Matthew 26:57
And they that had laid hold on Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled.
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(57) To Caiaphas the high priest.—St. John alone, probably from the special facilities which he possessed as known to the high priest, records the preliminary examination before Annas (John 18:13; John 18:19-24). It was obviously intended to draw from our Lord’s lips something that might serve as the basis of an accusation. Caiaphas, we must remember, had already committed himself to the policy of condemnation (John 11:49-50). The whole history that follows leaves the impression that the plans of the priests had been hastened by the treachery of Judas.

Where the scribes and the elders were assembled.—It was against the rules of Jewish law to hold a session of the Sanhedrin or Council for the trial of capital offences by night. Such an assembly on the night of the Paschal Supper must have been still more at variance with usage, and the fact that it was so held has, indeed, been urged as a proof that the Last Supper was not properly the Passover. The present gathering was therefore an informal one—probably a packed meeting of those who were parties to the plot, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathæa, and probably not a few others, like the young “ruler” of Luke 18:18, not being summoned. When they had gone through their mock trial, and day was dawning (Luke 22:68), they transformed themselves into a formal court, and proceeded to pass judgment.



Matthew 26:57 - Matthew 26:68

John’s Gospel tells us that Jesus was brought before ‘Annas first,’ probably in the same official priestly residence as Caiaphas, his son-in-law, occupied. That preliminary examination brought out nothing to incriminate the prisoner, and was flagrantly illegal, being an attempt to entrap Him into self-accusing statements. It was baffled by Jesus being silent first, and subsequently taking His stand on the undeniable principle that a charge must be sustained by evidence, not based on self-accusation. Annas, having made nothing of this strange criminal, ‘sent Him bound unto Caiaphas.’

A meeting of the Sanhedrin had been hastily summoned in the dead of night, which was itself an illegality. Now Jesus stands before the poor shadow of a judicial tribunal, which, though it was all that Rome had left a conquered people, was still entitled to sit in judgment on Him. Strange inversion, and awful position for these formalists! And with sad persistence of bitter prejudice they proceeded to try the prisoner, all unaware that it was themselves, not Him, that they were trying.

They began wrongly, and betrayed their animus at once. They were sitting there to inquire whether Jesus was guilty or no; they had made up their minds beforehand that He was, and their effort now was but to manufacture some thin veil of legality for a judicial murder. So they ‘sought false witness, . . . that they might put Him to death.’ Matthew simply says that no evidence sufficient for the purpose was forthcoming; Mark adds that the weak point, was that the lies contradicted each other. Christ’s presence has a strange, solemn power of unmasking our falsehoods, both of thought and deed, and it is hard to speak evil of Him before His face. If His calumniators were confused when He stood as Prisoner, what will they be when He sits as a Judge?

Only Matthew and Mark tell us of the two witnesses whose twisted version of the word about ‘destroying the Temple and rebuilding it in three days’ seemed to Caiaphas serious enough to require an answer. Their mistake was one which might have been made in good faith, but none the less was their travesty ‘false witness.’ Their version of His great word shows how easily the teaching of a lofty soul, passed through the popular brain, is degraded, and made to mean the opposite of what he had meant by it. For the destruction of the Temple had appeared in the saying as the Jews’ work, and Jesus had presented Himself in it as the Restorer, not the Destroyer, of the Temple and of all that it symbolised. We destroy, He rebuilds. The murder of Jesus was the suicide of the nation. Caiaphas and his council were even now pulling down the Temple. And that murder was the destruction, so far as men could effect it, of the true ‘Temple of His body,’ in which the fulness of the Godhead dwelt, and which was more gloriously reconstituted in the Resurrection. The risen Christ rears the true temple on earth, for through Him the Holy Ghost dwells in His Church, which is collectively ‘the Temple,’ and in all believing spirits, which are individually ‘the temples’ of God. So the false witnesses distorted into a lie a great truth.

The Incarnate Word was dumb all the while. He ‘was still and refrained’ Himself. It was the silence of the King before a lawless tribunal of rebels, of patient meekness, ‘as a sheep before her shearers’; of innocence that will not stoop to defend itself from groundless accusations; of infinite pity and forbearing love, which sees that it cannot win, but will not smite. Jesus is still silent, but one day, ‘with the breath of His lips shall He slay the wicked.’ Caiaphas seems to have been annoyed as well as surprised at Jesus’ silence, for there is a trace of irritation, as at ‘contempt of court,’ in his words. But our Lord’s continued silence appears to have somewhat awed him, and the dawning consciousness of his dignity is, perhaps, the reason for the high priest’s casting aside all the foolery of false witnessing, and coming at last to the real point,- the Messianic claims of Jesus.

