The Son of God
Excommunicated and Condemned
“And they that had laid hold on Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled. But Peter followed him afar off unto the high priest’s palace, and went in, and sat with the servants, to see the end. Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death; But found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At the last came two false witnesses, And said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days. And the high priest arose, and said unto him, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee? But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy. What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death. Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands, Saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee?” (Matthew 26:57-68)
In the passage before us we see the Lord of glory dragged before the ecclesiastical court of the Jews, before Caiaphas, the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. Everybody who was anybody among the Jews was represented in this assembly of madness. The whole religious world of the day, all who claimed to reverence the Word of God, honor the law of God, walk in the ways of God, and worship in the name of God were represented in this blood-thirsty religious mob. These men were not the religious kooks and crackpots, but the leaders of mainstream religion, both conservative and liberal, both the orthodox and the unorthodox. All of them had come together now for the third time in one week (John 11:47-50; Matt. 26:2-3) to excommunicate the Lord of glory and condemn him to death. They were determined to get rid of Christ and his Gospel, while maintaining their religious status quo. They wanted to keep their temple, and their priesthood, and their religious customs, and the name of God; but they were determined to put an end to the influence of the Son of God and the Gospel of his grace.
I hope you have not missed my point. This is what I am saying. This is what I want you to see. It is as evident as the noon day sun throughout the Scriptures. The religious world, the mainstream religious world, in all its branches and denominations, is now and always has been opposed to Christ, his gospel, and his kingdom.
Every church in the world is acceptable in the religious world, except the church of God. Every religious notion in the world is acceptable in the religious world, except the Gospel of God’s free and sovereign grace in Christ. Every way of salvation promoted by the perverse imaginations of men is acceptable in the religious world, except the declaration that Christ is the only Way, the declaration that salvation is to be had only by the shedding of his blood for the satisfaction of divine justice, that righteousness can be obtained only by divine imputation, and that salvation is the gift and operation of God’s free, sovereign, effectual grace.
The Sacrifice Bound
“And they that had laid hold on Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled.” In a way it was only fitting that our Savior be brought before the high priest of the Jews at this time. The great day of atonement was at hand. The wondrous types of the paschal lamb, the mercy-seat, and the scapegoat were about to be fulfilled. Now, before he is led forth to be crucified, the high priest, by the arrangement of providence, pronounces sin to be upon the head of the innocent Lamb of God (Lev. 16:21).
Ever remember that our Savior’s sufferings were voluntarily endured. He, who had by his mere word smitten the band of soldiers who came to arrest him (John 18:6), was not bound and led away against his will. This, too, came to pass according to the purpose of God, that the Scriptures might be fulfilled. In Psalm 22 our Savior cried, “Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round…Dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me.”
Our blessed Savior was bound as the sacrifices of old, just as Isaac was bound and put on the altar (Gen. 22:99), and all the sacrifices of the law were bound at the horns of the altar (Ps. 118:27). The binding of the sacrifices in the Old Testament typically pictured the sins and iniquities of God’s elect binding the Lord Jesus. Robert Hawker observed, “For as chains and fetters tie down the body, so sin and iniquity bend down the soul.” And our blessed Savior cried, as one whose soul was bound, when he was restoring that which he took not away, “O God, thou knowest my foolishness; and my sins are not hid from thee…Innumerable evils have compassed me about: mine iniquities have taken hold upon me, so that I am not able to look up; they are more than the hairs of mine head: therefore my heart faileth me” (Ps. 40:12; 69:5). Perhaps, the binding of our Substitute was intended of God to set forth the binding of all the sins of his people to him, when the Lord God had “laid on him the iniquity of us all,” making him “sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” I said, “perhaps” that was the intent of our God in the providential binding of our Redeemer, because it cannot be stated with certainty. But Robert Hawker made another observation concerning the binding of our sins to our Savior that is a matter of certainty. He wrote.
“It is a very, very precious thought, to the soul of every truly regenerated believer, that all the sins of his redeemed, without the omission of a single infirmity or sin; in thought, or word, or deed, were laid upon Christ, as the sacrifice was bound on the altar. Hence, the High Priest, under the Jewish dispensation, was commanded to be thus particular, on the great day of atonement. And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgression in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat: and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man (a man of opportunity, as the margin hath it, and as Christ was) into the wilderness, as Christ was led away when bound (Lev. 16:21).”
