a heart
sinless, patient, and gentle, that would not be provoked.
Christ suffered keenly under
abuse and insult. At the hands of the beings whom He had created, and for whom He was
making an infinite sacrifice, He received every indignity. And He suffered in proportion
to the perfection of His holiness and His hatred of sin. His trial by men who acted as
fiends was to Him a perpetual sacrifice. To be surrounded by human beings under the
control of Satan was revolting to Him. And He knew that in a moment, by the flashing forth
of His divine power, He could lay His cruel tormentors in the dust. This made the trial
the harder to bear.
The Jews were looking for a
Messiah to be revealed in outward show. They expected Him, by one flash of overmastering
will, to change the current of men's thoughts, and force from them an acknowledgment of
His supremacy. Thus, they believed, He was to secure His own exaltation, and gratify their
ambitious hopes. Thus when Christ was treated with contempt, there came to Him a strong
temptation to manifest His divine character. By a word, by a look, He could compel His
persecutors to confess that He was Lord above kings and rulers, priests and temple. But it
was His difficult task to keep to the position He had chosen as one with humanity.
The angels of heaven
witnessed every movement made against their loved Commander. They longed to deliver
Christ. Under God the angels are all-powerful. On one occasion, in obedience to the
command of Christ, they slew of the Assyrian army in one night one hundred and eighty-five
thousand men. How easily could the angels, beholding the shameful scene of the trial of
Christ, have testified their indignation by consuming the adversaries of God! But they
were not commanded to do this. He who could have doomed His enemies to death bore with
their cruelty. His love for His Father, and His pledge, made from the foundation of the
world, to become the Sin Bearer, led Him to endure uncomplainingly the coarse treatment of
those He came to save. It was a part of His mission to bear, in His humanity, all the
taunts and abuse that men could heap upon Him. The only hope of humanity was in this
submission of Christ to all that He could endure from the hands and hearts of men.
Christ had said nothing that
could give His accusers an advantage; yet He was bound, to signify that He was condemned.
There must, however, be a pretense of justice. It was necessary that there should be the
form of a legal trial. This the authorities were determined to hasten. They knew the
regard in which Jesus was held by the people, and feared that if the arrest were noised
abroad, a rescue would be attempted. Again, if the trial and execution were not brought
about at once, there would be a week's delay on account of the celebration of the
Passover. This might defeat their plans. In securing the condemnation of Jesus they
depended largely upon the clamor of the mob, many of them the rabble of Jerusalem. Should
there be a week's delay, the excitement would abate, and a reaction would be likely to set
in. The better part of the people would be aroused in Christ's favor; many would come
forward with testimony in His vindication, bringing to light the mighty works He had done.
This would excite popular indignation against the Sanhedrin. Their proceedings would be
condemned, and Jesus would be set free, to receive new homage from the multitudes. The
priests and rulers therefore determined that before their purpose could become known,
Jesus should be delivered into the hands of the Romans.
But first of all, an
accusation was to be found. They had gained nothing as yet. Annas ordered Jesus to be
taken to Caiaphas. Caiaphas belonged to the Sadducees, some of whom were now the most
desperate enemies of Jesus. He himself, though wanting in force of character, was fully as
severe, heartless, and unscrupulous as was Annas. He would leave no means untried to
destroy Jesus. It was now early morning, and very dark; by the light of torches and
lanterns the armed band with their prisoner proceeded to the high priest's palace. Here,
while the members of the Sanhedrin were coming together, Annas and Caiaphas again
questioned Jesus, but without success.
When the council had
assembled in the judgment hall, Caiaphas took his seat as presiding officer. On either
side were the judges, and those specially interested in the trial. The Roman soldiers were
stationed on the platform below the throne. At the foot of the throne stood Jesus. Upon
Him the gaze of the whole multitude was fixed. The excitement was intense. Of all the
throng He alone was calm and serene. The very atmosphere surrounding Him seemed pervaded
by a holy influence.
