Sabbath, March 25, 2017
“The mock trial of Christ shows how base the priesthood had become. The priests hired people to testify under oath to falsehood, that Jesus might be condemned. But on this occasion, truth came to the help of Christ…. Thus it was shown that the testimonies borne against Him were false, that the witnesses had been hired by men who cherished in their hearts the basest elements of corruption. It was God’s design that the men who delivered Jesus should hear the testimony of His innocence. ‘I find no fault in Him,’ Pilate declared. And Judas, throwing at the feet of the priests the money he had received for betraying Christ, bore testimony, ‘I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood.’ ” –Christ Triumphant, p. 269.
The first trial
1. What did the high priest Annas ask Jesus in an attempt to find a reason to prosecute and condemn Him? Having never done anything in secret, what did Jesus reply?
John 18:19-21 The high priest then asked Jesus of his disciples, and of his doctrine. 20Jesus 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. 21Why askest thou me? ask them which heard me, what I have said unto them: behold, they know what I said.
“Christ read the priest’s purpose as an open book. As if reading the inmost soul of His questioner, He denied that there was between Him and His followers any secret bond of union, or that He gathered them secretly and in the darkness to conceal His designs. He had no secrets in regard to His purposes or doctrines….
“The Saviour contrasted His own manner of work with the methods of His accusers. For months they had hunted Him, striving to entrap Him and bring Him before a secret tribunal, where they might obtain by perjury what it was impossible to gain by fair means. Now they were carrying out their purpose. The midnight seizure by a mob, the mockery and abuse before He was condemned, or even accused, was their manner of work, not His. Their action was in violation of the law. Their own rules declared that every man should be treated as innocent until proved guilty. By their own rules the priests stood condemned.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 699.
2. How did an officer react when Jesus answered the high priest? How did Jesus let him know that his action was improper?
John 18:22, 23 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? 23Jesus answered him, If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil: but if well, why smitest thou me?
“Christ suffered keenly under abuse and insult. At the hands of the beings whom He had created, and for whom He was making an infinite sacrifice, He received every indignity. And He suffered in proportion to the perfection of His holiness and His hatred of sin. His trial by men who acted as fiends was to Him a perpetual sacrifice. To be surrounded by human beings under the control of Satan was revolting to Him….
“… They expected Him [the Messiah], by one flash of overmastering will, to change the current of men’s thoughts, and force from them an acknowledgment of His supremacy. Thus, they believed, He was to secure His own exaltation, and gratify their ambitious hopes. Thus when Christ was treated with contempt, there came to Him a strong temptation to manifest His divine character. By a word, by a look, He could compel His persecutors to confess that He was Lord above kings and rulers, priests and temple. But it was His difficult task to keep to the position He had chosen as one with humanity.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 700.
3. Where was Jesus taken to be judged? What interest did the chief priests, elders, and council have in these proceedings?
Matthew 26:57, 59 And they that had laid hold on Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled…. 59Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death.
“When the council had assembled in the judgment hall, Caiaphas took his seat as presiding officer. On either side were the judges, and those specially interested in the trial. The Roman soldiers were stationed on the platform below the throne. At the foot of the throne stood Jesus. Upon Him the gaze of the whole multitude was fixed. The excitement was intense. Of all the throng He alone was calm and serene. The very atmosphere surrounding Him seemed pervaded by a holy influence.
“Caiaphas had regarded Jesus as his rival. The eagerness of the people to hear the Saviour, and their apparent readiness to accept His teachings, had aroused the bitter jealousy of the high priest. But as Caiaphas now looked upon the prisoner, he was struck with admiration for His noble and dignified bearing. A conviction came over him that this Man was akin to God.” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 703, 704.
4. How did these men attempt to achieve their goals? Did they correctly understand Jesus’ words and motives?
Matthew 26:60, 61 But found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At the last came two false witnesses, 61And said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days.
Mark 14:57, 58 And there arose certain, and bare false witness against him, saying, 58We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.
“Early in His ministry Christ had said, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’ In the figurative language of prophecy, He had thus foretold His own death and resurrection. ‘He spake of the temple of His body.’ John 2:19, 21. These words the Jews had understood in a literal sense, as referring to the temple at Jerusalem. Of all that Christ had said, the priests could find nothing to use against Him save this. By misstating these words they hoped to gain an advantage…. Thus Christ’s words were misstated. If they had been reported exactly as He spoke them, they would not have secured His condemnation even by the Sanhedrin. Had Jesus been a mere man, as the Jews claimed, His declaration would only have indicated an unreasonable, boastful spirit, but could not have been construed into blasphemy. Even as misrepresented by the false witnesses, His words contained nothing which would be regarded by the Romans as a crime worthy of death.” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 705, 706.
