"'These things I command you, that you love one another. If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. However, because you are not of the world, but I have personally chosen you out of the world, the world hates you for this. Remember the word that I spoke to you: a servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted Me, they will persecute you also. If they kept My word, they will keep your word also. But they will do all these things to you for My name's sake, because they do not know Him Who sent Me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have had sin; but now they have nothing to cover their sin. The one who hates Me hates My Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no other man has done, they would not have had sin; but now they have both seen and hated both Me and My Father. But this has happened so that the saying might be fulfilled which is written in their law, 'They hated Me without a cause.' But when the Comforter has come, which I will send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of the truth, which proceeds from the Father, that one shall bear witness of Me. Then you also shall bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning." (John 15:1-27, Holy Bible in Its Original Order - A Faithful Version (HBFV))
What Jesus means by the parable is that He, the Father, and the disciples, stood in exactly the same relationship as the Vine, the Husbandman, and the branches. That relationship was of corporate union of the branches with the Vine for the production of fruit to the Husbandman, Who for that purpose pruned the branches. Nor can we forget in this connection, that, in the old Testament, and partially in Jewish thought, the Vine was the symbol of Israel, not in their national but in their Church-capacity. Christ, with His disciples as the branches, is 'the Vine, the true One' - the reality of all types, the fulfilment of all promises. They are many branches, yet a grand unity in that Vine; there is one Church of which He is the Head, the Root, the Sustenance, the Life. And in that Vine will the object of its planting of old be realized: to bring forth fruit unto God.
Yet, though it be one Vine, the Church must bear fruit not only in her corporate capacity, but individually in each of the branches. It seems remarkable that we read of branches in Him that bear not fruit. This must apparently refer to those who have by Baptism been inserted into the Vine, but remain fruitless, since a merely outward profession of Christ could scarcely be described as 'a branch in' Him. On the other hand, every fruit-bearing branch the Husbandman 'cleanseth' - not necessarily nor exclusively by pruning, but in whatever manner may be requisite - so that it may produce the largest possible amount of fruit. As for them, the process of cleansing had 'already' been accomplished through, or because of [the meaning is much the same], the Word which He had spoken unto them.
If that condition of fruit-bearing now existed in them in consequence of the impression of His Word, it followed as a cognate condition that they must abide in Him, and He would abide in them. Nay, this was a vital condition of fruit-bearing, arising from the fundamental fact that He was the Vine and they the branches. The proper, normal condition of every branch in that Vine was to bear much fruit, of course, in proportion to its size and vigour. But, both figuratively and really, the condition of this was to abide in Him, since 'apart' from Him they could do nothing. It was not like a force once set in motion that would afterwards continue of itself. It was a life, and the condition of its permanence was continued union with Christ, from Whom alone it could spring.
It is very noteworthy that the unlimitedness of prayer is limited, or, rather, conditioned, by our abiding in Christ and His Words in us, just as in John 14:12-14 it is conditioned by fellowship with Him, and in John 15:16 by permanent fruitfulness. For, it were the most dangerous fanaticism, and entirely opposed to the teaching of Christ, to imagine that the promise of Christ implies such absolute power - as if prayer were magic - that a person might ask for anything, no matter what it was, in the assurance of obtaining his request. In all moral relations, duties and privileges are correlative ideas, and in our relation to Christ conscious immanence in Him and of His Word in us, union and communion with Him, and the obedience of love, are the indispensable conditions of our privileges. The believer may, indeed, ask for anything, because he may always and absolutely go to God; but the certainty of special answers to prayer is proportionate to the degree of union and communion with Christ. And such unlimited liberty of prayer is connected with our bearing much fruit, because thereby the Father is glorified and our discipleship evidenced.
We mark the continuity in the scale of love: the Father towards the Son, and the Son towards us; and its kindredness of forthgoing. And now all that the disciples had to do was to abide in it. This is connected, not with sentiment nor even with faith, but with obedience. Fresh supplies are drawn by faith, but continuance in the love of Christ is the manifestation and the result of obedience. It was so even with the Master Himself in His relation to the Father. And the Lord immediately explained what His object was in saying this. In this, also, were they to have communion with Him: communion in that joy which was His in consequence of His perfect obedience.
To keep His commandments, with included the ten commandments, was to be His friend. And they were His friends. 'No longer' did He call them servants, for the servant knew not what his lord did. He had now given them a new name - friends.
And yet deeper did He descend, in pointing them to the example and measure of His love as the standard of theirs towards one another. And with this teaching He combined what He had said before, of bearing fruit and of the privilege of fellowship with Himself. They were His friends; He had proved it by treating them as such in now opening up before them the whole counsel of God.
But this very choice on His part, and their union of love in Him and to one another, also implied not only separation from, but repudiation by, the world. For this they must be prepared. It had come to Him, and it would be evidence of their choice to discipleship. The hatred of the world showed the essential difference and antagonism between the life-principle of the world and theirs. For evil or for good, they must expect the same treatment as their Master.
Jesus gives final words of encouragement
"'I have spoken these things to you so that you will not be offended. They shall cast you out of the synagogues; furthermore, the time is coming that everyone who kills you will think that he is rendering service to God. And they shall do these things to you because they do not know the Father, nor Me. But I have told you these things so that when the time comes, you may remember that I said them to you. However, I did not say these things to you at the beginning because I was with you. But now I am going to Him Who sent Me; and none of you asks Me, 'Where are You going?' But because I have spoken these things to you, grief has filled your hearts. But I am telling you the truth. It is profitable for you that I go away because if I do not go away, the Comforter will not come to you. However, if I go, I will send it to you.'
"'And when that one has come, it will convict the world concerning sin, and righteousness, and judgment: Concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; Concerning righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you no longer will see Me; And concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged. I have yet many things to tell you, but you are not able to bear them now.'
