HFBC - LESSON: Matt.. 26:63-75
Motivation: The number 3 figures prominently in Peter's story during the last days on earth for Jesus Christ: 3 times asleep in Gethsemane, 3 denials of Jesus at His trials and 3 questions which led to affirmation by the post -resurrection Christ by the Sea of Galilee (John 21:15-19). Peter's story is a reminder that failure must never be fatal and final.
I. Jesus' Betrayal and Arrest (26:47-56) In his excellent book, Who Moved the Stone, Frank Morrison raises some excellent points about the arrest of Jesus; especially concerning the time lapse between the departure of Judas from the supper and His arrest: "Now this very significant gap of at least three hours in the movement of an otherwise tense and closely knit drama has to be explained. It is imperative that we would know what Judas was doing all the time, and especially why, when the expedition did at last set out, Judas knew where he would find Jesus. In some ways this is the master fact of the situation. When we know that, we have the key to what is surely the strangest episode in history." (p. 35) Morrison suggests that Judas brought two new startling pieces of information to the Jewish leaders:
A. He knew exactly where Jesus was because Jesus told him! The place was private and secluded.
B. Jesus Himself suggested that He would be arrested; the implication was that He would not resist (26:1, 24).
These two new facts helped tip the Sanhedrin toward an immediate arrest rather than a delay until after the Passover (26:1). The narrow window of opportunity to try, convict and crucify Him before the Passover overcame their fear of His popularity and power (55). Just as Judas must have assured them; Jesus was right where He said He would be and there was minimum resistance (despite Peter's attempt). To add to His agony and sorrow, "Then all the disciples deserted Him and ran away." (56) Jesus was not powerless; He could have called "more than 12 legions of angels" (53- about 72,000). Sadly, He had to face His greatest trial without a single friend at His side.
II. Jesus' Trial before the Sanhedrin (26:57-62)
A. The Jury "Those who had arrested Jesus led Him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders had convened."
(57) Undoubtable, this was a crowning triumph for many of these men who seemed powerless before Christ's wisdom, popularity and intellect. As we have read previously, these same scribes and Pharisees had sought to trap him with questions of theology without success. Finally, it seemed, these plotters had trapped Jesus in their web of deceit.
B. The Witness "Meanwhile, Peter was following Him at a distance right to the high priest's courtyard. He went in and was sitting with the temple police to see the outcome."
(58) Peter is rightly criticized for his three denials; yet, aside from John (John 18: 15-16), Peter was the only disciple at Jesus' trials. He was the only disciple who attempted to defend Jesus at Gethsemane as well as the only disciple to attempt a 'water walk'. Many people avoid failure by never attempting anything new.
C. The Charges "The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false testimony against Jesus so they could put Him to death. But they could not find any, even though many false witnesses came forward. Finally, two who came forward stated, 'This man says 'I can demolish God's sanctuary and rebuild it in three days.' The high priest then stood up and said to Jesus, 'Don't you have an answer to what these men are testifying against You?'"
(59-62) HCSB: p.1666: 26:59-60 "The Sanhedrin was obligated to interview witnesses separately and then compare their testimonies to determine if they were consistent (Mk 14:55-59). Inconsistent testimonies were considered invalid." HCSB: p. 1666-67: 26:61-63 "The testimony was based on a confused understanding of Jesus' statement in Jn 2:19. Since both 2 Sm 7:13-14 and Zch 6:12 portrayed Messiah as One who would build a temple for God, the high priest regarded the statement about building the temple in three days as a claim to Messiahship. The high priest appears to use the titles Messiah and Son of God interchangeably, suggesting that many Jews saw the title "Son of God" as messianic in light of Ps 2."
III. Affirmed by Scripture
"But Jesus kept silent. Then the high priest said to Him, "By the living God I place You under oath: tell us if You are the Messiah, the Son of God!" 64 "You have said it," Jesus told him. "But I tell you, in the future you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming on the clouds of heaven." (26:63-64) Two factors to keep in mind....
A. The Sanhedrin needed Roman approval to invoke the death penalty (John 18:31).
B. Therefore, the council needed a charge that would stand up in a court of Rome. The only "slam dunk" capital charge would be insurrection.