Caiaphas was doing his duty as high priest in inquiring into such claims, but he was somewhat late in the day, and he had made up his mind before he inquired. What he wished to get was a plain assertion on which the death sentence could be pronounced. Jesus knew this, and yet He answered. But Luke tells us that He first scathingly pointed to the unreality and animus of the question by saying, ‘If I tell you, ye will not believe.’ But yet it was fitting that He should solemnly, before the supreme court, representative of the nation, declare that He was the Messiah, and that, if He was to be rejected and condemned, it should be on the ground of that declaration. Before Caiaphas He claimed to be Messiah, before Pilate He claimed to be King. Each rejected Him in the character that appealed to them most. The many-sidedness of the perfect Revealer of God brings Him to each soul in the aspect that most loudly addresses each. Therefore the love in the appeal and the guilt in its rejection are the greater.

But Christ’s self-attestation to the council was not limited to the mere claim to the name of Messiah. It disclosed the implications of that name in a way altogether unlike the conceptions held by Caiaphas. When Caiaphas put in apposition ‘the Christ’ and ‘the Son of God,’ he was not speaking from the ordinary Jewish point of view, but from some knowledge, of Christ’s teaching, and there are two charges combined into one.

But Jesus’ answer, while plainly claiming to be the Messiah, expands itself in regard to the claim to be ‘Son of God,’ and shows its tremendous significance. It involves participation in divine authority and omnipotence. It involves a future coming to be the Judge of His judges. It declares that these blind scribes and elders will see Him thus exalted, and it asserts that all this is to begin then and there {‘henceforth’}, as if that hour of humiliation was to His consciousness the beginning of His manifestation as Lord, or, as John has it, ‘the hour that the Son of Man should be glorified.’ Nor must we leave out of sight the fact that it is ‘the Son of Man’ of whom all this is said, for thereby are indicated the raising of His perfect humanity to participation in Deity, and the possibility that His brethren, too, may sit where He sits. Much was veiled in the answer to the council, much is veiled to us. But this remains,-that Jesus, at that supreme moment, when He was bound to leave no misunderstandings, made the plainest claim to divinity, and could have saved His life if He had not done so. Either Caiaphas, in his ostentatious horror of such impiety, was right in calling Christ’s words blasphemy, and not far wrong in inferring that Jesus was not fit to live, or He is the everlasting ‘Son of the Father,’ and will ‘come to be our Judge.’

Matthew 26:57-58. And they led him away to Caiaphas — From Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas, to whom they had carried him first; where the scribes and the elders — Or chief members of the sanhedrim; were assembled — Doubtless by a summons from Caiaphas, and were waiting for Jesus to be brought before them. But Peter followed him afar off — Variously agitated by conflicting passions: love constrained him to follow his Master; fear made him follow him afar off. Unto the high-priest’s palace — Or, the court of the high-priest’s house, as Campbell translates it. From Matthew 26:69, as well as from what we are told in the other gospels, it is evident that Peter was only in the court without, which, though enclosed on all sides, was open above, nor was it any wise extraordinary to kindle a fire in such a place. And went in and sat with the servants Των υπηρετων, rather, with the officers, the servants of the public, or official servants of those in authority, as the word commonly means. These were unfit companions for Peter, as the event showed.

26:57-68 Jesus was hurried into Jerusalem. It looks ill, and bodes worse, when those who are willing to be Christ's disciples, are not willing to be known to be so. Here began Peter's denying him: for to follow Christ afar off, is to begin to go back from him. It is more our concern to prepare for the end, whatever it may be, than curiously to ask what the end will be. The event is God's, but the duty is ours. Now the Scriptures were fulfilled, which said, False witnesses are risen up against me. Christ was accused, that we might not be condemned; and if at any time we suffer thus, let us remember we cannot expect to fare better than our Master. When Christ was made sin for us, he was silent, and left it to his blood to speak. Hitherto Jesus had seldom professed expressly to be the Christ, the Son of God; the tenor of his doctrine spoke it, and his miracles proved it; but now he would not omit to make an open confession of it. It would have looked like declining his sufferings. He thus confessed, as an example and encouragement to his followers, to confess him before men, whatever hazard they ran. Disdain, cruel mocking, and abhorrence, are the sure portion of the disciple as they were of the Master, from such as would buffet and deride the Lord of glory. These things were exactly foretold in the fiftieth chapter of Isaiah. Let us confess Christ's name, and bear the reproach, and he will confess us before his Father's throne.The trial of our Lord before the council, and the denial of Peter happening at the same time, might be related one before the other, according to the evangelists' pleasure.

Accordingly, Matthew and Mark relate the "trial" first, and Peter's denial afterward; Luke mentions the denial first, and John has probably observed the natural order. The parallel places are recorded in Mark 14:53-72; Luke 22:54-71; and John 18:13-27.

