Here Jesus is expected. Late as it is He is at once brought before Annas. Annas was an old man who had been high priest himself once, years before, and who had afterwards absolutely controlled that office through the successive terms of his sons and now of his son-in-law. He was the real leader of the inner clique that held the national reins in a clutching grip. Caiaphas was the nominal high priest. The old man Annas was the real leader. He controlled the inner finances and the temple revenues. To him first Jesus is taken. He begins a quizzical, critical examination of Jesus about disciples and teaching. Possibly he is trying to overawe this young Galilean. Jesus calmly answers. |I have taught openly, never secretly; everybody knows what my teaching has been. Why ask Me? These people all around have heard all my teaching.| He was ever in the open, in sharp contrast with these present proceedings. One of the underlings of the high priest -- struck -- Jesus -- in the face, saying, |Answerest thou the high priest so?| Jesus quietly replies, |If I have spoken something wrong tell me what it is, but if not, why do you strike Me?| Annas ignores the gross insult by one of his own men, and, probably with an exultant sneer that the disturber of the temple revenues is in his power at last, gives order that Jesus be bound and taken to his chief underling, Caiaphas.
This is the first phase of the condemnation determined upon beforehand, and the real settling of the Jewish disposition of Jesus. Still the forms had to be gone through. So Jesus is sent with the decision of Annas in the thongs on His hands to Caiaphas, high priest that year by the grace of the old intriguer Annas, and by Roman appointment. The thing must be done up in proper shape. These folks are great sticklers for proper forms.
Probably it is across a courtyard they go to another part of the same pile of buildings or palace. Caiaphas, too, is ready, unusual though the hour is. With him are several members of the senate, the official body in control of affairs. The plans have been carefully worked out. This night work will get things in shape before the dreaded crowds of the morrow can be aroused. Now begins the examination here. These plotters have been so absorbed in getting Jesus actually into their power that they seem to have over-looked the details of making out a strong case against Him. They really didn't need a case to secure their end, yet they seem to want to keep up the forms, probably not because of any remnants of supposed conscience left unseared, but to swing the bothersome, fanatical crowds that must always be reckoned with. Now they deliberately try to find men who will lie about Jesus' words, and swear to it. They find some willing enough -- money would fix that -- but not bright enough to make their stories hang together. At last some one brings up a remark made three years before by Jesus about destroying the temple and rebuilding it in three days. It is hard to see how they might expect to make anything out of that, for in the remark, as they understood it, He had proposed to undertake the rebuilding of the famous structure if they should destroy it. And then they can't even agree here. Clearly they're hard pushed. Something must be done. Precious time is slipping away. The thing must be in shape by dawn if they are to get it through before the crowds get hold of it.
All this time Jesus stands in silence, doubtless with those eyes of His turned now upon Caiaphas, now on the others. His presence disturbed them in more ways than one. That great calm, pure face must have been an irritant to their jaded consciences. Suddenly the presiding officer stands up and dramatically cries out, as though astonished, |Answerest thou nothing? Canst thou not hear these charges against Thee?| Still that silence of lip, and those great eyes looking into His enemies' faces. Then comes the question lurking underneath all the time, put in the form of a solemn oath to the prisoner, |I adjure Thee by the living God, that Thou tell us whether Thou art the Christ, the Son of God.| Thus appealed to, Jesus at once replies, |I am.| And then, knowing full well the effect of the reply, He adds, |Nevertheless -- notwithstanding your evident purpose regarding Me -- the Son of Man will be sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming in the clouds of heaven, and ye shall see it.|
In supposed righteous horror Caiaphas tore his garments, and cried, |What further need is there of witnesses? Behold you have heard His blasphemy. What verdict do you give?| Back come the eager cries, |He deserves death -- Guilty.| So the second session closes with the verdict of guilty agreed upon. Yet this was not official. The senate could meet only in daylight hours. The propriety of form they were so eager for requires them to wait until dawn should break, and then they could technically give the decisive verdict now agreed upon. While they are waiting, the intense hatred of Jesus in their hearts and their own cruel thirstings find outlet upon Jesus' person. They -- spat -- in -- His -- face, and struck Him, with open hand and shut fist. He is blind-folded, and then struck by one and another with derisive demands that He use His prophetic skill to tell who had been hitting Him. And this goes on for possibly a couple of hours before dawn permits the next step, soldiers vying with senators in doing Him greatest insult.