The High Priest Questions Jesus!
Inside, the high priest began asking Jesus about his followers and what he had been teaching them.
John 18:19 (NLT)
Was Caiaphas trying to ensnare Him, His doctrine; disciples; etc.?
The questioning of Jesus about His disciples isn’t recorded in Scripture other than this. I suspect the doctrine that He was questioned about was His reference to Himself as the Son of God.
He probably asked him by what authority, or in virtue of what right, he collected disciples, formed a different sect, preached a new doctrine, and set himself up for a public reformer?
As religion was interested in these things, the high priest was considered as being the proper judge. But all this, with what follows, was transacted by night, and this was contrary to established laws. For the Talmud states, that—“Criminal processes can neither commence not terminate, but during the course of the day. If the person were acquitted, the sentence may be pronounced during that day; but, if he were condemned, the sentence cannot be pronounced till the next day. But no kind of judgment is to be executed, either on the eve of the Sabbath, or the eve of any festival.”
Nevertheless, to the lasting infamy of this people, Christ was judicially interrogated and condemned during the night; and on the night too of the Passover, or, according to others, on the eve of that feast. Thus, as I have remarked before, all the forms of justice were insulted and outraged in the case of our Lord. In this his humiliation his judgment was taken away. See Acts 8:33.
Jesus answered him, “I spoke openly to the world. I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where the Jews always meet, and in secret I have said nothing.
John 18:20 (NKJV)
Jesus spoke openly, not in secret (Isa 45:19) vs. a closed trial.
To every person in the land indiscriminately—to the people at large: every person within reach. This is another proof that John uses the term world to mean the Jewish people only; for it is certain our Lord did not preach to the Gentiles. The answer of our Lord, mentioned in this and the following verse, is such as became a person conscious of his own innocence, and confident in the righteousness of his cause.
I have taught in the temple, in the synagogues, in all the principal cities, towns, and villages, and through all the country. I have had no secret school. You and your emissaries have watched me everywhere. No doctrine has ever proceeded from my lips, but what was agreeable to the righteousness of the law and the purity of God.
My disciples, when they have taught, have taught in the same way, and had the same witnesses. Ask those who have attended our public ministrations, and hear whether they can prove that my disciples or I have preached any false doctrines, have ever-troubled society, or disturbed the state.
Attend to the ordinary course of justice, call witnesses, let them make their depositions, and then proceed to judge according to the evidence brought before you.
Why do you ask Me? Ask those who have heard Me what I said to them. Indeed they know what I said.”
And when He had said these things, one of the officers who stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his hand, saying, “Do You answer the high priest like that?”
John 18:21-22 (NKJV)
One of the officers—struck Jesus—This was an outrage to all justice: for a prisoner, before he is condemned, is ever considered to be under the especial protection of justice; nor has any one a right to touch him, but according to the direction of the law.
They perceived Jesus as not respecting the position of the high priest, but they committed the greater sin in not respecting the Son of God, the one whom the high priest was supposed to represent. It’s still the same today. Those who respect men more than God get upset at the smallest infractions against those they elevate, while they commit the greater sins of blaspheming God.
Jesus’ high priesthood was infinitely higher than Caiaphas’. It was actually Caiaphas and all the Sanhedrin who were in danger of being struck by God for treating His High Priest (Jesus) the way they were.
Jesus answered him, “If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil; but if well, why do you strike Me?”
Then Annas sent Him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.
John 18:23-24 (NKJV)
In other words, Jesus hadn’t said anything wrong.
Why did they strike Him?
Now the chief priests, the elders, and all the council sought false testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, but found none. Even though many false witnesses came forward, they found none. But at last two false witnesses came forward and said, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to build it in three days.’”
And the high priest arose and said to Him, “Do You answer nothing? What is it these men testify against You?” But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest answered and said to Him, “I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!”
Matthew 26:59-63 (NKJV)
When Caiaphas saw that the false charges were not incriminating Jesus, he took another approach. He put Jesus under oath. In our day of repeated perjury and carelessness with the truth, we cannot appreciate the solemn importance that the Jews gave to oaths. This, of course, was according to their Law (Ex. 20:7; Lev. 19:12; Num. 30:2). Caiaphas knew that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God (John 10:30-33), so he put Him under oath to declare this. The clever priest knew that Jesus could not avoid replying.
Jesus said to him, “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
Then the high priest tore his clothes, saying, “He has spoken blasphemy! What further need do we have of witnesses? Look, now you have heard His blasphemy!
Matthew 26:64-65 (NKJV)
“Then the high priest tore his clothes”: A garment is torn to pieces when there is no more use for it (Temple veil also!). The High Priest violated Lev 21:10, which states that the High Priest must never tear his clothes. The High Priest understood that Jesus was claiming to be God. The problem with this logic is that it is self-incrimination, which is also in Jewish law that your own testimony could not be used against you.
What do you think?”
They answered and said, “He is deserving of death.”
Then they spat in His face and beat Him; and others struck Him with the palms of their hands, saying, “Prophesy to us, Christ! Who is the one who struck You?”
Matthew 26:66-68 (NKJV)
This would be the prescribed judgment for any man, but Jesus was not a mere man. He was guilty of nothing. He spoke the truth.
Jesus did affirm that He is the Son of God. He applied to Himself Psalm 110:1 and Daniel 7:13, both of which are messianic passages. In these two quotations, Jesus predicted His resurrection and ascension and His return in glory. This would mean salvation to those who trust Him, but for Caiaphas it would mean condemnation.
Without even considering the evidence, Caiaphas passed the sentence. The treatment given Jesus after the verdict had been reached was certainly illegal and inhumane. Of course, all of this only revealed the wickedness of the priest’s heart. At the same time, it fulfilled the messianic prophecies (Isa. 50:6).
The Lord could have overwhelmed them with His prophecies, but He remained silent. The Lord could have forced everyone into acknowledging His divinity, but that wouldn’t take any faith. It’s impossible to please the Lord without faith (Hebrews 11:6).
Carnal, self-serving people would never have remained silent in a situation like this. And if they conquered the grave, they wouldn’t have shown themselves first to a formerly demon possessed woman (Mark 16:9). They would have appeared to Pilate and asked him if his hands were clean (Matthew 27:24), or they would have appeared to these people and prophesied to them more than they wanted to know. But there is not a single recorded instance of the resurrected Jesus appearing to anyone who wasn’t already a believer. This speaks volumes to us today.
Believers are always trying to come up with some way to convince unbelievers of God’s existence through science or archeology or quantum physics. But the only way to the Father is through faith in Jesus. Faith comes by the Word of God (Romans 10:17).