Matthew 26:66
What think you? They answered and said, He is guilty of death.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(66) He is guilty of death.—In modern English the word “guilty” is almost always followed by the crime which a man has committed. In older use it was followed by the punishment which the man deserved. (Comp. Numbers 35:31.) The decision, as far as the meeting went, was unanimous. Sentence was passed. It remained, however, to carry the sentence into effect, and this, while the Roman governor was at Jerusalem, presented a difficulty which had to be met by proceedings of another kind. The Jews, or at least their rulers, who courted the favour of Rome, ostentatiously disclaimed the power of punishing capital offences (John 18:31).

Matthew

THE REAL HIGH PRIEST AND HIS COUNTERFEIT

Matthew 26:57 - Matthew 26:68
.

John’s Gospel tells us that Jesus was brought before ‘Annas first,’ probably in the same official priestly residence as Caiaphas, his son-in-law, occupied. That preliminary examination brought out nothing to incriminate the prisoner, and was flagrantly illegal, being an attempt to entrap Him into self-accusing statements. It was baffled by Jesus being silent first, and subsequently taking His stand on the undeniable principle that a charge must be sustained by evidence, not based on self-accusation. Annas, having made nothing of this strange criminal, ‘sent Him bound unto Caiaphas.’

A meeting of the Sanhedrin had been hastily summoned in the dead of night, which was itself an illegality. Now Jesus stands before the poor shadow of a judicial tribunal, which, though it was all that Rome had left a conquered people, was still entitled to sit in judgment on Him. Strange inversion, and awful position for these formalists! And with sad persistence of bitter prejudice they proceeded to try the prisoner, all unaware that it was themselves, not Him, that they were trying.

They began wrongly, and betrayed their animus at once. They were sitting there to inquire whether Jesus was guilty or no; they had made up their minds beforehand that He was, and their effort now was but to manufacture some thin veil of legality for a judicial murder. So they ‘sought false witness, . . . that they might put Him to death.’ Matthew simply says that no evidence sufficient for the purpose was forthcoming; Mark adds that the weak point, was that the lies contradicted each other. Christ’s presence has a strange, solemn power of unmasking our falsehoods, both of thought and deed, and it is hard to speak evil of Him before His face. If His calumniators were confused when He stood as Prisoner, what will they be when He sits as a Judge?

Only Matthew and Mark tell us of the two witnesses whose twisted version of the word about ‘destroying the Temple and rebuilding it in three days’ seemed to Caiaphas serious enough to require an answer. Their mistake was one which might have been made in good faith, but none the less was their travesty ‘false witness.’ Their version of His great word shows how easily the teaching of a lofty soul, passed through the popular brain, is degraded, and made to mean the opposite of what he had meant by it. For the destruction of the Temple had appeared in the saying as the Jews’ work, and Jesus had presented Himself in it as the Restorer, not the Destroyer, of the Temple and of all that it symbolised. We destroy, He rebuilds. The murder of Jesus was the suicide of the nation. Caiaphas and his council were even now pulling down the Temple. And that murder was the destruction, so far as men could effect it, of the true ‘Temple of His body,’ in which the fulness of the Godhead dwelt, and which was more gloriously reconstituted in the Resurrection. The risen Christ rears the true temple on earth, for through Him the Holy Ghost dwells in His Church, which is collectively ‘the Temple,’ and in all believing spirits, which are individually ‘the temples’ of God. So the false witnesses distorted into a lie a great truth.

The Incarnate Word was dumb all the while. He ‘was still and refrained’ Himself. It was the silence of the King before a lawless tribunal of rebels, of patient meekness, ‘as a sheep before her shearers’; of innocence that will not stoop to defend itself from groundless accusations; of infinite pity and forbearing love, which sees that it cannot win, but will not smite. Jesus is still silent, but one day, ‘with the breath of His lips shall He slay the wicked.’ Caiaphas seems to have been annoyed as well as surprised at Jesus’ silence, for there is a trace of irritation, as at ‘contempt of court,’ in his words. But our Lord’s continued silence appears to have somewhat awed him, and the dawning consciousness of his dignity is, perhaps, the reason for the high priest’s casting aside all the foolery of false witnessing, and coming at last to the real point,- the Messianic claims of Jesus.