The High Priest knew that a boast of destroying the temple (61) would not warrant the death penalty. However, to get Jesus to proclaim Himself the Messiah (who in their minds was still a warrior-king), would be to declare a threat to Roman rule (Luke 23:2, 5). Jesus' answer is consistent with His teaching (22:41-46); His is not a warrior in the tradition of King David. Rather, His kingdom is spiritual in nature." HCSB: p. 1667: 26:64 "Jesus' confession acknowledged that He is Messiah and the Son of God. However, He countered confused interpretations of His messianic role by describing Himself as the Son of Man. Both "Son of Man" and the phrase coming on the clouds of heaven were drawn from Dn 7:13. Jesus' words confirmed that He intended this title to express not just His humanity but His identity as a King of heavenly origin who would reign over an eternal kingdom. The words seated at the right hand echo Ps 110:1 (see also Mt. 22:43-46). Jesus' application of Ps 110:1 to Himself gave the impression that He was claiming to be God's equal. The unbelieving Jewish leaders regarded this as blasphemy, a crime worthy of death (Lv 24:10-23)."
IV. Denied by His Opponents
"Then the high priest tore his robes and said, "He has blasphemed! Why do we still need witnesses? Look, now you've heard the blasphemy! 66 What is your decision?" They answered, "He deserves death!" 67 Then they spit in His face and beat Him; others slapped Him 68 and said, "Prophesy to us, Messiah! Who hit You?" (26:65-68)
The extent of the hate these men had for Jesus is demonstrated in this account. (Lev. 21:10) The simmering feud that had been building through Matthew's account comes to a boil with physical violence toward Jesus. Which hurt Jesus more, the physical blows of His enemies or the desertion of His friends? (Isaiah 53:7; 1 Peter 2:23). HCSB: p. 1667: 26:65 "Tearing one's robes was a common expression of deep grief and was the customary Jewish response to blasphemy. However, because the robes of the high priest were sacred, Lv 21:10 prohibited "the priest who is highest among his bothers" from tearing his garments. Thus the high priest's anger at Jesus' statement prompted him to commit an act of sacrilege." 26:66 "Execution by stoning was the prescribed OT penalty for blasphemy (Lv 24:10-23)." 26:67-68 "Mark 14:65 shows that the men covered Jesus' face before they beat Him. Thus Jesus was expected to identify His abusers by name without seeing their faces or hearing their voices. This mock test of Messiahship was probably based on a misinterpretation of Is 11:3 which said that Messiah "will not judge by what He sees with His eyes... (or) by what He hears with His ears." A century later Bar Kochba was executed after his claims to be Messiah were disproved by his inability to judge by smell."
V. Abandoned by His Friends
"Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant approached him and she said, "You were with Jesus the Galilean too." 70 But he denied it in front of everyone: "I don't know what you're talking about!" 71 When he had gone out to the gateway, another woman saw him and told those who were there, "This man was with Jesus the Nazarene!" 72 And again he denied it with an oath, "I don't know the man!" 73 After a little while those standing there approached and said to Peter, "You certainly are one of them, since even your accent gives you away." 74 Then he started to curse and to swear with an oath, "I do not know the man!" Immediately a rooster crowed, 75 and Peter remembered the words Jesus had spoken, "Before the rooster crows, you will deny Me three times." And he went outside and wept bitterly." (26:69-75) HCSB: p. 1667: 26:69-71 "The emphasis on Jesus' identity as a Galilean and a Nazarene may imply that one of the arguments used to refute His messianic claims was that He did not come from Bethlehem, the city of David. This city is identified as the birthplace of the Messiah in Mc 5:2. Thus, this argument against Jesus' messiahship confused His hometown with His birthplace (Mt. 2:4-11). William Barclay; (Matthew, vol. 2, pp 346-347): "It may well be that the cock-crow was not the voice of a bird; and that from the beginning it was not meant to mean that. After all, the house of the High Priest was right in the center of Jerusalem, and there was not likely to be poultry in the center of the city. There was, in fact, a regulation in the Jewish law that it was illegal to keep cocks and hens in the Holy City, because they defiled the holy things. But the hour of 3 am was called cock-crow, and for this reason. At that hour the Roman guard was changed in the Castle of Antonia; and the sign of the changing of the guard was a trumpet call. The Latin for that trumpet call was gallicinium, with means cock-crow."