JESUS IS TAKEN TO FORMER HIGH PRIEST ANNAS
AN ILLEGAL TRIAL BY THE SANHEDRIN
Once Jesus is bound like a common criminal, he is led to Annas, who was the high priest when young Jesus amazed the teachers at the temple. (Luke 2:42, 47) Some of Annas’ sons later served as high priest, and now his son-in-law Caiaphas holds that position.
While Jesus is at the home of Annas, Caiaphas has time to assemble the Sanhedrin. That court of 71 members includes the high priest and others who had held that office.
Annas questions Jesus “about his disciples and about his teaching.” Jesus replies simply: “I have spoken to the world publicly. I always taught in a synagogue and in the temple, where all the Jews come together, and I said nothing in secret. Why do you question me? Question those who have heard what I told them.”—John 18:19-21.
An officer standing there slaps Jesus in the face and says reprovingly: “Is that the way you answer the chief priest?” But Jesus, knowing that he has done no wrong, responds: “If I said something wrong, bear witness about the wrong; but if what I said was right, why do you hit me?” (John 18:22, 23) Annas then has Jesus taken away to his son-in-law Caiaphas.
By now those composing the whole Sanhedrin—the current high priest, the elders of the people, and the scribes—have assembled. They meet at the home of Caiaphas. It is illegal to hold such a trial on the night of Passover, but this does not deter them from pursuing their wicked purpose.
This is hardly an unbiased group. After Jesus resurrected Lazarus, the Sanhedrin decided that Jesus should die. (John 11:47-53) And just days ago the religious authorities conspired to seize Jesus and kill him. (Matthew 26:3, 4) Yes, even before his trial begins, Jesus is as good as condemned to death!
In addition to meeting illegally, the chief priests and others of the Sanhedrin are attempting to find witnesses who will give false evidence to build the case against Jesus. They find many, but these cannot agree as to their testimony. Finally, two come forward and claim: “We heard him say, ‘I will throw down this temple that was made with hands, and in three days I will build another not made with hands.’” (Mark 14:58) Yet even these men do not fully agree.
Caiaphas asks Jesus: “Do you say nothing in reply? What is it these men are testifying against you?” (Mark 14:60) Jesus remains silent in the face of this false charge made by witnesses whose stories disagree. So High Priest Caiaphas switches to a different tactic.
Caiaphas knows that the Jews are sensitive about anyone claiming to be the Son of God. Earlier, when Jesus had called God his Father, the Jews wanted to kill him because they claimed that he was “making himself equal to God.” (John 5:17, 18; 10:31-39) Aware of such sentiments, Caiaphas now craftily demands of Jesus: “I put you under oath by the living God to tell us whether you are the Christ, the Son of God!” (Matthew 26:63) Of course, Jesus has acknowledged being the Son of God. (John 3:18; 5:25; 11:4) If he does not do so now, that could be construed as denying that he is God’s Son and the Christ. So Jesus says: “I am; and you will see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of power and coming with the clouds of heaven.”—Mark 14:62.
At this, Caiaphas with great drama rips his garments and exclaims: “He has blasphemed! What further need do we have of witnesses? See! Now you have heard the blasphemy. What is your opinion?” The Sanhedrin hand down the unjust judgment: “He deserves to die.”—Matthew 26:65, 66.
Then they begin to mock Jesus and hit him with their fists. Others slap his face and spit into it. After they cover his whole face and slap him, they say sarcastically: “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?” (Luke 22:64) Here is the Son of God being treated abusively at an illegal nighttime trial!