Jesus Christ Our Passover



Part Four

[*** Be sure to read Part Three before continuing.]


Thus began the interrogation by Annas. According to the legalities of the day, an accused person had the right not to testify against himself. Judean law actually considered testimony against oneself to be insufficient for conviction. An accused person had to be proven guilty by other witnesses. Yet these rights were repeatedly violated throughout the trial of Jesus, beginning here with Annas.

In his response to Annas' questions about his disciples and his doctrine, Jesus referred to the fact that the accusers needed the testimony of others. He was claiming his legal rights and drawing attention to a breach of law, declaring Annas should have others tell of the things which Jesus spoke and did openly. "Why are you asking me?" Jesus rightfully questioned. "Ask those who have heard me."

One of the officers became angered when Jesus replied to the high priest in such a direct manner, so he struck Jesus. In Greek the phrase "struck with the palm of his hand" is the one word rhapisma. It can mean to slap sharply with the palms or to beat repeatedly with a rod. Since Jesus used the word "smitest," in this case he must have been hit with a rod. The word "smitest" in verse 23 is the Greek word dero, meaning "to skin, flay, or scourge." A rod here would have been a thin, flexible whip-like cane. Upon hitting the face it would easily bend and wrap around the face, cutting the flesh. This concludes the record of the preliminary interrogation conducted by Annas.

John 18: 24 -- Now Annas had [omit "had"] sent him bound unto Caiaphas the high priest.

The other three Gospels pick up the record with Jesus' appearance before Caiaphas.

Matthew 26: 57 to 60 -- 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 [courtyard], 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. . . .

While Jesus appeared before Caiaphas, Peter sat with the servants. In John 18, while Jesus was before Annas, Peter had been standing. During this entire period, Peter was cold, afraid, full of uncertainty, and torn between loyalty to his master and a mounting fear of the people around him.

Compared to this scene with Caiaphas, the interview with Annas seemed almost private. Now Jesus was before not only the high priest Caiaphas, but also the chief priests, the elders, and all the council. The council was the ruling body of Israel known as the Sanhedrin, made up of seventy men. The expression "all the council" refers to their action as a collective body. Their action was not necessarily unanimous; the response simply reflected the will of the majority. **

** Joseph of Arimathea is called "an honorable counsellor." Nicodemus is called a Pharisee who was "ruler of the Jews." Both expressions suggest that they were members of the Sanhedrin. Being disciples of Jesus they would not cast their votes against him. However, it is possible that they would vote against him if they thought that would make the vote unanimous because Judean law at that time considered a unanimous vote an acquittal because it demonstrated a biased jury. However, as we shall see, there is no evidence that a formal vote was taken. It was simply a mob response to the high priest's accusation. These legalities were ignored in Jesus' "trial." [See Mark 15: 43, Luke 23: 50 and 51, John 3: 1.]

Jesus had challenged Annas to locate some witnesses; the council now sought out false witnesses.

Matthew 26: 60 -- But found none: yea, though many false witnesses came, yet found they none. At the last came two false witnesses.

The phrase "found they none" means they found no false witnesses that had corroborating testimonies. This is explained in Mark 14: 56 when it says, ". . . their witness agreed not together." Finally two more false witnesses gave their testimony.

Matthew 26: 61 and 62 -- And [these two false witnesses] 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?

The entire proceedings of Jesus' trial were a mockery of justice. These religious leaders were so desperate to condemn Jesus that they began these proceedings late at night, which in itself was illegal and highly unusual. Then, they deliberately tried to frame Jesus by seeking people who would give false testimony against him. According to Old Testament law, stated in Deuteronomy 17: 6 and 7, the testimony of at least two witnesses was needed in order to establish guilt. These testimonies were to agree, in order to be valid. If the witnesses were found to be lying, they were to endure the sentence of the accused, according to Deuteronomy 19: 15 to 19. In Jesus' case the rulers were so intent on accusing Jesus that they intentionally sought false witnesses in addition to accepting the testimonies of witnesses who did not agree.

