Pastor David B. Curtis

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Putting Yahweh on Trial Pt 2

John 18:24

Delivered 11/04/18

We are continuing our study of the Forth Gospel, we are in the final hours of our Lord's life, He is soon to be crucified by the Romans. Yeshua and His disciples are in the Garden of Gethsemane, on the Mount of Olives, and a crowd of Jewish leaders and Roman soldiers come to arrest Yeshua. Lazarus doesn't tell us this, but when Yeshua was arrested all His disciples fled.

After arresting Yeshua they take Him to Jerusalem to be tried by the Jewish leaders. If you remember I said last week that Yeshua actually had two trials. Our Lord has an ecclesiastical trial, and then He has a civil trial. He was judged before the authorities of Israel, and then He was judged before the Roman authorities. Both trials had three phases, and both were filled with illegalities.

Yeshua first appeared before Annas. It was a preliminary inquiry. Annas tried to get Yeshua to incriminate Himself. We looked at this last week. And then secondly, He appears in an illegal midnight trial before Caiaphas who was serving as high priest that year. Yeshua told Caiaphas that He was the Christ, the Son of God, resulting in the Jewish leaders declaring Him guilty of blasphemy (Matt. 26:63-66). And then finally, He appeared before a formal session of the Sanhedrin ,which formally condemned Him to death (Matt. 27:1-2).

But Roman law prevented the Sanhedrin from putting anyone to death. And so while they condemned Him as worthy of death, they could not actually put Him to death. The charge that they brought against Yeshua was a religious charge of blaspheme. The Romans would never have accepted blaspheme as reason for death. And so the charge that they accused Yeshua of to the Romans was treason. They told the Romans that Yeshua taught that there is anther king besides Caesar.

So He is charged before Pilate with treason. So Pilate tries Him, and finds that there's no cause for putting Yeshua to death, and so when he hears that Herod happens to be in the vicinity, he sends Him to Herod, hoping that Herod will settle the matter. But when Herod questioned Yeshua, He wouldn't say anything. So he sends Him back to Pilate. Although Pilate found Yeshua to be innocent he caved to the pressure of the Jews and handed Yeshua over to be crucified. Both trials were a mockery of justice.

Annas then sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest. John 18:24 ESV

Lazarus focuses on Yeshua before Annas and then simply says that he sent Him bound to Caiaphas. From there he jumps to the trial before Pilot. Well before we look at our Lord before Pilot, let's fill in some details of the His trial before Caiaphas and the Sanhedren. Matthew and Mark give us the details of our Lord before Caiaphas.

And they led Yeshua to the high priest. And all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together. Mark 14:53 ESV

Mark simply tells us they took Yeshua to the high priest, but Matthew adds that they led Yeshua away to Caiaphas, the high priest:

Then those who had seized Yeshua led him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders had gathered. Matthew 26:57 ESV

So Yeshua is sent from Annas, who we talked about last week, to Caiaphas.

And they led Yeshua to the high priest. And all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together. Mark 14:53 ESV

As I said last week, the high priest was a very powerful, very important man. He was the political head of the nation, and he was the judicial head of the state. Ordinarily the priests came from the tribe of Levi, and the high priest came from the family of Aaron. But in the time of the Romans, the Romans appointed the high priest.

The "Chief Priests"—this group included former high priests and members of the priestly aristocracy. Thy were Sadducees. Then we have the "Elders,"which is the Greek word presbuteroi, which sometimes refers to members of the Sanhedrin as a whole and elsewhere to a third group among the members consisting of priests and lay members of the nobility. Then we have the "Scribes" or "teachers of the law"; they were learned men, sometimes priests, but mostly lay persons, who were entrusted with making copies of the Scripture as well as providing instruction in the Torah. In Yeshua's time, they drew from both the Pharisee and Sadducee parties, served as judges and theologians, and would be called upon to speak in the synagogues.

Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking testimony against Yeshua to put him to death, but they found none. Mark 14:55 ESV

The word "Council" here is the Greek word sunedrion, which means: "a sitting together." The word here refers to the Sanhedrin, the great Council of the Jews at Jerusalem.

There were, during the time of Yeshua, three Sanhedrins: 1) a three-judge panel; 2) a 23-member judicial Sanhedrin; and 3) a full 71-member religious Sanhedrin. Only the 23-member Sanhedrin was qualified to try criminal cases. Those accused of capital crimes were brought before this court. The Mishnah states, "Cases involving the death penalty are judged before twenty-three [judges]" ("Sanhedrin" 1:4a).

