Title: 2 on Trial: One Led to Die and One Left to Cry
Text: Matthew 26:57-75
FCF: We often struggle being faithful.
Prop: Because natural man could never be faithful to God, we must depend on the faithfulness of Christ.
[Slide 1] Turn in your bible to Matthew 26. Coming to the end of chapter 26, the largest chapter in the book of Matthew, we will have completed over 90% of the book, and over half of this final narrative of Matthew. As you study through large sections of scripture, you pick up on threads that run through them. Many times you’ll find a thread that covers a few verses. Sometimes you find a thread that runs through a few chapters. But every now and again you discover a thread that runs through an entire book.
As we’ve studied this narrative section we’ve seen several threads running through it. Different reactions to Christ’s immanent death. We’ll see a few more in this text this morning. Human frailty and how it relates to being faithful to God has been a thread we’ve seen, and will again see today.
But as we hasten toward the cross, we’ll see two threads running through our text this morning that have run through the entire book of Matthew. Prophesies of the Old Testament being fulfilled in Christ, and Christ being the Messiah and King of the Jews.
As we see these two concepts unraveled, we won’t be able to help but compare Christ’s victory with the utter failure of a man with the best of intentions.
Let’s look starting in verse 57. I am reading from the CSB this morning but follow along in the pew bible starting on page 1126 or whatever version you have. If you don’t have a bible of your own, feel free to take the pew bible.
So much to unpack today. Let’s get to it.
I.) Jesus’ submission to drink the cup of God’s wrath secures His glory, so we must depend on the faithfulness of Christ.
a. [Slide 2] 57 – Those who had arrested Jesus led Him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders had convened.
i. So begins the unjust and illegal trials of Jesus the Christ. In total, Jesus faced 6 trials that were completed between the hours of midnight and noon on Friday Nisan 14 the day of preparation for the Passover.
ii. Matthew only covers two of the trials Jesus faced in detail. This is the first of those.
iii. As we move through the events, I do want to stay focused on Matthew’s gospel. However, I would consider it a great disservice to you to not cover all the events leading up to Jesus’ death.
iv. So I will only briefly cover what Matthew does not cover. We won’t turn to the passages of scripture, but I will be sure to mention them and have them on the screen so you can look them up later.
v. [Slide 3] So right off the bat, before going to this trial Matthew mentions, before the high priest, Caiaphas, Jesus has already been to his first trial before Annas. This is found in John 18:12-24
1. Annas was the father in law of Caiaphas, and more significantly, Annas was at one point the High Priest of Israel.
2. He was in place from AD 6 to AD 15 when he was deposed by a Roman prefect.
3. However, the Torah considered the High Priest role to be a lifelong office. Therefore, although Caiaphas was the high priest during Christ’s crucifixion, what is clear, is that many Jews still felt as though Annas was the high priest, not opposed to Caiaphas, but rather, in addition to him.
4. Already we see some strange and unbiblical accommodations for the religious administration of Israel.
5. Being the patriarch and having considerable wealth and power, Annas and Caiaphas no doubt lived in the same complex with several rooms surrounding an inner courtyard. While Jesus met with Annas in one wing, the elders and chief priests were being gathered at Caiaphas’ house in another wing.
6. As an aside, we also see Peter following Jesus to this trial and making his first denial before a slave girl. Matthew will put all those denials in one place for us, no doubt to draw attention to the contrast between Peter and Christ.
7. Annas questions Jesus about his teachings and about his disciples, no doubt trying see what the risk may be of riot when they kill Him. Annas performs this trial without witnesses and without accusations. This is illegal according to Jewish law. Not only is he not the high priest, and this is not the public court, and this is at night – Annas cannot ask questions of a person that would lead them to incriminate themselves. Jesus replies to Annas by saying – essentially – go look for witnesses.
