GUILTY BUT NOT GUILTY
53 They took Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests, the elders and the teachers of the law came together. 54 Peter followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. There he sat with the guards and warmed himself at the fire.
55 The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any. 56 Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree.
57 Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: 58 “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with human hands and in three days will build another, not made with hands.’” 59 Yet even then their testimony did not agree.
60 Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” 61 But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.
Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”
62 “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
63 The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked. 64 “You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?”
They all condemned him as worthy of death. 65 Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, “Prophesy!” And the guards took him and beat him. Mark 14:53-65
Peter is such a lovable character; larger than life, always in the thick of things, always willing to stick his neck out, first to try anything new! He fled with the rest of the disciples but he was soon back among the servants, trying to appear anonymous but desperate to find out what they were doing with Jesus. Where were the others? Probably hiding somewhere, waiting for Peter to come back to tell them what was going on.
Meanwhile the court had assembled and the trial began. What a fiasco! According to the Jewish High Court, Jesus had already been found guilty. Now they had to dig up legitimate charges against Him to make their verdict stick so that they could pass sentence and dispatch their “thorn in the flesh”. But it wasn’t that easy. What charge could they lay against Him that would be punishable by death? Their hatred of His flawless life and His exposure of their hypocrisy by contrast, was no legal reason to have Him executed.
They tried the “pulling down the Temple and rebuilding it in three days” one but that was a pathetic charge. Jesus didn’t even bother to respond. Then the High Priest tried his biggest weapon – a charge of blasphemy. He was elated when Jesus responded in the affirmative. “Yes, I am.” What more did they need? He had condemned Himself.
But this is where their whole justice system went horribly wrong. They assumed that Jesus was claiming to be what His life did not confirm. All their witnesses were hostile. Did they genuinely desire to find out the truth? No! Where were the disciples who could bear witness to what they had seen and heard? Where were the crowds who had listened to His teaching, eaten the miraculous meals He had provided and received a fresh start in life because they had been forgiven and healed? In this company Jesus had no chance.
But they still had a problem. How could a charge of blasphemy get past Pilate? He had no interest in their religious quarrels. It had to be something political.
Strangely enough, the charges they eventually laid against Him were actually true, confirmed by His own mouth. He said he was the Son of God – blasphemy, if it were not true. He said He was the King of Israel – treason, if it were not true but…the Sanhedrin made no attempt to test the evidence. Guilty from their perspective? Yes, but guilty from God’s perspective? No! And three days later He would prove it.