"'However, when that one has come, even the Spirit of the truth, it will lead you into all truth because it shall not speak from itself, but whatever it shall hear, it shall speak. And it shall disclose to you the things to come. That one shall glorify Me because it shall disclose to you the things that it receives from Me. Everything that the Father has is Mine; for this reason, I said that it shall receive from Me and shall disclose these things to you.'
"'A little while, and you shall not see Me; and again a little while, and you shall see Me, because I am going to the Father." Then some of His disciples said to one another, "What is this that He is saying to us, 'A little while, and you shall not see Me; and again a little while, and you shall see Me,' and, 'because I am going to the Father'? " Therefore they said, "What is this that He is saying, the 'little while'? We do not understand what He is saying." Then Jesus, knowing that they desired to ask Him, said to them, "Why are you inquiring among one another about this that I said, 'A little while, and you shall not see Me; and again a little while, and you shall see Me'? Truly, truly I tell you, you shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice; and you shall be grieved, but your grief shall be turned into joy. A woman when she is giving birth has grief because her time of travail has come; but after she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world. And likewise, you indeed have grief now; but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and no one shall take your joy from you.'
"'And in that day you shall ask Me nothing. Truly, truly I tell you, whatever you shall ask the Father in My name, He will give you. Until this day, you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you shall receive, that your joy may be full. These things I have spoken to you in allegories; but the time is coming when I will no longer speak to you in allegories, but I will plainly disclose to you the things of the Father. In that day, you shall ask in My name; and I do not tell you that I will beseech the Father for you,'
"'For the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God. I came forth from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and am going to the Father.' Then His disciples said to Him, "Behold, now You are speaking plainly and are not speaking in an allegory. Now we know that You understand all things, and do not need to have someone ask You. By this we believe that You came forth from God." Jesus answered them, 'Do you now believe? Listen, the time is coming, and has already come, that you shall be scattered each to his own, and you shall leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone because the Father is with Me. These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation. But be courageous! I have overcome the world.'" (John 16:1-33, HBFV)
The last of the parting Discourses of Christ, in the sixteenth chapter of John, was, indeed, interrupted by questions from the disciples. But these, being germane to the subject, carry it only forward. In general, the subjects treated in it are: the new relations arising from the departure of Christ and the coming of the other Advocate.
The chapter appropriately opens by reflecting on the predicted enmity of the world. Christ had so clearly foretold it, lest this should prove a stumbling-block to them. Best, to know distinctly that they would not only be put out of the Synagogue, but that everyone who killed them would deem it 'to offer a religious service to God.' So, no doubt, Saul of Tarsus once felt, and so did many others who, alas! never became Christians. Indeed, according to Jewish Law, 'a zealot' might have slain without formal trial those caught in flagrant rebellion against God - or in what might be regarded as such, and the Synagogue would have deemed the deed as meritorious as that of Phinehas. It was a sorrow, and yet also a comfort, to know that this spirit of enmity arose from ignorance of the Father and Christ. Although they had in a general way been prepared for it before, yet He had not told it all so definitely and connectedly from the beginning, because He was still there. But now that He was going away, it was absolutely necessary to do so. For even the mention of it had thrown them into such confusion of personal sorrow, that the main point, whither Christ was going, had not even emerged into their view. Personal feelings had quite engrossed them, to the forgetfulness of their own higher interests. He was going to the Father, and this was the condition, as well as the antecedent of His sending the Holy Spirit.
Christ had read their thoughts, and there was no need for anyone to put express questions. He knew all things, and by this they believed - it afforded them evidence - that He came forth from God. But how little did they know their own hearts! The hour had even come when they would be scattered, every man to his own home, and leave Him alone - yet, truly, He would not be alone, because the Father would be with Him. Yet, even so, His latest as His first thought was of them.
We now enter most reverently what may be called the innermost Sanctuary. For the first time we are allowed to listen to what was really 'the Lord's Prayer,' and, as we hear, we humbly worship. That Prayer was the great preparation for His Agony, Cross, and Passion; and, also, the outlook on the Crown beyond. In its three parts it seems almost to look back on the teaching of the three previous chapters, and convert them into prayer. We see the great High-Priest first solemnly offering up Himself, and then consecrating and interceding for His Church and for her work.
The first part of that Prayer is the consecration of Himself by the Great High-Priest. The final hour had come. In praying that the Father would glorify the Son, He was really not asking anything for Himself, but that 'the Son' might 'glorify' the Father. For, the glorifying of the Son - His support, and then His Resurrection, was really the completion of the work which the Father had given Him to do, as well as its evidence. It was really in accordance ('even as') with the power or authority which the Father gave Him over 'all flesh,' when He put all things under His Feet as the Messiah - the object of this Messianic Rule being, 'that the totality' (the all).
The climax in His Messianic appointment, the object of His Rule over all flesh, was the Father's gift to Christ of the Church as a totality and a unity; and in that Church Christ gives to each individually eternal life.
Jesus comes to Gethsemane to pray and await arrest
Tuesday, April 4th, 30 A.D.
Around 9:30 p.m. to Midnight
"Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, "Sit here, while I go onward and pray." And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be very melancholy and deeply depressed. Then He said to them, "My soul is deeply grieved, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me."
"And after going forward a little, He fell on His face, praying, and saying, "My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will." Then He came to His disciples and found them sleeping. And He said to Peter, "What! Were you not able to watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, so that you do not enter into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." The second time He went again and prayed, saying, "My Father, if this cup cannot pass from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done." Now when He came to them, He found them asleep again, because their eyes were heavy. And leaving them, He went again and prayed the third time, saying the same thing." (Matthew 26:36-44, HBFV)
"Jesus spoke these words, and lifted up His eyes to heaven and said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify Your own Son, so that Your Son may also glorify You; Since You have given Him authority over all flesh, in order that He may give eternal life to all whom You have given Him. For this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, Whom You did send. I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work that You gave Me to do. And now, Father, glorify Me with Your own self, with the glory that I had with You before the world existed. I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, and You have given them to Me, and they have kept Your Word. Now they have known that all things that You have given Me are from You. For I have given them the words that You gave to Me; and they have received them and truly have known that I came from You; and they have believed that You did send Me. I am praying for them; I am not praying for the world, but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours."
