MATTHEW 26:57-68 THE KING BEFORE THE JEWISH HIGH PRIEST
57. And they that had laid hold on Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled.
Some of the chief priests and elders were so enraged against Christ that they went to Gethsemane with the Roman cohort that was sent to arrest Jesus; the rest of them met at the house of Caiaphas the high priest, waiting for their victim to be brought to them. It was night, or early morning; but they were only too willing to sit up to judge the Lord of glory, and put the King of Israel to shame.
58. But Peter followed him afar off unto the high priest’s palace, and went in, and sat with the servants, to see the end.
Peter was not to be blamed because he followed afar off, for at first he and John were the only two disciples who followed their captive Master. John went with Jesus into the high priest’s palace, and by his influence Peter was also admitted. Attracted by the fire, Peter sat with the servants; a dangerous place for him, as it soon proved. When a servant of Christ by his own choice sits with the servants of the wicked, sin and sorrow speedily follow. 59-61. Now the chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death; but found none: yea, though many false witnesses, came, yet found they none. At the last came two false witnesses, and said, This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days.
The enemies of Jesus wanted to put him to death; they must therefore have at least two witnesses against him, for by the law of Moses the evidence of one witness was not sufficient to convict any person accused of a crime deserving the death penalty. The chief priests, and elders, and all the council, sought false witness, but found none; until at the last came two false witnesses, who wrested Christ’s words, and misrepresented his meaning; but even they did not agree in their testimony ( Mark 14:59), and therefore Jesus could not be condemned.
62. And the high priest arose, and said unto him, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee?
What was the use of answering? There really was nothing to answer except palpable and willful misrepresentation. Our Lord also knew that the council had determined to put him to death; and beside that, there was another prophecy to be fulfilled: “He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.”
63, 64. But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said unto him, l adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.
The time for Christ to speak had come. First he answered the high priest’s solemn adjuration, and declared that he was “The Christ the Son of God. ” There was no longer any reason for concealing that fact Then he uttered a prophecy that must have startled his accusers. He stood there bound, apparently alone and helpless before his powerful enemies, who expected soon to put him to death; yet the Prophet-King declared that they should be witnesses of his future glory, and see him “sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. ” His hearers rightly understood him to claim to be divine, and gladly do we acknowledge the justice of his claim.
65, 66. Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy. What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death.
If he had not been God Incarnate, he would have been guilty of blasphemy, and would have deserved to die. By the law of Moses, a blasphemer was to be stoned to death ( Leviticus 24:16). Christ’s works had proved that he was God, so his words were not those of a blasphemer; but his confession gave his enemies the opening they were seeking, and they declared him to be unworthy to live: They answered and said, “He is guilty of death. ” He had foretold that he would be crucified, wheras the punishment for blasphemy was death by stoning; so further forms of trial must be gone through before the end would come.
67, 68. Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands, saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee?
Put together these two texts: Then did they spit in his face,— ” And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them.” In the day of his humiliation, they struck him, and mocked him, saying, “Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee? ” Unless they repented of their wickedness, the day will come when the Divine Judge will point out each one of them who then abused him, and he will say, “Thou art the man!”
Oh, what shameful indignities and cruelties were heaped upon our precious Savior! “See how the patient Jesus stands Insulted in hid lowest case!
Sinners have bound the Almighty hands, And spit in their Creator’s face.”
MATTHEW 26:69-75 THE KING DENIED BY HIS DISCIPLE
69, 70. Now Peter sat without in the palace: and a damsel came unto him, saying, Thou also with Jesus of Galilee. But he denied before them all, saying, I know not what thou sayest.
While our Lord was in the high priest’s house, Peter sat without in the palace. In the courtyard overlooked by the rooms of the palace, the servants and officers had lighted a fire to warm themselves while they waited to see what would be done with Jesus.
Peter joined the company, and a damsel, who had let him in at John’s request, said to him, “Thou also wast with Jesus of Galilee. ” Now came the test of his confident boast to his Lord, “Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee.” But he denied before them all saying, “I know not what thou sayest. ” Whatever the consequences of confessing Christ might have been to Peter, they could not have been as bad as this base denial was.
71, 72. And when he was gone out unto the porch, another maid saw him, and said unto them that were there, This fellow was also with Jesus of Nazareth. And again he denied with an oath, I do not know the man.
There were so many who had seen Peter with Christ that he was easily recognized as one of the companions of the Nazarene. His second denial differed from the first, in that he added an oath to the lie, and declared concerning Christ, “I do not know the man. ” Perhaps the oath was meant to prove that he was no follower of him who said, “Swear not at all;” or it may have been a return to Peter’s old habit before his conversion. When once a child of God gets on the downward road, no man can tell how fast and how far he will fall unless almighty grace be vouchsafed to him.
73. And after a while came unto him they that stood by, and said to Peter, Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech betrayeth thee.
Even when Peter swore, there was something of the brogue of Galilee in his utterance, so that these people in Jerusalem detected his provincial dialect, and said to him, “Surely thou also art one of them; for thy speech bewrayeth thee. ” If a child of God begins to swear, he will not do it as the ungodly do, and he will be sure to be found out.
74, 75. Then began he to curse and to swear, saying, I now not the man.
And immediately the cock crew. And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, which said unto him, Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went out, and wept bitterly.
Lying led to swearing, and swearing to cursing; no one but the Lord knows how much further Peter would have fallen if he had not been divinely arrested in his sinful career. Many men heard the cock crow that morning but to Peter it carried a solemn reminder of his Lord’s prophetic warning, “Before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. ” There was something else that affected Peter more than the crowing of the cock. Luke tells us that “The Lord turned, and looked upon Peter.” Peter must have looked up at the Lord or he would not have seen that look of sorrow, pity, love, and forgiveness that the Lord gave him, ere he went out and wept bitterly.
If any one of us has denied the Lord that bought him, let him look up to him who now looks down from heaven, ready to pardon the backslider who cries with the returning prodigal, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no worthy to be called thy son.” more This same Peter, when reinstated in his Lord’s favor, preached on the day of Pentecost the sermon that led to the conviction and conversion of thousands of his hearers.