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The Trial Before the High Priest.
“Reading the Gospels side by side, we will, with care and study, see how all they tell us falls accurately into its proper position in the general narrative, and shows us a six-fold trial, a quadruple decision, a triple acquittal, a twice repeated condemnation of Christ our Lord. We soon perceive that of the 265three successive trials which our Lord underwent at the hands of the Jews, the first only—that before Annas—is related to us by John; the second—that before Caiaphas—by Matthew and Mark; the third—that before the Sanhedrim—by Luke alone. Nor is there anything strange in this, since the first was the practical, the second the potential, and the third the actual and formal decision, that sentence of death should be passed upon him. Each of the three trials might, from a different point of view, have been regarded as the most fatal and important of the three. That of Annas was the authoritative pre-judgment, that of Caiaphas the real determination, that of the Sanhedrim, at daybreak, the final ratification. “—Farrar. (Joh 18:15)
15. Simon Peter followed Jesus, and another disciple. At the time of the seizure of Christ all the apostles fled in panic (Matt. 26:56), but in a short time some of them recovered and followed (Matt. 26:58), one of them being Peter. The other “disciple” named is admitted by all commentators to be John. He was “known to the high priest,” how we cannot say; some have supposed that he was a relative; others that he had a home in Jerusalem (19:27) and had thus become acquainted. As an acquaintance he was at once admitted through the gates of the high priest's palace, while Peter was refused admission. High priest. In verse 13 it is stated that Jesus “was led away to Annas first,” while here he is taken into the “high priest's palace,” though we have just been informed that “Caiaphas was high priest that year.” This may be explained in two ways. Annas who had been high priest for seven years, who was the father of four sons who were high priests, and whose son-in-law was high priest, was probably the most influential man among the Jews and was dignified with his old title of high priest. In Luke 3:2, both Annas and Caiaphas are named as high priests; in Acts 4:6, Annas is spoken of as high priest. Though his son-in-law was now by Roman appointment in the position, he was still called high priest, and from what we learn elsewhere, his counsels swayed the ruling party. It is, however, likely that he still had a home in the official residence of the high priest and that he and his son-in-law lived under the same roof. The band that had arrested Jesus brought him to Annas first, perhaps because at that midnight hour Caiaphas was asleep while the more active and vigilant Annas was on the alert. Perhaps because Annas, the power behind the throne, had directed them to do so; or, as some have urged, he held some high dignity that entitled him to examine Jesus and commit him for trial. His was a preliminary examination. It seems certain that he and Caiaphas lodged in the same palace and hence, that all that is recorded of Peter's denials in the four accounts, occurred at the same place. 266 (Joh 18:16)
16. But Peter stood at the door without. The damsel who kept the door, for it was a common Jewish custom to have female porters, seeing that Peter was a stranger, refused to admit him. John went in, evidently expecting Peter to follow, but when he did not, returned and spoke to the maid, who at once, suffered him to pass, John being an acquaintance. (Joh 18:17)
17. Art thou not also one of this man's disciples? John was known to the maid as a disciple of Christ. The maid, fancying that Peter was another, from his acquaintance with John, asked the question, after Peter had gone in, from curiosity. There was no occasion for Peter to deny, but from sudden fear he said, “I am not.” As some have insisted that there is a discrepancy in the four accounts of the denial of Peter it will be well to note, 1. That each Evangelist records the prediction of a three-fold denial; 2. That each Evangelist records three acts of denial; 3. That they all represent these to have occurred at the palace of the high priest; 4. That all declare that the first denial was in answer to a question of a maid servant; 5. All refer to the same place in the immediate connection, the court or inner open space around which the building was constructed, and where the fire was built on the pavement. This would be within the building, but outside of the rooms. Thus far, then, there is harmony. (Joh 18:18)
18. Servants and officers stood there, who had made a fire of coals. As we learn from Mark 14:66, the fire was made in the court, the open space left in the center for light and ventilation around which the building was constructed, and which was reached by an arched way called (Matt. 26:71) “the porch.” The court within, which was a common feature of great houses, was paved. The fire was of charcoal. It was cold. As a general rule the nights of Palestine at the season of the passover were warm throughout, and the cold is named as unusual. Peter, having denied his Master, probably thought he was less likely to be suspected if he threw himself in the midst of his enemies and hence he “stood and warmed himself,” while John seems to have pressed on after his Lord. (Joh 18:19)