"'All Mine are Yours, and all Yours are Mine; and I have been glorified in them. And I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I am coming to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, those whom You have given Me, so that they may be one, even as We are one. When I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. I protected those whom You have given Me, and not one of them has perished except the son of perdition, in order that the Scriptures might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to You; and these things I am speaking while yet in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in them. I have given them Your words, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You would take them out of the world, but that You would keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.'
"'Sanctify them in Your truth; Your Word is the truth. Even as You did send Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, so that they also may be sanctified in Your truth. I do not pray for these only, but also for those who shall believe in Me through their word; That they all may be one, even as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, in order that the world may believe that You did send Me. And I have given them the glory that You gave to Me, in order that they may be one, in the same way that We are one: I in them, and You in Me, that they may be perfected into one; and that the world may know that You did send Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. Father, I desire that those whom You have given Me may also be with Me where I am, so that they may behold My glory, which You have given Me; because You did love Me before the foundation of the world. Righteous Father, the world has not known You; but I have known You, and these have known that You did send Me. And I have made known Your name to them, and will make it known; so that the love with which You have loved Me may be in them, and I in them.'" (John 17:1-26, HBFV)
After arriving in the Garden Jesus took three of the eleven disciples - James, Peter and John - to be with him while he prayed. The object of his prayer was, that, ' if it were possible, the hour might pass away from Him. ' The subject of the prayer (as recorded by the three Gospels) was, that the Cup itself might pass away, yet always with the limitation, that not His Will but the Father's might be done. The petition of Christ, therefore, was subject not only to the Will of the Father, but to His own Will that the Father's Will might be done.
Only the gospel of Luke records that while Jesus was praying an angel was sent by God to strengthen him.
"And He withdrew from them about a stone's throw; and falling to His knees, He prayed, Saying, "Father, if You are willing to take away this cup from Me - ; nevertheless, not My will, but Your will be done."
"Then an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him. And being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. And His sweat became as great drops of blood falling down to the ground. And after rising up from prayer, He came to His disciples and found them sleeping for grief. Then He said to them, 'Why are you sleeping? Arise and pray, so that you do not enter into temptation.'" (Luke 22:41-46, HBFV)
The appearance of the Angel must have intimated to Him that the Cup could not pass away.
His prayer also brought his disciples before the Father. He was interceding, not for the 'world' that was His by right of His Messiahship, but for them whom the Father had specially given Him. They were the Father's in the special sense of covenant-mercy, and all that in that sense was the Father's was the Son's, and all that was the Son's was the Father's. Therefore, although all the world was the Son's, He prayed not now for it; and although all in earth and heaven were in the Father's Hand, He sought not now His blessing on them, but on those whom, while He was in the world, He had shielded and guided. They were to be left behind in a world of sin, evil, temptation, and sorrow, and He was going to the Father. And this was His prayer:
"Holy Father, keep them in Your name, those whom You have given Me, so that they may be one, even as We are one. "
The peculiar address, 'Holy Father,' shows that the Savior once more referred to the keeping in holiness, and what is of equal importance, that 'the unity' of the Church sought for was to be primarily one of spiritual character, and not a merely outward combination. Unity in holiness and of nature, as was that of the Father and Son, such was the great object sought, although such union would, if properly carried out, also issue in outward unity. But while moral union rather than outward unity was in His view, our present 'unhappy divisions,' arising so often from wilfulness and unreadiness to bear slight differences among ourselves - each other's burdens - are so entirely contrary not only to the Christian, but even to the Jewish, spirit, that we can only trace them to the heathen element in the Church.
While He was with them He kept them in the Father's Name. Them whom the Father had given Him, by the effective drawing of His grace within them, He guarded and none from among them was lost, except the son of perdition - and this, according to prophecy. But now He went to the Father, He prayed thus for them, that in this realized unity of holiness the joy that was His, might be 'completed' in them. And there was the more need of this, since they were left behind with nought but His Word in a world that hated them, because, as Christ, so they also were not of it.
Jesus prayed the Father would keep his disciples from Satan, the evil one. And this the more emphatically, because, even as He was not, so were they not 'out of the world,' which lay in the Evil One. And the preservative which He sought for them was not outward but inward, the same in kind as while He had been with them, only coming now directly from the Father. It was sanctification in the truth.
In its last part this intercessory Prayer of the Great High-Priest bore on the work of the disciples and its fruits. As the Father had sent the Son, so did the Son send the disciples into the world, in the same manner, and on the same Mission. And for their sakes He now solemnly offered Himself, 'consecrated' or 'sanctified' Himself, that they might 'in truth' - truly - be consecrated. And in view of this their work, to which they were consecrated, did Christ pray not for them alone, but also for those who, through their word, would believe in Him, 'in order,' or 'that so,' 'all may be one' - form a unity. Christ, as sent by the Father, gathered out the original 'unity;' they, as sent by Him, and consecrated by His consecration, were to gather others, but all were to form one great unity, through the common spiritual communication.
After this unspeakably sublime consecration of His Church, and communication to her of His glory as well as of His Work, we cannot marvel at what follows and concludes 'the Lord's Prayer.' We remember the unity of the Church - a unity in Him, and as that between the Father and the Son - as we listen to this:
"Father, I desire that those whom You have given Me may also be with Me where I am, so that they may behold My glory, which You have given Me; because You did love Me before the foundation of the world."
