Mark 14:55
And the chief priests and all the council sought for witness against Jesus to put him to death; and found none.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Mark

THE CONDEMNATION WHICH CONDEMNS THE JUDGES

Mark 14:55 - Mark 14:65
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Mark brings out three stages in our Lord’s trial by the Jewish authorities-their vain attempts to find evidence against Him, which were met by His silence; His own majestic witness to Himself, which was met by a unanimous shriek of condemnation; and the rude mockery of the underlings. The other Evangelists, especially John, supply many illuminative details; but the essentials are here. It is only in criticising the Gospels that a summary and a fuller narrative are dealt with as contradictory. These three stages naturally divide this paragraph.

I. The judges with evil thoughts, the false witnesses, and the silent Christ {Mark 14:55}.

The criminal is condemned before He is tried. The judges have made up their minds before they sit, and the Sanhedrim is not a court of justice, but a slaughter-house, where murder is to be done under sanction of law. Mark, like Matthew, notes the unanimity of the ‘council,’ to which Joseph of Arimathea-the one swallow which does not make a summer-appears to have been the only exception; and he probably was absent, or, if present, was silent. He did ‘not consent’; but we are not told that he opposed. That ill-omened unanimity measures the nation’s sin. Flagrant injustice and corruption in high places is possible only when society as a whole is corrupt or indifferent to corruption. This prejudging of a case from hatred of the accused as a destroyer of sacred tradition, and this hunting for evidence to bolster up a foregone conclusion, are preeminently the vices of ecclesiastical tribunals and not of Jewish Sanhedrim or Papal Inquisition only. Where judges look for witnesses for the prosecution, plenty will be found, ready to curry favour by lies. The eagerness to find witnesses against Jesus is witness for Him, as showing that nothing in His life or teaching was sufficient to warrant their murderous purpose. His judges condemn themselves in seeking grounds to condemn Him, for they thereby show that their real motive was personal spite, or, as Caiaphas suggested, political expediency.

The single specimen of the worthless evidence given may be either a piece of misunderstanding or of malicious twisting of innocent words; nor can we decide whether the witnesses contradicted one another or each himself. The former is the more probable, as the fundamental principle of the Jewish law of evidence {‘two or three witnesses’} would, in that case, rule out the testimony. The saying which they garble meant the very opposite of what they made it mean. It represented Jesus as the restorer of that which Israel should destroy. It referred to His body which is the true Temple; but the symbolic temple ‘made with hands’ is so inseparably connected with the real, that the fate of the one determines that of the other. Strangely significant, therefore, is it, that the rulers heard again, though distorted, at that moment when they were on their trial, the far-reaching sentence, which might have taught them that in slaying Jesus they were throwing down the Temple and all which centred in it, and that by His resurrection, His own act, He would build up again a new polity, which yet was but the old transfigured, even ‘the Church, which is His body.’ His work destroys nothing but ‘the works of the devil.’ He is the restorer of the divine ordinances and gifts which men destroy, and His death and resurrection bring back in nobler form all the good things lost by sin, ‘the desolations of many generations.’ The history of all subsequent attacks on Christ is mirrored here. The foregone conclusion, the evidence sought as an after-thought to give a colourable pretext, the material found by twisting His teaching, the blindness which accuses Him of destroying what He restores, and fancies itself as preserving what it is destroying, have all reappeared over and over again.

Our Lord’s silence is not only that of meekness, ‘as a sheep before her shearers is dumb.’ It is the silence of innocence, and, if we may use the word concerning Him, of scorn. He will not defend Himself to such judges, nor stoop to repel evidence which they knew to be worthless. But there is also something very solemn and judicial in His locked lips. They had ever been ready to open in words of loving wisdom; but now they are fast closed, and this is the penalty for despising, that He ceases to speak. Deaf ears make a dumb Christ, What will happen when Jesus and His judges change places, as they will one day do? When He says to each, ‘Answerest thou nothing? What is it which these, thy sins, witness against thee?’ each will be silent with the consciousness of guilt and of just condemnation by His all-knowing justice.