Caiaphas had regarded Jesus
as his rival. The eagerness of the people to hear the Saviour, and their apparent
readiness to accept His teachings, had aroused the bitter jealousy of the high priest. But
as Caiaphas now looked upon the prisoner, he was struck with admiration for His noble and
dignified bearing. A conviction came over him that this Man was akin to God. The next
instant he scornfully banished the thought. Immediately his voice was heard in sneering,
haughty tones demanding that Jesus work one of His mighty miracles before them. But his
words fell upon the Saviour's ears as though He heard them not. The people compared the
excited and malignant deportment of Annas and Caiaphas with the calm, majestic bearing of
Jesus. Even in the minds of that hardened multitude arose the question, Is this man of
godlike presence to be condemned as a criminal?
Caiaphas, perceiving the
influence that was obtaining, hastened the trial. The enemies of Jesus were in great
perplexity. They were bent on securing His condemnation, but how to accomplish this they
knew not. The members of the council were divided between the Pharisees and the Sadducees.
There was bitter animosity and controversy between them; certain disputed points they
dared not approach for fear of a quarrel. With a few words Jesus could have excited their
prejudices against each other, and thus have averted their wrath from Himself. Caiaphas
knew this, and he wished to avoid stirring up a contention. There were plenty of witnesses
to prove that Christ had denounced the priests and scribes, that He had called them
hypocrites and murderers; but this testimony it was not expedient to bring forward. The
Sadducees in their sharp contentions with the Pharisees had used to them similar language.
And such testimony would have no weight with the Romans, who were themselves disgusted
with the pretensions of the Pharisees. There was abundant evidence that Jesus had
disregarded the traditions of the Jews, and had spoken irreverently of many of their
ordinances; but in regard to tradition the Pharisees and Sadducees were at swords' points;
and this evidence also would have no weight with the Romans. Christ's enemies dared not
accuse Him of Sabbathbreaking, lest an examination should reveal the character of His
work. If His miracles of healing were brought to light, the very object of the priests
would be defeated.
False witnesses had been
bribed to accuse Jesus of inciting rebellion and seeking to establish a separate
government. But their testimony proved to be vague and contradictory. Under examination
they falsified their own statements.
Early in His ministry Christ
had said, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." In the
figurative language of prophecy, He had thus foretold His own death and resurrection.
"He spake of the temple of His body." John 2:19, 21. These words the Jews had
understood in a literal sense, as referring to the temple at Jerusalem. Of all that Christ
had said, the priests could find nothing to use against Him save this. By misstating these
words they hoped to gain an advantage. The Romans had engaged in rebuilding and
embellishing the temple, and they took great pride in it; any contempt shown to it would
be sure to excite their indignation. Here Romans and Jews, Pharisees and Sadducees, could
meet; for all held the temple in great veneration. On this point two witnesses were found
whose testimony was not so contradictory as that of the others had been. One of them, who
had been bribed to accuse Jesus, declared, "This fellow said, I am able to destroy
the temple of God, and to build it in three days." Thus Christ's words were
misstated. If they had been reported exactly as He spoke them, they would not have secured
His condemnation even by the Sanhedrin. Had Jesus been a mere man, as the Jews claimed,
His declaration would only have indicated an unreasonable, boastful spirit, but could not
have been construed into blasphemy. Even as misrepresented by the false witnesses, His
words contained nothing which would be regarded by the Romans as a crime worthy of death.
Patiently Jesus listened to
the conflicting testimonies. No word did He utter in self-defense. At last His accusers
were entangled, confused, and maddened. The trial was making no headway; it seemed that
their plottings were to fail. Caiaphas was desperate. One last resort remained; Christ
must be forced to condemn Himself. The high priest started from the judgment seat, his
face contorted with passion, his voice and demeanor plainly indicating that were it in his
power he would strike down the prisoner before him. "Answerest Thou nothing?" he
exclaimed; "what is it which these witness against Thee?"
Jesus held His peace.
"He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth: He is brought
as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He openeth not
His mouth." Isaiah 53:7.
