The Life of Christ in the Synoptic Gospels
THE ARREST AND TRIAL OF JESUS
Golden Text: “As a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and as a sheep that before its shearers is dumb, so He opened not His mouth.” (Is. 53:7)
1. Scene I - The Arrest of Jesus (v 50)
2. Scene II - Peter’s Brave but Rash Defense of Jesus (vs 51-55)
3. Scene III - The Flight of the Disciples (vs 56, 58)
4. Scene IV - The Trial before Annas (v 57; Jn. 18:12-24)
5. Scene V - The Trial before Caiaphas (Matt. 26:59-66)
6. Scene VI - The Mockeries of Jesus (vs 67, 68)
7. Scene VII - The Formal Vote (Mk. 15:1)
Time: Early in the morning of Friday, April 7, A.D. 30, between 1 and 6 o’clock A.M.
Place: Gethsemane and Jerusalem. In the place of Caiaphas, the High Priest, in the southwest section of the city
Research and Discussion: The scenes at the arrest. Why was Peter’s attempted defense a rash and unwise act? The two distinct trials. Was the Jewish trial illegal? What made plausible the accusation of the two witnesses? On what count was Jesus condemned to death? What was the purpose of the mockery?
Introduction: This lesson begins with Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Therefore, if you are a teacher preparing a lesson for your class, please review previous Lessons regarding the Garden of Gethsemane, prior to teaching this lesson, hopefully avoiding over-emphasizing similar material. Having traced, in our last lesson, the course of Judas from his betrayal to his death, we now return to the scene in Gethsemane. Again the story of our lesson is made clearer and more real if presented in a series of scenes.
Scripture Reading: Matthew 26:50; John 18:4-9
1. Scene I - The Arrest of Jesus
After the traitor’s kiss, Judas stepped back to permit the officers to arrest Jesus.
Below verses are from the 18th Chapter of the Gospel of John:
v 4 ... "Jesus, therefore, knowing all the things that should come upon Him, went forth, and saith unto them, Whom seek ye?"
v 5 ... “They answered Him, Jesus of Nazareth.”
v 5 ... “Jesus saith unto them, I am He."
v 5 ... “And Judas also, which betrayed Him, stood with them.” Showing that he fell backward to the ground with the others, no doubt conscious-stricken and afraid.
v 6 ... “As soon then as He had said unto them, I am He, they went backward, and fell to the ground.” The fearless Roman soldiers and the Jewish leaders staggered back and fell to the ground, before the presence of the holy innocence that had been communing with God. Perhaps with hearts conscious of guilt, they remembered that they were in the presence of One who had power over life, death and demons. Perhaps they thought that His courage grew out of that conscious power, and His intention to use it.
Illustration: In the presence of a lesser power, “the savage and brutal Gauls could not lift their swords to strike the majestic senators of Rome. ‘I cannot slay Marius,’ exclaimed the barbarian slave, flinging down his sword and flying headlong from the prison into which he had been sent to murder the aged hero” (Joseph Cook). It was the power of righteousness over conscious wrong. “The earthly look, other things being equal, quails before the solar look.”
v 7 ... “Then asked He them again, Whom seek ye?” 18:7 ... “And they said, Jesus of Nazareth.”
v 8 ... “Jesus answered, I have told you that I am He: if there ye seek Me, let these go their way:”
v 9 ... “That the saying might be fulfilled, which he spake, Of them which thou gavest Me have I lost none.” Quoted from Jesus’ prayer two or three hours before.
The disciples were looking on this scene, and it showed them that Jesus surrendered Himself willingly to God’s plan and not to man’s power, and thus strengthened their faith in Him. It drew attention away from the disciples to Himself. It was necessary for His mission that His disciples should live, and that He should die. It proved His unselfish love and care for them. It is beautiful to note here and all through the trial, the answer to the Gethsemane prayer. There are no marks of the intense agony of that scene which caused great drops of bloody sweat to fall to the ground. During all the rest of His sufferings He was calm and peaceful, at rest in the will of God.
Scripture Reading: Matthew 26:51-55; Luke 22:50-53
2. Scene II - Peter’s Brave but Rash Defense of Jesus
Alone and single-handedly, the brave Peter immediately drew his sword and defied the whole Roman and Jewish powers. In his impetuous, loving, courageous way, he began to show that he would live up to his promise to die for Jesus before deserting Him. Attacking the nearest one, who may have been officious in the taking of Jesus, a servant of the high priest, Malchus by name, Peter struck wildly and no doubt missing his mark cut off merely the ear of his enemy. Jesus immediately stopped him, and remedied the evil done by healing the bleeding ear of Malchus, showing by this act that He was not responsible.