II. Christ’s majestic witness to Himself received with a shriek of condemnation.

What a supreme moment that was when the head of the hierarchy put this question and received the unambiguous answer! The veriest impostor asserting Messiahship had a right to have his claims examined; but a howl of hypocritical horror is all which Christ’s evoke. The high priest knew well enough what Christ’s answer would be. Why, then, did he not begin by questioning Jesus, and do without the witnesses? Probably because the council wished to find some pretext for His condemnation without bringing up the real reason; for it looked ugly to condemn a man for claiming to be Messias, and to do it without examining His credentials. The failure, however, of the false witnesses compelled the council to ‘show their hands,’ and to hear and reject our Lord solemnly and, so to speak, officially, laying His assertion of dignity and office before them, as the tribunal charged with the duty of examining His proofs. The question is so definite as to imply a pretty full and accurate knowledge of our Lord’s teaching about Himself. It embraces two points-office and nature; for ‘the Christ’ and ‘the Son of the Blessed’ are not equivalents. The latter title points to our Lord’s declarations that He was the Son of God, and is an instance of the later Jewish superstition which avoided using the divine name. Loving faith delights in the name of the Lord. Dead formalism changes reverence into dread, and will not speak it.

Sham reverence, feigned ignorance, affected wish for information, the false show of judicial impartiality, and other lies and vices not a few, are condensed in the question; and the fact that the judge had to ask it and hear the answer, is an instance of a divine purpose working through evil men, and compelling reluctant lips to speak words the meaning and bearing of which they little know. Jesus could not leave such a challenge unanswered. Silence then would have been abandonment of His claims. It was fitting that the representatives of the nation should, at that decisive moment, hear Him declare Himself Messiah. It was not fitting that He should be condemned on any other ground. In that answer, and its reception by the council, the nation’s rejection of Jesus is, as it were, focused and compressed. This was the end of centuries of training by miracle, prophet and psalmist-the saddest instance in man’s long, sad history of his awful power to frustrate God’s patient educating! Our Lord’s majestic ‘I am,’ in one word answers both parts of the question, and then passes on, with strange calm and dignity, to point onwards to the time when the criminal will be the judge, and the judges will stand at His bar. ‘The Son of Man,’ His ordinary designation of Himself, implies His true manhood, and His representative character, as perfect man, or, to use modern language, the ‘realised ideal’ of humanity. In the present connection, its employment in the same sentence as His assertion that He is the Son of God goes deep into the mystery of His twofold nature, and declares that His manhood had a supernatural origin and wielded divine prerogatives. Accordingly there follows the explicit prediction of His assumption of the highest of these after His death. The Cross was as plain to Him as ever; but beyond it gleamed the crown and the throne. He anticipates ‘sitting on the right hand of power,’ which implies repose, enthronement, judicature, investiture with omnipotence, and administration of the universe. He anticipates ‘coming in the clouds of heaven,’ which distinctly claims to be the future Judge of the world. His hearers could scarcely fail to discern the reference to Daniel’s prophecy.

Was ever the irony of history more pungently exemplified than in an Annas and Caiaphas holding up hands of horror at the ‘blasphemies’ of Jesus? They rightly took His words to mean more than the claim of Messiahship as popularly understood. To say that He was the Christ was not ‘blasphemy,’ but a claim demanding examination; but to say that He, the Son of Man, was Son of God and supreme Judge was so, according to their canons. How unconsciously the exclamation, ‘What need we further witnesses?’ betrays the purpose for which the witnesses had been sought, as being simply His condemnation! They were ‘needed’ to compass His death, which the council now gleefully feels to be secured. So with precipitate unanimity they vote. And this was Israel’s welcome to their King, and the outcome of all their history! And it was the destruction of the national life. That howl of condemnation pronounced sentence on themselves and on the whole order of which they were the heads. The prisoner’s eyes alone saw then what we and all men may see now-the handwriting on the wall of the high priest’s palace: ‘Weighed in the balance, and found wanting.’

III. The savage mockers and the patient Christ {Mark 14:65}.

There is an evident antithesis between the ‘all’ of Mark 14:64 and the ‘some’ of Mark 14:65, which shows that the inflictors of the indignities were certain members of the council, whose fury carried them beyond all bounds of decency. The subsequent mention of the ‘servants’ confirms this, especially when we adopt the more accurate rendering of the Revised Version, ‘received Him with blows.’ Mark’s account, then, is this: that, as soon as the unanimous howl of condemnation had beep uttered, some of the ‘judges’{!} fell upon Jesus with spitting and clumsy ridicule and downright violence, and that afterwards He was handed over to the underlings, who were not slow to copy the example set them at the upper end of the hall.

