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believe Him if He denied, nor suffer any answer to be made to any question of His, that would disprove the evidence against Him.
Caiaphas makes haste to lead the minds of those who sat with him in judgment, away from the contradictory evidence of the witnesses. The Sanhedrim was expressly obliged by the law, to examine into the pretensions of any one who laid claim to be a prophet, or the Messiah, and to punish all false pretenders with death; but they could not allow the trial of Jesus to take such a turn as this. They were too well read in the Scriptures not to fear the effects of comparing His life, (as they were bound to do) with the picture of the Messiah, which the prophets had given. They could not deny that in Him, many of the prophecies were fulfilled. His miracles had been too wonderful, and too public, to make it possible for them to prove that He was not the Messiah ; and time only could show, whether the solemn prophecies He had uttered, were true or false. Time they were resolved not to give. It was His immediate death they sought, and this might be brought about by bringing home to Him the charge of direct blasphemy against God-a crime always punished by death—for He had declared Himself to be the Son of God. In their impatient malice, they sought no witnesses to prove this, though many such might surely have been found even among themselves. *
Matthew xxvi. 63. “And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, (that is, I call upon thee on oath, in the name of God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God."
Jesus thus adjured in the name of His Father, the living God, to declare whether He were indeed His Son, answered,
MARK xiv. 62. “ And saith unto him : I am." O Jesus, holy and adored! We bless Thee for this plain
avowal of the eternal truth. We fall at Thy feet, and worship Thee. For our sakes, a prisoner and bound; yet the Son of the living God. The day shall come when all shall acknowledge Thee; and surely even in that dreadful hour, when Thou the judge of the quick and dead, didst submit Thyself to stand before the judgment-seat of Thine own creatures, surely there were some in whose hearts that solemn “I am” thrilled with conscious awe.
Of those who stood around Jesus, were there none who gazed upon Him with awful fear as they heard his words ?
Verse 62. “ And ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.”
A prisoner and bound, He declares His true character—the Lord of Heaven—and claims His power : “Ye shall see” it. Did not the solemn earnestness of His words awake within them a fear that He might be speaking truly ?
O Christ, how dreadful is that state, when men are so far advanced in sin, that they think they must go on: when they are as deaf even to Thy warning voice, and will not know, that if not their Redeemer, Thou art their Judge !
Even in the depth of their sin, these rulers of the people might have caught the ray from heaven which showed them the awful truth, and revealed to them the Saviour ; but madly they closed their eyes, and rushed on ruin.
They caught at His words indeed, but only to make them serve their evil purpose.
Then said they all—“Art Thou the Son of God ?” and He saith unto them—“Ye say that (which) I am."
Verse 63, 64. “Then the high priest rent his clothes, and saith, What need we any further witnesses ? Ye have heard the blasphemy : what think ye? And they all condemned him to be guilty of death." Thus was Caiaphas (contrary to the law), at once His accuser
and His judge, carrying away with him, by his vehemence, the opinions of the rest. They pronounced Jesus, the Lord of life, to be worthy of death, and forthwith gave Him up to all that their malice could do to mark their abhorrence, for they had no power to take His life.
LUKE xxii. 63. “The men that held Jesus mocked him, and smote him."
MARK xiv. 65. “ And some began to spit on him, and to cover his face, and to buffet him, and to say unto him, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, who is it that smote thee ?”
LUKE xxii. 65. “ And many other things blasphemously spake they against him."
They must have felt that He was no common man. There must have been some misgivings in their hearts, that one who could raise the dead, and give sight to the blind, might indeed be, as His solemn words declared, the Christ, the Son of God; but when men will not listen to the still small voice of conscience, they harden themselves in sin, and rush on to deeds of violence. Our blood runs cold as we read of the fearful acts of these unhappy men. It had been foretold long before, that they should thus mis-use the Saviour. The blows, the spitting, had long been written down, as things that were to be; but not the names of those who struck, or of those who spit upon Him. Satan in his last efforts against the seed of the woman, was left to find his own tools among those who were, in their madness, willing to work with him ; but now their names, as well as their deeds, were known—were written in that book, from which they should be judged, when they must, with all “the dead, small and great, stand before God;” in that day when they should see “a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven should flee away; and there should be no place found for them.” *
* Revelation xx. 11, 12.
O God, what would have been the horror of these men, had their mocking words—“Prophecy unto us, who is he that smote thee?” been answered by Thee with one forward glimpse of the awful scene. Had they beheld, for one instant, that “great white throne, and him that sat upon it ;” the bound prisoner whom they were insulting; and they themselves standing before Him for judgment! Our hearts tremble within us, when we think of their madness and their guilt! Let us beware how we stifle the voice of conscience. How we blind ourselves to the convictions of truth. All who harden themselves in sin are carried far beyond their first imaginings.
Jesus was condemned by the chiefs of His own nation ; but they had no power to carry their sentence into execution. They could try offences against their own laws by their own laws, but they could do no more. The Romans, who were masters of their country, had kept in their own hands the power of life and death. Therefore if Jesus were to die, they must procure His condemnation from the Roman governor ; and how was this to be accomplished ? It would be impossible to persuade him that a citizen was worthy of death for calling bimself the Son of God. This would not have been a crime among the Romans. Their religion was half made up of fables of the wonderful deeds of men whom they believed to be the sons of their gods born of women; they would therefore have probably believed Jesus to have been such a one as these. His miracles would have attested the truth of his claim; and instead of putting him to death, they would rather have been inclined to
MATT. XXVII. 1. MARK XV. 1. LUKE XXIII.1. JOHNXVIII. 28. 267 pay him a superstitious reverence as one among their many false gods.*
Of the one pure and holy God, the Almighty Creator, Father, and Judge of all, they had no idea ; and the solemn title and awful perfections of the only Son of this one Eternal God was far beyond the utmost reach of their imaginations.
For the high priest and elders therefore to accuse Jesus of calling Himself the Son of God to the Roman Governor would have been of no avail. Unless they could prove that He caused disturbance among the people, that he stirred them up to rebellion against the Emperor, their accusation might have made Him the object of superstitious wonder, but not of punishment. This the chief priests felt; and they knew well that they must act accordingly. St. Matthew writes :
MATTHEW xxvii. 1. “ When the morning was come, all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death." St. Mark more particularly describes this. He says that,
Mark xv. 1. "Straightway in the morning the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes, and the whole council.”
We shall see what it was they determined upon, as we further read :
LUKE xxii. 1. “And the whole multitude of them arose and led him unto Pilate.”
St. John writes,
John xviii. 28. “Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment: and it was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment-hall, lest they should be defiled : but that they might eat the passover.”
* Acts xiv. 11-13.