The Great Sanhedrin (sometimes called the Great Beth Din] was a tribunal body consisting of three chambers: the Chamber of the Chief Priests; the Chamber of the Scribes; and the Chamber of the Elders (sometimes called counselors). These three chambers were divided into 23 members each, which when combined, constituted of a body of 69 members. Added to this were the two high priests: the nasi and the ab bet din, making a total of 71 members in all. This legislative unit was responsible only for the administration of the Temple.

Mark concentrates on the appearance at the house of Caiaphas, which was a pre-trial judicial examination, although not the official meeting of the Sanhedrin, which had to take place in daylight.

Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking testimony against Yeshua to put him to death, but they found none. Mark 14:55 ESV

Notice here that they weren't looking for witnesses to testify to the truth, they wanted to put Him to death. Their intentions were clear. They wanted Yeshua dead. This trial wasn't fair, it wasn't just.

Two witnesses were required for capital punishment, according to Numbers 35:30 and:

On the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses the one who is to die shall be put to death; a person shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness. Deuteronomy 17:6 ESV

The procedure for examining more than one witness is laid out in "Sanhedrin" 3:6 where it clearly shows that the witnesses which were to follow were not allowed to hear the testimony of the former people who were to testify, and that only if their testimony agreed, could the judges discuss the matter to the end of pronouncing the verdict.

"But they found none"—they were unable to find two of them who agreed with one another and didn't contradict:

For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree. Mark 14:56 ESV

That they were false witnesses does not mean that the Sanhedrin had put up false witnesses deliberately. They were false witnesses, because what they testified about Yeshua was, as Mark knew, not wholly true. This is clear evidence that reasonably correct procedures were being followed, and had to be, because it was demanded by many of those present.

As these witnesses, one by one, would recount even the same event, there was such a discrepancy that it was obvious that they either were telling a lie, or had not been there, or that something was seriously wrong in their testimony:

And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying, "We heard him say, 'I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.'" Yet even about this their testimony did not agree. Mark 14:57-59 ESV

To speak against the Temple was a very serious offense in the time of Yeshua. To desecrate the Temple in any way was regarded as sacrilege, a crime carrying the death sentence. Signs warning Gentiles not to enter the sacred area explicitly stated that doing so would subject the transgressor to execution. Jeremiah's experience clearly demonstrates that speaking against the temple was also considered a crime worthy of death.

Those who accused Yeshua of claiming He would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days were perhaps misunderstanding Yeshua's statement in:

Yeshua answered them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." John 2:19 ESV

What is Yeshua talking about here? He is not talking about the physical Temple in Jerusalem, but about his body:

The Jews then said, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?" But he was speaking about the temple of his body. John 2:20-21 ESV

Yeshua is declaring His Body, Himself personally and His Body the Church—to be the true Temple!

But look at what Yeshua said about the Temple in:

And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, "Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!"And Yeshua said to him, "Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down." Mark 13:1-2 ESV

It was probably this, or something like it, that was being remembered. But as is clear from an examination of that statement in John 2:19, Yeshua did not say there that He would destroy the temple. And the witnesses could not agree on what He did say. The idea, however, became lodged in some of their minds for they brought it against Him again at the cross:

And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, "Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!" Mark 15:29-30 ESV

Later in the book of Acts we see the same accusation is attributed to Stephen by false witnesses:

for we have heard him say that this Yeshua of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses delivered to us." Acts 6:14 ESV

They accuse Stephen of saying, "This Yeshua of Nazareth will destroy this place (the temple in Jerusalem), and will change the customs which Moses delivered to us." Did Yeshua actually say this? Not in John 2, but he did say it in Matthew 24.

Such a statement that He would destroy the temple would, indeed, probably have been looked on as blasphemy in itself, and the idea that He would destroy it and then rebuild it in three days could be seen as a Messianic claim:

And say to him, 'Thus says the LORD of hosts, "Behold, the man whose name is the Branch: for he shall branch out from his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD. Zechariah 6:12 ESV

The prophet, Zechariah, announced concerning Joshua, the current high priest: "He will build the temple of the LORD." This, as Edersheim points out in one of his appendices, "…is universally admitted to be Messianic" [Appendix nine - "List of OT passages Messianically applied in Ancient Rabbinic writings"].

Although they understood that Yeshua had said something about the destroying of a temple and its rebuilding, none of the witnesses could agree. Jewish law opposed false witnesses. The Biblical penalty for false witnesses in a capital case was execution:

If a malicious witness arises to accuse a person of wrongdoing, then both parties to the dispute shall appear before the LORD, before the priests and the judges who are in office in those days. The judges shall inquire diligently, and if the witness is a false witness and has accused his brother falsely, then you shall do to him as he had meant to do to his brother. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. Deuteronomy 19:16-19 ESV

Cross-examination of witnesses was standard in Jewish law (as in Susanna 48-62; m. 'Abot 1:9), and apparently the examiners did their job well enough here to produce contradictions they did not expect.