8. It is at this point that one of the officers struck Jesus telling him to respect His high priest. This too is illegal. Jewish law said that you cannot physically harm anyone who is accused until they are legally judged guilty. This is why Jesus asks why He was struck – did he say something that proved his guilt? If so, prove it.
vi. After this trial, Annas sends Him to Caiaphas’ wing of the house for the second trial.
b. [Slide 4] 58 – Peter was following Him at a distance right to the high priest’s courtyard. He went in and was sitting with the servants to see the outcome.
i. Matthew also reminds us that Peter is following from a distance. He is very interested to see what will happen to his Lord and I think we do see the love Peter had for Him here.
ii. But Peter’s flesh is weak. Something we’ll see soon.
iii. Why does Matthew include this note here? Why wouldn’t he just put this verse as verse 68, saying it right before Peter’s denials?
iv. I was set to preach on verses 57-68 today… but if I did, verse 58 would not make a whole lot of sense. I realized that these two episodes needed to be looked at together.
v. And I found reasons for that, which I’ll show you soon.
c. [Slide 5] 59-61 – The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for false testimony against Jesus so that they could put Him to death, but they could not find any, even though many false witnesses came forward. Finally, two who came forward stated, “This man said, ‘I can destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.’”
i. Although Matthew does say the whole Sanhedrin, he is probably not saying that all 71 members were there, but rather, that enough for a quorum was there. A quorum for the Sanhedrin in a capital case was only 23 members.
ii. Now to understand the proceedings, we need to understand Jewish law. Although in our court system we would like to have more than one witness to a crime, Jewish law demanded, especially in cases of capital punishment, to have two or three witnesses. Furthermore, those witnesses had to corroborate without collusion the charge against the accused.
iii. So what is happening here?
iv. The other gospels fill in the blanks for us. They explain that all the false witnesses that the Sanhedrin council had drudged up, were not matching in testimony. They were so different that there was absolutely no reason to have Jesus in custody.
v. So flimsy was the case against him, that Matthew expresses that “Finally” two witnesses were brought forth that somewhat agreed. However, what we find out from the witnesses is that not only is their testimony obscure and irrelevant, but from other gospels we find out that even they did not agree fully in the details of what Jesus had said.
vi. Furthermore, Jesus never said this. He did say something like it, but not what they made him out to say.
vii. But Caiaphas had already determined a week before this, as John 11 tells us, that Jesus must die for the sake of all Israel.
viii. So Caiaphas does what … “must” be done
d. [Slide 6] 62 – The high priest stood up and said to him, “Don’t you have an answer to what these men are testifying against you?”
i. It is still illegal, even in this kangaroo court, to ask questions of the accused that may incriminate him. ESPECIALLY when no witness has been brought forth with credible accusation against Him.
ii. Asking Jesus if He has no answer, and asking Him to elaborate on the witnesses’ testimony of a non-crime is not only highly inappropriate for the high priest who is supposed to be the moderator, but it would also be grounds for the entire trial to be thrown out and Caiaphas to face the scrutiny of the court.
e. [Slide 7] 63-64 – But Jesus kept silent. The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God!”
i. Jesus knows the law and that He is not required to speak. So He stays silent.
ii. So the High Priest throws down the gauntlet. He asks him very bluntly and plainly- Are you the Christ the Son of God?
iii. Caiaphas does this, placing Jesus under oath before God. This means that legally, Christ would be compelled to answer. And what is Caiaphas asking? Are you the Christ, the Son of God.
iv. In the most basic sense, Jesus answering yes to both of these would not be blasphemy. Messiah simply means anointed of God, and son of God can mean a great many things besides divine. In fact, the idea that the Messiah would be God Himself was not a part of 1st Century Judaism’s theology. What Caiaphas is asking is – are you the one who will establish the Nation of Israel forever?
v. Jesus’ response escalates the situation – according to the divine plan of God.
vi. But what is in Christ’s response?
f. [Slide 8] “You have said it,” Jesus told him. “But I tell you, in the future you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
i. Jesus’ words here are different than in Mark. In Mark He simply says “I am” But here in Matthew, Jesus says “You have said it” Another way to translate this would be “That is how you would put it, but I would put it differently.” Or perhaps “This you have said, but it is insufficient.”
ii. Then Jesus says, But I tell you. Let me add to your understanding. You have called me Messiah and Son of God – and those are true, but not in the sense that you mean them. Let me correct your theology.
iii. In the future you will see
1. This phrase is difficult. This is only three words in Greek. “From /now/you will see” Many translations have from now on, making it seem like they would see what Christ is telling them to be true from that moment on.
