It is difficult to know how to describe the way both Jews and Gentiles treated the Lord Jesus before He was crucified. There were so many illegal acts on the part of Israel, and a gross miscarriage of justice by the Gentiles, that it is flattery to call any of the proceedings a trial. The “princes of this world”, 1 Corinthians 2:8 made their decisions on the basis of prejudice, ignorance, envy and cowardice. To state these things is not anti-semitic, but is to face up to the facts as the Word of God presents them. Christians should never be anti-Jew, but rather promote their blessing. That blessing can only come when the facts are presented and acted upon.
The trials were indeed conducted on the basis of prejudice, because the chief judge on the Jewish side had said a few days before, “it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not”, John 11:50. John makes it clear that he was referring to Christ. How can a trial be just when the judge believes the accused ought to die? How can it be right for those in charge of the proceedings to seek for witnesses “against Jesus to put Him to death”, Mark 14:55. Leaving aside the fact that witnesses should not be sought, but should come forward of their own will, they should come to witness impartially, not against the accused, and should certainly not come with the intention of making sure the accused is put to death. Nor should the Sanhedrin have taken counsel “to put Him to death”, Matthew 27:1. They should have taken counsel to discover the truth.
They were marked by ignorance of who He really was. This was wilful ignorance, for He had given ample proof as to who He was by His character as He lived before them, His works as He did miracles, and His words as He spake as none other did. As He Himself said, “If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin. He that hateth Me hateth My Father also. If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now they have seen and hated both Me and My Father But this cometh to pass, that the word might be fulfilled that is written in their law, ‘They hated Me without a cause'”, John 15:22-25. Such was the clarity of His teaching, the power of His works, and the holiness of His character, that to hate Him was to show themselves up as hardened and hateful sinners.
Their decisions were also on the basis of envy, as Pilate realised, for Matthew tells us that “he knew that for envy they had delivered Him”, Matthew 27:18. They saw Christ as a threat to their position and power. The people flocked to hear Him, but hated them.
As for Pilate, three times he declared that Christ was without fault as far as the law was concerned, (on the third occasion after he had scourged Him, which was only done to those who were condemned), but still he decreed that He be crucified. Sadly, he put favour with Caesar before favour with God, for when the chief priests saw that he was wavering, and was seeking to release Him, they said, “If thou let this man go, thou art not Ceasar’s friend”, John 19:12. At that point he sat on his judgement seat and delivered the Lord Jesus to be crucified. This was gross injustice on the basis of cowardice.
The arrest in the garden
18:1 When Jesus had spoken these words, He went forth with His disciples over the brook Cedron, where was a garden, into the which He entered, and His disciples.
When Jesus had spoken these words- in 17:1, the phrase “these words spake Jesus” introduces the prayer that follows. Here the prayer is in the past, and the “I come to Thee” of 17:13 is continuing to happen. In His prayer to the Father He had used phrases like “I have finished the work”; “I am no more in the world”; “I come to Thee”; “while I was with them in the world”; “now come I to Thee”; “for their sakes I sanctify Myself”; “where I am”. All these expression tell of one who is projecting His mind into the future, and is anticipating being back with His Father, where He will ever live to make intercession for His own.
As far back as Luke 9:51 Jesus had been described as one who was going to be received up, a reference to His ascent to heaven. But more than that, He Himself said ” I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father”, John 16:28. So He began to move back to His Father the moment He had come into the world.
He went forth with His disciples over the brook Cedron- note the repetition of the word “disciples” in this verse. “With His disciples…and His disciples…with His disciples”, but although marked out as His followers, they became His forsakers in the garden. John does not record this, because he emphasises Christ’s defence of His own, and the way none of them was lost, and if he recorded the disciples fleeing it would detract from this.
The brook Cedron, (known as Kidron in the Old Testament), was a winter-brook, meaning it did not flow constantly, but only in winter and after storms. Job said, “My friends have dealt deceitfully as a brook, and as the stream of brooks they pass away; which are blackish by reason of the ice, and wherein the snow is hid: what time they wax warm they vanish: when it is hot they are consumed out of their place. The paths of their way are turned aside; they go to nothing, and perish”, Job 6:15-18. So Christ’s friends disappeared when the heat of the arrest came, but they did not perish like Job’s friends, for their Lord could say “I have lost none”, verse 9. As the Good Shepherd, He gives to them eternal life, “and they shall never perish”, John 10:28.
David crossed the Kidron (Cedron), when Absalom rebelled against him and Ahithophel changed allegiance and betrayed him, 2 Samuel 15,16,17. The traitor psalms, applied to Judas in the New Testament, (Psalms 41, 55, 69, 109), are based on Ahithophel’s treachery.
But there are several contrasts between David and Christ when they crossed this brook as follows:
1. David had sinned in the matter of Bathsheba, and Ahithophel was Bathsheba’s grandfather, 2 Samuel 11:3; 23:34. It is easy to see he had reason to change allegiance. Judas, however, had no reason at all to betray Christ. In fact, he had every reason to be loyal.
2. The judgement on David for his sin in connection with Bathsheba was, amongst other things, that evil would be raised up against him out of his own house, 2 Samuel 12:11. And so it came to pass, for the would-be usurper of David’s throne, Absalom, was his son. There was no sin in Christ, and therefore no reason for any to rise up against Him, especially from His own band of apostles.
3. David fled in the face of Absalom’s rebellion in part because he was weak in body, as he wrote in Psalm 41:8, “‘An evil disease’, say they, ‘cleaveth fast unto him: and now that he lieth, he shall rise up no more'”. No such affliction affected Christ, however, to enable His enemies to take advantage of Him.
4. David crossed the Kidron brook to flee into the wilderness to escape, leaving himself vulnerable to the loss of his throne; Christ crossed the same brook at the same place to confront His enemies, and go to Calvary to guarantee His throne.
5. Because the route from Jerusalem both David and Christ took was at the approach to the Mount of Olives, we know from ancient Jewish records that they followed the path that the scapegoat took on the Day of Atonement. But only the Lord Jesus could fulfil the ritual of that day, for He was “once offered to bear the sins of many”, Hebrews 9:28.