Caiaphas was doing his duty as high priest in inquiring into such claims, but he was somewhat late in the day, and he had made up his mind before he inquired. What he wished to get was a plain assertion on which the death sentence could be pronounced. Jesus knew this, and yet He answered. But Luke tells us that He first scathingly pointed to the unreality and animus of the question by saying, ‘If I tell you, ye will not believe.’ But yet it was fitting that He should solemnly, before the supreme court, representative of the nation, declare that He was the Messiah, and that, if He was to be rejected and condemned, it should be on the ground of that declaration. Before Caiaphas He claimed to be Messiah, before Pilate He claimed to be King. Each rejected Him in the character that appealed to them most. The many-sidedness of the perfect Revealer of God brings Him to each soul in the aspect that most loudly addresses each. Therefore the love in the appeal and the guilt in its rejection are the greater.

But Christ’s self-attestation to the council was not limited to the mere claim to the name of Messiah. It disclosed the implications of that name in a way altogether unlike the conceptions held by Caiaphas. When Caiaphas put in apposition ‘the Christ’ and ‘the Son of God,’ he was not speaking from the ordinary Jewish point of view, but from some knowledge, of Christ’s teaching, and there are two charges combined into one.

But Jesus’ answer, while plainly claiming to be the Messiah, expands itself in regard to the claim to be ‘Son of God,’ and shows its tremendous significance. It involves participation in divine authority and omnipotence. It involves a future coming to be the Judge of His judges. It declares that these blind scribes and elders will see Him thus exalted, and it asserts that all this is to begin then and there {‘henceforth’}, as if that hour of humiliation was to His consciousness the beginning of His manifestation as Lord, or, as John has it, ‘the hour that the Son of Man should be glorified.’ Nor must we leave out of sight the fact that it is ‘the Son of Man’ of whom all this is said, for thereby are indicated the raising of His perfect humanity to participation in Deity, and the possibility that His brethren, too, may sit where He sits. Much was veiled in the answer to the council, much is veiled to us. But this remains,-that Jesus, at that supreme moment, when He was bound to leave no misunderstandings, made the plainest claim to divinity, and could have saved His life if He had not done so. Either Caiaphas, in his ostentatious horror of such impiety, was right in calling Christ’s words blasphemy, and not far wrong in inferring that Jesus was not fit to live, or He is the everlasting ‘Son of the Father,’ and will ‘come to be our Judge.’26:57-68 Jesus was hurried into Jerusalem. It looks ill, and bodes worse, when those who are willing to be Christ's disciples, are not willing to be known to be so. Here began Peter's denying him: for to follow Christ afar off, is to begin to go back from him. It is more our concern to prepare for the end, whatever it may be, than curiously to ask what the end will be. The event is God's, but the duty is ours. Now the Scriptures were fulfilled, which said, False witnesses are risen up against me. Christ was accused, that we might not be condemned; and if at any time we suffer thus, let us remember we cannot expect to fare better than our Master. When Christ was made sin for us, he was silent, and left it to his blood to speak. Hitherto Jesus had seldom professed expressly to be the Christ, the Son of God; the tenor of his doctrine spoke it, and his miracles proved it; but now he would not omit to make an open confession of it. It would have looked like declining his sufferings. He thus confessed, as an example and encouragement to his followers, to confess him before men, whatever hazard they ran. Disdain, cruel mocking, and abhorrence, are the sure portion of the disciple as they were of the Master, from such as would buffet and deride the Lord of glory. These things were exactly foretold in the fiftieth chapter of Isaiah. Let us confess Christ's name, and bear the reproach, and he will confess us before his Father's throne.What think ye? - What is your opinion? What sentence do you pronounce? As President of the Sanhedrin he demanded their judgment.

He is guilty of death - This was the form which was used when a criminal was condemned to die. The meaning is, he is guilty of a crime to which the law annexes death. This sentence was used before the Jews became subject to the Romans, when they had the power of inflicting death. After they were subject to the Romans, though the power of inflicting capital punishment" was taken away, yet they retained the form when they expressed their opinion of the guilt of an offender. The law under which they condemned him was that recorded in Leviticus 24:10-16, which sentenced him that was guilty of blasphemy to death by stoning. The chief priests, however, were unwilling to excite a popular tumult by stoning him, and they therefore consulted to deliver him to the Romans to be crucified, "under the authority of the Roman name," and thus to prevent any excitement among the people.

Mt 26:57-75. Jesus Arraigned before the Sanhedrim Condemned to Die, and Shamefully Entreated—The Denial of Peter. ( = Mr 14:53-72; Lu 22:54-71; Joh 18:13-18, 24-27).

For the exposition, see on [1366]Mr 14:53-72.