2. But this seems to stretch what Jesus is saying. Regardless of whether this is talking about Christ’s glorification, resurrection or future coming, the Sanhedrin council would not be witnesses to the event from that moment on…
3. The CSB and others translate this phrase “In the future you will see” which communicates the ultimate fulfillment where in the judgment they will see all three of these things to be true. However, this translation lacks the “now” aspect of the text.
4. Leon Morris teaming up with Plummer comes to the most logical conclusion.
5. [Slide 9] “Hereafter [From now] may mean from this point on or at a later time; it may signify that a turning point has been reached; the Son of man has lived in obscurity, but after the events now set in train he will return to his heavenly glory. Or it may be used of what is to happen at a good distance from “now,” that is, at a later time. Plummer takes the meaning as “henceforth” and says that it “seems to mean that their condemnation led to His glory; there was not merely sequence, but consequence”… it appears that the complete fulfillment of what Jesus is saying belongs to the future.”
6. So Jesus is essentially saying – because of the decision you are about to render, you are insuring that in the future you will see something.
iv. [Slide 10] Then Jesus quotes scripture. Now He does not overtly say He is quoting scripture, but being surrounded by scribes, elders, and priests, they would certainly have recognized the scriptures being quoted.
v. Jesus combines two texts. Daniel 7:13 and Psalm 110:1. Both of which were thought to have been speaking of the Messiah by the Jews in the first century.
vi. The Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven
1. The Son of Man could be a quote from several OT references. So this would not have been clear at first. But the Sanhedrin know that this is Jesus’ favorite title for Himself. Perhaps this very moment was the reason Jesus referred to Himself publically as the Son of Man. He wanted them to be sure that although He was quoting scripture – that they understood that He was talking about Himself. A point that we will find – has great impact later.
2. [Slide 11] Seated at the right hand of power is a quote from Psalm 110:1.
a. Jesus has referenced this before in Matthew when he confounded the Pharisees about David saying, The Lord says to my lord.
b. In this we find that 1st century Jews knew this text was about the coming Messiah and that this Messiah would be the son of David.
c. What Jesus challenged them on was why David called the Messiah his lord, if the Messiah was his son. What Jesus only hinted at, now he makes plain. The Messiah is told to sit at the right hand of God. But what does that mean?
d. The right hand is a place of power, and equality. It is a place of authority and judgement. It is a place that no man could ever claim to have.
e. THIS is the statement that the Sanhedrin will react to shortly.
f. But to solidify that statement – Jesus now makes plain where He has drawn his own personal title “The Son of Man” from. Not from other texts in the Old Testament that would be ambiguous… but from Daniel 7:13
3. [Slide 12] The Son of Man… coming on the clouds of heaven
a. Jesus very carefully avoids the future aspects of Daniel’s vision.
b. While some attempt to use Jesus’ confession here as proof of their eschatological system – the truth is that Jesus omits just enough to keep it unclear.
c. But what IS clear, is that He is claiming to be equal to God Himself. And that HE is the Son of Man from THIS text.
vii. [Slide 13] And there it was – the greatest and most overt statement of Christ’s divinity, right there. Truly a Christological gem that I feel guilty for giving so little time. Nevertheless we must press on.
g. [Slide 14] 65 – Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has blasphemed! Why do we still need witnesses? See, now you’ve heard the blasphemy.
i. Being a Messiah or son of God would not be blasphemy. But claiming to have the same authority as God – is blasphemy… if it is a lie. Notice they spend no time investigating His claim.
