Jesus appears before Caiaphas for trial

Outline/Summary

Jesus appears before Caiaphas and the teachers of the law

After his capture and arrest, Jesus was taken to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled. Peter followed them from a distance, right up to the courtyard. He entered and sat down with the guards to see the outcome.

Christ before Caiaphas

The chief priests and the entire Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so they could put him to death. But they could not find any, even though many false witnesses came forward with testimony against him.

Finally, two witnesses came forward and declared, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’” Then the high priest said to Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?”

But Jesus remained silent.

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

Jesus said, “You have said so, but I say to all of you: From now on, you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

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 for yourself. What do you think?”

“He is worthy of death,” they answered.

Then they spat in Jesus’ face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him while taunting, “Prophesy to us, Messiah. Who hit you?”

What the story means to us today

Jesus silently accepts his fate

The trial of Jesus was, of course, little more than a farce. The elders were threatened by Jesus’ ministry and looked for any reason they could find to eliminate him. Of course, claiming to be the Messiah would be considered blasphemy by the elders – but only if they believed the person was falsely claiming to be the son of God.

Despite the unfairness of his trial, the verses tell us that, for the most part, Jesus remained silent throughout the questioning. This aligns with the prophecy from Isaiah 53:7, which tells us, “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth.”

Deeper thoughts and additional considerations

The Son of Man sitting at the right hand of God, coming on the clouds of heaven

When the high priest, Caiaphas, asks Jesus if he is the Messiah, the Son of God, Jesus responds, “From now on, you will see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Jesus is alluding to two separate Old Testament verses.

Psalm 110:1 says, “The Lord says to my lord: Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet,” while Daniel 7:13 tells us, “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven.” Combining the two prophetical verses cleverly answers the high priest’s question behind a thinly veiled threat.

Why was Jesus’ admission to being the Son of God considered blasphemy?

The Sanhedrin generally considered Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God as blasphemy simply because they believed it was not true. More specifically, they likely considered Jesus’ claim to be blasphemy because, in their eyes, God had not attested who Jesus was – an action they believed to be a requirement according to their tradition (but not directly mentioned as such in the Old Testament). Jesus claims, in their eyes, showed disrespect for God by diminishing God’s authority.

The “pre-trial” before Annas

Matthew tells us Jesus was in Gethsemane praying at night when he was arrested. Luke tells us that Jesus appeared before Caiaphas in the morning hours. What happened during the hours in between? 

John adds that Jesus first appeared before Annas (the former high priest and Caiaphas’ father-in-law) and was briefly “questioned” in what seems to be a “pre-trial.” Annas then sent Jesus on ahead to Caiaphas, likely for the “official” questioning and judgment. This intervening period may have given Caiaphas more time to assemble as many members of the Sanhedrin as possible, given the nighttime hours.

The complete trials of Jesus

Jesus’ trial consisted of six parts: three stages in a religious court and three stages before a Roman court. He was first tried before Annas, the former high priest, then Caiaphas, the current high priest, and finally the Sanhedrin. In these “ecclesiastical” trials, Jesus was charged with blasphemy for claiming to be the Son of God and the Messiah. 

The trials before the Roman authorities began with Pilate after Jesus was beaten and taken to Pilate by the chief priests. The charges against him in these trials differed from those in his religious trials, as he was accused of inciting people to riot, forbidding them to pay their taxes, and claiming to be King. Pilate found no reason to execute Jesus, so he sent him to Herod. 

Herod mocked Jesus but, not wanting to take responsibility, sent him back to Pilate. This was the last trial, as Pilate tried to appease the Jews by having Jesus scourged. The Roman scourge was a brutal whipping that removed the flesh from the victim’s back.

In a final effort to have Jesus released, Pilate offered the prisoner Barabbas to be crucified instead of Jesus, but the crowds demanded Jesus’ crucifixion. Pilate surrendered Jesus to their will and he was crucified, while Barabbas was released.

The science behind the story

Ancient Jewish trials

Modern-day readers may think little of Caiaphas, the high priest, teachers of the law, and the elders assembling during the night, seemingly at Caiaphas’ home. But what we know of ancient Jewish legal trials makes the trail of Jesus all the more sketchy.

For instance, it is likely that not all members of the Sanhedrin would be present since the “trial” was conducted hastily and at night. Trials would normally be held in a meeting hall, not in a judge’s home. And the fact that the Sanhedrin could not find “false evidence” against Jesus would have immediately discredited their claims and likely forced the case to be thrown out. It was clear that the trial of Jesus was a farce, even by ancient Jewish judicial standards.

He “tore his clothes”

Matthew tells us that when Jesus implied he was indeed the “Son of Man,” Caiaphas “tore his clothes” and said, “He has spoken blasphemy!” In ancient times, people tore their clothes when they were in grief (or more accurately, mimicked tearing their clothes).

