Matthew 26:57-63a (NIV) Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled. But Peter followed him at a distance, right up to the courtyard of the high priest. He entered and sat down with the guards to see the outcome.
The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death. But they did not find any, though many false witnesses came forward.
Finally two came forward and declared, “This fellow said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.'”
Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?”
But Jesus remained silent.
Even though Peter had run away and hidden himself when all of the disciples scattered, he was not the kind of person who could just sit and wait to hear what had happened. He had to see for himself. So he followed the crowd at a distance, staying far enough back that he could remain in the shadows, all the way to Caiaphas’ house where he tried to blend in with the sizeable crowd that had assembled there.
The depth of the plot was show by the fact that the whole Sanhedrin was already waiting at the high priest’s house in the middle of the night. They could not meet in their normal chambers, because it was forbidden for the Sanhedrin to officially meet when the sun was down, to ensure that all of their proceedings were above board and subject to public scrutiny. By meeting at the high priest’s house, they could claim that this was not an “official” meeting.
Their plot started to fall apart very quickly, though. Even though they had lined up false witnesses to testify against Jesus, their testimonies did not match under cross-examination. The law required that at least two witnesses had to be available for any capital crime, and that their testimony had to agree in every specific. This was to prevent the railroading of an innocent person by unscrupulous judges, kind of like what was being attempted here.
Finally they found two witnesses that did agree in their testimony. They had both heard Jesus say that He could destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days. Jesus had actually said those words when he had cleansed the temple courts three years earlier, at the beginning of His ministry (See John 2:19), speaking about His own death and resurrection. The problem with this testimony, even though the witnesses agreed, was that such a statement wasn’t even a sin, let alone a capital offense. Jesus might be convicted of being insane for saying such a thing, but no one could be executed for being insane.
Their only hope was to goad Jesus into saying something then and there that they could twist into a capital offense. But Jesus was unwilling to play that game, and remained silent. Soon He would give them what they needed, but He would make them work at it until their corruption would be evident to anyone with discernment.
Father, Jesus serves as our example even in this. How many of us, when falsely accused, feel that we must immediately respond, and often end up digging ourselves into the wrong place. But Jesus simply sat silently, and let the waves of false accusations wash over Him until they were spent, and He was left unscathed. He relied entirely on You to know when to speak and when to remain silent. Help us, even in those kinds of situations, to be like Him. Amen.