In the 26th Chapter, Matthew points out that turning to Peter, Jesus says:
v 52 ... “Put up again thy sword into his place: for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.”
v 53 ... “Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and He shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?”
v 54 ... “But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?” “The cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it?” (Jn. 18:11). Then turning to “The chief priests, and captains of the temple, and the elders, which were come to Him,”
In the 22nd Chapter of Luke, Jesus said:
v 52 ... “Be ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and staves?”
v 53 ... “When I was daily with you in the temple, ye stretched forth no hands against me: but this is your hour, and the power of darkness.” Do you imagine that I am a brigand Chieftain leading a band against Rome? Look at My life among you. That answers this slander. Note: Peter’s course was the very worst thing he could do to help his Master. It put Jesus and His disciples in the attitude of rebels against the Roman government, causing Pilate to be unable to pronounce Him innocent, giving color to the Pharisees’ charges that Jesus was an enemy of Caesar, a rebel against the Roman government. Peter could not overthrow the Roman power. Of course Peter and the disciples would be arrested as rebels and slain. His act was contrary to the fundamental principles of Jesus who was the Prince of Peace. His method was to overcome evil with good. Conquering an unbeliever by force can never make him a believer or change his heart. Christianity conquered the Roman Empire, but by converting the people to Christ. Then again Peter’s course would have removed the very foundation power of Christ’s kingdom, by removing the atoning sacrifice of love on the cross. To go down into history as slain in a midnight brawl together with His disciples would have made it impossible for Him to have stood before the ages as the loving Son of God giving His life freely on the cross to redeem mankind from sin and all its brood of evils.
Scripture Reading: Matthew 26:56-58; John 18:15
3. Scene III - The Flight of the Disciples
In the 26th Chapter, Matthew writes:
v 56 ... “Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled.” When captured, Jesus requested His captors to let His followers go their way. “This He did not merely out of compassion for the, but as the Captain of salvation making the best terms for Himself and for the interests of His kingdom; for it was not less necessary to these that the disciples should live than that He Himself should die” (Bruce, ‘Training of the Twelve’). Jesus died so there would be a Gospel to preach, and the disciples must live so that there would be men to preach the Gospel, hence Jesus made a way of escape for them. And yet one wonders if Jesus felt a pang because they went so readily after asserting they would die with Him rather than flee. Without a doubt, Jesus could have found some other way of escape for them, as they discovered many times in the years that followed. Two of His nearest and best, Peter and John, after fleeing with the others, repented and turned back and the Bible says Peter ...
v 58 ... “Followed Him afar off,” as we so often do – far off from His spirit, far off from His example, far off from living according to His principles, far off from His ideals of social service for man, and of devotion to His Cause and Kingdom.
Scripture Reading: Matthew 26:57; John 18:12-24
4. Scene IV - The Trial before Annas
Introduction to Scenes IV, V, VI: The Trials before the Jewish Authorities (Matt. 26:57-68; Jn. 18:12-27) – There were two trials, one ecclesiastical, before the Sanhedrin, in Caiaphas’ palace; and the other civil, before Pilate the Roman governor in the Roman Pretorium. In each trial there were three stages. In this ecclesiastical trial, the stages were (a) before Annas, (b) before Caiaphas and an informal gathering of the Sanhedrin, and (c) before a regular meeting of the Sanhedrin.
From the 18th Chapter of the Gospel of John:
v 13 ... “And led Him away to Annas first.” “an open courtyard enclosed on three side by low houses of stone. On the right is the dwelling-place of Annas; on the left that of his son-in-law Caiaphas, the high priest. A wall separates the courtyard from the street in front. The court, paved with stone, is filled with a noisy and restless crowd. The place is full of excitement” (Dr. C.T. Brady, ‘Gethsemane and After’). According to John, Jesus was taken first to Annas, an old man of 70 years, formerly high priest, a man of great influence, ambitious and arrogant, a dominating spirit, and virtually at the head of ecclesiastical affairs, though his son-in-law Caiaphas was the nominal high priest.
Annas “then asked Jesus of His disciples, and of His doctrine” (v 19). In his book, ‘Gethsemane and After,’ Dr. Brady describes the scene somewhat after this manner: “Annas, ‘Who were they that last Sabbath hailed thee as King of Israel?’ Jesus, Answers not. Annas (to Caiaphas), ‘Yet once again will I try.’ Annas (To Jesus), ‘I perceive that for a long time thou hast troubled Israel with strange doctrines. What is it thou dost teach?’ Jesus, ‘I spake openly to the world; I ever taught in synagogues, and in the temple, where all the Jews come together’ (v 20). Annas, ‘But what is the secret purpose of thy life?’ Jesus, ‘In secret spake I nothing’ (v 20). Annas, ‘What is it that thou hast taught then that they call thee King of Israel?’ Jesus: ‘Why askest thou Me? Ask them that have heard Me, what I spake unto them: behold, these know the things which I said’ (v 21). One of the Officers (seeing that Annas is angry, steps close to Jesus and strikes Him violently on the face with his open hand, exclaiming): ‘Answerest thou the high priest so?’ (v 22) Jesus: ‘If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why smitest thou Me?’ (v 23) Annas, ‘We will have Him before the Sanhedrin.’ Caiaphas, ‘Summon the Council. Take the Nazarene to my house across the court.’”