6. Once they reached the top of Mount Olivet, they were at the place, opposite the east gate of the Temple, where the Red Heifer would be slain “before the Lord”. In one of his repentance psalms, David appealed to the Lord to “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean”, Psalm 51:7, a reference to the sprinkling of the ashes of the red heifer over a defiled person to make him clean, Numbers 19:17,18. The writer to the Hebrews contrasts the limited effect of the “ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean”, Hebrews 9:13, with the blood of Christ, which purges the conscience fully.
7. It is said that the blood from the Passover lambs was channelled from the altar down to the brook Cedron, so that it is very possible that the waters were still red with their blood. How this must have affected the sensitive soul of Christ as He crossed those waters! But He would do more that cross over the brook, He would go to Calvary and pass through the waters of judgement so that we might be redeemed.
Where was a garden, into the which He entered, and His disciples- John does not name the garden, nor does he name the garden where the sepulchre was, 19:41. He does not use the word Gethsemane, meaning “Place of olive-presses”, for the same reason that he does not record the cry of abandonment on the cross. He is emphasising the Deity of Christ, not His vulnerability. There is no “crushing of the olives” in Gethsemane in John’s gospel, no “being in an agony”, hence no name for the garden which would remind of that. This tells us that the prayer of John 17 was not offered in Gethsemane; even the location was distinct, as well as the content of the prayer. The one was spoken as if the Lord was already in heaven, with the cross over, (hence to mention the place-name would be inappropriate), the others in Gethsemane were offered as if the cross was looming large.
There are other contrasts too, as follows:
|Matthew, Mark, Luke||John|
|Position adopted||Fallen on the face||Eyes lifted to heaven|
|Themes of prayer||Suffering and death||Glory and eternal life|
|Length||Short, in an agony||Longer, in view of glory|
|Subject of prayer||Himself and the cup of wrath||Himself and believers|
|Times prayed||Three times||Once|
|Company||Alone- apostles apart||Apostles near at hand|
|Emphasis||Display of Manhood||Display of Deity|
18:2 And Judas also, which betrayed Him, knew the place: for Jesus ofttimes resorted thither with His disciples.
And Judas also, which betrayed Him, knew the place: for Jesus ofttimes resorted thither with His disciples- He would retire there when the authorities in Jerusalem oppressed Him, John 8:1. The place of refuge now becomes the place of arrest. Perhaps Judas and Christ “walked into the House of God in company” from this place, Psalm 55:14.
18:3 Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons.
Judas then, having received a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees- putting all the gospel records together, the following were present:
1. A great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people, Matthew 26:47.
2. Mark adds “the scribes”, Mark 14:43.
3. The chief priests, captains of the temple, and the elders, Luke 22:52.
4. A band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees, John 18:3.
5. Judas, Luke 22:47.
6. A servant of the high priest, Malchus, verse 51.
7. A kinsman of Malchus, John 18:26.
Remember that more than twelve legions of angels were waiting for a call from Christ that never came, but, as the Lord said, “how then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled?” Matthew 26:53.
Cometh thither with lanterns and torches and weapons- perhaps domestic lamps, hastily picked up when the call came, and military torches. Gideon’s torches caused the enemy to flee, Judges 7:19,20, but here it is the “enemy” who are holding the torches. They are sons of darkness coming to apprehend the Light of the World. But He does not need the torches, nor does He flee. Judas agreed to betray Him “in the absence of the people”, Luke 22:6, and this is how he did it. “He that doeth evil hateth the light”, John 3:20.
The Lord highlighted the swords (military) and staves, (domestic), with the words, “Are ye come out as against a thief with swords and staves for to take Me?” Matthew 26:55. God has put a sword into the hand of the powers that be, so that they can punish evil-doers. But Pilate could ask the question, “Why, what evil hath He done?”, Matthew 27:23, and they refused to answer that question, because they knew the answer. On the other hand, staves are what a householder would use to defend his property from a burglar. So they were treating Him as if He were the one who, like a thief, was acting illegally against the best interests both of the nation, and the individuals in the nation.
In fact, it was they who were in the wrong, for Jewish law was being contravened in the following ways:
1. The arrest should have been done voluntarily by those who were witnesses to the crime.
2. It was illegal for the temple guard acting for the High Priest to make the arrest.
3. It was illegal in Jewish law to use force against a suspect.
4. The arrest should not have been at night, and constituted an act of violence. This is why the disciples were preparing to prevent it. Malchus was probably one of those foremost in the arrest. If Peter had been preventing a legal arrest, he should have been arrested. The fact he was not, showed the authorities knew they were in the wrong.
5. The prisoner was bound, which was unnecessary violence, since He was surrounded by only a few men, and the arrest party consisted of many.
6. The prisoner was taken to Annas first, but he was not the proper magistrate.
7. He was interrogated at night, which was prohibited by law.
8. He was detained in a private house, which amounted to kidnap.
9. He was struck gratuitously, and before any charges had been brought, John 18:22.
18:4 Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon Him, went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye?
Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon Him- the “therefore” indicates that He is acting in line with His knowledge of the Father’s will. He knew He was the foreordained Lamb, 1 Peter 1:20, and that the arrest would lead to His crucifixion.
Went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye? In response to the arrival of the arrest party, the Good Shepherd not only goes before to lead, but also to protect the sheep. The enemies of the sheep have to confront the shepherd first. He went forth to meet them, taking the initiative. There is no mention by John of Judas’ actions, which have taken place before this point. There is an emphasis on the love and care of the Shepherd, not the treachery and hostility of Judas, the wolf, who comes, with his accomplices, “to steal and to kill and to destroy”. He takes the initiative, asking whom they sought, so they did not arrest anyone else by mistake in the semi-darkness.
18:5 They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am He. And Judas also, which betrayed him, stood with them.
They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am He- the blind man said this, John 9:9 and no-one thought he was claiming Deity. So it must be that the expression reminds them of His word, “Before Abraham was, I am”, John 8:58. They took up stones to stone Him then, but now they are determined to see Him crucified.
How remarkable it is that Jesus of Nazareth is the great “I am”! This tells of His Deity. How remarkable also that the great “I am” should answer to the name of Jesus of Nazareth! This tells of His humility. He still answers to that name in heaven, as Saul of Tarsus found, Acts 22:8. His humble and obedient spirit shall never be forgotten.
