15.03.11 Lk. 22:66-71; Mt. 27:1 Daybreak, third trial: final Jewish ratification.
THIRD TRIAL: SANHEDRIN CONDEMNS JESUS
Lk. 66a When daylight came, the elders of the people, both the chief priests and the scribes Mt. 1b convened, plotted against Jesus to put Him to death, Lk. 66b and brought Him before their Sanhedrin. 67 They said, “If You are the Messiah, tell us.”
But He said to them, “If I do tell you, you will not believe. 68 And if I ask you, you will not answer. 69 But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the Power of God.”
70 They all asked, “Are You, then, the Son of God?”
And He said to them, “You say that I am.”
71 “Why do we need any more testimony,” they said, “since we’ve heard it ourselves from His mouth?”
Before the sun was about to rise, they led Jesus into the temple complex, and into the Hall of Hewn Stone which was the Sanhedrin council chamber. The Jews desperately desired to convict Jesus of any charge that would carry the death sentence. Therefore, they asked, “If You are the Messiah, tell us.” Jesus responded with the most obscure answer – nothing that resembled a confession – “If I do tell you, you will not believe.” Some scholars have said this as an affirmative and rhetorical response which the Sanhedrin immediately seized as a confession, especially since Jesus did not deny it.
A brief historical review at this point should aid in understanding the events. When Herod the Great secured power in 37 B.C., one of his first acts was to kill all the members of the Sanhedrin who had previously opposed him. Consequently, future members of the high court were obviously not inclined to rule against their dictator. After Herod’s death, his wicked son Herod Archelaus ruled Jerusalem and not only abused his power, but also manipulated the Sanhedrin. So by the end of his reign (A.D. 6), the legal powers of the court were greatly weakened by Rome, so that capital punishment could only be carried out if approved by the Roman ruler (i.e. Pilate). Annas and Caiaphas were agents of the Roman puppet-king but had no capital punishment authority. Caiaphas and his court did nothing other than to ratify the decision of Caiaphas. Those who might have disagreed would certainly not have come to the defense of Jesus.
15.03.11.Q1 What did Jesus say that caused the Sanhedrin to condemn Him?
This interesting question has stirred much discussion over the years. The first conclusion might be that He was found guilty of claiming to be the Christ, the “Anointed One,” the Son of God (Mt. 26:63). That seems to be an iron clad answer, except that a century later Simon bar Kokhba also declared himself to be the messiah (a political-messiah), with no charge of blasphemy. In fact, many followed him to their deaths by Roman swords in A.D. 135, which raises a number of questions.
- Did their attitude regarding the messiah change in the interim?
- Did Simon bar Kokhba claim messiahship without deity? That would have made him popular with the Jews who had difficulty with the words and deeds of Jesus.
- Did the words of Jesus about sitting at the right hand of God offend the Sadducees, in addition to His claim to be the Christ?
- Did the “I am” statement of Mark 14:62 offend them since it was reflective of the voice of God in Exodus 3:14?
- Was it because of the right He claimed to forgive sins? This was paramount to blasphemy.
By definition, the word “blasphemy” in the Oral Law technically was only the speaking of the sacred name “YHWH.” When the Sadducees pronounced Jesus guilty of blasphemy, they used a broader definition that was in common use at the time. Consequently, they broke their own laws in order to execute Him, but that did not matter. Clearly, while Matthew 26:63 is an integral part of the condemnation, it is not the complete story. The condemnation was the result of Jesus revealing His deity.
15.03.11.Q2 Were all members of the Sanhedrin in favor of Jesus’ death?
Absolutely not! The high court consisted of 70 members plus Caiaphas, but only twenty-three were needed for a capital case and the high priest/president. Caiaphas carefully selected the voting members and many Sadducees probably owed him political favors. He may have known that Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus appeared interested in Jesus, which would have been a good reason not to have them present. Furthermore, Gamaliel, who in Acts 5:38b-39 was concerned that the actions of Peter and John might be of God, would not have approved of the illegal trial of Jesus. Clearly, any members of the high court who showed any signs of accepting Jesus as the Messiah would not have been invited to the trials. In fact, some of them eventually became followers of Jesus. Finally, at this point a brief but important summary is in order. There is an irony of two points to be considered:
- Jesus provided the testimonial information that led to His conviction, and ultimately, His death. He even supplied information that false witnesses could not provide.
- The Sanhedrin attempted to hold a trial that would convict Jesus and negate His claim of Divine authority. The court’s intent was so passionate, that no one realized in reality it was the court and the Jewish nation that was on trial and it was Jesus who would be their judge. In fact, Jesus publically declared this: that He is the Christ, that He is the Son of God and that He possesses the judgment authority of the Son of Man.
Caiaphas and his evil band within the Sanhedrin carefully plotted and executed Jesus in the best and most efficient way possible. Yet God knew this would happen from the foundations of the earth and allowed the sacrifice of His Son to open the door of salvation for all humanity.
. The name “Chamber of Hewn Stone” was derived from the square pavement stones – the only chamber in the temple with such fine smooth floor. Lightfoot, A Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica. 3:431.
. http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/13178-sanhedrin Retrieved February 22, 2014; Lightfoot, A Commentary on the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica. 3:30-31.
. Mishnah, Sanhedrin 7:5.
. The Sanhedrin consisted of 24 chief priests who were Sadducees, 24 elders who were Pharisees, 22 scribes who were Pharisees, and Caiaphas, who was a Sadducee and president of the court; Fruchtenbaum, The Jewish Foundation of the Life of Messiah: Instructor’s Manual. Class 24, page 6.