And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Yeshua, "Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?" But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?" Mark 14:60-61 ESV

"He remained silent"-Yeshua is being falsely accused and He doesn't say a word. Isaiah had prophesied:

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. Isaiah 53:7 ESV

Again, we see that the Scriptures are being fulfilled. God's plan of redemption is unfolding just as He said it would.

Mark says, "And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Yeshua, 'Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?'" Matthew's account of this is much stronger:

But Yeshua remained silent. And the high priest said to him, "I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God." Matthew 26:63 ESV

The High Priest says, "I adjure you by the living God." This was requiring testimony from the prisoner under an oath before God.

"If anyone sins in that he hears a public adjuration to testify, and though he is a witness, whether he has seen or come to know the matter, yet does not speak, he shall bear his iniquity; Leviticus 5:1 ESV

Under Jewish Law was Yeshua required to respond to Caiaphas' question? While the inquisitor had the right to adjure witnesses in this way, who were then bound to reply and tell the truth under threat of severe penalty, it is very questionable whether it was legal to do the same to make a man incriminate himself.

"Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?"Yeshua's accusers ask what they perceive as a political question: Do you come as the Messiah who is expected to overthrow the Roman oppressors and make Israel free again as it was in the days of David? But Yeshua responds that He is heir to a much more comprehensive Kingdom than David ever imagined:

And Yeshua said, "I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven." Mark 14:62 ESV

This was more than a claim to be an earthly Messiah. Yeshua is claiming to be God's heir in a unique way-blasphemous if it were not, in fact, true.

"The Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power"thewording of this passage refers us back to the expression, "The Son of Man," found in Daniel 7:13, where we see Yeshua, the Son of Man, coming to the Ancient of Days and receiving His everlasting Kingdom. This prophecy of Daniel was fulfilled at the Ascension (see Acts 2:30-36). The kingdom was given to Christ at His ascension, and this was made manifest to all Israel in the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Jerusalem's destruction was a sign that Yeshua Christ was the Messiah of God.

And Yeshua said, "I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven." Mark 14:62 ESV

Notice the similarities between Yeshua's answer to Caiaphas, and what He said in:

And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. Mark 13:26 ESV

Yeshua told Caiaphas, "You will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven." He told His disciples, "They will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory." It is obviously the same event in both passages. Notice Caiaphas' response to Yeshua's statement:

And the high priest tore his garments and said, "What further witnesses do we need? You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?" And they all condemned him as deserving death. Mark 14:63-64 ESV

What did Yeshua say that was blasphemy? Caiaphas understood that Yeshua was claiming to be the Messiah. In order to understand what Yeshua is saying, we need to understand the idea that is behind "coming in the clouds."

When Yeshua said He would come on the clouds, He was using the apocalyptic language of the prophets to identify Himself as the Messiah, the Judge. Caiaphas reacted the way he did because he knew that only God came on clouds; that was a claim to deity. God's "coming on the clouds of heaven" is a symbolic way of speaking of His presence, judgment, and salvation. All through the Scriptures, God was coming "on clouds" in salvation of His people and judgement of His enemies:

An oracle concerning Egypt. Behold, the LORD is riding on a swift cloud and comes to Egypt; and the idols of Egypt will tremble at his presence, and the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them. Isaiah 19:1 ESV

We know from Isaiah chapter 20 that God used the Assyrians as instruments of His wrath on Egypt, yet it says, "The LORD is riding on a swift cloud…Egypt will tremble at His presence." God came to Egypt in judgment. His presence was made known in judgment. But it was the Assyrians who were literally present.

Caiaphas reacted the way he did because he knew that only God came on clouds; that was a claim to deity. He knew that Yeshua was claiming to be the Messiah of Daniel 7:

And Yeshua said, "I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven." Mark 14:62 ESV

This "coming with the clouds" is clearly Second Coming language:

Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. Revelation 1:7 ESV

Notice that in our text Yeshua uses the personal pronoun "you", "and you will see the Son of Man". Who is He talking to? Caiaphas. Caiaphas asked Yeshua if He is the Son of God, the Messiah. Yeshua answered Caiaphas by saying that he will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the "clouds of heaven." Yeshua says specifically that the high priest would see both the "sitting" and the "coming." It must be referring to something that was to take place for Caiaphas (and probably those present) to witness.

Our text says that Caiaphas will see Him "coming with the clouds of heaven" while He is "sitting at the right hand of the Power." Which means that can't be referring to a literal, bodily coming; how could He do both at the same time? This is clearly apocalyptic language. His coming with the clouds is proof of His sitting on the right hand of power.

