57. But they who had apprehended Jesus led him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and elders were assembled.58. And Peter followed him at a distance, as far as to the court of the high priest, and having gone in, he sat with the servants to see the end.59. And the chief priests and elders, and the whole council, sought false witness against Jesus, to put him to death, 60. And found none; even though many false witnesses came, they found none: but at length came two false witnesses, 61. Who said, This man said, I can destroy the temple of God, and build it in three days.
53. And they led Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests, and elders, and scribes, assembled with him.54. And Peter followed him at a distance, as far as to the palace of the high priest; and he sat along with the servants, and warmed himself at the fire.55. And the chief priests, and the whole council, sought evidence against Jesus, to put him to death, and found none.56. For many bore false witness against him, but their declarations did not agree.57. Then some arose, and bore false witness against him, saying, 58. We have heard him say, I will destroy this temple, which was made with hands, and within three days I will build another, made without hands.59. But even here their testimony did not agree.
54. And, having seized him, they led and brought him to the house of the high priest; and Peter followed at a distance.
Luke follows a different order from Matthew and Mark in the narrative; but when we come to the proper place, we will endeavor to reconcile the points in which they differ. It will be proper, in the meantime, to glance briefly at those things which claim our attention in the words of Matthew and Mark. First, in order to remove the offense of the cross, we ought to consider the advantage which we have derived from Christ's emptying of himself, (Philippians 2:7;) for thus will the inestimable goodness of God, and the efficacy of his grace, be found to remove by its brightness every thing in it that was disagreeable or shameful. According to the flesh, it was disgraceful that the Son of God should be seized, bound, and made a prisoner; but when we reflect that by his chains we are loosed from the tyranny of the devil, and from the condemnation in which we were involved before God, not only is the stumbling-block, on which our faith might have struck, removed out of the way, but in place of it there comes an admiration of the boundless grace of God, who set so high a value on our deliverance, as to give up his only-begotten Son to be bound by wicked men. This will also be a pledge of the astonishing love of Christ towards us, that he spared not himself, but willingly submitted to wear fetters on his flesh, that our souls might be freed from fetters of a far worse description.
Matthew 26:57. But they who had seized Jesus led him to Caiaphas. Though the Jews had been deprived of what is called, the higher jurisdiction, there still lingered among them some vestiges of that judicial authority which the Law confers on the high priest, (Deuteronomy 1:8;) so that, while they had lost the absolute authority, they retained the power of administering moderate correction. This is the reason why Christ is brought before the high priest to be interrogated; not that a final sentence may be pronounced on him by theft tribunal, but that the priests may afterwards present him before the governor, under the aggravating influence of their decision. Caiaphas the high priest was also named Joseph, and this man -- as we are told by the historian Josephus -- was appointed to be high priest by Valerius Gratus, governor of Judea, when Simon, the son of Camithus, was deposed from that office. The Evangelists give his surname only, perhaps because he was more generally named, and better known, by it.
Matthew says that the priests assembled in the house of Caiaphas; and that they were already assembled at midnight, before Christ was brought, but because the place of meeting had been appointed, that, as soon as the information reached them, they might meet hastily at an early hour in the morning; though we have lately seen that some who belonged to the order of the priesthood went out by night, along with the soldiers, to seize Christ. But we have frequently seen, in other passages, that the Evangelists were not very exact in adhering to the order of time. In this passage, certainly, they had no other object in view than to show that the Son of God was oppressed by a wicked conspiracy of the whole council. And here a frightful and hideous spectacle is placed before our eyes; for nowhere else than at Jerusalem was there at that time either a temple of God, or lawful worship, or the face of a Church. The high priest was a figure of the only Mediator between God and men; those who sat along with him in the council represented the whole Church of God; and yet all of them unite in conspiring to extinguish the only hope Of salvation. But as it had been declared by prediction of David, that
the stone which the builders rejected would nevertheless become the head-stone of the corner, (Psalm 118:22;)
and as Isaiah had foretold that
the God of armies would be to the whole people of Israel a stone of stumbling, on which they would dash themselves,
the Lord wisely made provision that such wickedness of men should not perplex believing souls.
59. Sought false witness. By these words the Evangelists remark, that nothing was farther from the design of the priests than to inquire into the cause, so that, when the matter was thoroughly understood, they might decide what was proper. For they had previously resolved to put Christ to death, and now they only seek a pretense for oppressing him. Now it is impossible that equity can have any place where an examination of the cause is not the first step. In seeking false witnesses, their treacherous cruelty is manifested; and when, after being disappointed of their expectation, they still do not desist, this affords a still more striking display of their blinded obstinacy. Thus, amidst the darkness of their rage, the innocence of the Son of God shone so brightly, that the devils themselves might know that he died innocent.
It ought to be observed, also, that the appellation of false witnesses is applied not to those who contrive a lie which had no foundation, but to those who calumniously pervert what was justly said, and turn it into a crime; an instance of which is here expressly related as to the destruction and rebuilding of the temple. Christ had indeed said, that when
the temple of his body was destroyed,
he would raise it up within three days, (John 2:19.)
The false witnesses do not now resort to some new contrivance, but they put a wrong interpretation on his words, as if he boasted that he would practice some juggling in building the temple. Now as the calumny was trivial and worthless, we may readily infer from it how greatly the priests and scribes were blinded by their fury, since, without any pretext, they demand that Christ shall be put to death.