This year I’ve sought to add daily devotionals – which is going back to my roots, and improve the quality of my writing. To do that, I’ve started working with an amazing editor, my wife, who proofreads and offers suggestions on the devotionals and the Bible studies and I now have an alpha reader for the Bible studies who reads through and looks for glaring errors and makes other suggestions. Both of them have already been a big help and I hope you can see the difference in my writing. With that, this week, we look at the trial of Jesus.
- And they led Jesus away to the high priest: and with him were assembled all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes. 54. And Peter followed him afar off, even into the palace of the high priest: and he sat with the servants, and warmed himself at the fire.
This was no spur of the moment trial. Everyone was in place, waiting for Judas to make good on his promise to betray Jesus and the religious leaders were most likely proud of themselves that they had gotten Judas to do their dirty work for them. Peter, perhaps thinking that the trial would be fair, followed behind, awaiting the outcome of the trial. He didn’t go into the makeshift “courtroom,” but sat with the servants and warmed himself by the fire.
- And the chief priests and all the council sought for witness against Jesus to put him to death; and found none. 56. For many bare false witness against him, but their witness agreed not together.
The trial and the verdict were pre-planned. There was no doubt about the outcome: Jesus was guilty and would be put to death. The religious leaders, though, forgot to prep their witnesses and while a lot of people testified falsely, they couldn’t get two people to agree on what Jesus did that would allow them to render that sentence. The Pharisees may have been holding a kangaroo court, but they wanted to make sure that all the kangaroos were in line in case someone asked what happened.
- And there arose certain, and bare false witness against him, saying, 58. 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. 59. But neither so did their witness agree together.
They finally found someone who could tell them something Jesus said, even if it was taken out of context. They still couldn’t find another witness to agree with him. Jesus, when He said those words in John 2, hadn’t used the words “made with hands” based on what we have written down, and maybe that’s why they couldn’t get two people to agree with that testimony. He did talk about destroying the temple of His body, and He fulfilled that saying when He rose from the dead.
- And the high priest stood up in the midst, and asked Jesus, saying, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee? 61. But he held his peace, and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked him, and said unto him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?
I can only imagine the frustration that the religious leaders must have felt. They had gone through all this trouble and expense to pull off this sham trial, and they couldn’t even get their witnesses to tell the same lies. The high priest took it out on Jesus and asked Him why He didn’t respond to what the witnesses were saying. Logically, there was nothing to respond to. If two witnesses had agreed on an accusation worthy of the death penalty, then Jesus might have had reason to respond. Jesus knew that the verdict of this “trial” was never in doubt, so nothing He could say would change things. When Jesus remained silent, the high priest asked Him point blank if Jesus thought He was the Messiah.
- And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. 63. Then the high priest rent his clothes, and saith, What need we any further witnesses? 64. Ye have heard the blasphemy: what think ye? And they all condemned him to be guilty of death.
Jesus could have continued to remain silent, but He didn’t. He told them the truth they needed to hear. He told them quite plainly that He was the Messiah and that they would eventually see Him sitting at the right hand of the Father and coming back to earth. We should note especially that Jesus answered by saying, “I am.” That sounds like a simple enough answer in English, but that’s the name of God in Hebrew. When Jesus said, “I am” in His response, He made a claim that He, as the Messiah, was divine. The leaders reacted to the first word Jesus said, and I think that the last words were spoken with a rising volume to be heard over the growing clamor at what the leaders believed to be blasphemy.
The high priest had had enough, and he asked the others what else they needed to hear, clearly expecting the response that he got. The outrage was a unanimous vote condemning Jesus to death. If Jesus weren’t the Son of God, then His statement was blasphemous. However, to paraphrase an axiom, it ain’t blasphemy if it’s true. The religious leaders were so intent on maintaining control of the things of God with regards to Temple worship, teaching, and discipling that they were blind to the truth when Jesus showed all the signs of being the Messiah. Even though He wasn’t the Messiah they were expecting, He was the Messiah they needed. Don’t be too hard on them for not recognizing that Jesus was the Messiah, though; the disciples who were with him day and night for about three years didn’t figure that out until after the resurrection.
- And some began to spit on him, and to cover his face, and to buffet him, and to say unto him, Prophesy: and the servants did strike him with the palms of their hands.
Once Jesus was convicted, the mob attacked. They beat Him and sought to humiliate Him by spitting on Him and letting the servants slap Him. The NIV calls these servants the guards. In any case, everybody got their shots in on Jesus. I imagine the leaders didn’t get their hands dirty, but I believe that they approved all that they saw. Jesus, in his Human body, was defenseless.
- And as Peter was beneath in the palace, there cometh one of the maids of the high priest: 67. And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked upon him, and said, And thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth. 68. But he denied, saying, I know not, neither understand I what thou sayest. And he went out into the porch; and the cock crew.
And now we go over the story of Peter’s denial. He who would go to the death for Jesus, by his own admission, was confronted by one of the maids of the high priest and he failed. Miserably. We can’t tell the tone of the maid’s voice from the words, but it could be that she was an admirer of Jesus and wanted to share about that with someone who would understand. On the other hand, it could be that she wanted to learn more about this man that had her master so enraged. Or, perhaps Peter’s fears were true and she wanted to find out if Peter really was with Jesus so she could denounce him to her master and gain stature among the other maids. Peter shut her down, flat out denying that he knew Jesus but then removing himself from the area so she couldn’t press him with more questions. That’s when the cock crowed the first time. Apparently, that had no influence over Peter, though, because we don’t hear Peter’s reaction to this occurrence of the rooster’s call.
- And a maid saw him again, and began to say to them that stood by, This is one of them. 70. And he denied it again. And a little after, they that stood by said again to Peter, Surely thou art one of them: for thou art a Galilaean, and thy speech agreeth thereto.
Running away didn’t solve Peter’s problems. All it did was allow more people to see him and comment on his background and association with Jesus. First, another maid noticed who he was. Then, some of the guys decided that he must have been with Jesus because he talked like a Galilean. He denied both allegations, but Peter learned the hard lesson that night that he couldn’t run from his problems.
- But he began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not this man of whom ye speak. 72. And the second time the cock crew. And Peter called to mind the word that Jesus said unto him, Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice. And when he thought thereon, he wept.
I wonder if Shakespeare had this story in mind when he talked about a character by saying, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” Peter reacted violently, most likely afraid that he would be punished because of his association with Jesus. He cussed and swore on anything he could think of that he had no idea who Jesus was. In the midst of his rant, the cock crowed the second time – the sign that Jesus had talked about. When Peter realized what he had done and how the words of Jesus had come true, he wept. He most likely thought that all hope of continuing in his work with Jesus was over. But here’s a spoiler alert: Jesus would restore Peter as we can see in John 21. Peter became a great leader in the early church. No matter how far you’ve fallen, or drifted away, Jesus stands ready to forgive.