And Judas also, which betrayed Him, stood with them- he has done his wretched work, and now stands back with his new-found friends. He prefers their company to that of the Son of God, and thus shows himself to be an unbeliever. John alone mentions this fact, for he was especially sensitive to anyone who was untrue to his Lord. Yet Stephen accuses the nation of being the betrayers of Christ, Acts 7:52, so Judas is just a reflection of the nation. Stephen stood for Christ on earth, and Christ stood to receive him into heaven, verse 56.
18:6 As soon then as He had said unto them, I am He, they went backward, and fell to the ground.
As soon then as He had said unto them, I am He, they went backward, and fell to the ground- they took steps backward, reversing momentarily their plans, and then fell to the ground, illustrating what God’s plan is. They involuntarily do what they will do before Christ at the Great White Throne, (unless they have repented beforehand and have bowed the knee in that way), for unto Him every knee shall bow, Philippians 2:10, not only because of what He did when He became man, but also because of His Deity, Isaiah 45:22,23. They have an overpowering sense of Christ’s majesty. They thought they had come to arrest a carpenter, but He is, in fact, the Creator.
18:7 Then asked He them again, Whom seek ye? And they said, Jesus of Nazareth.
Then asked He them again, Whom seek ye? And they said, Jesus of Nazareth- having shown that He has power in Himself to resist arrest, He now submits to it as His Father’s will, and not as the will of men, thus highlighting that “He was led as a sheep to the slaughter”, Acts 8:32, not resisting at all. They have learnt that they are not in control. They may take Him, but He is delivered by “the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God”, Acts 2:23.
18:8 Jesus answered, I have told you that I am He: if therefore ye seek Me, let these go their way:
Jesus answered, I have told you that I am He– He is in control here, and rebukes them for asking the question again, when He has already given the answer. One man is holding a multitude at bay by His word, before submissively allowing them to take Him.
If therefore ye seek Me, let these go their way- having established that they have only come for Him, then, and not before, He requires that the disciples be allowed to go. They cannot refuse this without denying what they have just said. He has put them into a position where they cannot refuse to let the disciples go. The Lord ensures the disciples retire with dignity, even if, when they are out of immediate danger, they flee, as the other gospels record, and as the Lord foretold even in John’s record in 16:32. The emphasis is on His care, and not their fear.
18:9 That the saying might be fulfilled, which He spake, Of them which Thou gavest Me have I lost none.
That the saying might be fulfilled, which He spake, ‘Of them which Thou gavest Me have I lost none’- John is quoting Christ’s testimony to His Father in 17:12. There is no mention of Judas here, as there was in that verse, for he has now clearly sided with the enemy, and has placed himself out of the range of Christ’s protection as Good Shepherd. This statement shows that our Shepherd is concerned about our physical welfare and safety, as well as our spiritual good.
18:10 Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus.
Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus- this had repercussions in a two-fold way later. First, this incident drew attention to Peter, and so a relative of Malchus, who also was in the garden, accused him of being a disciple, and this resulted in the third of his denials, John 18:26,27. Perhaps this is why John is the only one to name Peter as the one with the sword, so as to make his account of Peter’s denial intelligible. Only Luke the doctor records the healing of the ear.
Peter’s action also gave the Lord the opportunity to show Pilate that His kingdom was not of this world. What earthly king rebukes his followers for fighting, and heals one of the enemy’s soldiers? John does not record the healing of the ear to preserve the climax of the raising of Lazarus. To heal an ear, although having significance, would be an anti-climax if recorded after the raising of a dead person.
18:11 Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it?
Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath- it is noticeable that the Lord rebuked Peter for seeking to prevent His arrest, but the soldiers do not arrest Peter for the injury to Malchus. They know they are acting illegally. Peter on a human level was justified in seeking to prevent an injustice. The Lord had sanctioned the carrying of a sword when engaged in the work of God, in self-defence, Luke 22:35-38.
The cup which My Father hath given Me, shall I not drink it? The Lord was acting on a higher level than human justice. Note the difference between these words and “O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me”, Matthew 26:39. The conflict in Gethsemane is over, and the Saviour is resolved to drink the cup. In Mark 14:35,36, “the cup” is the same as “the hour”, so it signifies His suffering and death.
Peter did not realise it then, but later on he would speak of Christ being delivered by “the determinate will and foreknowledge of God”, Acts 2:23, and yet he had sought to frustrate that will! He will write as an old man that the sufferings of Christ were sufferings “that pertained to Christ”, such is the sense conveyed by the particular preposition “of” in that passage, 1 Peter 1:11. Those sufferings were to be His, come what may, and Peter’s sword would not prevent them.
18:12 Then the band and the captain and officers of the Jews took Jesus, and bound Him,
Then the band and the captain and officers of the Jews took Jesus, and bound Him- this was another illegality, to bind an uncharged suspect. When men came to arrest Elijah, he brought down fire from heaven and consumed the first two arrest parties, and no doubt would have done the same to the third had not the angel intervened, 2 Kings 1:9-15. James and John referred to this as a reason to judge the Samaritans, but the rebuke the Saviour gave was, “The Son of Man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them”, Luke 9:54-56. Samson broke his bands and triumphed, Christ gained victory in weakness. They bind the hands that had just healed an ear.
At this point it will be helpful to have the order of subsequent events in our minds. If we were to read each of the four gospels in isolation, we might gain the impression that they were at variance, or that they had their facts wrong. This is not so, however, because John the apostle lived to be an old man, well beyond the time when the four gospels were written, and the Spirit guided him into all truth, John 16:13. So he, as one present at the proceedings, was able to sanction all four of the records, his own included. We may have confidence, therefore, that what is written is a true witness. We should approach the gospel records, not in a spirit of criticism and doubt, but with an open mind, prepared to accept what they tell us.
The general order of events from the Arrest to the Sentence of Christ, is as follows:
1. Arrest in the garden.
2. Leading, bound, to Annas, one of the High Priests.
3. Transferral to be questioned by Caiaphas, the other High Priest.
4. Brought before an informal Sanhedrin, at night, and condemned.
5. Brought before a formal session of the Sanhedrin at dawn to ratify former decision.
6. Led to Pilate, bound, to be questioned.
7. Sent by Pilate to Herod.
8. Returned to Pilate and questioned again.
9. Pronounced by Pilate to be not guilty, but scourged.
10. Presented to the people who call for His crucifixion.
11. Delivered to be crucified.
12. “And He bearing His cross went forth”.
