« السابقةمتابعة »
him further rebuke the unworthy conduct, not of the men themselves but of those that sent them, by saying, “But this is your season. This is the power of darkness.” And though we cannot accept the addition as authentic, it is far from inappropriate. The other two Gospels have, instead of this, the explanatory words, “But so must the Scriptures be fulfilled !” which are likewise a later addition.
So Jesus left the garden as a prisoner, but with the bearing and the feeling of a conqueror; while a settled calm was in his heart that contrasted strangely with the turmoil of feelings that had mastered him as he entered it. How different it was with his disciples! Seeing that what they had looked on as impossible had really come to pass, and that the Master was defenceless in the power of his enemies, they all fled as they best might even before he was out of the garden. With craven hearts they forsook the Master whom they could not help, but by whose side they might at least have stood, and only sought to save themselves. And yet they seem to have been in no real danger, for we shall presently find that Peter, when recognized as a disciple, was still left at large.
Meanwhile we read of a young man who had risen from his bed and followed Jesus, with a linen cloth thrown round him. The people seized him, but he slipped free of the sheet and escaped naked. Perhaps he was the son of the owner or occupier of Gethsemane. Some have conjectured that he was Mark, from the fact that the circumstance is only mentioned by the second Evangelist. Did he threaten to bring succor from elsewhere, and was that why the people tried to seize him while they left the disciples unmolested? It may be so, but it is all mere guess-work.
A few minutes afterwards the spot which in that one hour had witnessed that soul-moving conflict of the spirit ; had witnessed that quiet retirement for prayer and that sudden clatter of arms; had witnessed so much greatness and so much weakness and cowardice, - that spot was once again deserted and wrapped in deathlike stillness. Unless one man still lingered among the trees; one who, though himself a disciple, had yet no personal danger to fear; one whose task was now accomplished, and who was left at leisure to think what he had done, - Judas, the betrayer.
BEFORE THE SANHEDRIM.
Matthew XXVI. 57–75.1
"HE prisoner was now taken to the high priest's palace
pied the sacred and distinguished office of high priest for nearly eighteen years, which was something very remarkable at that time; and it is he, as president of the Sanhedrim, who seems to have been the principal instrument of the fall of Jesus.” It was at his house that the meeting had been held two days before, at which it was decided to lay violent hands on Jesus; and it was he who had now given the order to apprehend him. As soon as he knew that Judas of Karioth, with an adequate body of men, was on his way to seize the Nazarene, he had sent messengers to rouse a sufficient number of members of the Sanhedrim and bid them instantly attend a meeting; and at the same time he summoned certain people whom he knew to have been horrified by the things they had heard Jesus say, and upon whom he had therefore had his eye, in order that they might serve as witnesses at the trial.
A busy throng was therefore pressing round the high priest's door, and one of the disciples took advantage of the fact to creep inside unnoticed. It was Peter. He had fled from Gethsemane like the other ten; but he was the first to recover himself, and very soon he began to feel that he must be where the Master was, though he still feared to join him openly. So he followed at a distance, entered the house a few minutes later, and passed into the court-yard, where there were a number of court attendants and servants passing to and fro, or lying upon the ground and sitting round a fire that they had lighted because of the night chill. The disciple joined this latter group without saying who he was. He was there at hand in case he could do any thing, and at any rate he would learn the end.
In consequence of the rapid and efficient measures taken by Caiaphas, the trial could proceed almost as soon as the 1 Mark xiv. 53-72 ; Luke xxii. 54-71.
2 Compare p. 5.
prisoner was brought in. But unfortunately we have not the means of forming any clear idea of its progress. The chief cause of this is our very imperfect knowledge of Jewish criminal procedure. Jewish authorities, which are the only ones on which we can rely, are scarce; and the details in the Talmud which have been supposed to refer to this special trial are mere worthless tales ; for example, that the herald summoned witnesses to prove the innocence of the prisoner for forty days, and that when no one came forward he was stoned to death and then gibbeted; or that two witnesses were bribed to listen to what he said to a pretended friend who was drawing utterances from him on purpose for them to hear; and so forth.
The Christian tradition was from the very beginning rather uncertain, for none of the friends of Jesus were present during the proceedings. Our authorities therefore do not agree. Luke says nothing of witnesses, but makes the Sanhedrim question and condemn Jesus in the morning; whereas Matthew and Mark place all this, as well as the depositions of the witnesses, in a nocturnal sitting. Luke, however, corrects himself; for he agrees with the others in placing the mockery, to which Jesus was exposed, in the night, and this must have followed the sentence. The difficulty remains that Matthew and Mark likewise mention a second gathering in the morning, the object of which is far from clear. The same two Gospels fall into further inaccuracies. For instance, they say that the whole Sanhedrim assembled, which is impossible when we consider the brevity of the notice; and had it been possible, the friendly disposition towards Jesus 2 of one or more of the members would have made it very unadvisable to summon them all, and since usage only required that one third of the council, or twenty-three members, should be present, it would have been quite unnecessary also. Matthew and Mark further state that false witnesses came forward, and indeed had been procured; but we see from their own account that they only mean witnesses hostile to Jesus, for if bribery had been resorted to there would have been no occasion to search so lɔng for satisfactory witnesses, nor would there have been any lack of agreement in the evidence.