ii. The High Priest tears his robes. Did you know that the law prohibited the High Priest from tearing his robes? Lev 10:6; 21:10
iii. The Talmud added an exception for blasphemy. That indeed a High Priest MUST tear his robes if he hears blasphemy. Tradition trumping God’s word. That never happens today right?
iv. Asking “Why do we still need witnesses?” incriminates the court. They admit that they didn’t have any credible ones. But now they were all witnesses, even though they were not allowed to be if they were to cast a vote.
v. What a mess!
h. [Slide 15] 66 – What is your decision? They answered, “He deserves death!”
i. First, this is not how the Sanhedrin voted. They would not call for a voice vote. They would start from the youngest and move to the oldest and cast their vote individually.
ii. Second, if the vote was unanimous the case would be thrown out. In the Jews understanding, if the vote was unanimous in a capital trial, then it demonstrated a lack of mercy by the voting council and the accused should go free.
iii. Third, in the case of a capital crime, such as blasphemy, Jewish law required that unless the accused was acquitted of all charges, the trial could not begin and end on the same day. They would be required to adjourn, spend the entire night in prayer and fasting, considering the fate of the man that stood to be executed, and come again the following morning for the vote. But Caiaphas pushed for an immediate vote and they voted without hesitation.
iv. Fourth, Under Roman Law the Jews had no authority to pass a death sentence on anyone. Based on our historical records, this ability was removed from the Jewish ruling parties around the time of Jesus’ trial.
i. [Slide 16] 67-68 – They spat in His face and beat Him: others slapped him and said, “Prophesy to us, Messiah! Who was it that hit you?”
i. [Slide 17] Although this is probably mostly mockery – in Isaiah 11:3 it is said that the coming King will not judge by appearances.
ii. There has been some evidence to suggest that what they were doing here was actually vindicating their judgment. The Messiah could not be beaten by anyone, the Messiah would never allow Himself to be disrespected with slapping. The Messiah would know all things, even if blindfolded he would know who was with Him.
iii. [Slide 18] So although I’m sure it was mostly mockery, it was also their test to prove their unbelief in Jesus as the Messiah was valid unbelief. And Jesus ignored their test – because He wasn’t the Messiah they wanted and His aim was still the cross.
iv. The harrowing truth for them was, He knew every single name.
j. [Slide 19]Passage Truth: Matthew teaches the Jews the truth about their Messiah. That He was not like any previous Messiah of God, nor like any previous Son of God. Instead, He was equal in authority and power to God Himself. He was the Son of God in that He was God the Son.
k. Passage Application: The application is simple. Do not be like the Sanhedrin. Do not reject your Messiah and King. Repent of your false understanding and depend exclusively on Him.
l. [Slide 20] Broader Biblical Truth: For us then, I think it is quite appropriate to draw the same conclusion as Matthew intended the Jews to see. It is a message to the Jew first and now to us. Jesus of Nazareth in Galilee, was and is the Son of God. He is, RIGHT NOW, seated at the right hand of God, and will one day judge both the living and the dead. And one day He will return on the clouds for His own.
m. Broader Biblical Application: This humbled man, this convicted criminal, is our Lord, our King, and our Savior. For those who are His. We can only praise Him for submitting to die. That He went to the cross – endured this sham of a trial so that He could drink our cup of wrath! Praise Him and continue to depend on His victory. For those who don’t know if they are His – you must repent of anything else you are trusting or hoping in. There is only one mediator between God and Man… The Man Christ Jesus.
[Slide 21(blank)] But why does man need a mediator? Can’t man reach God on his own? Can’t man seek God? Certainly there would be some who would have faith in God and remain faithful to Him, right? The next episode in scripture is a case study to prove the absurdity of thinking that faith in God or faithfulness to God could ever come from us.