Ver. 65,66. Mark hath much the same, Mark 14:63,64, only he saith, they all condemned him to be guilty of death. Luke saith, Luke 22:70,71, Then said they all, Art thou then the Son of God? And he said unto them, Ye say that I am? And they said, What need we any further witness? for we ourselves have heard of his own mouth. This rending of clothes was a thing very ordinary amongst the Jews, used by them in testimony of sorrow and of indignation. They used it in causes of great sorrow and mourning, even before the Israelites were formed into a nation; we find it practised by Reuben and Jacob, Genesis 37:29,34, and by Jacob’s sons, Genesis 44:13; by Joshua and Caleb, Numbers 14:6, by Jephthah, Judges 11:35. Indeed he that was high priest was forbidden to do it, Leviticus 21:10, and, in order to it, to come near a dead body, Leviticus 21:11; which command yet the Jews restrain to his priestly garments, but upon other occasions he might rend his clothes, as Caiaphas here did. It was usual in case of blasphemy, both to show their sorrow for it and detestation of it, 2 Kings 19:1 Jeremiah 36:24 Acts 14:14. So as they convicted our Saviour, not upon oaths of witnesses, but upon words which they interpreted to be blasphemy. The high priest, being but the president in this council, asks the opinion of the rest of the council. They all condemn him as guilty of a capital crime, which is here phrased

guilty of death, that is, one who by their law ought to die. What think ye?.... Of the words just now spoken by him; do not they in your opinion amount to a charge of blasphemy and what punishment do you think ought to be inflicted on him? is he guilty of death, or not? This question he put, as being president of the court:

they answered and said, he is guilty of death; they were unanimous in their vote, for Mark says, "they all condemned him to be guilty of death"; only Joseph of Arimathea must be excepted, who consented not to their counsel and deed, Luke 23:51, and so must Nicodemus, if he was present; who seeing what they were determined to do, withdrew themselves before the question came to be put, and so it passed "nemine contradicente"; and indeed, if he had been guilty of blasphemy, as they charged him, the sentence would have been right. Now this was in the night, in which they begun, carried on, and finished this judicial procedure, quite contrary to one of their own canons (w) which runs thus:

"pecuniary causes they try in the day, and finish in the night; capital causes (such was this) they try in the day, and finish in the day; pecuniary causes they finish the same day, whether for absolution, or condemnation; capital causes they finish the same day for absolution, and the day following for condemnation; wherefore they do not try causes neither on the sabbath eve, nor on the eve of a feast day.

But in this case, they begun the trial in the night, examined the witnesses, finished it, and passed the sentence of condemnation, and that in the eve of a grand festival, their Chagigah,

(w) Misn. Sanhedrin, c. 4. sect. 1. Maimom. Hilch. Sanhedrin, c. 11. sect. 1, 2. T. Hieros. Yom Tob, fol. 63. 1.

What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 26:66. At this point the high priest, notwithstanding the precipitancy with which the trial is being hurried through, and notwithstanding the candid confession just made by the accused, calls for a formal vote, the result of which is a verdict of guilty, and that of an offence deserving to be punished by death. The next thing that had to be considered was the course to be adopted with a view to the carrying out of the sentence. It was this that formed the subject of deliberation at that conclave to which reference is made at Matthew 27:1.Matthew 26:66. ἔνοχος θανάτου: death the penalty of blasphemy, Leviticus 24:15, and of being a false prophet, Deuteronomy 18:20.66. He is guilty of death] i. e. “has incurred the penalty of death.” The Sanhedrin do not pass sentence, but merely re-affirm their foregone conclusion, and endeavour to have sentence passed and judgment executed by the Procurator.Matthew 26:66. Τί ὑμῖν δοκεῖ, what think ye?) He treats the matter as already finished. Moses says, “Let the blasphemer die;” Caiaphas says, “Jesus is a blasphemer;” his assessors, from these premises, draw the conclusion, “Let Jesus die.” St Mark has (ch. Mark 14:64) τί ὑμῖν φαίνεται, how does it seem to you?θανατου, of death) Such is also their declaration to Pilate. See John 19:7.Verse 66. - What think ye? He wishes to get a vote by acclamation, not in a formal way, as to the guilt of Christ and the punishment which he deserved. He is guilty of (ἔυοχος, worthy of, liable to) death. This was the punishment pronounced by the Law on blasphemy (Leviticus 24:16); the death was, however, to be by stoning (Acts 7:58). This detail, as they considered it, was now exclusively in the hands of the Romans. We see that this meeting, which virtually doomed Christ to death, was not a regular council of the Sanhedrin; for it was not held in the appointed chamber, and was conducted at night, when criminal processes were forbidden. The meeting next morning (Matthew 27:1) was convened for the purpose of considering how this informal sentence should be executed. Guilty of death (ἔνοχος θανάτου)

Rev., worthy of death. See on Matthew 23:18. ἐν, in, ἔχω, to hold. The idea is, literally, holden of death; in bonds to death.

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