AUDIO RECORDING OF THIS LESSON
The best way to study this passage is to compare it with the companion passages in the other gospels. That way, you get the whole picture of just what went on in the beginning of the trial of Jesus. The companion passages are Mk 14:53-65; Lk 22:54, 63-65, 67-69; and Jn 18:12-15, 19-24.
After Jesus was arrested, he was first taken to Annas the high priest, who was father-in-law to Caiaphas. Caiaphas was the one in Jn 11:50, after the resurrection of Lazarus, who said it was expedient for Jesus to die rather than for them to lose their place and nation to the Romans. Annas asked him of his disciples and of his doctrine but Jesus told him that if he wanted to know those things, he should ask the disciples whom he taught openly.
When he arrived at Caiaphas, the stage was already set to accuse him of blasphemy; it was just a matter of how they were going to make the accusation. They tried false witnesses first and then they resorted to using Jesus’ own testimony against him. Here’s how the trial unfolded.
False Witnesses – verses 59-61
According to the law, the Jews needed at least two witnesses who could agree in order to find Jesus guilty [Deut 17:6-7, 19:15; Heb 10:28]. They found many false witnesses, “yet they found none” who could agree. At the last they found two whose testimonies were close, but not close enough to condemn Jesus. One said, “This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days,” [Matt 26:61]. The other said, “I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands,” [Mark 14:58]. What Jesus really said is found in Jn 2:19-21.
Getting false witnesses to testify against an innocent man is a very typical way to conduct a trial for the Jews. They did it against Naboth [1 Ki 21:9-10] and they did it against Stephen [Acts 6:13]. They obeyed the law when it came to finding a sufficient number of witnesses, but they disobeyed the law when it came to applying the punishment to false witnesses. False witnesses were to get the same punishment as the defendant if they were found to be false witnesses [Deut 19:16-29]. All of these witnesses against Jesus should have been put to death.
Jesus’ Testimony – verses 62-64
In Jesus’ answers during his own testimony, he never defended himself. He wouldn’t according to Is 53:7. He didn’t according to 1 Pet 2:22-23.
So, Caiaphas asked him directly, “whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus answered plainly, “I am,” [Mk 14:62]; “Thou hast said,” [Matt 26:64]; he also said something else in Lk 22:67-68, “If I tell you, ye will not believe: And if I also ask you, ye will not answer me, nor let me go.” This was a real rebuke because Jesus answered his question truthfully.
Then Jesus said, “Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” These are two separate sightings. The first one will be in Rev 6:14-17, right before the Second Advent and the second one will be in Rev 1:7 at the Second Coming. The reason he said these things was to prove that they would fail to destroy him by killing him and that the next time they saw him they wouldn’t be so cocky.
The Accusation and Verdict – verses 65-66
They found Jesus guilty of blasphemy which carried the death penalty [Lev 24:16]. Of course, the Jews were famous at coming up with this indictment of innocent men they wanted dead, just like they did with Naboth and Stephen. Jesus had already stated way before this trial that he was the Son of God [Jn 10:36-38]. Oddly, he proved by the scriptures, by his works, and by the Father that he was indeed the Son of God [Jn 5:32-39]. They never did prove that he wasn’t.
The Mockery – verses 67-68
The witnesses smote Jesus, probably justifying themselves with Deut 17:7. They spit on him and fulfilled Is 50:6. When they said “Prophesy unto us,” they were mocking him because they had blindfolded him [Lk 22:64; Mk 14:65].