When our blessed Savior was bound, led away, and, at last, put to death as our sin-atoning Sacrifice, he fulfilled all the typical sacrifices of the law that foreshadowed and represented him. Thus, he who was made sin for us put away all the sins of all his people by the sacrifice of himself.
Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin
Caiaphas represents the very worst of lost, unregenerate religious leaders. John Gill tells us that his name means “one that vomits at the mouth.” Though he had all the proper outward credentials of a high priest, he obtained his office by the appointment of man (The Roman Governor), either as the result of bribery or as a favor done to him, rather than by the appointment of God.
Like most religious leaders who obtain their offices and positions by the appointment of men, Caiaphas was a pragmatic leader for the people. He knew, at least in theory, certain aspects of divine truth; but he was a subtle politician. When it was to his advantage to do so, he could act very manly and speak truth in the face of others. I do not know how much, if anything, he understood about what he said; but he certainly spoke the truth in John 11:47-54. He had no interest in the glory of God, the people of God, or the souls of men; but he did speak the truth. There are multitudes just like him in pulpits and positions of great leadership and influence around the world today.
High office in the church is no indication that a man is God’s servant. Read the Bible with your eyes open. The chief agents of our Lord’s crucifixion and death were the priests, the elders, and the scribes of Israel. These priests could trace their lineage back to Aaron. They held the highest offices of religion. They led the people in their acts of worship. They lived austere lives of devotion. At least they publicly appeared to live such lives. But these men were the murderers of the Son of God! Beware, hold no man in high esteem because he is reputed as a great preacher or religious leader. The teaching of any man who comes in the name of God must be tested by the standard of Holy Scripture (Isa. 8:20; 1 John 4:1-6).
Peter and the Lord’s Enemies
“But Peter followed him afar off unto the high priest’s palace, and went in, and sat with the servants, to see the end” (v. 58). I do not want to say more than is suggested by this verse; but it is placed here by divine inspiration to prepare us for that which is later revealed about Peter’s denial of the Lord Jesus.
“Peter followed him.” After first forsaking the Lord with all the rest, Peter and John turned back to follow him. Peter alone is mentioned here because it is Peter who is being considered. But we must not be too severe in our judgment of Peter. John Gill wrote, “Peter’s following Christ showed love to him. He was loth (reluctant) to leave him. His bowels (heart) moved towards him. He wanted to know how it would fare with him, and what would become of him.” But, sadly, that is not all that we are told.
“Peter followed him,” but he “followed him afar off.” As Matthew Henry observed, “Some sparks of love and concern for his Master were in his breast, and therefore he followed him; but fear and concern for his own safety prevailed, and therefore he followed him afar off...Here began Peter’s denying him; for to follow him afar off is, by little and little, to go back from him.”
Next we are told that Peter “went in and sat with the servants.” He went in not to speak for Christ, but to screen himself, hoping not to be identified with Christ and his disciples. In fear and unbelief this bold disciple played the hypocrite. Foolishly and needlessly, he put himself in the way of temptation. He had no intention when he came to the high priest’s house of denying his Lord; but he put himself in the path of danger by putting himself in the company of the Lord’s enemies. “When a servant of Christ by his own choice sits with the servants of the wicked, sin and sorrow speedily follow.” (C. H. Spurgeon)
The reason why Peter followed and went in was to gratify his curiosity about the most sacred of all things, the death of Christ. Look what the Holy Spirit tells us. He went in “to see the end.” Peter went in simply to indulge his curiosity! He wanted to see what was taking place. He wanted to see how the Lord would be condemned and delivered up to die. Perhaps he wanted to see what he knew no one else would see.
Whatever the case, his curiosity nearly destroyed him. Let us be warned. The desire to satisfy curiosity may be very advantageous in carnal things, but in spiritual matters it is always ruinous.
The Chief Priests and their False Witnesses
“Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death; But found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At the last came two false witnesses, And said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days. And the high priest arose, and said unto him, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee?” (vv. 59-62)
Even though they were plotting the murder of the Lord of Glory, these men were meticulous in their religious duty. They knew that the law required at least two witnesses for anyone to be convicted of a capital crime. Before long, two men were found who perverted the Lord’s words into an accusation of blasphemy. Though these two false witnesses could not get their tales together, it sufficed to give these religious infidels a conscience soothing grounds for murder.
