Jesus on Trial: The Jewish Trial – Matthew 26:57-68

On the same evening of the Passover, after praying in Gethsemane, and having been betrayed by Judas, Jesus was bound and brought to the house of Caiaphas, the high priest. It was the post-midnight early morning hours, and by now the disciples have scattered, just as Jesus prophesied in the Upper Room earlier that evening. Only one disciple, Peter, followed at a distance to watch the events. The so-called trial took place in three phases, the first two being completed in the very early hours of the morning; this was illegal according to Jewish law, which only permitted trials during daylight hours.

In verses 57-63, deposition of (false) witnesses was sought that would incriminate Jesus with blasphemy. After some time, two witnesses announced that they heard Jesus say, “I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days.” Ironically Jesus did make this statement in John 2:19, but because their testimony did not agree (Mk 14:59), it was overthrown. Up to this point in the trial, Jesus remained silent, refusing to defend himself. Frustrated and angry, Caiaphas made a bold and devious move that changed the direction of the proceedings. He came right out and directly asked Jesus to swear an oath telling if he was indeed “the Messiah, the Son of God.” This was a crafty challenge, for reasons we will discuss on Sunday.

Curiously, Jesus finally spoke up and answered Caiaphas’s challenge in verse 64, “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.” These powerful words drawn from Daniel 7:13-14, became the turning point of the trial. Caiaphas and the judges did not misunderstand that reference – they had the blasphemy they were waiting to hear, and their indictment was that Jesus’s crime was worthy of death. He would be officially charged and sentenced in the morning (27:1).

Imagine that you were Jesus’s defense attorney at this trial; could you defend his claim to be the Messiah and the Son of God? On what texts would you build your case? One could go to any number of witnesses from the Old Testament to show that Jesus was the Messiah; but how about “the Son of God?” What do the following texts reveal about this title that Jesus claimed? (Ps 2:7, Is 9:6, Is 7:14, Ge 16:13, 18:13, 17, 26, Dan 3:25)


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