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Had indeed the Saviour's reply to the high priest's question been disrespectful, those who heard were bound in duty to report it, and to bear witness of it if required ; but nothing could make the conduct of the officer lawful, since the law of the Jews was careful to preserve the prisoner from all violence. If on the other hand He had spoken well, so that He could not be properly accused of a fault,-if there was nothing of which those who stood by could bear witness against Him, what possible reason could they give for striking Him ?
Following the account of the gospel of St. John, we see that Jesus immediately upon His seizure, was led to the house of Annas; that He was followed unto it by Peter and the “other disciple,” which expression John always used when speaking of himself, (in a very different spirit from those who are always putting their own names forward delighting to tell what they said and did,) and therefore it was probably in the court of this Palace that Peter was tempted to deny his Lord. St. John interrupts the history of his fellow-apostle's shame just before the last denial, by telling us,
Verse 24. “Now Annas had sent him (Jesus) bound, unto Caiaphas the high priest."
Perhaps therefore it was as the Lord was brought out through the court, that He, as the cock crew, turned "and looked upon Peter.” His thoughts were not upon His own sufferings, nor upon the injustice done Him, they were fixed upon the great work these sufferings were to accomplish ; and with one expressive look He overthrew Satan's power in the heart of His apostle, and called him back to that simple childlike trust in Him, which is the source of all true courage, to that “
perfect love which casteth out fear.” Must not the Saviour's words have returned to Peter's mind, Simon, Simon, Satan hath desired to have thee, that he might sift thee as wheat, but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not;" as self-condemned he went
out and wept bitterly. Well for him it was, that thus before the dawn of that dreadful day in which he was to see his Lord nailed upon the cross, he had been taught at once his weakness and his strength. O Jesus, blessed Lord, when our faith is failing, turn Thou and look on us.
The scene of our Saviour's sufferings is now changed to the Palace of Caiaphas.
We shall see how Caiaphas and the Chief Priests who had beforehand determined to put him to death (if they could but get Him into their power,) though they were obliged to go through the form of a trial, acted throughout entirely contrary to their own law. The Law of the Jews in criminal cases was somewhat like our own. The prisoner could not be condemned without several witnesses, He could not be questioned against Himself, He was forbidden to accuse Himself, His judge could not be His
every means for his defence; and where there was any difference from our laws, it was only more strongly still in favor of the prisoner. Every thing that could be done was done to the last moment to prevent the sentence of death being passed, unless his guilt was entirely without the possibility of doubt. When it seemed so clear that reasonable men could not deny it, and the votes were given against him, even then sentence was not allowed to be passed till the third day, that time might be given for further deliberation.*
* It is interesting to compare the mock trial of Jesus, hurried on with such unseemly cruelty as it was, with the solemn and merciful proceedings which were according to the laws of the Jewish nation. The following account is extracted from a work on 'The Administration of Justice among the Jews,' by M. Salvador, a modern Jew of great talent. On the appointed day the Officers of Justice brought the accused person to the place of trial before the Council of the Sanhedrim. At the feet of the Elders were men called Auditors, who followed regularly the proceedings of the court. The papers were read and the wit. nesses were called in succession. The President thus spoke to each of them: —' It is not conjecture, or whatever public rumour has brought to thee, that we ask of thee. Consider, that a great responsibility rests upon thee; that this is not a case, like those of money or worldly advantage, in which, if injury
All this must be known and understood, that we may better judge of the conduct of Caiaphas, and all the others who were concerned in the trial of the Lord Jesus before the Jewish council. This is what is written :
LUKE xxii. 66. " And as soon as it was day, the elders of the people and the chief priests and the scribes came together, and led him into their council."
MARK xiv. 55–59. “And the chief priests and all the council sought for witness against Jesus to put him to death; and found none. For many bare false witness against him,
is done, it may be repaired. If thou causest the condemnation of a person unjustly doomed, his blood, and the blood of all the children he might have had, of which thou hast deprived the earth, will fall upon thee. God will demand of thee an account, as He demanded of Cain an account of the blood of Abel. Speak.- A man's confession against himself could not cause his condemnation. The Doctors say, 'we hold it fundamental that no one shall prejudice himself. If a man accuses himself before the Council, we must not believe him, unless the fact is attested by two other witnesses.'