It was not an ignorant mob who thus answered His claims, but the leaders and teachers-the crème de la crème of the nation. A wild beast lurks below the Pharisee’s long robes and phylacteries; and the more that men have changed a living belief in religion for a formal profession, the more fiercely antagonistic are they to every attempt to realise its precepts and hopes. The ‘religious’ men who mock Jesus in the name of traditional religion are by no means an extinct species. It is of little use to shudder at the blind cruelty of dead scribes and priests. Let us rather remember that the seeds of their sins are in us all, and take care to check their growth. What a volcano of hellish passion bursts out here! Spitting expresses disgust; blinding and asking for the names of the smiters is a clumsy attempt at wit and ridicule; buffeting is the last unrestrained form of hate and malice. The world has always paid its teachers and benefactors in such coin; but all other examples pale before this saddest, transcendent instance. Love is repaid by hate; a whole nation is blind to supreme and unspotted goodness; teachers steeped in ‘law and prophets’ cannot see Him of and for whom law and prophets witnessed and were, when He stands before them. The sin of sins is the failure to recognise Jesus for what He is. His person and claims are the touchstone which tries every beholder of what sort He is.

How wonderful the silent patience of Jesus! He withholds not His face ‘from shame and spitting.’ He gives ‘His back to the smiters.’ Meek endurance and passive submission are not all which we have to behold there. This is more than an uncomplaining martyr. This is the sacrifice for the world’s sin; and His bearing of all that men can inflict is more than heroism. It is redeeming love. His sad, loving eyes, wide open below their bandage, saw and pitied each rude smiter, even as He sees us all. They were and are eyes of infinite tenderness, ready to beam forgiveness; but they were and are the eyes of the Judge, who sees and repays His foes, as those who smite Him will one day find out.Mark 14:55-59. And all the council sought for witness against Jesus to put him to death — Which they were determined to do. They had seized him as a malefactor; and now they had him, they had no indictment to prefer against him, no crime to lay to his charge: but they sought for witnesses against him. They artfully sifted some by sly interrogatories, offered bribes to others to prevail on them to accuse him, and endeavoured by threats to compel other, to do it. The chief priests and elders were, by the law, intrusted with the prosecuting and punishing of false witnesses, Deuteronomy 19:16, yet they were now ringleaders in a crime that tended to the overthrow of all justice. Deplorable is the condition of a country, when those that should be the conservators of peace and equity are the corrupters of both! And found none — What an amazing proof of the overruling providence of God, considering both their authority, and the rewards they could offer, that no two consistent witnesses could be procured to charge him with any gross crime! Their witness, their evidences, agreed not together — So also the Vulgate, Convenientia testimonia non erant. But the Greek words, ισαι ουκ ησαν, which, literally rendered, are, were not equal, are understood by many to signify, Not equal to the charge of a capital crime. So Dr. Hammond; they did not accuse him of that upon which a sentence of death might be founded; no, not by the utmost stretch of their law. Dr. Campbell, who considers the phrase in the same light, renders it, Their testimonies were insufficient; observing, “On a doubtful point, where the words appear susceptible of either interpretation, we ought to be determined by the circumstances of the case. Now there is nothing in the whole narrative that insinuates the smallest discrepancy among the witnesses. On the contrary, in the gospels the testimony specified is mentioned as given by all the witnesses. The differences in Matthew and Mark, one saying, I will rebuild, another, I can rebuild; one adding, made with hands, another omitting it; not only are of no moment in themselves, but are manifestly differences in the reports of the evangelists, not in the testimony of the witnesses; nor are they greater than those which occur in most other facts related from memory. What therefore perplexed the pontiffs and the scribes was, that, admitting all that was attested, it did not amount to what could be accounted a capital crime. This made the high-priest think of extorting from our Lord’s mouth a confession which might supply the defect of evidence. This expedient succeeded to their wish; Jesus, though not outwitted by their subtlety, was no way disposed to decline suffering, and therefore readily supplied them with the pretext they wanted.” The same expression is used in the 59th verse. See the note on Matthew 26:59-61. There arose certain, and bare false witness — There is no wickedness so black, no villany so horrid, but there may be found among mankind fit tools to be used in it: so miserably depraved and vitiated is human nature! Saying, We heard him say, I will destroy this temple, &c. — It is observable, that the words which they thus misrepresented were spoken by Christ at least three years before, (John 2:19.) Their going back so far to find matter for the charge was a glorious, though silent attestation, of the unexceptionable manner wherein he had behaved, through the whole course of his public ministry.14:53-65 We have here Christ's condemnation before the great council of the Jews. Peter followed; but the high priest's fire-side was no proper place, nor his servants proper company, for Peter: it was an entrance into temptation. Great diligence was used to procure false witnesses against Jesus, yet their testimony was not equal to the charge of a capital crime, by the utmost stretch of their law. He was asked, Art thou the Son of the Blessed? that is, the Son of God. For the proof of his being the Son of God, he refers to his second coming. In these outrages we have proofs of man's enmity to God, and of God's free and unspeakable love to man.See this fully explained in the notes at Matthew 26:57-75. 55. And the chief priests and all the council sought for witness against Jesus to put him to death—Matthew (Mt 26:59) says they "sought false witness." They knew they could find nothing valid; but having their Prisoner to bring before Pilate, they behooved to make a case.