At last, Caiaphas, raising
his right hand toward heaven, addressed Jesus in the form of a solemn oath: "I adjure
Thee by the living God, that Thou tell us whether Thou be the Christ, the Son of
To this appeal Christ could
not remain silent. There was a time to be silent, and a time to speak. He had not spoken
until directly questioned. He knew that to answer now would make His death certain. But
the appeal was made by the highest acknowledged authority of the nation, and in the name
of the Most High. Christ would not fail to show proper respect for the law. More than
this, His own relation to the Father was called in question. He must plainly declare His
character and mission. Jesus had said to His disciples, "Whosoever therefore shall
confess Me before men, him will I confess also before My Father which is in heaven."
Matt. 10:32. Now by His own example He repeated the lesson.
Every ear was bent to listen,
and every eye was fixed on His face as He answered, "Thou hast said." A heavenly
light seemed to illuminate His pale countenance as He added, "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."
For a moment the divinity of
Christ flashed through His guise of humanity. The high priest quailed before the
penetrating eyes of the Saviour. That look seemed to read his hidden thoughts, and burn
into his heart. Never in afterlife did he forget that searching glance of the persecuted
Son of God.
Jesus, "shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in
the clouds of heaven." In these words Christ presented the reverse of the scene then
taking place. He, the Lord of life and glory, would be seated at God's right hand. He
would be the judge of all the earth, and from His decision there could be no appeal. Then
every secret thing would be set in the light of God's countenance, and judgment be passed
upon every man according to his deeds.
The words of Christ startled
the high priest. The thought that there was to be a resurrection of the dead, when all
would stand at the bar of God, to be rewarded according to their works, was a thought of
terror to Caiaphas. He did not wish to believe that in future he would receive sentence
according to his works. There rushed before his mind as a panorama the scenes of the final
judgment. For a moment he saw the fearful spectacle of the graves giving up their dead,
with the secrets he had hoped were forever hidden. For a moment he felt as if standing
before the eternal Judge, whose eye, which sees all things, was reading his soul, bringing
to light mysteries supposed to be hidden with the dead.
The scene passed from the
priest's vision. Christ's words cut him, the Sadducee, to the quick. Caiaphas had denied
the doctrine of the resurrection, the judgment, and a future life. Now he was maddened by
satanic fury. Was this man, a prisoner before him, to assail his most cherished theories?
Rending his robe, that the people might see his pretended horror, he demanded that without
further preliminaries the prisoner be condemned for blasphemy. "What further need
have we of witnesses?" he said; "behold, now ye have heard His blasphemy. What
think ye?" And they all condemned Him.
Conviction mingled with
passion led Caiaphas to do as he did. He was furious with himself for believing Christ's
words, and instead of rending his heart under a deep sense of truth, and confessing that
Jesus was the Messiah, he rent his priestly robes in determined resistance. This act was
deeply significant. Little did Caiaphas realize its meaning. In this act, done to
influence the judges and secure Christ's condemnation, the high priest had condemned
himself. By the law of God he was disqualified for the priesthood. He had pronounced upon
himself the death sentence.
A high priest was not to rend
his garments. By the Levitical law, this was prohibited under sentence of death. Under no
circumstances, on no occasion, was the priest to rend his robe. It was the custom among
the Jews for the garments to be rent at the death of friends, but this custom the priests
were not to observe. Express command had been given by Christ to Moses concerning this.
Everything worn by the priest
was to be whole and without blemish. By those beautiful official garments was represented
the character of the great antitype, Jesus Christ. Nothing but perfection, in dress and
attitude, in word and spirit, could be acceptable to God. He is holy, and His glory and
perfection must be represented by the earthly service. Nothing but perfection could
properly represent the sacredness of the heavenly service. Finite man might rend his own
heart by showing a contrite and humble spirit. This God would discern. But no rent must be
made in the priestly robes, for this would mar the representation of heavenly things. The
high priest who dared to appear in holy office, and engage in the service of the
sanctuary, with a rent robe, was looked upon as having severed himself from God. By
rending his garment he cut himself off from being a representative character. He was no
longer accepted by God as an officiating priest. This course of action, as exhibited by
Caiaphas, showed human passion, human imperfection.