Oddly enough, by doing so, Caiaphas broke the rule of law. The old laws in Leviticus 21:10 specifically prohibit this.

“The high priest, the one among his brothers who has had the anointing oil poured on his head and who has been ordained to wear the priestly garments, must not let his hair become unkempt or tear his clothes.”

The high priest himself appears to have broken the law while trying to find any means possible to charge Jesus with an executable offense.

Bible text

NIV

57 Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled. 58 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. 

59 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. 60 But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward. 

Finally, two came forward 61 and declared, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’ ” 

62 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?” 63 But Jesus remained silent. 

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

64 “You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” v 

65 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. 66 What do you think?” 

“He is worthy of death,” they answered. 

67 Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him 68 and said, “Prophesy to us, Messiah. Who hit you?” 

NET Bible

26:57 Now the ones who had arrested Jesus led him to Caiaphas, the high priest, in whose house the experts in the law and the elders had gathered. 26:58 But Peter was following him from a distance, all the way to the high priest’s courtyard. After going in, he sat with the guards to see the outcome. 26:59 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were trying to find false testimony against Jesus so that they could put him to death. 26:60 But they did not find anything, though many false witnesses came forward. Finally two came forward 26:61 and declared, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’ ” 26:62 So the high priest stood up and said to him, “Have you no answer? What is this that they are testifying against you?” 26:63 But Jesus was silent. 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.” 26:64 Jesus said to him, “You have said it yourself. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 26:65 Then the high priest tore his clothes and declared, “He has blasphemed! Why do we still need witnesses? Now you have heard the blasphemy! 26:66 What is your verdict?” They answered, “He is guilty and deserves death.” 26:67 Then they spat in his face and struck him with their fists. And some slapped him, 26:68 saying, “Prophesy for us, you Christ! Who hit you?” 

NKJV

57 And those who had laid hold of Jesus led Him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled. 58 But Peter followed Him at a distance to the high priest’s courtyard. And he went in and sat with the servants to see the end.

59 Now the chief priests, the elders, and all the council sought false testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, 60 but found none. Even though many false witnesses came forward, they found none. But at last two false witnesses came forward 61 and said, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.’ ”

62 And the high priest arose and said to Him, “Do You answer nothing? What is it these men testify against You?” 63 But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest answered and said to Him, “I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!”

64 Jesus said to him, “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

65 Then the high priest tore his clothes, saying, “He has spoken blasphemy! What further need do we have of witnesses? Look, now you have heard His blasphemy! 66 What do you think?”

They answered and said, “He is deserving of death.”

67 Then they spat in His face and beat Him; and others struck Him with the palms of their hands, 68 saying, “Prophesy to us, Christ! Who is the one who struck You?”

The Message

      57–58 The gang that had seized Jesus led him before Caiaphas the Chief Priest, where the religion scholars and leaders had assembled. Peter followed at a safe distance until they got to the Chief Priest’s courtyard. Then he slipped in and mingled with the servants, watching to see how things would turn out.

      59–60 The high priests, conspiring with the Jewish Council, tried to cook up charges against Jesus in order to sentence him to death. But even though many stepped up, making up one false accusation after another, nothing was believable.

      60–61 Finally two men came forward with this: “He said, ‘I can tear down this Temple of God and after three days rebuild it.’ ”

      62 The Chief Priest stood up and said, “What do you have to say to the accusation?”

      63 Jesus kept silent.

      Then the Chief Priest said, “I command you by the authority of the living God to say if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”

      64 Jesus was curt: “You yourself said it. And that’s not all. Soon you’ll see it for yourself:

           The Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Mighty One, arriving on the clouds of heaven.”

    65–66 At that, the Chief Priest lost his temper, ripping his robes, yelling, “He blasphemed! Why do we need witnesses to accuse him? You all heard him blaspheme! Are you going to stand for such blasphemy?”

      They all said, “Death! That seals his death sentence.”

      67–68 Then they were spitting in his face and banging him around. They jeered as they slapped him: “Prophesy, Messiah: Who hit you that time?”

KJV

57 And they that had laid hold on Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled. 58 But Peter followed him afar off unto the high priest’s palace, and went in, and sat with the servants, to see the end. 59 Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death; 60 But found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At the last came two false witnesses, 61 And said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days. 62 And the high priest arose, and said unto him, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee? 63 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. 64 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. 65 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. 66 What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death. 67 Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands, 68 Saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee?

Image Credits:
• Jesus appears before Caiaphas for trial via Wikimedia Commons by JOSE DE MADRAZO Y AGUDO with usage type - Public Domain, 1803
• Christ before Caiaphas via Wikimedia Commons by Matthias Stom with usage type - Public Domain, Early 1630s

Featured Image Credit:
• Jesus appears before Caiaphas for trial via Wikimedia Commons by JOSE DE MADRAZO Y AGUDO with usage type - Public Domain, 1803