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We move now from Gethsemane and the arrest of Jesus to his trial by those who had already decided he was guilty of death.

How did Jesus respond to false evidence? How did he answer when his core identity was challenged? And what can we learn that will equip us to be more worthy worshipers and faithful disciples? 

The text we will examine is Matthew 26:57-68. As always, I encourage you to read the context and compare what other Gospel accounts relate to this incident (Mark 14:53-65; Luke 22:54-71; John 18:13-24).

Let’s begin by looking at the setting.

The setting

Matthew 26:57-58 introduces us to the scene:

Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled. But Peter followed him at a distance, right up to the courtyard of the high priest. He entered and sat down with the guards to see the outcome.

As we will see in a moment, “the chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin” had gathered. This is a gathering of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Ruling Council composed of 70 or 72 chief priests, scribes or lawyers, and the Elders representing the people, under the presidency of the High Priest, Caiaphas. This Council included Pharisees and Sadducees, whom we have already encountered as opponents of Jesus Christ.

We also observe Peter, who

followed [Jesus] at a distance, right up to the courtyard of the high priest. He entered and sat down with the guards to see the outcome. 

John 18:16 adds:

Peter had to wait outside at the door. The other disciple, who was known to the high priest, came back, spoke to the girl on duty there and brought Peter in.

What did Peter observe while he was inside? We will come back to that question a little later.

False witnesses

Somehow, we should not be surprised by the proceedings. Here is what we read (26:59-61):

The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward. Finally two came forward and declared, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’”  

The Sanhedrin had already determined their verdict against Jesus: death. To give themselves a semblance of legitimacy, they needed some evidence to support their preconceived decision. The so-called evidence included “false evidence” and “many false witnesses,” but even with this bit of orchestrated theatre, they failed. Only one statement taken out of context seemed to come close, which you can read in its context where Jesus speaks of the “temple” of his body and foretells his resurrection (John 2:19-22).

With their flimsy lies, the false witnesses failed to convince even those whose minds were determined to condemn the Lord. Perhaps in frustration, Caiaphas prods Jesus to answer (26:62-63):

Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” But Jesus remained silent. 

It is noteworthy that “Jesus remained silent” throughout these proceedings. He did not seek to defend himself or see the need to respond to the lies. 


Caiaphas changes tactics, introducing a question about Jesus’ self-declared identity. The high priest only asks this question to gain self-incriminating evidence against Jesus (26:63b-64).

The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.”

“Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Jesus’ response conflates or blends two Old Testament Scriptures (and their contexts). The first of these is Psalm 110:1, an enthronement psalm that we encountered in Matthew 22

Of David. A psalm. The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.”

The second is from Daniel 7:13, drawing in Daniel’s vision of “a son of man”: 

“In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence.”

To those with ‘ears to hear’ this is a “blatant claim to divine status” (Wilkins, Matthew, 866). 

Jesus leaves it to his accusers to “connect the dots,” which leads to this conclusion (26:65-68):

Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?”

“He is worthy of death,” they answered. Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him and said, “Prophesy to us, Christ. Who hit you?”

There are no follow-up questions and no due process before they decide on the verdict. Caiaphas speaks for the Sanhedrin, concluding that Jesus’ statement is blasphemy, and he is condemned to death. There does not seem to be a glimmer of doubt or curiosity as to what Jesus means or that he might, truthfully, be “the Christ, the Son of God.”

Under Roman rule, the Sanhedrin no longer had the right to carry out the death penalty, so we will see this matter referred to the Romans on different charges to reach their desired outcome: the death of Jesus. We will examine that incident in the next post.

What can we learn from this?

For those “in Christ,” Jesus’ assertion that he is the One in whom Daniel 7 and Psalm 110 are fulfilled enriches our understanding of those Scriptures and motivates us to worship Him.   

We have also been learning how Jesus engaged in conflict so that we might be better equipped to engage in conflict. 

Earlier, we asked, “What did Peter observe while he was inside?” 

After his three-fold denial of the Lord Jesus (Matthew 26:75):

Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.