By rending his garments,
Caiaphas made of no effect the law of God, to follow the tradition of men. A man-made law
provided that in case of blasphemy a priest might rend his garments in horror at the sin,
and be guiltless. Thus the law of God was made void by the laws of men.
Each action of the high
priest was watched with interest by the people; and Caiaphas thought for effect to display
his piety. But in this act, designed as an accusation against Christ, he was reviling the
One of whom God had said, "My name is in Him." Ex. 23:21. He himself was
committing blasphemy. Standing under the condemnation of God, he pronounced sentence upon
Christ as a blasphemer.
When Caiaphas rent his
garment, his act was significant of the place that the Jewish nation as a nation would
thereafter occupy toward God. The once favored people of God were separating themselves
from Him, and were fast becoming a people disowned by Jehovah. When Christ upon the cross
cried out, "It is finished" (John 19:30), and the veil of the temple was rent in
twain, the Holy Watcher declared that the Jewish people had rejected Him who was the
antitype of all their types, the substance of all their shadows. Israel was divorced from
God. Well might Caiaphas then rend his official robes, which signified that he claimed to
be a representative of the great High Priest; for no longer had they any meaning for him
or for the people. Well might the high priest rend his robes in horror for himself and for
The Sanhedrin had pronounced
Jesus worthy of death; but it was contrary to the Jewish law to try a prisoner by night.
In legal condemnation nothing could be done except in the light of day and before a full
session of the council. Notwithstanding this, the Saviour was now treated as a condemned
criminal, and given up to be abused by the lowest and vilest of humankind. The palace of
the high priest surrounded an open court in which the soldiers and the multitude had
gathered. Through this court, Jesus was taken to the guardroom, on every side meeting with
mockery of His claim to be the Son of God. His own words, "sitting on the right hand
of power," and, "coming in the clouds of heaven," were jeeringly repeated.
While in the guardroom, awaiting His legal trial, He was not protected. The ignorant
rabble had seen the cruelty with which He was treated before the council, and from this
they took license to manifest all the satanic elements of their nature. Christ's very
nobility and godlike bearing goaded them to madness. His meekness, His innocence, His
majestic patience, filled them with hatred born of Satan. Mercy and justice were trampled
upon. Never was criminal treated in so inhuman a manner as was the Son of God.
But a keener anguish rent the
heart of Jesus; the blow that inflicted the deepest pain no enemy's hand could have dealt.
While He was undergoing the mockery of an examination before Caiaphas, Christ had been
denied by one of His own disciples.
After deserting their Master
in the garden, two of the disciples had ventured to follow, at a distance, the mob that
had Jesus in charge. These disciples were Peter and John. The priests recognized John as a
well-known disciple of Jesus, and admitted him to the hall, hoping that as he witnessed
the humiliation of his Leader, he would scorn the idea of such a one being the Son of God.
John spoke in favor of Peter, and gained an entrance for him also.
In the court a fire had been
kindled; for it was the coldest hour of the night, being just before the dawn. A company
drew about the fire, and Peter presumptuously took his place with them. He did not wish to
be recognized as a disciple of Jesus. By mingling carelessly with the crowd, he hoped to
be taken for one of those who had brought Jesus to the hall.
But as the light flashed upon
Peter's face, the woman who kept the door cast a searching glance upon him. She had
noticed that he came in with John, she marked the look of dejection on his face, and
thought that he might be a disciple of Jesus. She was one of the servants of Caiaphas'
household, and was curious to know. She said to Peter, "Art not thou also one of this
Man's disciples?" Peter was startled and confused; the eyes of the company instantly
fastened upon him. He pretended not to understand her; but she was persistent, and said to
those around her that this man was with Jesus. Peter felt compelled to answer, and said
angrily, "Woman, I know Him not." This was the first denial, and immediately the
cock crew. O Peter, so soon ashamed of thy Master! so soon to deny thy Lord!