18:13 And led Him away to Annas first; for he was father in law to Caiaphas, which was the high priest that same year.
And led Him away to Annas first- He was “led as a sheep to the slaughter”, Acts 8:32, where the word slaughter is not one used of sacrifice. Their object is to kill Him. They have no notion that He will be the sacrifice, even though it is priests who direct the operation. The House of Annas were known as “the whisperers”, (The Jewish Talmud said “they hissed like vipers”). They exerted their influence on the judges, “whereby rivals were corrupted, judgement perverted, and the Shekinah withdrawn”. The Shekinah was the Jewish name for the glory of God. Christ is the brightness of the glory, Hebrews 1:3, and He was withdrawn from the nation by God, being rejected by the High Priests. They of all people should have appreciated the glory of God in Christ.
In the days of Eli the Israelites brought the Ark of the Covenant into the field of battle, and it was captured. David comments on this later on and writes, “He delivered His strength into captivity, and His glory into the enemy’s hand”, Psalm 78:61. Phinehas’ wife also commented on the incident at the time and said, “the glory is departed from Israel: for the ark of God is taken”, 1 Samuel 4:22. She knew that the glory of God dwelt between the cherubim on the mercy-seat which was upon the ark, and lamented its departure. How much more should Israel have lamented after they had taken the one the ark typified, and delivered Him into the hands of the Gentiles. But the priests, like Eli’s sons, had no such appreciation. No doubt the Philistines thought they had won the day, but they found that the ark was stronger than they were, for Dagon their god bowed down to it. And those who took “the ark” in Gethsemane, they bowed down too, as we have seen in verse 6.
For he was father in law to Caiaphas, which was the high priest that same year- the reason He was taken to Annas first was because he was father-in-law to Caiaphas. This might seem a strange reason to give, but John is indicating that the high priests were all of the same family, and Caiaphas was high priest that same year only because of the behind-the-scenes manipulation by Annas.
The fact that John mentions this, as well as saying in verse 24 that Annas had sent Christ bound to Caiaphas, suggests that “the high priest” of the following narrative is Caiaphas, and that the Lord was taken first of all to Annas, but not to be formally interrogated. It shows the influence Annas still had. In fact, in Acts 4:6 it is Annas who is called the high priest, and Caiaphas, whilst present, was simply named.
18:14 Now Caiaphas was he, which gave counsel to the Jews, that it was expedient that one man should die for the people.
Now Caiaphas was he, which gave counsel to the Jews, that it was expedient that one man should die for the people- this refers to John 11:45-54. Caiaphas is clearly not an unbiased judge, for he is of the opinion that one man should die, if that avoids the nation perishing, and that one man is Christ. Not only has he made his mind up, but has made it public. This is further evidence of the illegality of the trial. Christ did indeed die for the nation, but not as a hostage, but a sacrificial substitute. It was indeed expedient, or profitable to them, but not so as to prevent the Romans depriving them of their rights, but so as to secure the rights of God in the matter of sin, and enable Him to righteously justify sinners.
There follows in verses 15 to 18 the account of Peter’s first denial. The gospel writers intertwine Peter’s denials with the account of Christ before the high priests, as if to suggest that they, as representatives of the nation, were denying Him too. This was the case, for Peter himself, having been converted from his lapse, accuses the nation later on of denying the Holy One and the Just, Acts 3:14. He then called upon the nation to “repent…and be converted”, verse 19, just as he had repented and been converted from his denials.
We continue with John’s narrative, as he describes the preliminary hearing, designed to prepare the way for the formal hearing before the Sanhedrin at dawn. John is showing us at the outset the disinterest in the truth displayed by the authorities.
18:19 The high priest then asked Jesus of His disciples, and of His doctrine.
The high priest then asked Jesus of His disciples- he is afraid there is about to be an uprising against the authorities, but they need not have worried. The Lord had rebuked Peter for the use of the sword in Gethsemane. Notice the Lord does not discuss His disciples, as He protects them like the Good Shepherd He is. He arranged for their departure at His arrest, thus shielding them physically, and now He shields them again, ensuring that after His ascension they are not targeted.
And of His doctrine- the High Priestly family were Sadducees, and Luke tells us “they say there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit”, Acts 23:8. They are clearly at variance with the teaching of the Lord Jesus. The Lord will not be drawn into details, however, for He had been a recognised teacher in Israel for three and a half years, often in the temple courts, and they had ample opportunity to listen to Him.
We could say the following about His doctrine:
It was a life-giving word- “He that heareth My word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into judgement, but is passed from death unto life”, John 5:24.
It was a word from God- “My doctrine is not Mine, but His that sent Me”, John 7:16.
It was a word of truth- “He that sent Me is true: and I speak to the world those things which I have heard of Him”, 8:26.
It was a word of insight- “I speak that which I have seen with My Father”, John 8:38.
It was a word of authority- “For I have not spoken of Myself; but the Father which sent Me, He gave Me commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak”, John 12:49.
18:20 Jesus answered him, I spake openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing.
Jesus answered him- the Lord was always in control during His trials, yet never acted rudely. “When He suffered, He threatened not”, 1 Peter 2:23. He is confident that truth is on His side, and He will not allow error and falsehood to prevail, even when He is a bound prisoner.
I spake openly to the world- He never limited Himself to a select group of listeners, for all were welcome to hear what He had to say. There was no secrecy. This was a rebuke to Annas, (who was very possibly present, since Peter links all those named as rulers together in Acts 4:8 as being guilty of crucifying Christ), for Annas was notorious for his secret dealings, being known as “the whisperer”.
I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort- His was no attempt to advance some weird doctrines at variance with the teaching of the Old Testament. He was recognised as a teacher in the synagogues, and He taught in the temple courts as other doctors of the law did. He was not a rabble-rouser on the street corner. The prophet had said that “He shall not cry, not lift up, nor cause His voice to be heard in the street”, Isaiah 42:2. The apostles followed this example, preaching either in the synagogues, or in different houses.
The temple was the territory of the High Priests, and their responsibility, so if He had been a heretic, they should have arrested Him immediately. The fact is that when they tried to do so, those who were sent to apprehend Him came back without Him, saying, “Never man spake like this man”, John 7:46. The power of His words was enough to prevent His arrest.