Another stipulation of Judean law was that once all the witnesses had testified and the council was considering the issue, at least one judge had to speak on behalf of the accused. Jesus was never afforded this defense. Another discrepancy was the charge itself. Jesus had never spoken of himself as the one to destroy the Temple.

John 2: 19 -- Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.

Thus, this "trial" was a total breach of justice. There is no doubt that it was meant to be no more than a semblance of a trial. It was a kangaroo court perpetrated by the highest religious leaders.

Finally two witnesses alleged that Jesus said he would destroy the Temple and then rebuild it in three days. Jesus did not respond. Then Caiaphas directed his own accusation toward Jesus and demanded a response.

Matthew 26: 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.

For the high priest to say "I adjure thee by the living God" compelled the accused to answer; it was the most forceful demand possible. Of all the accusations of Jesus, the only one he responded to was the accusation of whether he were the Christ, the Son of God.

Matthew 26: 64 and 65 -- Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said [an affirmative answer to Caiaphas' demand to "tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God"]: 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.

Jesus' response about his exalted position with God, which placed him above the high priest as God's anointed, so greatly disturbed Caiaphas that he rent his clothes. If Jesus had claimed to be God, the people would simply have laughed at him as being without his mental faculties. Claiming to be the Messiah, the Son of God, however, was plausible. In doing so, Jesus was challenging the rulers' authority over him. To claim to be God was lunacy, but to claim to be the Messiah, the Son of God, was blasphemy if the claim was determined to be false.

Caiaphas tore his mantle in half, or as the King James Version says, "rent his clothes." This was an outer priestly garment or mantle symbolizing his authority. This custom of rending or tearing the mantle was an outward expression of extreme anger and grief. The Old Testament law, in Leviticus 10: 6 and 21: 10 and 26 forbade the high priest to do this, the consequence being death.

By asking, "What further need have we of witnesses?" the high priest violated Jesus' right to further testimony by other witnesses, witnesses outside of himself. Caiaphas quickly considered the issue settled: Jesus was guilty of blasphemy. Caiaphas forthwith called on the priests, elders, scribes, and Sanhedrin to declare their judgment. In actuality, these men had prejudged Jesus guilty.

Matthew 26: 66 -- What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death.

There is no indication of an orderly, proper vote being taken as stipulated in the legal procedures of the Sanhedrin. It was a mob response to the high priest's accusation and question. In this manner the Sanhedrin passed the death sentence.

According to the law of Moses, slaying a man, touching a dead body, or touching a grave made one legally unclean for seven days. No one considered unclean could participate in the Passover. According to Roman law, the Sanhedrin could not pronounce and execute a death sentence without Roman permission. However, when religious matters were involved, the Sanhedrin often took matters into their own hands. This can be seen in the stoning of Stephen and previously attempted stonings of Jesus. Therefore, even though the Sanhedrin had judged Jesus to be guilty of blasphemy, their fear of the people, fear of legal defilement, and lack of legal authority prohibited them from putting him to death themselves. [See Matthew 26: 4 and 5, Numbers 9: 5 to 13, 19: 11 and 16, 31: 17 to 20]. As a result, they later had Jesus brought before the Romans with the fabricated charges of political treason. The following statement from the book The Trial of Jesus Christ provides much insight into Jesus' so-called trial before the Sanhedrin.

". . . The Jewish proceedings, whatever their true character, were overshadowed and dominated by the fact that before they commenced, the members of the Tribunal predetermined the result, namely, the death of the Accused. Such a prejudging of a case would be fatal to the validity of a trial under any system of jurisprudence. In view of this astounding fact, why were there any "proceedings" at all? It would seem that the Rulers of the Jews desired above all else that the claim of Jesus of Nazareth to be the Messiah should be rejected with every outward show of judicial authority and in a manner most calculated to carry conviction to and secure the support of all shades of Jewish religious and political opinion; that to ensure this result, the Pharisaic and Sadducean Judges sank their differences and staged a "trial," which was in fact and in intent a mere colourable pretence of a lawfully convened and formally conducted trial, at which they purported to observe not only the agreed written law but such of the rules of the Oral Law as did not interfere with their united and unlawful pre-trial determination to put Jesus to death."