The disciple John, upon
entering the judgment hall, did not try to conceal the fact that he was a follower of
Jesus. He did not mingle with the rough company who were reviling his Master. He was not
questioned, for he did not assume a false character, and thus lay himself liable to
suspicion. He sought a retired corner secure from the notice of the mob, but as near Jesus
as it was possible for him to be. Here he could see and hear all that took place at the
trial of his Lord.
Peter had not designed that
his real character should be known. In assuming an air of indifference he had placed
himself on the enemy's ground, and he became an easy prey to temptation. If he had been
called to fight for his Master, he would have been a courageous soldier; but when the
finger of scorn was pointed at him, he proved himself a coward. Many who do not shrink
from active warfare for their Lord are driven by ridicule to deny their faith. By
associating with those whom they should avoid, they place themselves in the way of
temptation. They invite the enemy to tempt them, and are led to say and do that of which
under other circumstances they would never have been guilty. The disciple of Christ who in
our day disguises his faith through dread of suffering or reproach denies his Lord as
really as did Peter in the judgment hall.
Peter tried to show no
interest in the trial of his Master, but his heart was wrung with sorrow as he heard the
cruel taunts, and saw the abuse He was suffering. More than this, he was surprised and
angry that Jesus should humiliate Himself and His followers by submitting to such
treatment. In order to conceal his true feelings, he endeavored to join with the
persecutors of Jesus in their untimely jests. But his appearance was unnatural. He was
acting a lie, and while seeking to talk unconcernedly he could not restrain expressions of
indignation at the abuse heaped upon his Master.
Attention was called to him
the second time, and he was again charged with being a follower of Jesus. He now declared
with an oath, "I do not know the Man." Still another opportunity was given him.
An hour had passed, when one of the servants of the high priest, being a near kinsman of
the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked him, "Did not I see thee in the garden
with Him?" "Surely thou art one of them: for thou art a Galilean, and thy speech
agreeth thereto." At this Peter flew into a rage. The disciples of Jesus were noted
for the purity of their language, and in order fully to deceive his questioners, and
justify his assumed character, Peter now denied his Master with cursing and swearing.
Again the cock crew. Peter heard it then, and he remembered the words of Jesus,
"Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny Me thrice." Mark 14:30.
While the degrading oaths
were fresh upon Peter's lips, and the shrill crowing of the cock was still ringing in his
ears, the Saviour turned from the frowning judges, and looked full upon His poor disciple.
At the same time Peter's eyes were drawn to his Master. In that gentle countenance he read
deep pity and sorrow, but there was no anger there.
The sight of that pale,
suffering face, those quivering lips, that look of compassion and forgiveness, pierced his
heart like an arrow. Conscience was aroused. Memory was active. Peter called to mind his
promise of a few short hours before that he would go with his Lord to prison and to death.
He remembered his grief when the Saviour told him in the upper chamber that he would deny
his Lord thrice that same night. Peter had just declared that he knew not Jesus, but he
now realized with bitter grief how well his Lord knew him, and how accurately He had read
his heart, the falseness of which was unknown even to himself.
A tide of memories rushed
over him. The Saviour's tender mercy, His kindness and long-suffering, His gentleness and
patience toward His erring disciples,--all was remembered. He recalled the caution,
"Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: but I
have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not." Luke 22:31, 32. He reflected with
horror upon his own ingratitude, his falsehood, his perjury. Once more he looked at his
Master, and saw a sacrilegious hand raised to smite Him in the face. Unable longer to
endure the scene, he rushed, heartbroken, from the hall.
He pressed on in solitude and
darkness, he knew not and cared not whither. At last he found himself in Gethsemane. The
scene of a few hours before came vividly to his mind. The suffering face of his Lord,
stained with bloody sweat and convulsed with anguish, rose before him. He remembered with
bitter remorse that Jesus had wept and agonized in prayer alone, while those who should
have united with Him in that trying hour were sleeping. He remembered His solemn charge,
"Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation." Matt. 26:41. He witnessed
again the scene in the judgment hall. It was torture to his bleeding heart to know that he
had added the heaviest burden to the Saviour's humiliation and grief. On the very spot
where Jesus had poured out His soul in agony to His Father, Peter fell upon his face, and
wished that he might die.