And we all would fain place ourselves in the shadow of this final consecration of Himself and of His Church by the Great High-Priest, which is alike final appeal, claim, and prayer:
"Righteous Father, the world has not known You; but I have known You, and these have known that You did send Me. And I have made known Your name to them, and will make it known; so that the love with which You have loved Me may be in them, and I in them."
Jesus betrayed by Judas and arrested, Peter cuts off servant's ear
Wednesday, April 5th
About 12:30 a.m.
"Then He came to His disciples and said to them, 'Sleep on now, and take your rest. Behold, the hour has drawn near, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Arise! Let us be going. Look, the one who is betraying Me is approaching.'
"And while He was yet speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, suddenly appeared, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and elders of the people. Now the one who was betraying Him gave them a sign, saying, "Whomever I shall kiss, He is the One. Arrest Him!" And as soon as he came to Jesus, he said, "Hail, Rabbi," and earnestly kissed Him. But Jesus said to him, "Friend, for what purpose have you come?" Then they came and laid their hands on Jesus, and arrested Him.
"And one of those with Jesus suddenly stretched out his hand, drew his sword, and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, "Put your sword back in its place; for all who take up the sword shall die by the sword. Don't you realize that I have the power to call upon the Father at this time, and He will furnish Me with more than twelve legions of angels? But how then shall the Scriptures be fulfilled? For this is ordained to be." At that point Jesus said to the crowd, "Have you come out to take Me with swords and clubs, as against a robber? I sat day after day with you, teaching in the temple, and you did not arrest Me. But all this has happened so that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled." Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled." (Matthew 26:45-56, HBFV)
The conflict had been virtually, though not finally, decided, when the Savior went back to the three sleeping disciples. He now returned to complete it, though both the attitude in which He prayed (no longer prostrate) and the wording of His Prayer - only slightly altered as it was - indicate how near it was to perfect victory. And once more, on His return to them, He found that sleep had weighted their eyes, and they scarce knew what answer to make to Him. Yet a third time He left them to pray as before. And now He returned victorious. After three assaults had the Tempter left Him in the wilderness; after the threefold conflict in the Garden he was vanquished. Christ came forth triumphant. No longer did He bid His disciples watch. They might, nay they should, sleep and take rest, ere the near terrible events of His Betrayal - for, the hour had come when the Son of Man was to be betrayed into the hands of sinners.
A very brief period of rest this, soon broken by the call of Jesus to rise and go to where the other eight had been left, at the entrance of the Garden - to go forward and meet the band which was coming under the guidance of the Betrayer. And while He was speaking, the heavy tramp of many men and the light of lanterns and torches indicated the approach of Judas and his band. During the hours that had passed all had been prepared. When, according to arrangement, he appeared at the High-Priestly Palace, or more probably at that of Annas, who seems to have had the direction of affairs, the Jewish leaders first communicated with the Roman garrison. By their own admission they possessed no longer (for forty years before the destruction of Jerusalem) the power of pronouncing capital sentence. It is difficult to understand how, in view of this fact (so fully confirmed in the New Testament), it could have been imagined (as so generally) that the Sanhedrin had, in regular session, sought formally to pronounce on Jesus what, admittedly, they had not the power to execute. Nor, indeed, did they, when appealing to Pilate, plead that they had pronounced sentence of death, but only that they had a law by which Jesus should die. It was otherwise as regarded civil causes, or even minor offenses.
We can now understand the progress of events. In the fortress of Antonia, close to the Temple and connected with it by two stairs, lay the Roman garrison. But during the Feast the Temple itself was guarded by an armed Cohort, consisting of from 400 to 600 men, so as to prevent or quell any tumult among the numerous pilgrims.
It would be to the captain of this 'Cohort' that the Chief Priests and leaders of the Pharisees would, in the first place, apply for an armed guard to effect the arrest of Jesus, on the ground that it might lead to some popular tumult. This, without necessarily having to state the charge that was to be brought against Him, which might have led to other complications. Although John speaks of 'the band' by a word (speira) which always designates a 'Cohort' - in this case 'the Cohort,' the definite article marking it as that of the Temple - yet there is no reason for believing that the whole Cohort was sent. Still, its commander would scarcely have sent a strong detachment out of the Temple, and on what might lead to a riot, without having first referred to the Procurator, Pontius Pilate. And if further evidence were required, it would be in the fact that the band was led not by a Centurion, but by a Chiliarch, which, as there were no intermediate grades in the Roman army, must represent one of the six tribunes attached to each legion. This also explains not only the apparent preparedness of Pilate to sit in judgment early next morning, but also how Pilate's wife may have been disposed for those dreams about Jesus which so affrighted her.
This Roman detachment, armed with swords and 'staves' - with the latter of which Pilate on other occasions also directed his soldiers to attack them who raised a tumult - was accompanied by servants from the High-Priest's Palace, and other Jewish officers, to direct the arrest of Jesus. They bore torches and lamps placed on the top of poles, so as to prevent any possible concealment.
Whether or not this was the 'great multitude' mentioned by Matthew and Mark, or the band was swelled by volunteers or curious onlookers, is a matter of no importance. Having received this band, Judas proceeded on his errand. As we believe, their first move was to the house where the Supper had been celebrated. Learning that Jesus had left it with His disciples, perhaps two or three hours before, Judas next directed the band to the spot he knew so well: to Gethsemane. A signal by which to recognize Jesus seemed almost necessary with so large a band, and where escape or resistance might be apprehended. It was - terrible to say - none other than a kiss. As soon as he had so marked Him, the guard were to seize, and lead Him safely away.
