Then those who had seized Jesus led him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders had gathered. And Peter was following him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and going inside he sat with the guards to see the end. Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward and said, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days.’” And the high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” But Jesus 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.” Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your judgment?” They answered, “He deserves death.” Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him, saying, “Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?”
(Matthew 26:57-68 ESV)
We are currently studying the events at Jesus’s mock trial before the high priest just a short time after He was arrested. After not being able to find any witnesses – not even false witnesses – who could bring a usable charge against Jesus, Caiaphas, the high priest, puts Jesus under oath today in an attempt to get Him to incriminate Himself.
He adjures Jesus to tell them if He is the Christ, the Son of God. Notice that Caiaphas demands Jesus speak as if He were speaking to God Himself (by the living God). Caiaphas is demanding Jesus tell the truth because God is His judge.
Jesus tells Caiaphas that He is (you have said so). But He goes further. He refers to Messianic prophecies from the Old Testament [Psalm 110:1; Daniel 7:13] that Caiaphas would have known very well. These prophecies stated that the Christ will return to earth to judge people, including Caiaphas. Jesus was saying that He, being the Christ, would be Caiaphas’s judge. Of course, only God has the power and authority to judge so Jesus again is claiming to be God.
Notice that the high priest doesn’t believe Jesus. If Jesus had said He was not the Christ He probably would have been let go. This was the answer the high priest was looking for and had already concluded.
Caiaphas was certainly aware of the miracles Jesus had performed over the preceding three years either by seeing them for himself or through hearsay. But He didn’t want to believe the evidence. Instead, as we’ve seen, he went searching for evidence that wasn’t there in order to justify an already-made decision that Jesus was a fraud.
The Jewish leaders didn’t want to believe Jesus was God. For if they believed that then they would have had to believe everything else Jesus said. Notably, they would have had to believe that they were sinners who were on their way to eternal hell unless they humbled themselves and submitted to Him. But their pride would never have allowed them to do that. So instead they charged Jesus with blasphemy, sentencing Him to death.
Of course, its only blasphemous to claim to be God if one is not God. But being God, it was impossible for Jesus to commit blasphemy. Jesus was perfectly innocent of these charges and was sentenced to die for a crime He did not commit.
Many people are like Caiaphas; they search for evidence that isn’t there – and believe it – in order to discredit Jesus. They believe Jesus is just a rehashing of ancient mythology. Or they believe that the Bible was rewritten. Or they invent alternate after-life theologies (none of which can be proven, by the way) such as annihilationism.
But all these are just excuses to not believe the truth about Jesus. Because believing the truth about Jesus means believing the truth about oneself. And the truth about ourselves is not pretty [Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:10].
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