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JESUS’ TRIAL

Matthew 26:57-27:26
Key Verse: 26:64

Thank God for teaching us Jesus’ prayer at Gethsemane, “My Father…Yet not as I will, but as you will…May your will be done.” This prayer be truly in our hearts and lives, especially in critical times. After having a victory in his prayer battle, Jesus was willingly arrested in obedience to the will of the Father. Today we are going to study Jesus’ trial before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish ruling authority and before Pilate, the Roman governor. While Jesus is tried, Peter denies him completely and Judas hangs himself tragically. The religious leaders are mischievous until they decide to put Jesus to death and Pilate succumbs to the crowd to hand Jesus over to be crucified. The grim and dark power of evil seems to be ruling the world. But Jesus, at this time of awful trial, reveals the glorious hope of his coming on the clouds of heaven. Let’s see how our Lord Jesus is tried and hear his trustworthy words spoken at that time.

First, Jesus’ trial before the Sanhedrin and Peter’s denial (26:57-75). Look at verse 57. “Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled.” Two days before, the chief priests and the elders of the people had assembled in the palace of the high priest and plotted to arrest Jesus in some sly way and kill him (26:3). They cooperated with Judas, who proposed to sell Jesus to them at thirty silver coins. They sent their men to Jesus guided by Judas while he was still speaking to his disciples at Gethsemane. When Judas kissed Jesus as the signal, they arrested him. It was a sly way. In truth Jesus gave in to their plot, because he had decided to obey the will of the Father. Now those who had arrested Jesus took him to the high priest, and the teachers of the law and the elders gathered again at the home of the high priest, which was a palatial mansion. So Jesus’ trial had to be held in the high priest’s home instead of the temple courts. And the trial would be done at night, not daytime. These were anomalies of the trial.

Then how did they begin to try Jesus? Look at verse 59. “The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death.” They knew that they could not put Jesus to death in a right way. So they were looking for false evidence from the beginning. But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward. The trial was a complete falsification. Finally two came forward and declared, “This fellow said…” Mark wrote that “some stood up and gave this false testimony against him.” (Mk 14:57). But Matthew wrote that two came forward. For according to their law, the testimony of two men was valid (Jn 8:17). And the two were examine separately with no contact with each other. Here the two declared, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’” To the Jews, the temple of God was most significant in their lives and destroying it was an unthinkable sin. During his life on earth, Jesus never intended to destroy the temple of God. Rather he had such zeal for God’s temple that when he saw the corruption of the temple becoming like a den of robbers, he was furious and took a drastic measure to clear the temple. At this radical act of Jesus, the Jews demanded a miraculous sign from him as a proof of his authority to do such an action. Then Jesus said, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” (Jn 2:19). In saying this Jesus was talking about the invisible temple of his body through his resurrection (Jn 2:21). But the false witnesses twisted Jesus’ word and made it fit to their false testimony. Then the high priest accepted their testimony as valid one. He stood up and said to Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” At this Jesus remained silent, although he must have had so many words to speak. The high priest regarded Jesus’ silence as his acquiescence and said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God.” And at this right time he wanted to speak what he had planned, “Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God” (Mk 14:61; Lk 22:67,70). This was a very tricky question like the one, “Is it right to pay the taxes to Caesar or not?” Yet, this was a perilous question. A judge was not to ask such an interrogation. But the high priest did. If Jesus said, “I am not the Christ or the Son of God” it would deny his identity he had been claiming throughout his life, although he might escape the death penalty. If he said, “I am…” they would certainly charge him with blasphemy. Of course, like last time, Jesus must have had enough wisdom to ask a counter question of the high priest, such as, “Who do you think I am? That’s a matter of life and death to everyone.” But this time, at the trial Jesus said of himself very clearly, “Yes, it is as you say.” Also, by answering this way Jesus indirectly made an affirmation that placed the responsibility back on the one making the inquiry.

However, he did not stop there. He went further in his reply. He said of something truly astonishing: “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.” This will be the most surprising event to all mankind in history. Humanly speaking, Jesus was in a most helpless and hopeless situation as a criminal who was under trial. But he spoke of the most glorious and magnificent thing. This is the promise of his coming again on the earth. Jesus had told this to his disciples privately on the Mount of Olives when they asked him about the sign of the end of the age. Now Jesus spoke this openly even to his enemies at the time of trial.