To Caiaphas - John says that they led him first to Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas. This was done, probably as a mark of respect, he having been high priest, and perhaps distinguished for prudence, and capable of "advising" his son-in-law in a difficult case. The Saviour was "detained" there. probably, until the chief priests and elders were assembled.

The high priest - Note, Matthew 26:3. John says he was high priest for that year. Annas had been high priest some years before. In the time of our Saviour the office was frequently changed by the civil ruler. This Caiaphas had prophesied that it was expedient that one should die for the people. See the notes at John 11:49-50.

The scribes and elders - The men composing the great council of the nation, or Sanhedrin, Matthew 5:22. It is not probable that they could be immediately assembled, and some part of the transaction respecting the denial of Peter probably took place while they were collecting.

Mt 26:57-75. Jesus Arraigned before the Sanhedrim Condemned to Die, and Shamefully Entreated—The Denial of Peter. ( = Mr 14:53-72; Lu 22:54-71; Joh 18:13-18, 24-27).

For the exposition, see on [1366]Mr 14:53-72.

Mark saith, Mark 14:53, They led Jesus away to the high priest: and with him were assembled all the chief priests, and the elders, and the scribes. Luke saith no more but, Then took they him, and led him, and brought him into the high priest’s house, Luke 22:54. John saith, John 18:12,13 Then the band, and the captain, and the officers of the Jews, took Jesus, and bound him, and led him away to Annas first; for he was father-in-law to Caiaphas, which was the high priest that same year. All things were now out of order in the Jewish church. Regularly, their high priests were to be such as derived from the eldest son of Aaron, and were to hold in their place for life; but they were now chosen annually, and their conquerors ruled the choice as they pleased. Yet some think, that in this the Jews kept something of their ancient form, and the high priest was chosen regularly of the house of Aaron and for life; but the Romans when they listed turned him out, and sold the place to another; and such a one was Caiaphas, who was at that time high priest, son-in-law to Annas. Their carrying of Christ first to Annas’s house, was no more than to stay there a while till Caiaphas, and the council, which was appointed to meet that morning at the house of Caiaphas, could assemble.

And they that had laid hold on Jesus,.... Who were the band, and the captain, and the officers of the Jews, as John 18:12, or as the Jews themselves say (q), the elders of Jerusalem; who not only laid fast hold on him, but bound him; and that both for greater security of him, some of them perhaps knowing how he had made his escape from them formerly; or at least taking the hint from Judas, to hold him fast, and lead him away safely; and by way of reproach and contempt, thereby showing that he was a malefactor, and had done some crime worthy of bonds; and having him thus in fast and safe custody, they

led him away to Caiaphas, the high priest; who was high priest that year; for the priesthood was frequently changed in those times, and men were put into it by the Roman governor, through favour or bribery. The year before this, Simeon, or Simon ben Camhith, was high priest; and the year before that, Eleazar, the son of Ananus; and before him, Ishmael ben Phabi, who were all three, successively, made high priests by the Roman governor: as was also this Caiaphas, this year; and who by Josephus (r), and in the Talmud (s) likewise, is called Joseph. From whence he had his name Caiaphas, is not certain: Jerom (t) says, it signifies "a searcher", or "a sagacious person"; but may be better interpreted, he adds, "one that vomits at the mouth"; deriving the word, as I suppose, from "to vomit", and "the mouth"; See Gill on Matthew 26:3. It was to the house, or palace of this man, the high priest, that Jesus was led,

where the Scribes and elders were assembled: a council was held about a week before this, in which Caiaphas assisted, and then gave counsel to the Jews, that it was expedient, that one man should die for the people, John 11:47, whether that was held at his house, or elsewhere, is not certain, very probably it might; however, it is clear from Matthew 26:2, that two days ago, the chief priests, Scribes, and elders, were assembled together in his palace, to consult about putting Jesus to death; and here they were again met together on the same account, waiting to have him brought before them,

(q) Toldos Jesu, p. 16, 17. (r) Antiq. l. 18. c. 14. (s) T. Bab. Yoma, fol. 47. 1.((t) De Heb. nominibus, fol, 104. Colossians 4. Tom. 3.

{16} And they that had laid hold on Jesus led him away to {a} Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled.

(16) Christ being innocent is condemned by the high Priest for that wickedness of which we are guilty.

(a) From Annas to Caiaphas, before whom the multitude was assembled; Joh 18:13.

Matthew 26:57 f. The Synoptists make no mention of the judicial examination before Annas (John 18:13); their narrative is for this reason incomplete, though it does not exclude such examination (Luke 22:66). As for the trial before the members of the Sanhedrim, which took place at the house of Caiaphas, John merely alludes to it, Matthew 18:24, where, however, ἀπέστειλεν is not to be taken as a pluperfect.