And in secret have I said nothing- of course he had spoken to His disciples in the privacy of the upper room, but that was only after the nation had had three and a half years in which to listen to Him and know the sort of things He was saying and teaching.
18:21 Why askest thou Me? ask them which heard Me, what I have said unto them: behold, they know what I said.
Why askest thou Me? It was forbidden in Jewish law to try to get the accused to incriminate himself, hence the implied rebuke for asking Him.
Ask them which heard Me, what I have said unto them: behold, they know what I said- the Lord appeals to those who could bear witness, and implies that the high priest should have been bringing them forward to bear testimony, not false witnesses who couldn’t agree. This is a rebuke from “the Holy One and the Just”, for his false dealings
18:22 And when He had thus spoken, one of the officers which stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, Answerest Thou the high priest so?
And when He had thus spoken, one of the officers which stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand- is this the best way that the nation entrusted with God’s righteous law can behave? Have they no procedures by which to deal with this situation? They have no answer to His responses, except an act of contempt and insult. Men still hold (suppress) the truth in unrighteousness, Romans 1:18. This is part of the process by which the world was being judged by Christ, bringing it out into the light and exposing its wickedness. He is prepared to be ill-treated in this way if the truth is brought out thereby, as it is.
Saying, Answerest Thou the high priest so? Any prisoner was within His rights to protest at the illegality of the proceedings. Paul protested at his illegal treatment, so that others would benefit, Acts 16:37. The Lord will not allow unrighteousness. He is “the Just One, of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers”, Acts 7:52, (said to the high priest, verse 1). The officer is clearly trying to impress his master with his zeal. He should have been restrained and rebuked for breaking the law, but there was no interest in keeping to the law that night.
18:23 Jesus answered him, If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil: but if well, why smitest thou Me?
Jesus answered him, If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil- He was either guilty or innocent of reviling the high priest. If guilty, the due process should be followed and measures taken to show His guilt. Annas and Caiaphas are being given a lesson in justice by “the Judge of all the earth”. But if well, why smitest thou Me? That the action of striking Him was illegal is seen in the absence of any response to Christ’s question.
18:24 Now Annas had sent Him bound unto Caiaphas the high priest.
Now Annas had sent Him bound unto Caiaphas the high priest- why does John tell us this at this point? It may be that Annas lived in the same palace as Caiaphas, and John is preparing us for the possibility that when the Lord was being taken from Caiaphas to Pilate, it was then “He turned, and looked upon Peter”, Luke 22:61. It is also possible that by his deliberate vagueness as to where the conversation took place, John is using a literary device to show his disapproval of what happened. Jacob had said, as he prophesied about the wickedness of Simeon and Levi, “O my soul, come not into their secret; unto their assembly, mine honour, be not thou united”, Genesis 49:6. John is heeding Jacob’s advice, and distancing himself from the secret counsels of the descendants of Levi. It would have been better for Peter if he had done this too, for his other name Simon is the equivalent of Simeon, who was allied to Levi. Simon Peter came close to being united unto their assembly, such is the danger of denial.
In John 18:25-27 we have John’s account of Peter’s third denial, as if to put side by side the denial of Peter for the third time and the denial of the Jewish authorities of the Lord Jesus for the third time, first before Annas privately, then before Caiaphas and an informal company of “chief priests and elders, and all the council”, Matthew 26:59, and then before the formal Sanhedrin in public at the break of day, (although John does not record this latter “trial”). By his statement about the sending from Annas to Caiaphas, John is ensuring we realise the informal session of the Sanhedrin we shall consider next was under Caiaphas the High priest’s control, for he was high priest that year.
We continue with the informal session before Caiaphas and the council, (otherwise known as the Sanhedrin), in Mark’s account:
14:55 And the chief priests and all the council sought for witness against Jesus to put Him to death; and found none.
And the chief priests and all the council sought for witness against Jesus to put Him to death, and found none- we see the determination of the rulers to obtain what they want. They first of all sought for witness. Now forced witness is of no value, for witnesses must come forward voluntarily. Especially since under Jewish law those who brought false witness were to be condemned with the same punishment as the one they witnessed against would have received. Witnesses therefore would be very reluctant to come forward and give false testimony under this system. The rulers will tell Pilate later on that “by our law He ought to die”, but they did not follow their law.
Note the bias of these judges, for they are bringing forward witnesses for one purpose only, to see that the prisoner is put to death. They are not assembled to seek and find the truth, but to get Christ crucified; that is their agenda.
14:56 For many bare false witness against Him, but their witness agreed not together.
For many bear false witness against Him, but their witness did not agree together- the requirement of the law of Moses was as follows: “One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established. If a false witness rise up against any man to testify against him that which is wrong; Then both the men, between whom the controversy is, shall stand before the Lord, before the priests and the judges, which shall be in those days; And the judges shall make diligent inquisition: and, behold, if the witness be a false witness, and hath testified falsely against his brother; Then shall ye do unto him, as he had thought to have done unto his brother: so shalt thou put the evil away from among you. And those which remain shall hear, and fear, and shall henceforth commit no more any such evil among you. And thine eye shall not pity; but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot”, Deuteronomy 19:15-21. We see from this that the false witnesses should have been crucified, (for that was what their false witness would result in), and the case dismissed as being unjust.
14:57 And there arose certain, and bare false witness against him, saying,
And there arose certain, and bare false witness against him, saying- having brought forced witness, and false witness, we now have fabricated witness. Clearly the priests are having trouble in finding any who will witness against Him. There were multitudes in Israel who could bear testimony for Him, so why were these not brought?
14:58 We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.
We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands- this is a garbled version of what the Lord had said in Jerusalem at the first Passover of His public ministry. He had actually said, when asked what sign He showed to give Him the right to purge the temple, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up”, John 2:19. They misunderstood His words, thinking He was referring only to Herod’s temple. This is why they spoke of Him rearing it up in three days, when it had been forty-six years since the building had started, and still it was not finished. After His resurrection from the dead the disciples realised that He had been speaking of the temple of His body, of which the temple was a figure.
He said nothing about destroying the temple himself. It was they who would do it, when they secured His death. His body, soul and spirit would be separated in death, and since they were responsible for His death, (although from another viewpoint He laid His life down of Himself), they would destroy Him.