He was silent
5. Did Jesus attempt to refute the allegations in self-defense? What question of the high priest did Jesus answer, and why?
Matthew 26:62, 63 And the high priest arose, and said unto him, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee? 63But Jesus held his peace. 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.
“Patiently Jesus listened to the conflicting testimonies. No word did He utter in self-defense. At last His accusers were entangled, confused, and maddened. The trial was making no headway; it seemed that their plottings were to fail. Caiaphas was desperate. One last resort remained; Christ must be forced to condemn Himself. The high priest started from the judgment seat, his face contorted with passion, his voice and demeanor plainly indicating that were it in his power he would strike down the prisoner before him. ‘Answerest Thou nothing?’ he exclaimed; ‘what is it which these witness against Thee?’…
“To this appeal Christ could not remain silent. There was a time to be silent, and a time to speak. He had not spoken until directly questioned. He knew that to answer now would make His death certain. But the appeal was made by the highest acknowledged authority of the nation, and in the name of the Most High…. He must plainly declare His character and mission.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 706.
Condemning the Innocent One
6. When Jesus told the truth, how did Caiaphas react? As what did he consider the Lord’s answer?
Matthew 26:64, 65 Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. 65Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy.
“In these words Christ presented the reverse of the scene then taking place. He, the Lord of life and glory, would be seated at God’s right hand. He would be the judge of all the earth, and from His decision there could be no appeal. Then every secret thing would be set in the light of God’s countenance, and judgment be passed upon every man according to his deeds….
“The words of Christ startled the high priest. The thought that there was to be a resurrection of the dead, when all would stand at the bar of God, to be rewarded according to their works, was a thought of terror to Caiaphas…. There rushed before his mind as a panorama the scenes of the final judgment. For a moment he saw the fearful spectacle of the graves giving up their dead, with the secrets he had hoped were forever hidden. For a moment he felt as if standing before the eternal Judge, whose eye, which sees all things, was reading his soul, bringing to light mysteries supposed to be hidden with the dead.” –The Desire of Ages, pp. 707, 708.
7. What sentence was pronounced after Jesus spoke? How was He treated and judged?
Luke 22:64 And when they had blindfolded him, they struck him on the face, and asked him, saying, Prophesy, who is it that smote thee?
Matthew 26:66-68 What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death. 67Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands, 68Saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee?
“The Sanhedrin had pronounced Jesus worthy of death; but it was contrary to the Jewish law to try a prisoner by night. In legal condemnation nothing could be done except in the light of day and before a full session of the council. Notwithstanding this, the Saviour was now treated as a condemned criminal, and given up to be abused by the lowest and vilest of humankind. The palace of the high priest surrounded an open court in which the soldiers and the multitude had gathered. Through this court, Jesus was taken to the guardroom, on every side meeting with mockery of His claim to be the Son of God…. The ignorant rabble had seen the cruelty with which He was treated before the council, and from this they took license to manifest all the satanic elements of their nature. Christ’s very nobility and godlike bearing goaded them to madness. His meekness, His innocence, His majestic patience, filled them with hatred born of Satan. Mercy and justice were trampled upon. Never was criminal treated in so inhuman a manner as was the Son of God.” –The Desire of Ages, p. 710.
- Were the chief priests, scribes, and elders trying to determine the truth or accomplish their own purposes through the judgment process?
- Considering how the Jewish leaders treated Jesus and what they wanted to achieve, how could Jesus stay calm and quiet?
- In critical moments, how will we be able to control ourselves and be at peace, as He was?
- When our consciences are clear and we are confident that we have done no wrong, how will we feel when we must appear before the authorities for the Lord’s sake?
For additional study
“It was difficult for the angels to endure the sight. They would have delivered Jesus, but the commanding angels forbade them, saying that it was a great ransom which was to be paid for man; but it would be complete and would cause the death of him who had the power of death. Jesus knew that angels were witnessing the scene of His humiliation. The weakest angel could have caused that mocking throng to fall powerless and could have delivered Jesus. He knew that if He should desire it of His Father, angels would instantly release Him. But it was necessary that He should suffer the violence of wicked men, in order to carry out the plan of salvation.” –Early Writings, p. 170.