Trial of Jesus Before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin, 26:57-68
Having arrested and bound Jesus as a dangerous prisoner, they led Him away, according to Matthew’s account, to Caiaphas—the high priest—and the Sanhedrin. A parallel account is given in Mark 14:53-65. John mentions that Jesus first had a brief trial before Annas (Jn 18:13-23) and that Annas had sent Him to Caiaphas (Jn 18:24). Matthew and Mark do not mention the trial before Annas, and Luke does not mention either of these trials. The whole procedure was highly illegal, as they were not to hold trials like this at night.
The purpose of these preliminary trials was to find a legal basis on which Jesus could be condemned to death. Matthew 26 indicates that they sought false witnesses, but they could not get even the false witnesses to agree, until finally they found two that agreed, as Matthew quotes them in 26:61, “This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days.” Even this, however, was not a sufficient ground for condemnation.
In desperation, the high priest addressed Jesus saying, “Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee?” (v. 62). Jesus, however, did not answer until the high priest said to Him, “I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God” (v. 63). At this official and direct question, Jesus responded, “Thou has 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” (v. 64).
It is strange that the high priest was unable to produce any witnesses to confirm his charges, as Jesus had freely claimed His deity and Messiahship, but the words of Jesus were all the high priest needed. Jesus not only claimed to be “the Christ, the Son of God,” but He added that He would sit at the right hand of God and come in clouds of heaven as the predicted Messiah. This clear claim of deity prompted the high priest to tear his clothes and say, “He hath spoken blasphemy. What think ye?” The crowd answered, “He is guilty of death” (vv. 65-66).
The issue was clear enough. If Jesus were not all He claimed to be, indeed He was guilty of death, according to the Jewish law. What the chief priests and the scribes ignored was the fact that Jesus had not only made the claim but He had fully supported it by the very credentials and miracles which the Old Testament had attributed to Him.
Then, contrary to both Jewish law and Roman law, they abused Him. “Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands, saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee?” (vv. 67-68). This cowardly abuse of Jesus was not limited to servants; the text indicates the Sanhedrin itself lowered its dignity to participate. Tasker is too kind when he states, “It would seem highly improbable that such an august body would have demeaned themselves by such undignified behaviour.” They hated Jesus and delighted in this opportunity to hurt Him. In all this abuse, Jesus was silent. He was ready to answer sincere questions of faith but not the slanted questions of unbelief.