and found none—none that would suit their purpose, or make a decent ground of charge before Pilate.

See Poole on "Mark 14:53" And the chief priests, and all the council,.... Especially the former, who were of all most busy and active in this matter:

sought for witness against Jesus to put him to death; on which they were determined, right or wrong; in this they went contrary to one of their own canons, which runs thus (k):

"in pecuniary causes, they begin either for absolution, or condemnation; but in capital causes, they begin for absolution, and do not begin for condemnation.''

That is, they begun with such evidences as tended to acquit a man, and not with such as served to condemn him; whereas this court was only seeking for such evidence to begin with, that they might condemn Jesus to death:

and found none; that would answer their purpose; See Gill on Matthew 26:59.

(k) Misn. Sanhedrin, c. 4. sect. 1.

{14} And the chief priests and all the council sought for witness against Jesus to put him to death; and found none.

(14) Christ, who was so innocent that he could not be oppressed, not even by false witnesses, is at length condemned for impiety before the high priest for confessing God to be his father. This is so that we, who denied God and were indeed wicked, might be acquitted before God.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Mark 14:55-65. See on Matthew 26:59-68.

Mark 14:56. καὶ ἴσαι κ.τ.λ.] and the testimonies were not alike[170] (consonant, agreeing). At least two witnesses had to agree together; Deuteronomy 17:6; Deuteronomy 19:15; Lightfoot, p. 658; Michaelis, Mos. R. § 299; Saalschütz, p. 604. The καί is the simple: and. Many testified falsely and dissimilarly.

Mark 14:58. ἡμεῖς] we, on our part: the ἐγώ also which follows has corresponding emphasis.

χειροποίητονἄλλον ἀχειροποίητον] peculiar to Mark, but certainly (comp. on Mark 15:29) a later form of the tradition resulting from reflection (at variance with John’s own interpretation) as to the meaning of the utterance in John 2:19, according to which there was found in that saying a reference to the new spiritual worship of God, which in a short time Christ should put in the place of the old temple-service. Comp. Acts 6:14. Matthew is here more simple and more original.

ἀχειροπ.] is an appositional more precise definition to ἄλλον. See van Hengel, Annotat. p. 55 ff. Comp. on Luke 23:32.

Mark 14:59. οὐδὲ οὕτως] and not even thus (when they gave this statement) was their testimony consonant. The different witnesses must therefore have given utterance to not unimportant variations in details (not merely in their mode of apprehending the saying, as Schenkel would have it). It is plain from this that one witness was not heard in the presence of the other. Comp. Michaelis, Mos. R. § 299, p. 97. Others, like Erasmus, Grotius, Calovius, in opposition to linguistic usage and to the context (see Mark 14:56), hold that ἴσος is here and at Mark 14:56 : sufficiens.

Mark 14:60. Two questions, as at Matthew 26:62. If we assume only one, like the Vulgate, and take τί for , τι: answerest thou nothing to that, which, etc. (Bornemann in the Stud. u. Krit. 1843, p. 120 f.; Lachmann, Tischendorf, Ewald, Bleek, and various others), it is true that the construction ἀποκρίνεσθαί τι is not opposed to it (see on Matthew), but the address is less expressive of the anxiety and urgency that are here natural to the questioner. Buttmann, neut. Gr. p. 217 [E. T. 251], harshly suggests that “hearing” should be supplied before , τι.

Mark 14:61. Well known parallelismus antitheticus, with emphasis. Inversely at Acts 18:9.

ὁ εὐλογητός]κατʼ ἐξοχήν, הַבָּרוּךְ, God. Used absolutely thus only here in the N. T. The Sanctus benedictus of the Rabbins is well known (Schoettgen, ad Romans 9:5). The expression makes us feel the blasphemy, which would be involved in the affirmation. But it is this affirmation which the high priest wishes (hence the form of his question: Thou art the Messiah?), and Jesus gives it, but with what a majestic addition in this deep humiliation!

