It was the night of Jesus’ arrest. After being accused in the home of Annas, He was lead to the home of Caiaphas. Peter continued to follow along behind. As Jesus was brought before the members of the Sanhedrin that had skulked their way to Caiaphas’ home that night, Peter made his way into the courtyard. He sat with the officers by the fire, waiting to hear what the outcome of the trail would be, looking for his opportunity to stand by his Lord.
After Jesus was led before them, the Sanhedrin brought up one witness after another to testify against Him.
Their stories were false, and their words did not agree with each other. They were so inconsistent that they kept cancelling each other out. According to the Law of God, a person could only be condemned if two witnesses came forward with the same accusation. It wasn’t happening, so they brought up more witnesses.
Nobody could provide anything worthy of putting Jesus to death, and the rulers of Israel would settle for nothing less. Jesus had to die. Finally, a witness came forward and told how Jesus declared that He would destroy the Temple of God . The Lord said He would rebuild it without human hands in three days. We know of course, that Jesus was talking about His own body. It was about to be destroyed because He offered Himself up. But Jesus would be raised to perfection in three days by the hands of the Living God! In the malice of their false testimony against Jesus, they had declared the truth of that very night, but their eyes were too blind to see!
In truth, none of these charges really mattered. These rulers were out to kill Him, and if this charge didn’t stick, they would simply find another. So Jesus said nothing in His own defense. Imagine His quiet, confident resolve in the face of the hysteria around Him.
The high priest was infuriated. He stood up and walked over to Jesus. “‘Do you make no answer? What is it that these men are testifying against you?’”
Again, Jesus remained silent. The high priest began to fume, “‘I adjure you by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God.’” Once again, the enemies of Jesus proclaimed the truth about Him in the very proceedings meant to condemn Him. This time, Jesus responded:
“‘‘You have said it yourself; nevertheless, I tell you, hereafter you shall see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN.’”
Wow. Jesus declared that he was not only the Messiah. He was the Son of Man! This was a term from the Old Testament. It meant He was claiming to be divine in power and glory. He was claiming to be one with God.
When the high priest heard this, he knew that he had what he wanted. He grabbed his priestly robe in his hands and tore it apart. It was a declaration of his extreme offense and absolute condemnation of everything Jesus said. The holy garments that God had ordained for his high priest through Moses were never meant to be torn. But the high priest who had such little regard for the will of God could hardly be troubled by that now.
In truth, what did that matter? The holiness that the Law could not fulfill through these sinful priests was about to be fulfilled completely in Jesus. In his rebellion, Caiaphas was acting as God’s tool to bring about the end of the Law, the Temple worship, and the covenant that gave this man his power. In his grasping fury to hold onto his life, he was losing it.
“‘He has blasphemed!’” he declared hysterically. “‘What further need do we have of witnesses? Behold, you have now heard the blasphemy; what do you think?’” The rest of the Sanhedrin pronounced, “‘He is deserving of death!’”
Then in their vicious rage they descended on the Lord, spitting on His face, beating Him with their fists, and slapping Him to bring Him disgrace. And all the while, the Lord stood there in the power of His dignified strength, bearing the cup His Father had given Him.
In the midst of this pathetic injustice, Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, warming his hands by the fire. Then he got up and walked over to the porch by the gateway. Was he looking for an escape route? Things were not looking good for his Master. Another servant girl came up to Peter and said, “‘You are one of them, too!’”
Peter said, “‘I do not know the man!’” Imagine the pressure he must have felt.
Another hour went by, and the trial of Christ continued to get worse. How Peter’s heart must have ached to see these terrible men physically pummeling his Lord. What could he do? How was he meant to solve it? How could he show his loyalty now? A thousand thoughts must have run through his head, but he was too paralyzed to act. One of the slaves looked at Peter and said, “‘Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean, too.’” This slave had been in the garden when Jesus was arrested. The man whose ear Peter cut off was his own cousin, and he was sure that this man was the one who did it!
Peter began to swear and curse with the false rage of someone caught in a lie, “‘I don’t know this Man you are talking about!’” Immediately, a cock crowed. The Lord heard it as well, and in the midst of His chaotic trial, He looked over at Peter. Peter remembered what Jesus had said just hours before in the Upper Room. “‘Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.’” The worst failure had come true. Peter rose and went out, weeping bitterly.
The religious rulers carried on in their fury. Someone tied a blindfold around Jesus’ eyes. Then they pounded on Him and slapped Him, saying,. “‘Prophecy to us, you Christ; who is it that hit You?’”
Imagine their vicious, gnashing hated and petty pleasure. They finally had the power to act out their years of resentment towards this popular young Teacher, and they were so united in their hatred that no one felt ashamed. As they blasphemed the God that they were accusing of blasphemy, the Lord bore it all, knowing that there was a joy set before Him that none of these men could imagine.