Combining the notices in the four Gospels, we thus picture to ourselves the succession of events. As the band reached the Garden, Judas went somewhat in advance of them, and reached Jesus just as He had roused the three and was preparing to go and meet His captors. He saluted Him, 'Hail, Rabbi,' so as to be heard by the rest, and not only kissed but covered Him with kisses, kissed Him repeatedly, loudly, effusively. The Savior submitted to the indignity. If Judas had wished, by thus going in advance of the band and saluting the Master with a kiss, even now to act the hypocrite and deceive Jesus and the disciples, as if he had not come with the armed men, perhaps only to warn Him of their approach, what the Lord said must have reached his inmost being. Indeed, it was the first mortal shaft in the soul of Judas. The only time we again see him, till he goes on what ends in his self-destruction, is as he stands, as it were sheltering himself, with the armed men.
It is at this point, as we suppose, that the notices from John's Gospel come in. Leaving the traitor, and ignoring the signal which he had given them, Jesus advanced to the band, and asked them: ' Whom seek ye? ' To the brief spoken, perhaps somewhat contemptuous, ' Jesus the Nazarene, ' He replied with infinite calmness and majesty: ' I am He. ' The immediate effect of these words was, we shall not say magical, but Divine. They had no doubt been prepared for quite other: either compromise, fear, or resistance. But the appearance and majesty of that calm Christ - heaven in His look and peace on His lips - was too overpowering in its effects on that untutored heathen soldiery, who perhaps cherished in their hearts secret misgivings of the work they had in hand. The foremost of them went backward, and they fell to the ground. But Christ's hour had come.
The words of Christ about those that were with Him seem to have recalled the leaders of the guard to full consciousness - perhaps awakened in them fears of a possible rising at the incitement of His adherents. Accordingly, it is here that we insert the notice of Matthew, and of Mark, that they laid hands on Jesus and took Him. Then it was that Peter, seeing what was coming, drew the sword which he carried, and putting the question to Jesus, but without awaiting His answer, struck at Malchus, the servant of the High-Priest - perhaps the Jewish leader of the band - cutting off his ear. But Jesus immediately restrained all such violence, and rebuked all self-vindication by outward violence (the taking of the sword that had not been received) - nay, with it all merely outward zeal, pointing to the fact how easily He might, as against this 'cohort,' have commanded Angelic legions. He had in wrestling Agony received from His Father that Cup to drink, and the Scriptures must in that wise be fulfilled. And so saying, He touched the ear of Malchus, and healed him.
But this faint appearance of resistance was enough for the guard. Their leaders now bound Jesus. It was to this last, most underserved and uncalled-for indignity that Jesus replied by asking them, why they had come against Him as against a robber - one of those wild, murderous Sicarii. Had He not been all that week daily in the Temple, teaching? Why not then seize Him? But this 'hour' of theirs that had come, and 'the power of darkness' - this also had been foretold in Scripture!
And as the ranks of the armed men now closed around the bound Christ, none dared to stay with Him, lest they also should be bound as resisting authority. So they all forsook Him and fled. But there was one there who joined not in the flight, but remained, a deeply interested onlooker. When the soldiers had come to seek Jesus in the Upper Chamber of his home, Mark, roused from sleep, had hastily cast about him the loose linen garment or wrapper that lay by his bedside, and followed the armed band to see what would come of it. He now lingered in the rear, and followed as they led away Jesus, never imagining that they would attempt to lay hold on him, since he had not been with the disciples nor yet in the Garden. But they, perhaps the Jewish servants of the High-Priest, had noticed him. They attempted to lay hold on him, when, disengaging himself from their grasp, he left his upper garment in their hands, and fled. So ended the first scene in the terrible drama of that night.
It was not a long way that they led the bound Christ. Probably through the same gate by which He had gone forth with His disciples after the Passover Supper, up to where, on the slope between the Upper City and the Tyropoeon, stood the well-known Palace of Annas. There were no idle saunterers in the streets of Jerusalem at that late hour, and the tramp of the Roman guard must have been too often heard to startle sleepers, or to lead to the inquiry why that glare of lamps and torches, and Who was the Prisoner, guarded on that holy night by both Roman soldiers and servants of the High-Priest.
Jesus taken to Annas for questioning
About 1 a.m.
"But those who had arrested Jesus led Him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled." (Matthew 26:57, HBFV)
"But Simon Peter and the other disciple followed Jesus. And that disciple was known to the high priest, and entered with Jesus into the court of the high priest. But Peter stood outside at the door. Then the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the doorkeeper, and brought Peter in. Then the maid who was the doorkeeper said to Peter, "Are you not also a disciple of this man?" He said, "I am not." Now the servants and the officers had made a fire, for it was cold; and they were standing there warming themselves, and Peter was also standing and warming himself.
"Then the high priest questioned Jesus concerning His disciples and concerning His teachings. Jesus answered him, "I spoke openly to the world; I always taught in the synagogue and in the temple, where the Jews always assemble, and I spoke nothing in secret. Why do you question Me? Ask those who have heard what I spoke to them; behold, they know what I said." But after He said these things, one of the officers who was standing by struck Jesus on the face, saying, "Do You answer the high priest in that way?" Jesus answered him, "If I have spoken evil, testify of the evil; but if well, why do you strike Me?" Then Annas sent Him bound to Caiaphas, the high priest." (John 18:15-24, HBFV)
If every incident in that night were not of such supreme interest, we might dismiss the question as almost idle, why they brought Jesus to the house of Annas, since he was not at that time the actual High-Priest. That office now devolved on Caiaphas, his son-in-law, who, as the Evangelist significantly reminds us, had been the first to enunciate in plain words what seemed to him the political necessity for the judicial murder of Christ. There had been no pretence on his part of religious motives or zeal for God; he had cynically put it in a way to override the scruples of those old Sanhedrists by raising their fears. What was the use of discussing about forms of Law or about that Man? it must in any case be done; even the friends of Jesus in the Council, as well as the punctilious observers of Law, must regard His Death as the less of two evils. He spoke as the bold, unscrupulous, determined man that he was; Sadducee in heart rather than by conviction; a worthy son-in-law of Annas.