The laws of that time went to great lengths to give accused people the benefit of the doubt. Yet these religious leaders violated Old Testament law, Roman law, and the religious and civil laws of their time. They violated the universal laws of truth and honesty. It was mankind's most depraved hour. Yet, according to God's divine law and even human law, Jesus Christ himself remained perfectly innocent throughout it all. Jesus was the antithesis of the depravity around him. Jesus Christ died out of love for all men, including his accusers.

Matthew 26: 67 and 68 -- Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted [Greek: kolaphizo, to beat repeatedly with fists] him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands [Greek: rhapizo, to cuff or beat with a rod],

Saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee?

Mark 14: 65 -- And some began to spit on him, and to cover his face, and to buffet [Greek: kolaphizo] him, and to say unto him, Prophesy: and the servants did strike him with the palms of their hands [rhapisma, a cuffing or slapping with the palms or beating with rods].

Luke 22: 63 to 65 -- And the men that held Jesus mocked him, and smote [Greek: dero, skinned, flayed, or thrashed] him.

And when they had blindfolded him, they struck [tupto, to mark or beat with repeated strokes] him on the face, and asked him, saying, Prophesy, who is it that smote [paio, to strike with hand, fist, rod, or weapon] thee?

And many other things blasphemously spake they against him.

Imagine the most respected lawyers and religious leaders of your community assaulting an innocent man in the courtroom. It is outrageous even to consider such a travesty. Yet, that was the situation here. The accusers let no laws stand in their way. Through deceit, dishonesty, illegality, and cruelty, they showed their hatred of God's only-begotten Son, their Messiah. They beat him without mercy, spat on him, and covered his face while taunting him to prophesy the identity of his unseen torturer. While his head was covered, they beat on it and thrashed him savagely. Think what Jesus looked like when they uncovered his face.

The next recorded event is Peter's second denial. This took place while Jesus was yet before Caiaphas.

Matthew 26: 69 and 70 -- Now Peter sat without in the palace [courtyard]: and a damsel [Greek: paidiske] came unto him, saying, Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee.

But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest.

Mark 14: 66 to 68 -- And as Peter was beneath [below] in the palace [courtyard], there cometh one of the maids [Greek: paidiske] of the high priest:

And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked upon him, and said, And thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth.

But he denied, saying, I know not, neither understand I what thou sayest. . . .

Luke 22: 55 to 57 -- And when they had kindled a fire in the midst of the hall [courtyard], and were set down together, Peter sat down among them.

But a certain maid [Greek: paidiske] beheld him as he sat by the fire, and earnestly looked upon him, and said, This man was also with him.

And he [Peter] denied him [Jesus], saying, Woman, I know him not.

In each record a paidiske, a young maiden, accused Peter of having been with Jesus. Mark 14: 66 tells us she was a maid that served the high priest. Each record above places this denial in the courtyard area. The courtyard would be below the various rooms within the building, as Mark so accurately describes. Matthew tells us that this denial was before all those present in the courtyard.

The third denial occurred shortly after the second. The sole record of this is found in Luke.

Luke 22: 58 -- And after a little while another saw him, and said, Thou art also of them. And Peter said, Man, I am not.

The word "another" is heteros meaning here "another of a different kind." Heteros is in the masculine gender. Unlike the previous accuser, this was a man, not a woman. The next event was the first cock-crowing, recorded only in Mark.

Mark 14: 68 -- . . . And he went out into the porch; and the cock crew.

[This phrase "and the cock crew" is omitted in some Aramaic and Greek sources. However, it is included by several major sources. The Peshitta text of the Aramaic and the Codex Alexandrinus are two of the most notable sources to include it. It should be left in if God's Word is to be accurate. The omission by others was likely a scribal attempt at "harmonization."]

Peter went out into the porch, proaulion. This porch would have been the entire area under a large doorway that served as the entrance from the street to the courtyard. Peter, made uneasy by three accusations, squirmed out of the situation by going to the porch area. Then came the first cock-crowing. It occurred after the third denial, thus fulfilling Christ's first prediction of Peter's denials. However, there is no indication that Peter took notice of this first cockcrowing.