There is a vital link between the crucifixion of Christ, and the destruction of the city of Jerusalem in AD 70. Daniel 9:26 speaks of the Messiah being cut off, and immediately goes on to speak of the city and sanctuary being destroyed, thus establishing a link between the two. Jacob prophesied of the time when the sons of Levi, the priestly tribe, would, in their anger, slay a man, and in their self-will dig down a wall, Genesis 49:5-7. The slaughter of Christ, and the destruction of the walls of Jerusalem are linked. The parable of the marriage of the king’s son involves the city of those who refused the invitation to the wedding being destroyed, Matthew 22:1-7. There is a vital connection, then, between the destiny of the temple, and that of His body, the temple of the Holy Spirit. Both will be destroyed, but both will rise again. In the case of Christ’s body the destruction would mean the separation of His body, soul and spirit in death, and significantly, when that happened the vail of the temple was rent- the destruction had begun!
So by crucifying Him, they would secure the destruction of the city of Jerusalem and the temple. But Hosea had spoken of a period of three days after which God would raise up His people Israel from the grave of the nations, Hosea 6:1,2, and see also Deuteronomy 32:39. Together with His dead body would they rise, Isaiah 26:19, or in other words, they would be associated with, and believe in, His resurrection at long last, and gain the benefits which His rising again brings to those who believe. When He comes again there will be built a temple fit for His glorious kingdom, as detailed by Ezekiel in his prophecy, chapters 40-47. As Zechariah said, “He shall build the temple of the Lord”, Zechariah 6:12.
It was the Sadducean party which controlled the temple, and they did not believe in the resurrection of the body. They no doubt thought of this statement by Christ during the first Passover of His ministry as an attack upon their doctrine. And now at His trial during the last Passover of His ministry it is the Sadducean party in control of proceedings. They think it is time for revenge.
And within three days I will build another made without hands- there are at least three misrepresentations here. He did not say He would build another, but would raise up the one that was destroyed. He did not imply that it would take three days, but stated He would do it three days after the destruction. He said nothing of the building being made without hands, as if it were some magical building. They either ignorantly or wilfully misquoted His words.
14:59 But neither so did their witness agree together.
But neither so did their witness agree together- just as the witnesses of verse 56 did not agree together, neither did these latter ones agree either. The case should have collapsed, therefore, but those conducting it are not interested in justice.
14:60 And the high priest stood up in the midst, and asked Jesus, saying, Answerest Thou nothing? what is it which these witness against Thee?
And the high priest stood up in the midst- according to Jewish law, this was an illegal act, and should have signalled the end of the trial altogether. Caiaphas is clearly frustrated, and having failed to find two witnesses who will agree, has to resort to try to get the prisoner to incriminate Himself.
And asked Jesus, saying, Answerest Thou nothing? what is it which these witness against Thee? The Lord Jesus will not appear to endorse false witness by responding to it. When it was a question of His own honour, He would be like a sheep dumb before its shearers, as the prophet had said. Men are here seeking to shear Him of His glory, and He remains silent. When it is a question of the glory of His Father, or the defence of the truth, or the safety of His disciples, He will speak; but not otherwise.
14:61 But He held His peace, and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked Him, and said unto Him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?
But He held His peace, and answered nothing- He will not even explain why He will not answer, such is His determination to remain silent.
Again the high priest asked Him, and said unto Him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? We know from Matthew’s gospel that at this point the High Priest had put the Lord Jesus under oath. We read, “And the high priest answered and said unto Him, I adjure thee by the living God, that Thou tell us whether Thou be the Christ, the Son of God”, Matthew 26:63. He was obliged to answer, therefore, as a godly Jew, for it was a trespass against the law to not answer. The word is, “And if a soul sin, and hear the voice of swearing, and is a witness, whether he hath seen or known of it; if he do not utter it, then he shall bear his iniquity”. By “voice of swearing” is meant “the voice of one who is putting you under oath”.
14:62 And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.
And Jesus said, I am- in Matthew the answer is “Thou hast said”, which is the formula a polite Jew would use when answering a question of a serious nature. Mark tells us what He said in its plain meaning, for the benefit of his Gentile readers. Here is a definite and unmistakable claim to Deity, and because the rulers did not believe His claim, they reckoned it to be blasphemy. It should be noticed that to the learned men of Israel the title “Son of the Blessed” was a title of Deity. The fact that He claimed to be God’s Son did not imply He was in some way less than God. He was claiming to be fully God. The expression “son of” to an Eastern mind would mean “the sharer of the nature of”. So the Lord called James and John “sons of thunder”, meaning they shared the same nature as the thunder did, stormy and angry.
And ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power- notice He reverts now to the title, Son of man, that is relevant to all men, for judgement has been given to Him because He is Son of Man, John 5:22. The priests are being informed that although they sit in judgement on Him then, in a day to come it will be different. And that He will rise from the dead and ascend to the right hand of God, which is the right hand of power, will ensure that this will happen, for as Paul said to the men of Athens, who scoffed at the idea of the resurrection of the dead, (as the Sadducean priests did in Israel), that God “hath appointed a day, in the which He will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom He hath ordained; whereof He hath given assurance unto all men, in that He hath raised Him from the dead”, Acts 17:31.
It seems that those in hell can see those in heaven, although between them there is “a great gulf fixed”, Luke 16:23. So it is that when he died and went to hell, Caaiphas was able to see the one he had condemned, and would realise that He was in the highest place of honour, whilst he himself was in the depths of shame.
And coming in the clouds of heaven- Christ would do more than ascend to heaven, He would descend from thence in power and great glory, and “every eye shall see Him, and they also which pierced Him”, Revelation 1:7. We see now why the Lord said “ye shall see”, for this pronoun is plural. All the unbelievers in the nation, represented that day by Caiaphas, shall see these things. And the nation as a whole shall see, too, as their Messiah comes to reign.
14:63 Then the high priest rent his clothes, and saith, What need we any further witnesses?
Then the high priest rent his clothes- this in itself was an act contrary to the law, for the Scripture says, “And he that is the high priest among his brethren, upon whose head the anointing oil was poured, and that is consecrated to put on the garments, shall not uncover his head, nor rend his clothes”, Leviticus 21:10. Now it is very unlikely that the high priest would be wearing his garments for glory and beauty at this time, for presumably they were worn during his ministrations in the temple. But this rending of clothes does have a metaphorical meaning, for the garments of the high priest had gold wires interwoven in them, and if he had rent those garments he would have broken the gold wires. But those wires signified the glory of Deity, and thus by rending his clothes the high priest renounced the Deity of Christ that had just been affirmed by Christ’s words.