No figure is better known in contemporary Jewish history than that of Annas; no person deemed more fortunate or successful, but none also more generally execrated than the late High-Priest. He had held the Pontificate for only six or seven years; but it was filled by not fewer than five of his sons, by his son-in-law Caiaphas, and by a grandson. And in those days it was, at least for one of Annas' disposition, much better to have been than to be High-Priest. He enjoyed all the dignity of the office, and all its influence also, since he was able to promote to it those most closely connected with him. And, while they acted publicly, he really directed affairs, without either the responsibility or the restraints which the office imposed. His influence with the Romans he owned to the religious views which he professed. to his open partisanship of the foreigner, and to his enormous wealth.
The Sadducean Annas was an eminently safe Churchman, not troubled with any special convictions nor with Jewish fanaticism, a pleasant and a useful man also who was able to furnish his friends in the Praetorium with large sums of money. We have seen what immense revenues the family of Annas must have derived from the Temple-booths, and how nefarious and unpopular was the traffic. The names of those bold, licentious, unscrupulous, degenerate sons of Aaron were spoken with whispered curses. Without referring to Christ's interference with that Temple-traffic, which, if His authority had prevailed, would, of course, have been fatal to it, we can understand how antithetic in every respect a Messiah, and such a Messiah as Jesus, must have been to Annas. He was as resolutely bent on His Death as his son-in-law, though with his characteristic cunning and coolness, not in the hasty, bluff manner of Caiaphas. It was probably from a desire that Annas might have the conduct of the business, or from the active, leading part which Annas took in the matter; perhaps for even more prosaic and practical reasons, such as that the Palace of Annas was nearer to the place of Jesus' capture, and that it was desirable to dismiss the Roman soldiery as quickly as possible - that Christ was first brought to Annas, and not to the actual High-Priest.
In any case, the arrangement was most congruous, whether as regards the character of Annas, or the official position of Caiaphas. The Roman soldiers had evidently orders to bring Jesus to the late High-Priest. This appears from their proceeding directly to him, and from this, that apparently they returned to quarters immediately on delivering up their prisoner. And we cannot ascribe this to any official position of Annas in the Sanhedrin, first, because the text implies that it had not been due to this cause, and, secondly, because, as will presently appear, the proceedings against Christ were not those of the ordinary and regular meetings of the Sanhedrin.
No account is given of what passed before Annas. Even the fact of Christ's being first brought to him is only mentioned in the Fourth Gospel. As the disciples had all forsaken Him and fled, we can understand that they were in ignorance of what actually passed, till they had again rallied, at least so far, that Peter and 'another disciple,' evidently John, 'followed Him into the Palace of the High-priest' - that is, into the Palace of Caiaphas, not of Annas. For as, according to the three Synoptic Gospels, the Palace of the High-Priest Caiaphas was the scene of Peter's denial, the account of it in the Fourth Gospel must refer to the same locality, and not to the Palace of Annas, while the suggestion that Annas and Caiaphas occupied the same dwelling is not only very unlikely in itself, but seems incompatible with the obvious meaning of the notice, 'Now Annas sent Him bound unto Caiaphas the High-Priest.'
Jesus taken to High Priest's house for first trial
About 2 a.m.
"Then Annas sent Him bound to Caiaphas, the high priest." (John 18:24, HBFV)
"Now the chief priests and the elders and the whole Sanhedrin sought false evidence against Jesus, so that they might put Him to death; But they did not find any. Although many false witnesses came forward, they did not find any evidence. Then at the last, two false witnesses came forward and said, "This man said, 'I have the power to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days.' " And the high priest rose up and said to Him, "Have You no answer for what these are testifying against You?" But Jesus was silent.
"And the high priest answered and said to Him, "I adjure You by the living God that You tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God." Jesus said to him, "You have said it. Moreover, I say to you, in the future you shall see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven." Then the high priest ripped his own garments, saying, "He has blasphemed! Why do we need any more witnesses? Behold, you have just now heard His blasphemy. What do you think?" They answered and said, "He is deserving of death!" Then they spit in His face and hit Him with their fists; and some struck Him with rods, Saying, 'Prophesy to us, Christ. Who is the one that struck You?'" (Matthew 26:59-68, HBFV)
But if Peter's denial, as recorded by John, is the same as that described by the Synoptists, and took place in the house of Caiaphas, then the account of the examination by the High-Priest, which follows the notice about Peter, must also refer to that by Caiaphas, not Annas. We thus know absolutely nothing of what passed in the house of Annas - if, indeed, anything passed - except that Annas sent Jesus bound to Caiaphas.
It sounds almost like presumption to say, that in His first interview with Caiaphas Jesus bore Himself with the majesty of the Son of God, Who knew all that was before Him, and passed through it as on the way to the accomplishment of His Mission. The questions of Caiaphas bore on two points: the disciples of Jesus, and His teaching - the former to incriminate Christ's followers, the latter to incriminate the Master. To the first inquiry it was only natural that He should not have condescended to return an answer. The reply to the second was characterized by that 'openness' which He claimed for all that He had said. If there was to be not unprejudiced, but even fair inquiry, let Caiaphas not try to extort confessions to which he had no legal right, nor to ensnare Him when the purpose was evidently murderous. If he really wanted information, there could be no difficulty in procuring witnesses to speak to His doctrine: all Jewry knew it. His was no secret doctrine ('in secret I spake nothing'). He always spoke 'in Synagogue and in the Temple, whither all the Jews gather together.' If the inquiry were a fair one, let the judge act judicially, and ask not Him, but those who had heard Him.