Who is this Jesus? In his first coming, he came as a tiny baby born of a country girl, virgin Mary. When the baby was born, he had to escape to Egypt for survival carried back by his human father Joseph. Matthew once described Jesus as this: “He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases” (Mt 8:17; Isa 53:4). He was a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering (Isa 53:3). He would be soon humiliated with being spit, struck with fists and slapped, and then would die on the cross. It was because he came as the Saviour for all sinners. He was the good shepherd who took care of his flock to the point of death. But his second coming will be totally different. He will come on the clouds of heaven with power and glory as the King and Judge. At the time of trial when he was judged, he could see throughout the history and look his glorious coming again as the King and Judge of all people of all nations. It was based on Daniel 7:13-14, “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. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.” According to Revelation he is the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last (Rev 1:8; 2:8). Now people of the world see many tragic things happening here and there. But his people are the ones who have this unbelievable glorious hope in their hearts. We can believe this amazing hope because this is our Lord Jesus’ own words spoken at the time of trial and we have the token of his resurrection. May we keep this wonderful promise of our Lord Jesus’ coming again in our hearts and overcome any life trials and troubles with faith in him, the Sovereign Ruler of history.

How did the high priest respond at this stunning word of Jesus? Look at verse 65. “Then he high priest tore his clothes and said, ‘He has spoken blasphemy? Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard this blasphemy.’” It is also unbelievable that the high priest responded in that way. Man’s evilness seems to be bottomless. When he asked, “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?” Temporarily, he had to bear such humiliation according to God’s will.

While Jesus was on trial, what did Peter do? He had 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. He put himself in a dangerous position. As he was sitting out in the courtyard, a servant girl came to him and said, “You also were with Jesus of Galilee.” This was a surprising attack. Peter was probably watching out for security guards not to be noticed by them. He could not expect that a servant girl would observe and speak to him. He was suddenly tried before a servant girl, while Jesus was tried before the Jewish high authorities. But Peter failed it miserably. Verse 70 says, “But he denied it before them all. ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about,’ he said.” Then he went out to the gateway, where another girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.” It was an indirect but stronger attack as the second one. She spoke publicly to the people. Peter denied it again with an oath, “I don’t know the man!” We can hardly believe that Peter denied Jesus, saying, “I don’t know the man.” It was his rapid downfall. After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them, for your accent gives you away.” Then he began to call down curses on himself and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!” It is truly unbelievable that Peter denied Jesus completely, not before powerful authorities but before lowly people. It was not because he was a terribly bad person, but it was the result of his ignoring Jesus’ words and not praying. We see that this kind of thing can happen to any disciple when the disciple neglects the words of Jesus and prayer.

Then immediately a rooster crowed. It draws our attention that a rooster crowed immediately, right after Peter’s consecutive three times of denial, as if the rooster waited for the third denial of Peter. There seemed to be not even a second of delay in the rooster’s crowing. Why not ten second earlier? This happened with such accuracy as Jesus had predicted. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly. It must have been his sincere repentance.

When we think of Peter’s denial and a rooster’s crowing and his repentance at the remembrance of Jesus’ word, it is like a small orchestra. Jesus is the conductor over the rooster, a servant girl, another girl, some group of people and Peter. This Jesus, who predicted Peter’s denial, is the same one who said, “I say to all 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.” A truly grand orchestra will be accomplished when he comes again on the clouds of heaven as he promised and prophesied. At the trial of Jesus some slapped him and said, “Prophesy to us. Who hit you?” They just wanted to see such a petty prophecy as a fun. But his prophecy was not such a petty one but history-shaking and human era-ending prophecy. He is orchestrating the human history according to his promise and prophecy. In this grand orchestra, may we be able to do our role faithfully. That is to truly believe in Jesus’ words and teach them, serving him as the Lord.

Second, Judas’ tragic end and Jesus’ trial before the Pilate (27:1-26). With the crowing of a rooster, early morning came. While Peter experienced his horrible denial of Jesus and heart-breaking repentance, what did the religious leaders do? In that morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people came to the decision to put Jesus to death. They bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate, the governor.