And saith, What need we any further witnesses? By this statement he admitted that the witnesses already brought before him had not produced any evidence of guilt. He had to resort to placing the prisoner on oath to obtain a confession. He also is bringing the proceedings to a swift conclusion, because he thinks he has obtained what he thinks is a confession of guilt.
14:64 Ye have heard the blasphemy: what think ye? And they all condemned Him to be guilty of death.
Ye have heard the blasphemy- Christ had given ample proof of His Deity throughout His ministry, but they were determined not to believe on Him, for that would involve loss of prestige and power. Blasphemy is speech that injures the reputation of another, in this case of God. They believed it was their duty to stone blasphemers to death, and indeed it was, for the law required it in Leviticus 24:15,16, with the words, “And thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel, saying, ‘Whosoever curseth his God shall bear his sin. And he that blasphemeth the name of the Lord, he shall surely be put to death, and all the congregation shall certainly stone him: as well the stranger, as he that is born in the land, when he blasphemeth the name of the Lord, shall be put to death'”. So to speak injuriously of God merited stoning; it stands to reason that to claim, as a man, to be equal with God is the ultimate injury and insult.
What think ye? And they all condemned Him to be guilty of death- Caiaphas cannot make the decision alone, so he now puts the matter to the vote of the Sanhedrin, and by so doing will make them guilty of the conviction of Christ too. As Peter will say just a few weeks later, “I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers”, Acts 3:17. It is interesting to notice in this connection that the only category of person who was to bring a male kid of the goats as a sin offering, was a ruler, Leviticus 4:22-26. And the animal that was slain to atone for the sins of the nation on the Day of Atonement was a male kid of the goats, Leviticus 16:5. Thus there is a link between the rulers and the nation in their sin, (“ye did it, as also your rulers”), and both are provided for in the true sacrifice of Christ for sin which the goat pictured; such is the grace of God.
14:65 And some began to spit on Him, and to cover His face, and to buffet Him, and to say unto Him, Prophesy: and the servants did strike Him with the palms of their hands.
And some began to spit on Him- the soldiers of Pilate, who were Gentiles, did this later on, but we do not expect such behaviour from the officers of the high priest of Israel. The prophet foretold this when he wrote of the Messiah, “I hid not My face from shame and spitting”, Isaiah 50:6. To spit on someone is the ultimate expression of contempt and hatred, and the Lord Jesus did not seek to avoid this expression of the wickedness of men. He endured the cross, for His Father ordained that for Him, but He despised the shame, that which men gratuitously heaped upon Him. Even if a person is guilty, justice does not require that he be insulted. In fact, Jewish law required the utmost respect for a prisoner, and extreme deference was to be shown to him. After all, until condemned, he was to be reckoned innocent.
The Lord Jesus warned His disciples with the words, “Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man shall be accomplished. For He shall be delivered to the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on, and they shall scourge Him, and put Him to death: and the third day He shall rise again”, Luke 18:31-33. And so it came to pass, for we read, “And the soldiers led Him away into the hall, called Praetorium; and they call together the whole band. And they clothed Him with purple, and platted a crown of thorns, and put it about His head, and began to salute Him, ‘Hail, King of the Jews!’ And they smote Him on the head with a reed, and did spit upon Him, and bowing their knees worshipped Him”, Mark 15:16-19. Clearly they are mocking His claim to be King. The robe of imperial purple, the crown, (albeit of thorns), the feeble reed for a sceptre, (but used to smite Him, as if they were the ones with the power), and then the anointing as king- but with their vile spittle. This is humiliation indeed, but through it all there is no murmur of complaint, for “when He was reviled, He reviled not again”, 1 Peter 2:23.
What the Lord did not tell His disciples was that their rulers would spit on Him also. It was one thing for uncouth Gentile soldiers to do this, but it was entirely another thing for members of the Sanhedrin to do so. They were so contemptuous of Him that they allowed themselves to do it, for we read that in the High Priest’s palace with the council present, when the Lord affirmed that He was indeed the Christ, “some began to spit on Him”, Mark 14:65, and Matthew tells us “they spit in His face”, Matthew 26:67. They no doubt felt justified in doing this, for had He not claimed to be the Son of God, and therefore was an apostate and a blasphemer? They had refused the testimony of His forerunner John, of His Father as He spoke from heaven, and His works, see John 5:32-38. It is gratifying to notice that Mark says that “some began to spit on Him”, Mark 14:65, thus allowing us to believe that Joseph of Arimathea did not stoop so low. So the Gentiles spit on Him in mock anointing, but Jews spit in His face in contempt.
And to cover His face, and to buffet Him, and to say unto Him, Prophesy; and the servants did strike Him with the palms of their hands- if He is Messiah, and the Son of God, He ought to be able to tell who is striking Him. Matthew’s account says, “They did 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?” At one and the same time they challenge Him to speak in prophecy, and also smite Him on the face to silence Him. They thus mock His claims further, and needlessly abuse Him.
Luke’s account of the formal session of the Sanhedrin:
Luke 22:66 And as soon as it was day, the elders of the people and the chief priests and the scribes came together, and led Him into their council, saying,
And as soon as it was day- Matthew writes, “When the morning was come”, as if they had been impatiently waiting for the day to dawn, for they could not hold their official meeting before then, or else Pilate might declare it invalid and their cause would fail. Mark says “straitway”, a characteristic word of his, but often in connection with the Lord Jesus and His readiness to do His Father’s will. It is now used of the readiness of the Jewish authorities to do Satan’s will. Luke says “as soon as it was day”, so once the day had begun they set about the task of convicting Him. As the apostle says of sinners, they are “swift to shed blood”, Romans 3:15, and he is probably alluding to Isaiah 59:7 which reads, “Their feet run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood”. They show their haste by holding the council at the earliest possible moment after daybreak. They had already passed sentence in their illegal council, for we read, “And they all condemned Him to be guilty of death”, Mark 14:64, so they had made up their minds already. This further council was simply to confirm officially what they already decided unofficially. Matthew tells us that they “took counsel against Jesus to put Him to death”, so they had only one outcome in mind.