ἀπὸ μακρόθεν] a well-known pleonasm: in later Greek the ἀπό is dropped. Lobeck, ad Phryn. p. 93. Bengel appropriately observes: “medius inter animositatem Matthew 26:51 et timorem Matthew 26:70.”

τῆς αὐλῆς] not the palace but the court, as in Matthew 26:3.

εἰσελθὼν ἔσω] see Lobeck, ad Aj. 741; Paralip. p. 538.

τὸ τέλος] exitum rei; 3Ma 3:14, common in classical writers. Luther renders admirably: “wo es hinaus wollte” (what the upshot would be).

Matthew 26:57-68. Before Caiaphas (Mark 14:53-65; Luke 22:54; Luke 22:66-71).—πρὸς Καιάφαν, to Caiaphas, who sent them forth, and who expects their return with their victim.—ὄπου, where, i.e., in the palace of Caiaphas.—γρ. καὶ πρ.: scribes and presbyters, priests and presbyters in Matthew 26:3. Mk. names all the three; doubtless true to the fact.—συνήχθησαν, were assembled, waiting for the arrival of the party sent out to arrest Jesus. In Mk. the coming together of the Sanhedrim appears to be synchronous with the arrival of Jesus. This meeting happens when the world is asleep, and when judicial iniquity can be perpetrated quietly.

57–68. Jesus is brought before Caiaphas. The first and informal Meeting of the Sanhedrin

St Mark 14:53-65; St Luke 22:54; Luke 22:63-65St Luke reports this first irregular trial with less detail than the other synoptists, but gives the account of the second formal sitting at greater length.

It is not clear whether the private examination, related by St John 18:19-23, was conducted by Annas or Caiaphas. Probably Jesus was first taken to Annas, whose great influence (he was still high priest in the eyes of the people) would make it necessary to have his sanction for the subsequent measures. The examination, narrated John 18:19-23, according to this view, was by Annas; “had sent,” Matthew 26:24, should be translated “sent.”

The subjoined order of events is certainly not free from difficulties, but is the most probable solution of the question:

(1)  From the garden Gethsemane Jesus was taken to Annas; thence, after brief questioning (St John 18:19-23),

(2)  To Caiaphas, in another part of the Sacerdotal palace, where some members of the Sanhedrin had hastily met, and the first irregular trial of Jesus took place at night; Matthew 26:57-68; Mark 14:52-65; Luke 22:54 and Luke 22:63-65.

(3)  Early in the morning a second and formal trial was held by the Sanhedrin. This is related by St Luke ch. Luke 22:66-71; and is mentioned by St Matthew ch. Matthew 27:1; and in St Mark 15:1.

(4)  The trial before Pontius Pilate, consisting of two parts: (a) a preliminary examination (for which there is a technical legal phrase in St Luke 23:14); (b) a final trial and sentence to death.

(5)  The remission to Herod, recorded by St Luke only, Matthew 23:7-11; between the two Roman trials, (a) and (b).

The question is sometimes asked, Was the trial of Jesus fair and legal according to the rules of Jewish law? The answer must be that the proceedings against Jesus violated both (1) the spirit, and (2) the express rules of Hebrew jurisdiction, the general tendency of which was to extreme clemency.

(1) The Talmud states: “the Sanhedrin is to save, not to destroy life.” No man could be condemned in his absence, or without a majority of two to one; the penalty for procuring false witnesses was death; the condemned was not to be executed on the day of his trial. This clemency was violated in the trial of Jesus Christ.

(2) But even the ordinary legal rules were disregarded in the following particulars: (a) The examination by Annas without witnesses. (b) The trial by night. (c) The sentence on the first day of trial. (d) The trial of a capital charge on the day before the Sabbath. (e) The suborning of witnesses. (f) The direct interrogation by the High Priest.

Verses 57-68. - Jesus before Caiaphas, informally condemned to death. (Mark 14:53-65; Luke 22:54, 63-65; John 18:24.) Verse 57. - Led him away to Caiaphas. The synoptists omit all mention of the preliminary inquiry before Annas (John 18:13, 19-24). His palace was nearest to the place of capture, and the soldiers appear to have received orders to conduct the Prisoner thither, Annas having vast influence with the Romans, and being the principal mover in the matter. What passed before him is not recorded, none of the disciples being present at the examination. The synoptists take up the account when Jesus was sent bound to Caiaphas, who St. John (John 18:14) notes was the one who for political reasons had urged the judicial murder of Jesus. Where (i.e. in whose house) the scribes and the elders were assembled. This seems to have been an informal meeting of the leading Sanhedrists, hastily convened, not in their usual place of meeting, but in a chamber of Caiaphas's palace. Some years before this time the right of pronouncing capital sentences had been removed from the council; and hence the necessity of assembling in the hall Gazith (where only such sentences could be delivered) existed no longer. Matthew 26:57
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