“Annas then sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.” (John 18:24)
Following Annas’ interrogation of Jesus, he sent Him to the then current high priest, Caiaphas who was also Annas’ son-in-law. Whereupon, the second trial against Jesus was held.
John does not tell us much about Jesus’ appearance before Caiaphas. Therefore, we will seek insight from the other three gospels to see what occurred during this second trial.
Matthew 26:57-68 says, “Then those who had seized Jesus led him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders had gathered. And Peter was following him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and going inside he sat with the guards to see the end. Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward and said, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days.’ ” And the high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your judgment?” They answered, “He deserves death.” Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him, saying, and “Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?”
Mark 14:53-65 says, “And they led Jesus to the high priest. And all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together. And Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. And he was sitting with the guards and warming himself at the fire. Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but they found none. For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree. And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying, “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’ ” Yet even about this their testimony did not agree. And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need? You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death. And some began to spit on him and to cover his face and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophesy!” And the guards received him with blows.”
Luke 22:54-55, 63-65 says, “Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house, and Peter was following at a distance. And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them. Now the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking him as they beat him. They also blindfolded him and kept asking him, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?” And they said many other things against him, blaspheming him.”
Let’s take the time today to compare the preceding accounts of Jesus’ trial before Caiaphas.
First, immediately following Jesus’ appearance before Annas, those who had seized Jesus in Gethsemane and led Him to Annas, now take Him to Caiaphas. (See John 18:1-3).
Second, Matthew and Mark both mention that the elders and scribes were also in attendance. In other words, members of the Sanhedrin were in attendance. One commentator explains that, “The full Sanhedrin normally met in their special meeting hall in the temple, the Chamber of Hewn Stone. In this case, many members of the Sanhedrin hold a secret night meeting without advance notice in the high priest’s home, though they are investigating what they will claim is a capital offense.”
Dr. John MacArthur adds, “The great Sanhedrin was the Supreme Court of Israel, consisting of 71 members, presided over by the high priest. They met daily in the temple to hold court, except on the Sabbath and other holy days. Technically, they did not have the power to administer capital punishment (John 18:31), but in the case of Stephen, for example, this was no deterrent to his stoning (cf. Acts 6:12–14; 7:58–60).
Third, all three synoptic gospels mention Peter following at a distance. This is a precursor to the tragic denials which were to come from the fisherman’s lips.
Fourth, both Matthew and Mark indicate that Caiaphas and the whole Sanhedrin council were seeking testimony to put Jesus to death. They were not interested in truth but rather in carrying out their preconceived and premeditated agenda. (See John 5:18). In spite of their best efforts, and those of false witnesses, no agreement could be reached and no testimony proved valid.
Fifth, Jesus remained silent.
Sixth, Caiaphas asked Jesus to acknowledge whether He indeed was the Christ, the son of God? Jesus answered that He was and that they would see “the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” This is a clear reference to the prophecy of Daniel 7.
Seventh, upon hearing Jesus’ response Caiaphas tore his priestly robes. Dr. MacArthur explains that, “Normally this was an expression of deep grief (2 Kings 19:1; Job 1:20; Jer. 36:24). The high priest was forbidden to tear his clothes (Lev. 10:6; 21:10)—but the Talmud made an exception for high priests who witnessed a blasphemy. But Caiaphas’s supposed grief was as phony as the charge of blasphemy against Jesus; he was gloating over having found something to base his charges on (Matt. 26:67).”
Eighth, they condemn Jesus to death. This verdict is then immediately followed by their spiting, mocking, beating and blaspheming Jesus. The irony is that those who falsely accused Jesus of being guilty of blasphemy are now truly guilty of the same sin by blaspheming the Son of God.
Dr. R.C. Sproul comments that, “The most violent expression of God’s wrath and justice is seen in the cross. If ever a person had room to complain for injustice, it was Jesus. He was the only innocent man ever to be punished by God.”
May God’s truth and grace reside here.
Soli deo Gloria!