The elders of the people and the chief priests and the scribes came together- Mark tells us it was with the whole council, Mark 15:1. But we are also told that Joseph of Arimathea was a secret disciple, John 19:38, and also that he “had not consented to the counsel and deed of them”, Luke 23:51, so the decision of the council was not unanimous.
And led Him into their council, saying- so brief were the proceedings of this council that Matthew and Mark do not even relate what was said.
22:67 Art thou the Christ? tell us. And He said unto them, If I tell you, ye will not believe:
Art thou the Christ? tell us- something of their impatience is seen in the terse question and command they gave Him. They find, however, that the Lord Jesus will not be rushed, and shows He knows their hearts. It was illegal to try to get a prisoner to bear witness alone, and He has not been put on oath at this session, so He is not obliged to answer them at all. In any case they had had three and a half years in which to ascertain whether He bore the credentials of the Messiah.
One of the features of the Messiah was that He would give sight to the blind and cause the lame to walk, Isaiah 35:5,6, and these were the two classes of people that came to Him in the temple, for we read of Him being in the temple just a few days previous to this “And the blind and lame came to Him in the temple; and He healed them”, Matthew 21:14. They obviously thought that He was the Messiah, for they came to Him; it was not as if they were brought by others. They were not put off by the fact that David hated the blind and the lame, and had banned them from coming into the temple courts, 2 Samuel 5:8. The Lord Jesus had been welcomed into Jerusalem as the Son of David, Matthew 21:9, but they obviously did not think He hated them. So right in the precincts of the temple, the place where the chief priests operated, there had been clear proof just a few days before, that He was the Messiah.
Even though He was not obliged to answer, He did so, and in such a way as to show them that He was indeed the Messiah, for Isaiah had told them that “the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord; and shall make Him of quick understanding in the fear of the Lord: And He shall not judge after the sight of His eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of His ears: But with righteousness shall He judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth”, Isaiah 11:2-4. All these features are in stark contrast to those before whom Christ stood. They lacked wisdom and understanding, they had no fear of the Lord, they judged after the hearing of their ears, listening and believing false witnesses. They had the supremely Poor Man before them, but did not judge Him with righteousness or reprove with equity.
Because He was not on oath, He was not obliged to answer directly, but He did answer indirectly, and in such a manner that they could not gainsay. The best way to achieve conviction in the heart of man, is for that heart to be convinced internally. It is the case with the Scriptures. Once men have approached the Word of God with an unbiased mind and a seeking heart, and are prepared to put aside pre-conceived ideas, then the Spirit of God will use that word to convict them, as they are exposed to its living power. When this happens, the proof lies within the man, and is not imposed on him from without.
So it is with the truth of the Christ-hood of the Lord Jesus. As He speaks to the men who accuse Him, He is skilfully showing that He is indeed the Messiah because He fulfils the criteria Isaiah set out as to His wisdom and understanding. He does this by means of four statements.
And He said unto them, If I tell you, ye will not believe- this is the first statement, which is a prophecy, and shows that He knows their future, that their unbelief is permanent. They knew in their heart of hearts that this was the case, for they were determined not to believe in Him.
22:68 And if I also ask you, ye will not answer Me, nor let Me go.
And if I also ask you, ye will not answer Me- He knew that they knew He was the Messiah, but their hearts were so hard that they would not even respond if He asked them, but would stubbornly refuse to admit it.
Nor let Me go- He knew they were not interested in justice, so even though they knew He was the Messiah, their stubborn refusal to believe would prevent them letting Him go, as one against whom there was no charge. The apostle Paul wrote about God’s wisdom, “which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory”. It is not that if they had known they would have spared Him crucifixion. Rather, if they had known, they would not have crucified Him because they did not wish God’s purpose to be fulfilled, and would seek to frustrate it.
22:69 Hereafter shall the Son of man sit on the right hand of the power of God.
Hereafter shall the Son of man sit on the right hand of the power of God- this is the fourth statement and the fourth prophecy, this time not about them, but about Himself. He told them early on in His ministry that authority to execute judgement has been committed to Him because He is Son of Man, John 5:27. He is relevant to all men, not just to the nation of Israel. As Son of man He has been on earth and given them the opportunity to react to Him at close quarters. He foretells that He will rise to heaven to sit on the right hand of God, the place of the Firstborn, the place of administration, which in this context is the place of justice and judgement.
When standing before Caiaphas previously, the Lord had said, “Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power”, but then added, “and coming in the clouds of heaven”, Matthew 26:64. The point of the latter phrase being that it is a reference to Daniel 7:13, where Daniel writes, “I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of Days”. But when he writes of the coming of the Son of Man he says, “until the Ancient of Days came”, verse 22. This is why on that occasion Caiaphas said, “He hath spoken blasphemy”, for He was claiming a Divine title, and the high priest rejected that claim as blasphemy.
22:70 Then said they all, Art thou then the Son of God? And He said unto them, Ye say that I am.
Then said they all, Art thou then the Son of God? Notice the “then”, for it shows they have drawn a logical conclusion from His statement about sitting on the right hand of the power of God. They have rightly seen in this a claim to Deity.
And He said unto them, Ye say that I am- we should not think of this statement as being a vague one, as if to say, “You can say that is the case if you choose to”. Rather, it is the way a polite Jew would answer in the affirmative, so His reply is a definite “Yes”, but framed in a courteous way.
22:71 And they said, What need we any further witness? for we ourselves have heard of His own mouth.
And they said, What need we any further witness? for we ourselves have heard of His own mouth- this shows that they did not believe He was avoiding their question, but had made a definite statement. The claim to be Son of God on the part of anyone else would indeed be blasphemy, and would merit death by stoning. But this would almost certainly involve the breaking of bones, and Scripture said that “He keepeth all His bones: not one of them is broken”, Psalm 34:20, and to be “Christ our Passover”, the Lamb of God must not have any bones broken. God had foreseen this, and had allowed the Roman authorities to take away from the nation the right to stone to death.
They have achieved their object, and have grounds, in their view, for demanding His death. They can now go to Pilate and affirm that in a solemn, formal assembly of the Sanhedrin, after the break of day, they have judged Him to be worthy of death.