And the high priest tore his garments and said, "What further witnesses do we need? You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?" And they all condemned him as deserving death. Mark 14:63-64 ESV

Here we have Yeshua and Caiaphas standing face to face-representing two high priests. Caiaphas was a fleshly high priest; Yeshua, on the other hand, was high priest according to the Spirit of God:

So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him, "You are my Son, today I have begotten you"; Hebrews 5:5 ESV

And His promise:

The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, "You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek." Psalms 110:4 ESV

Shows that YHWH had given the priesthood to David's Lord by a promise that would not be revoked.

The high priest's robe was specifically constructed so that it could not be torn:

He also made the robe of the ephod woven all of blue, and the opening of the robe in it was like the opening in a garment, with a binding around the opening, so that it might not tear. Exodus 39:22-23 ESV

Aaron and successive high priests were commanded not to tear their garments:

"The priest who is chief among his brothers, on whose head the anointing oil is poured and who has been consecrated to wear the garments, shall not let the hair of his head hang loose nor tear his clothes. Leviticus 21:10 ESV

Even when Aaron's sons died before Yahweh, he was forbidden to show his grief in this manner (Lev 10:6) for the robe and the symbol of His calling to the priesthood had to be kept in tact.

When Caiaphas tore his robe, he tore the priesthood away from himself and all those who were to follow, violating the covenant with God.

You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?" And they all condemned him as deserving death. Mark 14:64 ESV

Note the phraseology, "as deserving death." It was a recommendation, not a sentence. This was an inquiry, not a trial. Its view would have to be ratified by the official Sanhedrin meeting by daylight.

And some began to spit on him and to cover his face and to strike him, saying to him, "Prophesy!" And the guards received him with blows. Mark 14:65 ESV

They began to vent their hatred upon Yeshua and pour out in venomous abuse all the pent-up jealousy and hatred they had gathered against Him. They began to spit on Him-that is the ultimate form of insult. They spat upon Him; they beat Him; they covered His face with a garment, and while His face was hidden, they hit Him, and they said, "Prophesy! Tell us who hit you."

By ridiculing Yeshua's prophet status, His opponents may imply that they have condemned Him as a false prophet according to the rules of Deuteronomy 18:20. His very condemnation and likely imminent execution disproved for them His prophecies about the temple and His own imminent enthronement. But we know that Yeshua predicted accurately both His mistreatment and the temple's destruction; and we see Yeshua as the truest prophet of all.

They mocked Him, and scorned Him, and insulted Him. Seven hundred and fifty years before this, Isaiah had spoken the words that Yeshua must indeed have been thinking:

I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting. Isaiah 50:6 ESV

This trial as unjust as it was, was going according to Yahweh's plan.

Luke gives us details of a third hearing that took place in the morning, presumably when the sun had risen. This would be the only official trial, but by then the issue had really been decided.

When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people gathered together, both chief priests and scribes. And they led him away to their council, and they said, "If you are the Christ, tell us." But he said to them, "If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I ask you, you will not answer. But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God." So they all said, "Are you the Son of God, then?" And he said to them, "You say that I am." Then they said, "What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips." Luke 22:66-71 ESV

After discussion and confirmation of what had happened during the night, there followed a guilty verdict. So the Ecclesiastical trial of our Lord, his trial by the leaders of Israel, has ended with the charge against Yeshua of blasphemy; therefore they believed Yeshua was worthy of death.

So now they bind Yeshua, and they're going from the palace of Caiphas the high priest to the palace of Herod, where Pilot would have his headquarters. But they also understand that the charge of blasphemy would be of no interest to Pilot. They had to come up with a political charge that would force Pilot to take action. So the charge they come up with is that Yeshua is claiming to be King of the Jews. That would make Him guilty of high treason.

So the leadership of Israel, Yahweh's chosen people, has decided on Passover that Yeshua, the Lamb of God, is worthy of death. Look at what Paul said of Israel:

For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen. Romans 9:3-5 ESV

"To them belong… the worship"— this interpretation may convey less than what Paul intended. It's really the totality of worship in the temple that is intended. They had that magnificent ceremony of the Levitical cultus; day after day the priests in their garments carried out their ministries, and then on the day of atonement came the garments of glory and beauty and all of the other things that made for the sacrifices, which on that particular day were designed to teach. They were designed to teach Israel that there was coming someone who would fulfill all of this. All the symbols of the Mosaic Law cry out Yeshua of Nazareth is the Passover lamb. And that Lamb was standing before them and in their jealous hatred they wanted him put to death.

Matthew tell us:

Now when morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people conferred together against Yeshua to put Him to death; and they bound Him, and led Him away and delivered Him to Pilate the governor. Matthew 27:1-2 NASB

Will pick up Yeshua's second trial before the Romans next week.

Continue the Series

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