The witnesses had to prove that the prisoner really was the person accused of the crime for which he was tried. They had also to prove the day, hour, and circumstances of the crime. After a strict examination of the proofs, those judges who believed the prisoner's innocence stati d their reasons; those who believed him guilty spoke afterwards, and with the greatest moderation. of those Auditors who had followed the examination wished to speak in favour of the prisoner, he was listened to with attention; but this favor was not granted if his opinion was for condemning. Lastly, when the accused himself spoke, they gave him the most profound attention. When the discussion was ended, one of the judges summed up the case. All the spectators were removed, two Scribes took down the votes of the judges; one noting down those for, the other those against the accused. Eleven votes out of twenty-three were enough to acquit, but it required thirteen to convict. If any of the judges stated that they were not sufficiently informed, then two more Elders were added, if need be, two more, and so on to the number of sixty-two, which formed the Grand Council. If the accused was acquitted, he was immediately set free. If condemned, sentence could not be passed till the third day. During the intervening day, the Judges were obliged to occupy themselves with the cause, they abstained from eating freely, from wine, liquors, and from whatever could render their minds less capable of reflection (for to take a man's life was justly considered a matter of solemn importance, and of heavy responsibility). On the morning of the third day they returned to the judgment-seat. Each Judge who had not changed his opinion, said, 'I continue of the same opinion and condemn.' Any one who had at first condemned, might at this sitting ac. quit ; but any one who had once acquitted, was not allowed to condemn. If the greater number of the votes were against the prisoner thus condemned, he was immediately conducted to the place of execution by two magistrates. The Elders did not descend from their seats; they placed at the entrance of the judgment-hall, an officer of justice, with a flag in his hand. A second officer on horseback followed the prisoner, and constantly kept looking back. During this time if any new evidence appeared in favor of the prisoner, the first officer waved his flag; and the second, the moment he saw it, stopped the procession and brought back the prisoner : or, if the prisoner declared to the two magistrates who were with him, that he recollected some reasons in his defence, they would bring him back before the judge no less than five times. If no such incident occurred, the procession advanced slowly to the place of execution, preceded by a herald, who proclaimed aloud, -'This man (stating his name and sirname) is led to punishment for such a crime. The witnesses who have sworn against him, are such and such persons; if any one has evidence to give in his favor, let him come forth quickly. It was in consequence of this rule, that the young Daniel (the prophet) turned back the procession that was leading Susannah to death ; and he himself ascended the seat of justice, to put some new questions to the witnesses. At some distance from the place of punishment, the prisoner is at last urged to make confession of his crime. He was then made to drink a stupifying draught, in order that the pains of death might be less terrible.
but their witness agreed not together. And there arose certain, and bare false witness against him, saying, We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands. But neither so did their witness agree together.”
Evidently those pretended witnesses must have been provided before-hand, otherwise they could not have been forthcoming on a sudden call in the dead of night.
It is probable that their witness did not agree, because some one or other of them reported the Saviour's words, in the manner related by St. Matthew_"I am able to destroy the Temple of God, and to build it in three days."
This account is taken from the work of M. Dupin, Advocate and Doctor of Laws of Paris, upon M. Salvador's chapter, entitled “ The Trial and Condemnation of Jesus,” in his History of the Institutions of Moses, and of the Hebrew people.
There is a great difference in the two accounts : for the one (supposing Jesus to have spoken of the Temple,) states only the greatness of his power; that if it be destroyed by them, he was able, if he chose, to build it up again in three days. The other says—“I will destroy this Temple : ” words that might easily be made into an accusation of treason against the nation. But both were false witnesses, because it was false that Jesus spake of the Temple at all. He had only employed it to express in a figure his body, of which the Temple, (though the Jews knew it not,) was the sign. Many had heard Him; but their answer, “Forty-and-six years was this Temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days,” plainly shows that they had not considered the saying as a threat against the Temple--but as an idle boast of power. No man could be condemned for words like these. Other matter of accusation must be found against Him. So blameless had been the life of Jesus; so pure and holy His words; that of the thousands who had daily watched Him; none could bring aught but this against Him. Then did this judge in defiance of the law, determine from his own lips to seek His condemnation. First, he puts Him on His own defence.
Verse 60, 61. "And the high priest stood up in the midst, and asked Jesus, saying, Answerest thou nothing ? what is it which these witness against thee? But he held his peace, and answered nothing."
Jesus gives a reason for His silence to the High Priest's questions :
LUKE xxii. 67, 68. "If I tell yoy, ye will not believe : and, if I also ask you, ye will not answer me, nor let me go.”
It was useless for Him to attempt to justify Hintself. They had determined to condemn Him; therefore, they would neither