Falsehood and ridicule are Satan’s favorite weapons. The old serpent is a liar and the father of all lies (John 8:44). Throughout our Lord’s earthly ministry he was constantly accused of being an evil man and of doing wicked deeds. This was nothing new for him. We must not be surprised to find men and women who oppose the gospel of the grace of God falsely accusing God’s saints of wickedness.
Do not believe the evil reports that reprobate men give of God’s saints. Gospel preachers particularly are the objects of scandalous gossip inspired by Satan. That has always been the case. It is the case now, and so it will continue until time shall be no more. I have never known any man to be used of God who was not the object of scandalous rumor at one time or another. More often than not, the rumors are started by religious people pretending to seek the honor of God and promote the cause of righteousness.
Do not be surprised when you attempt to serve God if you are falsely accused of evil; and do not be surprised when faithful gospel preachers are accused of evil. Those who despise, but cannot repudiate our doctrine, try to repudiate our names.
“But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy. What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death. Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands, Saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee?” (vv. 63-68)
Here we see the Son of God enclosed by the assembly of the wicked (Ps. 22:16). When accused by these false witnesses, our Lord held his peace. When he saw that his enemies were determined to have his blood, he choked their spite with silence. But “Jesus held his peace” because the Scripture must be fulfilled which said, “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth” (Isa. 53:7). Caiaphas was infuriated by the Savior’s composure and silence.
Then, in verse 64 our Savior plainly declared himself to be the Christ, God the Son. He told this enraged mob that he would be seated upon the right hand of power, of omnipotence, and that they would see it; that is to say, it would be made manifest to them. The right hand of power is the right hand of God. Being seated there signified his finished work. Being seated upon the throne of God also implied that his work was accepted by God. Here our blessed Savior made a claim of deity, which the Jews clearly understood. Indeed, if Jesus of Nazareth is not God, he was guilty of blasphemy and did deserve to die (Lev. 24:16).
Then our Master gave a bold declaration of his second coming and the fact that these godless reprobates would see him again in judgment. Almost the last word spoken by our Lord before his crucifixion was about his second coming. Let us never question it.
After that, in great pomp and pretense, the high priest contemptuously condemned our Redeemer to be crucified, ripping his garments as he screamed “blasphemy!” (vv 65-68). Caiaphas ripped his clothes in a pretense of “righteous indignation” only to hide the malignity of his murderous heart. He denounced the Son of God as a blasphemer only to disguise his own blasphemous heart.
The penalty for blasphemy was death by stoning; but our Lord had foretold that he would be crucified. Therefore, rather than stoning him on the spot, these men spit upon him, as they beat and mocked the Son of God. Then they delivered him up to the Romans to be crucified. All of this the Son of God voluntarily endured as our Substitute. John Trapp wrote…
“Christ was content to be spit upon to cleanse our faces from the filth of sin, to be buffeted with fists and beaten with rods to free us from that mighty hand of God (1 Pet. 5:6), and from those scourges and scorpions of infernal fiends.”
“See how patient Jesus stands,
Insulted in His lowest case!
Sinners bound His almighty hands,
And spit in their Creator’s face!”
What multitudes there are who daily repeat the crimes of this blood-thirsty mob by their willful unbelief! Unbelief is nothing less than what these elite, sophisticated, barbaric religionists did. It is spitting in the face of God (1 John 5:10).
The Good Shepherd laid down his life for his sheep as a voluntary sacrifice and sin-offering (John 116-18); and he did it according to the will and purpose of God Almighty (Acts 2:23). All that was done to our Savior was done according to the purpose of God, and had been beforehand revealed in the Old Testament Scriptures (Acts 4:27-28; 13:27-29).
After these things, after suffering the wrath of men, our Savior yet had to endure the wrath of God to save us. That, too, he voluntarily endured for us, as our Substitute (2 Cor. 5:21). The day shall soon come when the Lord of Glory will respond to the challenge of mockery in verse 68. “Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee?” (2 Thess. 1:7-10; Rev. 1:7; 20:11).