It was in sleeping when Jesus
bade him watch and pray that Peter had prepared the way for his great sin. All the
disciples, by sleeping in that critical hour, sustained a great loss. Christ knew the
fiery ordeal through which they were to pass. He knew how Satan would work to paralyze
their senses that they might be unready for the trial. Therefore it was that He gave them
warning. Had those hours in the garden been spent in watching and prayer, Peter would not
have been left to depend upon his own feeble strength. He would not have denied his Lord.
Had the disciples watched with Christ in His agony, they would have been prepared to
behold His suffering upon the cross. They would have understood in some degree the nature
of His overpowering anguish. They would have been able to recall His words that foretold
His sufferings, His death, and His resurrection. Amid the gloom of the most trying hour,
some rays of hope would have lighted up the darkness and sustained their faith.
As soon as it was day, the
Sanhedrin again assembled, and again Jesus was brought into the council room. He had
declared Himself the Son of God, and they had construed His words into a charge against
Him. But they could not condemn Him on this, for many of them had not been present at the
night session, and they had not heard His words. And they knew that the Roman tribunal
would find in them nothing worthy of death. But if from His own lips they could all hear
those words repeated, their object might be gained. His claim to the Messiahship they
might construe into a seditious political claim.
"Art Thou the
Christ?" they said, "tell us." But Christ remained silent. They continued
to ply Him with questions. At last in tones of mournful pathos He answered, "If I
tell you, ye will not believe; and if I also ask you, ye will not answer Me, nor let Me
go." But that they might be left without excuse He added the solemn warning,
"Hereafter shall the Son of man sit on the right hand of the power of God."
"Art Thou then the Son
of God?" they asked with one voice. He said unto them, "Ye say that I am."
They cried out, "What need we any further witness? for we ourselves have heard of His
And so by the third
condemnation of the Jewish authorities, Jesus was to die. All that was now necessary, they
thought, was for the Romans to ratify this condemnation, and deliver Him into their hands.
Then came the third scene of
abuse and mockery, worse even than that received from the ignorant rabble. In the very
presence of the priests and rulers, and with their sanction, this took place. Every
feeling of sympathy or humanity had gone out of their hearts. If their arguments were
weak, and failed to silence His voice, they had other weapons, such as in all ages have
been used to silence heretics,--suffering, and violence, and death.
When the condemnation of
Jesus was pronounced by the judges, a satanic fury took possession of the people. The roar
of voices was like that of wild beasts. The crowd made a rush toward Jesus, crying, He is
guilty, put Him to death! Had it not been for the Roman soldiers, Jesus would not have
lived to be nailed to the cross of Calvary. He would have been torn in pieces before His
judges, had not Roman authority interfered, and by force of arms restrained the violence
of the mob.
Heathen men were angry at the
brutal treatment of one against whom nothing had been proved. The Roman officers declared
that the Jews in pronouncing condemnation upon Jesus were infringing upon the Roman power,
and that it was even against the Jewish law to condemn a man to death upon his own
testimony. This intervention brought a momentary lull in the proceedings; but the Jewish
leaders were dead alike to pity and to shame.
Priests and rulers forgot the
dignity of their office, and abused the Son of God with foul epithets. They taunted Him
with His parentage. They declared that His presumption in proclaiming Himself the Messiah
made Him deserving of the most ignominious death. The most dissolute men engaged in
infamous abuse of the Saviour. An old garment was thrown over His head, and His
persecutors struck Him in the face, saying, "Prophesy unto us, Thou Christ, Who is he
that smote Thee?" When the garment was removed, one poor wretch spat in His face.
The angels of God faithfully
recorded every insulting look, word, and act against their beloved Commander. One day the
base men who scorned and spat upon the calm, pale face of Christ will look upon it in its
glory, shining brighter than the sun.