I suspect that whatever he saw or heard or was reported to him impacted him greatly and influenced his life, including the letter we know as 1 Peter.

1 Peter speaks much about suffering as a follower of Jesus. The word “suffer” (paschō) in its various forms occurs no fewer than 12 times in this short letter, twice as many times as in any other book in the New Testament (NT). In his commentary on 1 Peter, Peter H. Davids rightly notes that “in the NT suffering is persecution and does not appear to include illness.” 

Let’s examine parts of 1 Peter 2:18-25. The context of this section is Christians who are servants experiencing unjust treatment. I encourage you to read these few verses before we go further. 

Here are five insights into the Lord’s appearance before the Sanhedrin and how we can be better equipped to respond to persecution and unjust suffering. 

1.         Christ as our example

Perhaps the key to this section is 2:21:

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

There are vital aspects of Christ’s suffering that are his, and his alone, aspects that no one can treat as an example. But here, Peter draws our attention to an aspect of Christ’s suffering that can be followed as an example.  

The use of “example” is instructive. Here, the Greek word is hupogrammos— literally, to write under. We can picture children learning to write as they carefully trace or copy (write under) the teacher’s pattern letters. To this, Peter encourages our engagement by saying, “Follow in his steps.”

How do we copy and follow Christ’s example?

2.         Examination and repentance

He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.

Unlike Jesus, who “committed no sin,” we are prone to offending others without cause, either in what we say or how we act. Therefore, if we are accused of wrongdoing, we should pause and consider whether the claim is valid.

One practice I follow is inviting the Lord to examine my life. I often turn Psalm 139:23-24 into a prayer:

Search me, O God, and know my heart; 

    test me and know my anxious thoughts.

See if there is any offensive way in me, 

    and lead me in the way everlasting.

Pause, allowing the Spirit to identify areas in your life that require attention. Then, deal with those matters through repentance, confession, and seeking forgiveness toward God and toward any others against whom you sinned. 

So, first, examine yourself and deal with sin in your life.

In this regard, you might want to work through the popular series “Reclaiming Forgiveness.” 

3.         Responses to verbal abuse 

This is what we read in 2:23a:

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; 

Regarding insults or verbal attacks, “he did not retaliate.” Other translations render this as “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return” (NKJ, NASB, ESV). How “natural” it is to throw out an insult in reply. Jesus did not respond in kind. 

Elsewhere, Peter instructs us about our responses to verbal antagonists, instruction that echoes Jesus’ responses before the Sanhedrin.

First, we noted that Jesus was silent in the face of false witnesses (Matthew 26:63). He did not protest the falsehoods; he simply continued living a righteous and God-honoring life. 

And so, we are to keep (3:16):

a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.

Like Jesus, we can be silent, leaving a righteous life as our response to false words

Second, Jesus was challenged about his core identity when the high priest said, “Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus answered with a declaration of his identity. 

And so, when we are challenged as to our identity in Christ we are (3:15):

to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.

Prayerfully discern when and how to remain silent and when and how to give an answer “for the hope you have … with gentleness and respect.”

4.         Responses to physical abuse

Here is 2:23b:

when he suffered, he made no threats. 

Again, often, our “natural” response is to threaten those who physically abuse us; we might even want to strike back. This will extend the cycle of violence. Jesus did not retaliate or threaten to retaliate.

In this regard, I encourage you to read “How to Love Your Antagonist.” 

For me, and perhaps for you, this is easier said than done— and that is where the next element becomes crucial.

5.         Entrusting ourselves to God

The concluding part of 2:23 is:

Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.

The Lord Jesus wholly trusted his Father to take care of the abuse and deal justly with his opponents. From this perspective, Jesus could see clearly from God’s view. This enabled him to endure the suffering and trust that God will deal with injustice, vindicate him, and make all things right in God’s own time and in God’s way.

Jesus was not a passive victim. He bore suffering with divine purpose for God and others. 

What more can you add? There is much more to learn from these rich texts. For now, I invite your questions and comments. You can contact me using this link.


BACK TO Exploring the Sacred Depths of Gethsemane

Image credit: Caiaphas from the movie “Jesus of Nazareth” (1977)

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