It must be admitted, that the answer sounds not like that of one accused, who seeks either to make apology, or even greatly cares to defend himself. And there was in it that tone of superiority which even injured human innocence would have a right to assume before a nefarious judge, who sought to ensnare a victim, not to elicit the truth. It was this which emboldened one of those servile attendants, with the brutality of an Eastern in such circumstances, to inflict on the Lord that terrible blow. Let us hope that it was a heathen, not a Jew, who so lifted his hand. We are almost thankful that the text leaves it in doubt, whether it was with the palm of the hand, or the lesser indignity - with a rod. Humanity itself seems to reel and stagger under this blow. In pursuance of His Human submission, the Divine Sufferer, without murmuring or complaining, or without asserting His Divine Power, only answered in such tone of patient expostulation as must have convicted the man of his wrong, or at least have left him speechless. May it have been that these words and the look of Christ had gone to his heart, and that the now strangely-silenced malefactor became the confessing narrator of this scene to the Apostle John?
That Apostle was, at any rate, no stranger in the Palace of Caiaphas. We have already seen that, after the first panic of Christ's sudden capture and their own flight, two of them at least, Peter and John, seem speedily to have rallied. Combining the notices of the Synoptists with the fuller details, in this respect, of the Fourth Gospel, we derive the impression that Peter, so far true to his word, had been the first to stop in his flight and to follow 'afar off.' If he reached the Palace of Annas in time, he certainly did not enter it, but probably waited outside during the brief space which preceded the transference of Jesus to Caiaphas. He had now been joined by John, and the two followed the melancholy procession which escorted Jesus to the High-Priest. John seems to have entered 'the court' along with the guard, while Peter remained outside till his fellow-Apostle, who apparently was well known in the High-Priest's house, had spoken to the maid who kept the door - the male servants being probably all gathered in the court - and so procured his admission.
Remembering that the High-Priest's Palace was built on the slope of the hill, and that there was an outer court, from which a door led into the inner court, we can, in some measure, realize the scene. As previously stated, Peter had followed as far as that inner door, while John had entered with the guard. When he missed his fellow-disciple, who was left outside this inner door, John 'went out,' and, having probably told the waiting-maid that this was a friend of his, procured his admission. While John now hurried up to be in the Palace, and as near Christ as he might, Peter advanced into the middle of the court, where, in the chill spring night, a coal fire had been lighted.
The glow of the charcoal, around which occasionally a blue flame played, threw a peculiar sheen on the bearded faces of the men as they crowded around it, and talked of the events of that night, describing, with Eastern volubility, to those who had not been there what had passed in the Garden, and exchanging, as is the manner of such serving-men and officials, opinions and exaggerated denunciations concerning Him Who had been captured with such unexpected ease, and was now their master's safe Prisoner. As the red light glowed and flickered, it threw the long shadows of these men across the inner court, up the walls towards the gallery that ran round, up there, where the lamps and lights within, or as they moved along apartments and corridors, revealed other faces: there, where, in an inner audience-chamber, the Prisoner was confronted by His enemy, accuser, and judge.
Why was Jesus' conviction and death ILLEGAL?
(based on his first trial at 2am)
- No formal charges were made against Jesus
- The merits of the defense were not investigated
- The trial was held at night and too short
- Trial not held before impartial Judges
- Known false witnesses allowed to testify
- The condemnation charge was false
- The death penalty was unanimously agreed to
- The sentence was announced in an unlawful place
For, already, hasty footsteps were heard along the porches and corridors, and the maid who that night opened the gate at the High-Priest's Palace was busy at her post. They were the leading Priests, Elders, and Sanhedrists, who had been hastily summoned to the High-Priest's Palace, and who were hurrying up just as the first faint streaks of gray light were lying on the sky. The private inquiry of Caiaphas had elicited nothing; and, indeed, it was only preliminary. The leading Sanhedrists must have been warned that the capture of Jesus would be attempted that night, and to hold themselves in readiness when summoned to the High-Priest. This is not only quite in accordance with all the previous and after circumstances in the narrative, but nothing short of a procedure of such supreme importance would have warranted the presence for such a purpose of these religious leaders on that holy Passover-night.
All Jewish order and law was grossly infringed upon in the trial and sentencing of Jesus. We know what their forms were, although many of them (as so much in Rabbinic accounts) may represent rather the ideal than the real - what the Rabbis imagined should be, rather than what was; or else what may date from later times. According to Rabbinic testimony, there were three tribunals. In towns numbering less than 120 (or, according to one authority, 230 ) male inhabitants, there was only the lowest tribunal, that consisting of three Judges. Their jurisdiction was limited, and notably did not extend to capital causes. The authority of the tribunal of next instance - that of twenty-three - was also limited, although capital causes lay within its competence.
The highest tribunal was that of seventy-one, or the Great Sanhedrin, which met first in one of the Temple-Chambers, the so-called Lishkath haGazith - or Chamber of Hewn Stones - and at the time of which we write in 'the booths of the sons of Annas.' The appointment to the highest tribunal, or Great Sanhedrin, was made by that tribunal itself, either by promoting a member of the inferior tribunals or one from the foremost of the three rows, in which 'the disciples' or students sat facing the Judges. The latter sat in a semicircle, under the presidency of the Nasi ('prince') and the vice-presidency of the Ab-beth-din ('father of the Court of Law'). At least twenty-three members were required to form a quorum. We have such minute details of the whole arrangements and proceedings of this Court as greatly confirms our impression of the chiefly ideal character of some of the Rabbinic notices.
Facing the semicircle of Judges, we are told, there were two shorthand writers, to note down, respectively, the speeches in favor and against the accused. Each of the students knew, and sat in his own place. In capital causes the arguments in defense of and afterwards those incriminating the accused, were stated. If one had spoken in favor, he might not again speak against the panel. Students might speak for, not against him. He might be pronounced 'not guilty' on the same day on which the case was tried; but a sentence of 'guilty' might only be pronounced on the day following that of the trial. It seems, however, at least doubtful, whether in case of profanation of the Divine Name, judgment was not immediately executed. Lastly, the voting began with the youngest, so that juniors might not be influenced by the seniors; and a bare majority was not sufficient for condemnation.