In between Jesus’ being handed over to Pilate and his trial before the governor, the author wrote what happened to Judas. When Judas, who had betrayed Jesus, saw that Jesus was condemned, he was seized with remorse and returned the thirty silver coins to the chief priests and the elders. “I have sinned,” he said, “for I have betrayed innocent blood.” “What is that to us?” they replied, “That’s your responsibility.” So Judas threw the money into the temple and left. Then he went away and hanged himself. What a tragedy! We had seen Judas, who rejected Jesus’ love to the end and went out to sell Jesus at thirty silver coins and led a group of people to arrest Jesus with the signal of kiss. He made usshudder in disgust. But now when we see the Judas, who was seized with remorse and finally hanged himself, we really pity him. It seemed that he was a man of conscience, while the high priest and the chief priests were not. Yet, his grievous sin was that he rejected the love of God, which was much exposed to him. through Jesus. He had no love relationship with Jesus at all, and no word of Jesus remained in him. So no one and nothing could lead him repentance. This was the end of Judas’ life.

Then what was going on to the religious leaders? Did they pick up Judas’ body and bury him? No. The chief priests picked up the coins Judas had thrown into the temple and said, “It is against the law to put this into the treasury, since it is blood money.” They did not feel sorry at all for Judas’ suicidal. They wanted to be still righteous not violating the law in their own sight. So they did not put the money back to the treasury. Rather they decided to use the money to buy the potter’s field as a burial place for foreigners, which then was called the Field of Blood. They appeared to be empathetic for foreigners, even being concerned about their burial place. Yet, their act was really disgusting and mischievous. They were bloodthirsty related to blood money and the Field of the Blood. Humanly, it was hard to understand. It could be understood only in the words of the Scriptures. The author saw it as a fulfillment of the Scriptures: “Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: They took the thirty silver coins, the price set on him by the people of Israel, and they used them to buy the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.” They were out of men’s control. They were also out of the control of the law, interpreting the law as they wanted. But they were under God’s control, fulfilling God’s prophecy accurately. At that moment they could escape their inner conscience and the true requirement of the law. But the Scriptures caught their mischievous act. They would not escape God’s judgment. They had to be accountable for what they had done.

Now, let’s think about Jesus’ trial by Pilate. Look at verse 11. “Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’” Here we see that the charge for Jesus was changed. The high priest and the whole Sanhedrin charged Jesus with blasphemy. But this charge would Pilate not understand. So they changed it into a political one. They branded Jesus as one who subverted their nation and opposed payment of taxes to Caesar (Lk 23:2). So Pilate asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” How did Jesus reply at his question? “Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied. Obviously, Jesus was not the king of the Jews Pilate meant in his interrogation. However, Jesus said, “Yes, it is as you say,” because he was truly the king of the Jews before God, the promised Messiah. When the Magi heard of the king of the Jews, they came from the east to worship him. The king of the Jews is the Saviour and the true object of worship for all mankind. Identifying himself as the king of the Jews, Jesus wanted even help Pilate to know who the one who was standing before him was. Also, his “Yes” was the declaration to all people of all ages that he is the king of the Jews whom God sent for the salvation of mankind. “Yes, it is as you say,” these are the only words Jesus spoke to Pilate at his trial in the Synoptic gospels. When he was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he gave no answer. Also, when Pilate asked him, “Don’t you hear the testimony they are bringing against you?” Jesus made no reply, not even to a single charge—to the great amazement of the governor.

In verses 15-25, in these eleven verses, Pilate attempted to release Jesus using the governor’s custom. For he knew it was out of envy that the religious leaders had handed Jesus over to him. Then he should have let Jesus go right away. While he was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him a message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.” But he tried to compromise with the crowd, saying, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ?” However, this did not work out. For the chief priests manipulated the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed. He tried three times to release Jesus. Yet, when the crowd shouted persistently, “Crucify him,” he succumbed to their shout. He released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified. At that time Roman flogging was a horrible method of torture. It often made the criminals faint and even die. In order to satisfy the crowd, he had Jesus flogged, giving much pain to him, and handed him over to be crucified. In this event Pilate did not seem to be that bad, better than the chief priests and the elders, at least attempting three times to release Jesus. His irrevocable sin was that he yielded to the crowd, though he was in the decision-making position as a governor. The author Matthew mentioned again and again that he was the governor. He even seemed to have a good and discerning wife as God’s blessing. But he miserably gave in to the crowd. He took water and washed his hand in front of the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this man’s blood. It is your responsibility.” But history attests that he was the one who crucified Jesus (Apostles Creed).

In this passage we see that the world was dark and evil. Jesus was falsely tried and condemned to be crucified. But he gave us a truly amazing promise of his glorious coming again on the clouds of heaven. May we live in this world with this promise of our Lord Jesus in our heart, serving him as the Lord and bearing all the trials of life with faith in him.

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