Matthew 26:63b-68 (NIV) The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.”
“Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?”
“He is worthy of death,” they answered. Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him and said, “Prophesy to us, Christ. Who hit you?”
The high priest, Caiaphas, was full of bluster, frustrated in his attempts to railroad Jesus on a capital offense of Sabbath breaking or blasphemy. He had tried every technique that he could make look even vaguely legal, and had been beaten by poor witnesses and by Jesus’ stony silence in the face of the trumped-up charges.
Finally, he challenged Jesus directly to claim to be the Messiah, charging Him under oath by the living God. By itself, the claim to be the Messiah was not a capital offense (or any kind of offense, really) unless there was clear evidence that the person was not. Such clear evidence did not exist in this case (quite the opposite, in fact). The unwillingness of the powers that be to accept Jesus as the Messiah didn’t mean that He wasn’t. But the chief priest had heard that Jesus had claimed to be the Messiah on a couple of occasions. If he could pressure Him into saying that here, he could possibly press that into a treason charge before Pilate, who could be made to see that it was a direct claim to a throne rival to that of Caesar.
But the time had come, and Jesus gave them far more than he expected. He confirmed that He was indeed the Messiah. But then, in a vision of Himself seated at the right hand of the Mighty One, and visiting vengeance from there on His enemies (the meaning behind “coming on the clouds of heaven,” and directly tied to His predictions of the fall of Jerusalem), He opened Himself up to the charge of exalting Himself to being equal with God, which the high priest would easily hear as blasphemy. (Although it’s only blasphemy to claim to be equal to God if you aren’t!)
Caiaphas leaped on the statement, heightening the effect by tearing his clothes in supposed shock and sorrow at the affront to God’s glory and dignity. And, of course, the majority of the Sanhedrin, still meeting illegally in the darkness of night, supported a verdict of death. Then it was open season on Jesus. Tied and stoic as He was, they all felt perfectly justified in slapping Him and ridiculing Him while they waited for the sun to rise so that they could take Him to Pilate for sentencing.
Father, we will never see such a noble victim of justice miscarried as Jesus, never see a court so befouled with prejudice and hatred as this Sanhedrin. But it was all foretold in Your Scriptures. Help me to keep that picture of the noble Savior suffering so at the hands of the very men for whom He would soon die in the front of my heart forever as a model and a source of inner strength. Amen.