We are therefore left in doubt as to many points; and indeed the whole course of the proceedings, as we are about to sketch it chiefly after Matthew and Mark, is open to legitimate doubt. But when we consider who the judges were, 1 Luke xxii. 64.
2 Mark xv. 43.
we are at any rate safe in assuming that every judicial form prescribed by law or usage was strictly adhered to. It may seem a gross irregularity that the sentence of death was predetermined; but we must remember that the judges were already absolutely convinced either of the guilt of Jesus in attacking religion, or of the dangerous significance of his person in connection with the Messianic commotion which he caused. Moreover there was crying need of haste.
It is also highly probable that the Sadducees, who enjoyed an evil notoriety for the pitiless severity with which in distinction from the Pharisees they executed justice, were in a majority on this occasion.1
It was perhaps two or three o'clock in the morning when the council opened. There sat the high priests, elders, and Scribes in a semicircle, upon cushions or rugs, with their legs crossed beneath them. Caiaphas, as president, had taken the seat of honor in the middle. The prisoner, who stood right opposite the high priest, with some officers of the court about him, was at once identified. Then the witnesses were heard. One by one, as we gather from the want of precise agreement in their evidence, they came forward, and, after a solemn warning from the president to speak nothing but the truth, delivered their testimony against the Nazarene.
If they had had any witnesses from Galilee, they would have heard of his Sabbath-breaking, his eating with unwashed hands, and his negligence in the matter of fasts and prayers. But probably there had been no time to summon any but natives of Jerusalem. These witnesses could speak of his triumphal entry and his cleansing of the temple; but all this, though very culpable presumption in the eyes of the council, was no capital offence. The witnesses could speak of the prisoner's attacks upon the character of high officials held in universal honor ; but even this, however scandalous, was not enough. Perhaps some one could testify to the language he had used some time before about the dietary laws; but whenever any really important charge was brought forward, there was always a want of that verbal agreement between the witnesses which was absolutely indispensable. At least two witnesses must make exactly the same statement. For a long time the absolute proof required, -that the prisoner was a seducer of the people, that is to say a false prophet or heretic, was not forthcoming.
1 Compare Acts iv. 1, 6, v. 17, and v. 34 ff.
At last two witnesses came forward and deposed that “this man had said, “I can destroy the Temple of God and raise it up again in three days. This at last was an instance of outrageous sacrilege, of blasphemy against the sacred abode of the Lord! To help us to understand the impression such words would make upon these men, we may reflect how nearly Jeremiah lost his life in consequence of a far more innocent saying against the sanctuary, in an age that was far less slavishly attached to the temple than was that of Jesus." Besides the judges fully comprehended that in this saying the temple stood for the whole religion of which it was the centre, - the religion which the Nazarene dared to attempt to overthrow as unclean, that he might then restore it as modified to suit his own conceptions !
Yet even this accusation was not followed by his instant condemnation. It was not that there was any lack of agreement between the witnesses this time ; for the statement to that effect appears to be a misconception on the part of Mark, who gives the saying thus : "I will destroy this temple made with hands and raise another not made with hands,”. that is to say, “ I will destroy this imperfect human work of the times before the Messiah, and will establish the perfect worship of the kingdom of heaven.” The real cause of delay in uttering sentence appears to have been that the president was hound to give the prisoner the opportunity of clearing himself, if he could, of the charges brought against him. Accordingly he solemnly rose from the ground, and standing at his full height in the middle opposite to Jesus, he cried, “ Have you any answer to make against these accusations?” But Jesus observed a lofty and even haughty silence, though without any kind of defiance in his mien. He thought it beneath him to enter with a single word upon the equally bootless and dangerous task of defending himself against men who could not understand him, who would be sure to turn his declarations against him, and who had already determined on his death.
The high priest might now have taken the votes; but he appears to have desired to extract from the prisoner himself a confession which would remove the last semblance of an un.. just judgment, a confession which would throw into fullest light all the charges urged against him, including his reckless attack upon the sacred emblem of religion, and so bring out their true significance and bearing, - a confession, finally, which would show how seriously public order and tranquillity
i See vol. ii. pp. 348–350.