Terrible as the proceedings of that night were, they even seem a sort of concession - as if the Sanhedrists would fain have found some legal and moral justification for what they had determined to do. They first sought 'witness,' or as Matthew rightly designates it, 'false witness' against Christ. Since this was throughout a private investigation, this witness could only have been sought from their own creatures. Hatred, fanaticism, and unscrupulous Eastern exaggeration would readily misrepresent and distort certain sayings of Christ, or falsely impute others to Him. But it was altogether too hasty and excited an assemblage, and the witnesses contradicted themselves so grossly, or their testimony so notoriously broke down, that for very shame such trumped-up charges had to be abandoned. And to this result the majestic calm of Christ's silence must have greatly contributed. On directly false and contradictory testimony it must be best not to cross-examine at all, not to interpose, but to leave the false witness to destroy itself.
Abandoning this line of testimony, the Priests next brought forward probably some of their own order, who on the first Purgation of the Temple had been present when Jesus, in answer to the challenge for 'a sign' in evidence of His authority, had given them that mysterious 'sign' of the destruction and upraising of the Temple of His Body. They had quite misunderstood it at the time, and its reproduction now as the ground of a criminal charge against Jesus must have been directly due to Caiaphas and Annas. We remember, that this had been the first time that Jesus had come into collision, not only with the Temple authorities, but with the avarice of 'the family of Annas.' We can imagine how the incensed High-Priest would have challenged the conduct of the Temple-officials, and how, in reply, he would have been told what they had attempted, and how Jesus had met them. Perhaps it was the only real inquiry which a man like Caiaphas would care to institute about what Jesus said. And here, in its grossly distorted form, and with more than Eastern exaggeration of partisanship it was actually brought forward as a criminal charge!
Dexterously manipulated, the testimony of these witnesses might lead up to two charges. It would show that Christ was a dangerous seducer of the people, Whose claims might have led those who believed them to lay violent hands on the Temple, while the supposed assertion, that He would or was able to build the Temple again within three days, might be made to imply Divine or magical pretensions. A certain class of writers have ridiculed this part of the Sanhedrist plot against Jesus. It is, indeed, true, that, viewed as a Jewish charge, it might have been difficult, if not impossible, to construe a capital crime out of such charges, although, to say the least, a strong popular prejudice might thus have been raised against Jesus - and this, no doubt, was one of the objects which Caiaphas had in view. But it has been strangely forgotten that the purpose of the High-Priest was not to formulate a capital charge in Jewish Law, since the assembled Sanhedrists had no intention so to try Jesus, but to formulate a charge which would tell before the Roman Procurator. And here none other could be so effective as that of being a fanatical seducer of the ignorant populace, who might lead them on to wild tumultuous acts. Two similar instances, in which the Romans quenched Jewish fanaticism in the blood of the pretenders and their deluded followers, will readily recur to the mind.
In any case, Caiaphas would naturally seek to ground his accusation of Jesus before Pilate on anything rather than His claims to Messiahship and the inheritance of David. It would be a cruel irony if a Jewish High-Priest had to expose the loftiest and holiest hope of Israel to the mockery of a Pilate; and it might prove a dangerous proceeding, whether as regarded the Roman Governor or the feelings of the Jewish people.
But this charge of being a seducer of the people also broke down, through the disagreement of the two witnesses whom the Mosaic Law required, and who, according to Rabbinic ordinance, had to be separately questioned. But the divergence of their testimony does not exactly appear in the differences in the accounts of Matthew and of Mark. If it be deemed necessary to harmonise these two narratives, it would be better to regard both as relating the testimony of these two witnesses.
Only one thing now remained. Jesus knew it well, and so did Caiaphas. It was to put the question, which Jesus could not refuse to answer, and which, once answered, must lead either to His acknowledgement or to His condemnation. As we suppose, the simple question was first addressed to Jesus, whether He was the Messiah, to which He replied by referring to the needlessness of such an enquiry, since they had predetermined not to credit His claims, nay, had only a few days before in the Temple refused to discuss them. It was upon this that the High-Priest, in the most solemn manner, adjured the True One by the Living God, Whose Son He was, to say it, whether He were the Messiah and Divine - the two being so joined together, not in Jewish belief, but to express the claims of Jesus.
No doubt or hesitation could here exist. Solemn, emphatic, calm, majestic, as before had been His silence, was now His speech. And His assertion of what He was, was conjoined with that of what God would show Him to be, in His Resurrection and Sitting at the Right Hand of the Father, and of what they also would see, when He would come in those clouds of heaven that would break over their city and polity in the final storm of judgment. They all heard Jesus' response. After hearing what Jesus said the High Priest tore his clothes, which was AGAINST God's law, the penalty of which was DEATH (Leviticus 10:6, 21:10). But the object was attained. Christ would neither explain, modify, nor retract His claims. They had all heard it; what use was there of witnesses, He had spoken Giddupha, 'blaspheming.' Then, turning to those assembled, he put to them the usual question which preceded the formal sentence of death. Those gathered spoke but with one voice: "He is deserving of death!"
It was after this meeting of the Sanhedrists had broken up, that, as we learn from the Gospel of Luke, the revolting insults and injuries were perpetrated on Him by the guards and servants of Caiaphas. All now rose in combined rebellion against the Perfect Man: the abject servility of the East, which delighted in insults on One Whom it could never have vanquished, and had not even dared to attack; that innate vulgarity, which loves to trample on fallen greatness, and to deck out in its own manner a triumph where no victory has been won; the brutality of the worse than animal in man (since in him it is not under the guidance of Divine instinct), and which, when unchained, seems to intensify in coarseness and ferocity. When Caiaphas and the Sanhedrists quitted the audience-chamber, Jesus was left to the unrestrained licence of the attendants.