The fourth denial occurred while Peter was in the porch area.

Matthew 26: 71 and 72 -- And when he was gone out into the porch [as in Mark 14: 68], another [allos] maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth.

And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man,

Mark 14: 69 and 70 And a maid [paidiske] saw him again [the Codes Vaticanus, a fourth century manuscript, omits "again," whereas many manuscripts place "again after "began"], and began to say to them that stood by, This is one of them.

And he [Peter] denied it again. . . .

The word "porch" in Matthew 26: 71 is pulon. It is the large gate under the arch or entrance way forming the porch area. The word "maid" here in Matthew 26: 71 is not in the text. However, it is implied from the previous verses. It is also implied by the usage of the word allos meaning "another of the same kind." This accuser, though a different person from the second accuser, was also a young maiden (paidiske) who served the high priest. This is in harmony with the denial shown above from Mark 14. That was Peter's fourth denial.

Before the fifth denial Peter wandered from the porch area back to the fire in the courtyard, for during this denial he was again warming himself at the fire.

John 18: 25 -- And Simon Peter stood and warmed [was standing and warming] himself. They said therefore unto him, Art not thou also one of his disciples? He [Peter] denied it, and said, I am not.

Mark 14: 70 and 71 -- . . . And a little after [after the fourth denial in the porch], they that stood by said again to Peter, Surely thou art one of them: for thou art a Galilaean, and thy speech agreeth thereto.

But he began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not this man of whom ye speak.

Matthew 26: 73 and 74 -- And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee.

Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I know not the man... .

Each of the above Gospels records this denial when those standing at the fire began to accuse Peter. John 18 tells us that Peter was standing and warming himself at the fire in the courtyard. Matthew 26 and Mark 14 give the added information that the accusers suspected Peter of being a follower of Jesus because of his Galilean dialect. Galileans spoke northern Aramaic while Judeans spoke a southern dialect. They had heard Peter speaking in his previous denials. Matthew and Mark also tell us that Peter's denial was accompanied by cursing and swearing. Peter's fear was building toward a climax.

The sixth and final denial is found in John 18 and Luke 22.

John 18: 26 and 27 -- One of the servants of the high priest, being his kinsman [a relative of the man] whose ear Peter cut off, saith, Did not I see thee in the garden with him?

Peter then denied again. . . .

Luke 22: 59 and 60 -- And about the space of one hour after [one hour after the previous denial recorded in Luke which had been the third one] another [allos, another of the same kind, this accuser also was a man as in the previously recorded third denial] confidently affirmed, saying, Of a truth this fellow also was with him: for he is a Galilaean.

And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. . . .

This last denial also took place at the fire. It happened very shortly after the fifth denial. In contrast to the fifth denial, this time the accuser was a man. We know from Luke 22: 59 that it was a man who was confident of Peter's identity as a disciple. John 18: 26 tells us this accuser was a servant of the high priest and a relative of Malchus. He was one of the Temple guards who had been in the Garden of Gethsemane participating in the arrest of Jesus. In the garden earlier that night, he had seen Peter hastily pull out his dagger and cut Malchus' ear. He may also have watched Jesus heal it. Recalling this experience, the accuser recognized Peter. No wonder the man was confident. But Peter firmly denied Jesus for the sixth time.

Now comes an event recorded in each Gospel: the final cock-crowing.

Matthew 26: 74 -- . . . And immediately [eutheos, directly, forthwith] the cock crew.

Since the last denial recorded in Matthew 26 is the fifth one, the cock is here said to have crowed "immediately" or "directly" after the fifth denial. Yet, obviously the sixth denial had to occur between that fifth denial and the cock-crowing. The accuracy of this becomes clear in the other Gospels.

Mark 14: 72 -- And the second time the cock crew. . . .

Luke 22: 60 -- . . . And immediately [parachrema, along with the thing itself], while he yet spake, the cock crew.

John 18: 27 -- . . . and immediately [eutheos, directly, forthwith] the cock crew.