Scripture Reading: Matthew 26:59-66
5. Scene V - The Trial before Caiaphas
The informal meeting of the Sanhedrin: This trial was in the hall of Caiaphas’ palace which opened into the same courtyard, dimly lighted, for it was night, where were gathered the noisy multitude around the brazier of coals, and among them Peter and John. One wonders if perchance Judas Iscariot might have been present, off somewhere in an obscure corner within the hall as many of the members of the Sanhedrin gathered. “The priests were there, whose greed and selfishness He had reproved; the elders, whose hypocrisy He had branded; the scribes, whose ignorance He had exposed; and, worse than all, the worldly, skeptical Sadducees, the most cruel and dangerous of opponents, whose empty sapience He had confuted” (Farrar).
Their purpose was to obtain “false witness against Jesus that they might put Him to death” (v 59). They did not desire to know the truth. In their search for false witnesses they failed, for “the council sought for witness against Jesus to put Him to death; and found none. For many bear false witness against Him, but their witness agreed not together” (Mk. 14:55, 56). From the opposition of the rulers to Jesus as described in the Gospels, it is easy to gather the false charges. They charged that He: Worked on the Sabbath day; mingled with lepers; was a blasphemer; scored the Pharisees as hypocrites; defied the traditions of the elders; violated the Law of Moses; was a wine-bibber and glutton; made friends with publicans and sinners; gave tribute to Caesar; and many similar things. They could have found true witnesses but they did not want them. They only wanted those who would prove Him guilty of offenses against the law. And there could be no true witnesses with such testimony. But if they had been seeking the truth, what an array of witnesses they could have found. Besides His followers, there were multitudes who could have spoken about His teachings. There were: Companies of the healed lame; The seeing blind; Cleansed lepers; Demoniacs made right; Sick raised; The living Dead; The sad comforted; The redeemed; Ignorant minds enlightened; and Restored wanderers. It is still the same in the 21st Century. Many refuse to look at the many, strong and true witnesses for the Gospel.
Jesus Under Oath: “And the high priest said unto Him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou are the Christ, Son of God” (v 63). In other words, “Do you really mean to say that You, poor, humble, helpless prisoner, are the expected King Messiah?” Silence is now impossible because it would be taken as a denial of His Messiahship. The high priest has now given Jesus the opportunity of proclaiming His Gospel in presence of the council and He will not lose it, though it seal His condemnation. He cannot deny Himself. If they kill Him now, they will be killing their Messiah.
Jesus answers: “Thou hast said [or ‘I am’]” (v 64). “Speech is silvern, silence is golden.” But when keeping silent is treason to truth and the cause, then “speech is gold, and silence is death.” Before this He had revealed this truth to His disciples, who were forbidden to make it known publicly. But now the time had come to proclaim it to the world. Christ is challenged to declare Himself by the highest authority in religion, the Supreme Council of the nation. For the first time Jesus declares publicly that He whom they are determined to condemn to death is the Messiah.
v 64 ... “Nevertheless.” Rather, “Nay, more: I have something more startling to tell you” (Expositors Greek Testament). In spite of your unbelief, your scorn, your feeling that such a thing is impossible, that a poor peasant preacher could be the Messiah.
v 64 ... “Hereafter,” (‘henceforth’) beginning from this time and on forever. Christ’s glorification began as soon as their proceedings against Him were finished, and in such a way as to make the Jewish people see His power.
v 64 ... “Shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of Power,” God’s power. You seem to be in authority now, but hereafter you will be in My power as the Messiah, the Son of God. Now you are the judgment seat; then I will be your Judge, and you will be the criminal, answering for what you are doing this day. “By this reference to well-known prophecy respecting the Messiah (Dan. 7:13, 14), Jesus made His claim as bold and plain as words could make it. This answer means, ‘I am the Messiah, and you shall see me acting as the predicted founder of the everlasting kingdom’” (W.N. Clarke).
v 64 ... “And coming in the clouds of heaven” as directed in His prediction of the judgment in Matthew 24:30. They could kill Him, but they could not prevent His resurrection and ascension. They could destroy His body, but not the Son of God.