19. The high priest then asked Jesus . . . of his doctrine. Is not certain whether this “high priest” was Annas or Caiaphas, but I agree with the 267opinion of Canon Farrar that it was Annas, and that John, therefore, gives an account of the informal examination by this great dignitary which he personally witnessed and which is omitted in the other Gospels. In the Common Version verse 24 reads that “Annas had sent him to Caiaphas bound,” which has been supposed to mean that he was sent before the examination described just before. The Revision, however, reads, “Annas, therefore, sent him,” etc., which is correct as the Greek verb is not in the past perfect, but in the aorist tense. This can only mean that Annas sent him after the examination that John describes. Since, as we have found, Annas is called high priest, as well as Caiaphas, there is no difficulty in the use of that term. Annas had now conducted his informal trial, decided upon the case, and delivered over the prisoner, “bound,” for official investigation. The next investigation, which is described by Matthew and Mark, was not conducted by the whole Sanhedrim, but a portion. The Jewish writers speak of three Sanhedrims, of which two were, in fact, great committees of the Sanhedrim, twenty-three members being required for a meeting. This was probably such a section. On the other hand, Luke records the meeting of the great body, the whole Sanhedrim, at dawn of the day (Luke 22:66), since, according to Jewish writers, it could not condemn a man to death at night. The high priest's examination of Jesus was in the hope that he could extort some admission on which a charge could be framed. The answer of the Savior, though calm and dignified, is a rebuke. (Joh 18:20) (Joh 18:21)
20, 21. I spake openly to the world. The Lord ignores the question concerning his disciples, but answers with reference to himself. He had taught openly in the synagogue and temple; he had entered into no conspiracies, as Annas himself had done; all his life and teaching could be learned by inquiry. Let them, if they wanted information, seek it of those who had heard him. There are several emphatic words, the I five times repeated in two verses, in contrast with you, and the ever. Jesus had no secret clique, but “taught the world.” It will be observed that the Lord claims that the examination may proceed in the regular order by calling witnesses. “Ask them;” “Why askest thou me?” (Joh 18:22)
22. One of the officers . . struck Jesus. This is the first blow that was laid upon him “by whose stripes we are healed.” The word rendered “palm of the hand” is “rod” in the margin, which is probably the meaning. The officer, a courtier, was not accustomed to hear a prisoner, in plain and independent language, stand upon his rights, and hence insolently struck the 268prisoner, and exclaimed, as though to justify the act, “Answerest thou the high priest so?” (Joh 18:23)
23. If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil. Observe the calmness and dignity of the reply. Paul, under similar circumstances (Acts 23:3), answers like a man, but Christ, like the Son of God. If there was evil in the words just spoken, let it be pointed out; but if not, to smite him was a crime. These words are spoken to the servant. Violence is the resort of those who are in the wrong. (Joh 18:24)
24. Now Annas had sent him bound to Caiaphas. If this a correct translation, the Lord was sent to Caiaphas before the examination just recorded. The Revision, however, reads: “Annas, therefore, sent him,” etc., indicating that he was now sent. The latter is the correct translation, and points out this as the time be was sent. (Joh 18:25)
25. And Simon Peter . . . Art thou also one of his disciples? In verse 18 Peter is described as among the enemies of Christ, warming himself. It is repeated in order to give the circumstances of the second denial. It is by a comparison of all the Gospels that we get the full facts. They do not contradict each other but relate different parts of the same story. “Another maid” (Matthew) saw him and spoke to the others about him. Then “a man saw him” (Luke) and accused him; then those to whom the maid had spoken also accused (John). To all he made his second denial, Matthew says, “with an oath.” This occurred partly in the “porch” (Matthew and Mark), or passage way to the court, and partly in the court (John). John and Luke omit the aggravation of the denials which Matthew and Mark record. (Joh 18:26)
26. One of the servants of the high priest . . . Did I not see thee? etc. There is no mention of where the third denial occurred. Some time had passed, “about an hour” (Luke), since the last denial. Matthew and Mark describe the charge by “them that stood by;” Luke as made by another man, and John as made by a kinsman of Malchus. From all these accounts it seems clear that the conversation had been going on, probably around the fire. Peter joined in it and his Galilean pronunciation was recognized. Attention was called to it, and then many brought the charge against him. One of the servants, also a kinsman of Malchus, asserted that he had seen him in the garden. To all of these Peter made his denial with an oath, even “cursing and swearing” 269as though in a great passion (Matthew). All the Evangelists then give the three acts of denial, but each has taken different circumstances that were most significant for his purpose. All three denials took place in the high priest's house, in the court or the entrance to it, all within range of the light and heat of the fire kindled within; the first in the court, the second in the entrance, and the third again within. (Joh 18:27)
27. Immediately the cock crew. As the oaths were sullying the lips of him who had declared that he would die for the Master, the cock crew the second time to herald the approach of day. At that very moment the Lord, probably now being led to the meeting of the Sanhedrim which Luke tells us met at daylight, turned and looked on Peter with a look that pierced his soul. The recreant disciple went out into the night, like Judas; broken down, however, by repentance instead of remorse, and “wept bitterly” (Matt. 26:75). “They upon whom Jesus looks mourn their misdeeds. Peter at first denied and wept not, for the Lord had not looked upon him. He a second time denied, yet wept not; for the Lord hitherto had not looked on him. He denied a third time, and Jesus looked on him and then he wept most bitterly.”—Ambrose.
Following this, at dawn of day, the Savior was tried before Sanhedrim, as related in Luke 22:66–71, and as all attempts to prove him guilty of some crime or violation of the law had failed, in spite of false witnesses, he was called upon to answer, and upon his affirmation of divine majesty, they condemned him to die as guilty of blasphemy. To carry the sentence into effect the approbation of the Roman governor was needful. Hence, their prisoner is next sent to Pilate.
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