63 And the men that held Jesus
mocked him, and beat him.64 And they blindfolded him, and asked him, saying, Prophesy: who is he that struck thee? 65 And many other things spake they against him, reviling him.
66 And as soon as it was day, the assembly of the elders of the people was gathered together, both chief priests and scribes; and they led him away into their council, saying, 67 If thou art the Christ, tell us. But he said unto them, If I tell you, ye will not believe: 68 and if I ask you, ye will not answer.69 But from henceforth shall the Son of man be seated at the right hand of the power of God.70 And they all said, Art thou then the Son of God? And he said unto them, Ye say that I am.71 And they said, What further need have we of witness? for we ourselves have heard from his own mouth.
After Jesus had been denied by Peter, he was grossly insulted and abused by his captors. He was mocked and beaten and reviled. Those responsible for these indignities were the Jewish rulers, the most cultured and refined and professedly religious men of their day; but the beast within man is more powerful than we commonly suppose. When Christ is rejected, when his teachings are despised, when his Spirit is opposed, then it is only a question of time and of occasion when hatred or malice or lust or anger awaken in man the passions and ferocity of the brute.
When the morning dawned, Jesus was led away to be arraigned formally before the sanhedrin, the supreme ecclesiastical court of the Jews. He was supposed to be on trial for his life; in reality the council was being judged, and in its guilt the entire nation was involved. The rulers convicted themselves of prejudice, dishonesty, and malice. They did not seek to learn the truth that justice might be done; they sought to find some evidence on which Jesus might be condemned.
When every attempt to convict Jesus had failed, they finally charged him in the words: |If thou art the Christ, tell us.| Jesus' reply shows how fully he appreciated their blind hatred and their unwillingness to be just; he told them that no statement he might make would be believed, and that no explanation or defense he might offer would be accepted; nevertheless, he would answer their question, with the statement that his exaltation to the place of divine power was about to take place. Then they asked him directly, |Art thou then the Son of God?| He answered with all distinctness, |Ye say that I am.| Then they at once decreed that he was worthy of death. They had prejudged the case. They were unwilling to consider whether his claim to be the Son of God was true; they only wished to be sure that he made the claim. When they had made sure of this, they agreed that he must die as a blasphemer. Their logic was so far true. There is no other alternative. In the presence of Christ there can be no neutrality. Either he was an impostor who deserves our contempt, or else he is the divine Son of God whom we must worship and obey. Every soul must choose between the sanhedrin and the Church.