Jesus Sentenced to Death On the Charge of Blasphemy: “Then the high priest rent his clothes” (v 65), his priestly robe, as an expression of deep emotion, as if shocked immeasurably by this “blasphemy,” in astonishment at the infinite distance between the man and His claims. In the Expositors Greek Testament, Bruce thinks the rending of His garment was “in reality a theatrical action demanded by custom.”
v 65 ... “He hath spoken blasphemy [treason against God and the commonwealth of Israel, therefore] what further need have we of witnesses? ye have heard the blasphemy.” If what Jesus said had not been true, then it would have been blasphemy, even insanity.
The Question Was Then Put To Vote: “What think ye?” (v 66) The vote was unanimously – save possibly Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathaea, if they refused to vote – “He is guilty of death,” of a crime that demands death as its fitting punishment. This was their sentence. But having formulated the charge, and for the sentence to be passed according to their legal forms, they had to adjourn till a regular meeting could be held after sunrise. The denials of Peter (vs 69-75) occurred in the courtyard during these scenes.
Scripture Reading: Matthew 26:67, 68
6. Scene VI - The Mockeries of Jesus
Between the trial and the legal session of the Sanhedrin at sunrise in the Court of Caiaphas’ Palace, by the guard and even members of the Sanhedrin, as implied by both Matthew and Mark (Rev. Com.).
v 67 ... “They spit in His face ... smote Him with the palms of their hands.” A blow on the cheek or ear with the flat of the hand, especially if accompanied with spitting, is the highest of insults. People of the East rarely strike with the fist. The fist is often shaken in anger before the face of an offender, but the blow is usually always with the open hand. No less than five forms of beating are referred to by the evangelist in describing this pathetic scene.
v 68 ... “Prophesy unto us,” since You claim to be prophet.
Scripture Reading: Matthew 27:1; Mark 15:1; Luke 22:66-71
7. Scene VII - The Formal Vote
At Sunrise in the Council Chamber of the Sanhedrin: This was the legal session, and the previous vote was ratified. Then Jesus was taken to Pilate’s court for his approval and endorsement. It might impress our mental image of this scene if it is repeated in dialogue form again condensed from C.T. Brady’s book, “Gethsemane and After.” The council chamber in the house of Caiaphas, lighted with olive oil lamps, filled with noise and confusion. In one corner stands John. One again wonders if perchance Judas might be over in another obscure corner, hiding. Peter is in the adjoining court. Caiaphas (lifting his hand), “Silence!” Nicodemus (deferentially), “Are we summoned to try this Nazarene?” Caiaphas, “Thou sayest.” Nicodemus, “Is it lawful to meet for such a purpose at night?” Caiaphas, “Art thou also a Galilean?” (Nicodemus subsides). Caiaphas, “We are here to try this man for blasphemy.” Joseph of Arimathaea, “Who brings this charge?” Caiaphas (in a flame of passion), “Do you too follow the Man of Galilee?” Voices, “A trial! Judgment!” Caiaphas, “This man is accused of disturbing the peace; and He blasphemes the God of our Fathers.” Joseph of Arimathaea (amid jeering and execrations), “Where are the witnesses?” Caiaphas, “Summon the witnesses.” [The Witnesses repeat all sorts of distorted rumors.]Nicodemus, “Would you convict a man on such evidence as this?” Scribe, “Here are two witnesses who agree. One heard this man say, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days.’ The other heard Him say, ‘I will destroy, and will build another made without hands.’ Caiaphas (to Joseph and Nicodemus), “Art thou satisfied now?” Caiaphas (to Jesus), “Dost Thou hear? Answerest Thou nothing?” Voices, “Let Him speak. Come. Declare!” Caiaphas, “Speak. I adjure Thee by the living God that Thou tell us whether Thou be the Christ the Son of God.” Jesus, “Thou sayest. I am.” (Once again the crowd bursts into tumult, while Caiaphas stands as one petrified with astonishment and horror) Jesus, “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.” Caiaphas (springing to his feet, catches the priestly robe about his neck and with one sweep of his powerful arms tears it from seam to seam, and throws it aside), “He hath spoken blasphemy.” Voices, “Ay, blasphemy.” Caiaphas, “Ye have heard His blasphemy; what think ye?” The Sanhedrin, “Death! He is guilty of Death!”
Jesus is led away to the guard room. He passes Peter who has just denied Him, and looks upon Him. Cock crowing is heard from a neighboring roof. Peter turns away, plunging down the dark street. Passing by the guard room, he hears from within the noise of hideous outbursts of bitter mockery. Oaths and jeers mingled with sounds of blows on quivering flesh. Pandemonium has broken loose. Within the guard room, whose windows face the street, horror-struck, heart-broken women see Jesus, blindfolded, tied to a pillar, beaten, buffeted, spat upon, the sport and play of the ribald guard and the lawless mob.