Summary: As we come to the last part of Matthew 26, we will see that those intent on trying Jesus were filled with prejudice because their minds were made up before they heard all the facts.
I get a kick out of hearing things that have actually been said in courtrooms.
Q: Mrs. Jones, is your appearance this morning pursuant to a deposition notice which I sent to your attorney?
A: No. This is how I dress when I go to work.
Q: Could you see him from where you were standing?
A: I could see his head.
Q: And where was his head?
A: Just above his shoulders.
Q: You say the stairs went down to the basement?
Q: And these stairs, did they go up also?
And, a judge, trying to prepare a jury for a trial, said this: “Now, as we begin, I must ask you to banish all present information and prejudice from your minds…if you have any.”
As we come to the last part of Matthew 26, we will see that those intent on trying Jesus were filled with prejudice because their minds were made up before they heard all the facts. Last week we focused on the prayer of Jesus and learned that the Garden of Gethsemane was a place of support, sorrow, solitude, struggle, submission, and finally, strength.
It’s important to keep in mind that Jesus actually had six different trials. Three of them were ecclesiastical, or religious; and three were civil. We’ll look at the religious trials today and the others next week.
1. Examination by Annas. We read in John 18:12-14 that Jesus was bound and led first to Annas. By the way, the Passion movie shows that Jesus is secured with chains as he is led away, and I think that’s probably right. However, Gibson takes some creative liberty when Jesus is pushed off the bridge and dangles in front of remorseful Judas.
In the gospels we read about two individuals who are given the title high priest – Annas and Caiaphas. According to the Old Testament, the high priesthood was a life office, but the Romans had given this role to Caiaphas, even though many still looked to Annas, who was older and very influential. He was like the “godfather” of the temple establishment, and everyone knew that cases had to be cleared with him first. Annas was high priest de jure, but Caiaphas was so de facto. Annas ruled until 15 A.D. Caiaphas was a son-in-law to Annas, and was also powerful and extremely ruthless. He did everything possible to remain on the good side of the Romans so he could remain in power and served until he was deposed in 37 A.D.
There are at least four reasons why Jesus was taken to Annas first.
The leaders respected him and wanted his blessing on their actions.
They were hoping Annas could find some incriminating evidence against Jesus.
He lived close to the Garden of Gethsemane.
During this preliminary trial, the Roman guards were dismissed so the religious leaders could do what they wanted to with Jesus.
In John 18:19-24, we discover that Annas interrogated Jesus. According to Jewish law, it was illegal for the accused to stand before just one judge and be directly questioned. When Jesus answered him, one of the officials smacked Him in the face. Jesus replied, “If I said something wrong, testify as to what is wrong. But if I spoke the truth, why did you strike me?” Jesus is then sent by Annas in the darkness to Caiaphas for round two.
2. Caiaphas holds court. This is more of a caucus or a committee, because the entire court was not convened to charge Christ, but just a few leaders who were woken up in the middle of the night. Matthew 26:57: “Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled.”
3. The Sanhedrin sentences the Savior to death. The decision to murder the Messiah is formalized in Matthew 27:1: “Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people came to the decision to put Jesus to death.” Because the religious leaders did not have the right to take someone’s life, they then hand Jesus over to the Roman authorities.
5. Jesus has a hearing with Herod. Herod, who was in Jerusalem for the Passover feast, was curious about Christ and asked Him a bunch of questions. This is only recorded in Luke 23:6-12.
6. Jesus is sentenced to death by Pilate. This is spelled out in Matthew 27:26-31.
Christ Before Caiaphas
If you have your Bibles, please follow along as I read Matthew 26:57-68: “Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled. But Peter followed him at a distance, right up to the courtyard of the high priest. He entered and sat down with the guards to see the outcome. The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward. Finally two came forward and declared, ‘This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’