Mark 14:62. The ἀπʼ ἄρτι in Matthew 26:64, which is wanting in Mark, and which requires for what follows the figurative meaning, is characteristic and certainly original. On ΜΕΤᾺ Τ. ΝΕΦΕΛ., comp. Daniel 7:13 (עִם); Revelation 1:7. That figurative meaning is, moreover, required in Mark by ἐκ δεξιῶν καθήμ τ. δυν., although Keim finds in this interpretation “arbitrariness without measure.” Luke only, Luke 22:69, while abbreviating and altering the saying, presents the literal meaning.

Mark 14:63. ΤΟῪς ΧΙΤῶΝΑς] a more accurate statement, in accordance with the custom of rending the garments, than the general ΤᾺ ἹΜΆΤΙΑ in Matthew 26:65; see in loc. People of rank wore two under-garments (Winer, Realw.); hence τοὺς χιτ.

Mark 14:64. κατέκριναν κ.τ.λ.] they condemned Him, to be guilty of death[171] On κατακρ. with an infinitive, comp. Herod, vi. 85, ix. 93; Xen. Hier. vii. 10.

Mark 14:65. ἤρξαντο] when the “guilty!” had heen uttered. A vivid representation of the sequel.

ΤΙΝΈς] comp. previously ΟἹ ΔῈ ΠΆΝΤΕς, hence: some of the Sanhedrists. The servants, i.e. the servants of the court, follow afterwards.

προφήτευσον] usually: who struck thee, according to the amplifying narratives of Matthew and Luke; Mark, however, does not say this, but generally: prophesy! which as Messiah thou must be able to do! They wish to bring Him to prophesy by the κολαφίζειν! The narrative of Mark, regarded as an abbreviation (Holtzmann), would be a singularity without motive. Matthew and Luke followed another tradition. The veiling of the face must, according to Mark, be considered merely as mocking mummery.

And after some of the Sanhedrists had thus mocked and maltreated Him, the servants received Him with strokes of the rod. To them He was delivered for custody until further orders. This is the meaning according to the reading ἔλαβον (see the critical remarks). On the explanation of the reading ἜΒΑΛΛΟΝ, they struck Him, see Bornemann in the Stud. u. Krit. 1843, p. 138. As to ῥαπίσμασιν, see on Matthew 26:67 The dative denotes the form, the accompanying circumstances, with which on the part of the servants the ἔλαβον took place. Bernhardy, p. 100 f. Comp. the Latin accipere aliquem verberibus (Cic. Tusc. ii. 14. 34).

[170] It is not to be accented ἶσος, as in Homer, but ἴσος, as with the Attic and later writers. See Fritzsche in loc.; Bentley, ad Menandr. fragm., p. 533, ed. Meinek.; Brunck, ad Arist. Plut. 1113; Lipsius, grammat. Unters. p. 24.

[171] This was the result, which was already from the outset a settled point with the court, and to the bringing about of which the judicial procedure had merely to lend the form of legality. The defence of the procedure in Saalschütz, Mos. R. p. 623 ff., only amounts to a pitiful semblance of right. Against the fact as it stood, that Jesus claimed to be the Messiah, they had no law; this claim, therefore, was brought into the sphere of the spiritual tribunal under the title of blasphemy, and before the Roman tribunal under that of high treason. And into the question as to the ground and truth of the claim—although in the confession of Jesus there was implied the exceptio veritatis—they prudently did not enter at all.Mark 14:55-65. The trial and condemnation.55. And the chief priests] St Mark passes over the details of the examination before Annas and the first commencement of insult and violence, recorded only by St John (John 18:19-24). He places us in the mansion of Caiaphas, whither our Lord was conducted across the courtyard, and where a more formal assembly of the council of the nation had met together.

sought for witness] By the Law they were bound to secure the agreement of two witnesses on some specific charge. Before Annas an attempt had been made to entangle the Accused with insidious questions. A more formal character must now be given to the proceedings.Verse 55. - Now the chief priests and the whole council sought witness against Jesus to put him to death, and found it not. Their supreme object was to put him to death; but. they wished to accomplish their object in a manner consistent with their own honor, so as not to appear to have put him to death without reason. So they sought for false witnesses against him, that they might deliver the Author of life and the Savior of the world to death. For in real truth, although they knew it not, and were the instruments in his hands, he had determined by the death of Christ to bestow on us both present and eternal life.
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