Mark 14: 72 gives us the information that this was the second cock-crowing. Matthew said that the cock crew immediately or directly after the fifth denial. John uses the same terminology to tell us the cock crowed immediately upon the sixth denial. The key is in Luke where we find that the cock-crowing occurred "while he yet spake" the sixth denial. The fifth denial, sixth denial, and final cock-crowing occurred in rapid succession, but the crowing happened while the sixth denial was still on Peter's lips. The minute accuracy of God's Word is amazing.

Here is a review and summary of these denials of Peter:

1. The first denial occurred while Jesus was before Annas. Peter was accused by a young female doorkeeper as he entered the door from the street to the courtyard. A disciple "known unto the high priest" made arrangements for Peter to be allowed in. (John 18: 15 to 18)

2. The second denial occurred while Jesus was before Caiaphas. The accuser was a young maiden who served the high priest. The location of this denial was by the fire in the courtyard. Peter was sitting. This denial was made before all in that area. (Matthew 26: 69 and 70, Luke 22: 55 to 57, Mark 14: 66 to 68a)

3. The third denial also occurred while Jesus was before Caiaphas, also by the fire in the courtyard. The accuser was a man. (Luke 22: 58)

First cock-crowing (Mark 14: 68b)

4. The fourth denial occurred while Jesus was before Caiaphas. It happened in the porch area, where the large door or gate was. The accuser was a maiden who served the high priest, a different maiden from the accuser who prompted denial number two. Judging from the location, she may have been one of the doorkeepers. (Matthew 26: 71 and 72, Mark 14: 69 and 70a)

5. The fifth denial occurred while Jesus was before Caiaphas. It happened in the courtyard area again with Peter standing next to the fire. This time there were several accusers that challenged him, citing his Galilean dialect as evidence of his discipleship to Jesus. After this denial, Peter began adamantly cursing and swearing, probably as an act to convince them he was not a disciple. (Matthew 26: 73 and 74a, Mark 14: 70b and 71, John 18: 25)

6. The sixth denial occurred immediately after the fifth at the fire in the courtyard. The accuser was a servant of the high priest who had been present at the arrest in the garden. There he had seen Peter and now he confidently and quickly affirmed the fifth accusation by recognizing Peter. While Peter yet spoke this denial, the cock crowed. (Luke 22: 59 and 60a, John 18: 26 and 27a)

Second cock-crowing (Matthew 26: 74b, Mark 14: 72a, Luke 22: 60b, John 18: 27b)

Peter fulfilled each prediction that Jesus had made. The denials occurred in the area of the porch and courtyard of the palace where Annas and Caiaphas were located. With each accusation and denial, Peter grew more uneasy and more afraid of being detected. He was surrounded by enemies. He restlessly stood up, sat down, stood up again, and walked back and forth from the fire in the courtyard to the porch. Finally, several of those at the fire began to accuse him. He vociferously denied the accusation with cursing and swearing. Then a man who had seen him at the arrest stepped in and confidently identified him. Just as Peter was pronouncing his final denial, the cock crowed the second time. The next event is heartrending.

Luke 22: 61 and 62 -- And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.

And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.

Peter standing at the fire must have gotten a glimpse of his master through a door of the palace. Immediately after the sixth denial and the final cock-crowing, his eyes met those of Jesus. By this time Jesus had already been badly beaten, he was already wounded and bloody. In an emotionally charged moment of internal turmoil and tension, Peter caught sight of his lord, beaten and humiliated, the one whom he had just denied. That moment was seared into Peter's memory. His mind instantly recalled each prophecy Jesus had made of his denials. Distressed by his own cowardly behavior and broken at the sight of his tortured lord, Peter turned, went out into the street, and wept bitterly.

Peter was not really a coward. He did have the courage to follow Jesus to the courtyard of the high priests, while the others scattered. Yet in this his master's time of great need, he had utterly failed to be true to him or even to acknowledge that he knew him. What a testimony to the frailty of man! Peter went away, harboring this realization in the very depths of his being. Jesus Christ, God's only-begotten Son, was now a solitary soul, left alone to face the next day and a half of torture and suffering.

End Of Part Four

** This concludes the end of The Thirteenth Of Nisan -- from Sunset To Sunrise.