II.) Natural man, despite his desire and will, is not able to be faithful to God, so we must depend on the faithfulness of Christ.
a. [Slide 22] 69-70 – Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant girl approached him and said, “You were with Jesus the Galilean too.” But he denied it in front of everyone: “I don’t know what you are talking about.”
i. The Sanhedrin asked Christ to prophesy, and now one of Christ’s prophesies will come true.
ii. Although Matthew lumps them altogether, John reports that these denials happened at different points during the night.
iii. The first is in the courtyard of Annas’ house.
iv. She says – you also were with Jesus the Galilean.
v. His first denial was feigned confusion. I don’t know what you are talking about. You are speaking of things that I am not informed about.
b. [Slide 23] 71-72 – When he had gone out to the gateway, another woman saw him and told those who were there, “This man was with Jesus the Nazarene!” And again he denied it with an oath: “I don’t know the man!”
i. As we compare Peter’s denials across all 4 gospels, it becomes challenging for us to harmonize exactly what he says to who.
ii. Matthew seems to point to a slave girl, a woman, and a group of people, Mark says 1 slave girl who accused him twice, and two bystander groups, with 2 rooster crows, Luke has a slave girl and two others, John points to a slave girl, a group of people and a relative of the one whose ear he had recently chopped off.
iii. There is no reason to think that these are not compatible. It is not important who he denies His Lord in front of, but rather that He does so three times.
iv. This second denial is upheld not simply with his assurance that he did not know Jesus, but also adding an oath. Something Jesus had taught him not to do. Rather let his yes be yes and his no be no.
c. [Slide 24] 73-74a – After a little while those standing there approached and said to Peter, “You really are one of them, since even your accent gives you away.” Then he started to curse and to swear with an oath, “I don’t know the man!”
i. Matthew does concede a little time elapsing between the first two denials and the third.
ii. This time the accusers are more convinced that Peter is not who he is pretending to be.
iii. They are certain that he was with Jesus and was one of the 12.
iv. They state their case by citing his Galilean accent. You even talk like Him.
v. We might think that cursing is using foul language. What is actually happening here is that Peter is probably calling down God’s wrath on himself if he is telling a lie, and then proceeds to lie and say – I DO NOT KNOW THE MAN!
d. [Slide 25] 74b-75 – Immediately the rooster crowed, and Peter remembered the words Jesus had spoken, “Before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.
i. Luke tells us that at that very moment, Jesus, being falsely accused in the home of Caiaphas, looked out the window and met Peter’s eyes.
ii. And just like that…the scales were removed from his eyes and he remembered what Christ had said.
iii. Before the rooster crows you will deny me three times.
iv. And one of the most heart wrenching words in scripture come next.
v. He went outside and wept bitterly. It is clear from Peter’s response that He was deeply saddened by failing His King
vi. Peter really did love Jesus. He didn’t want to fail Him. And this was the turning point for Peter. Was he converted here? Or later? It is really hard to know. I think we can safely conclude that he was converted at least by the time the resurrected Jesus confronts him on the beach. It is hard to say – but certainly here we see Peter as poor in spirit. He has recognized his spiritual bankruptcy. That try as he might – as willing as he was to obey and remain faithful to His King – his flesh still failed.
e. [Slide 26] Passage Truth: Matthew draws a comparison here between The God Man and Natural Man. If the Jews have been tracking with Matthew all along, they have seen that the disciples were the best Jews available and Peter is the best the disciples had to offer. And the best they had – is a denier.
f. Passage Application: The application then is the same. Repent of this nationalistic adherence to the blood line of Abraham. Instead embrace the blood of the Lamb who silently goes to be slain for your sins.
g. [Slide 27] Broader Biblical Truth: For us we see clearly that in the fake trial offered to Jesus, there are no witnesses that can accuse Him yet He testifies to the wonderful truth of His identity. For that truth He would be physically put to shame and death, but would ultimately be glorified. In contrast, the non-trial of Peter shows several witnesses attesting his guilt, yet he lies to save his skin. His life is spared but his heart, his spiritual self is left in shreds as he recognizes his inability to be faithful to his Lord, even though he wanted to very much. So we see that natural man, despite his desire and will, is not able to be faithful to God.
h. Broader Biblical Application: This clearly demonstrates for us that our only hope is in Jesus Christ. Even if a man wants to serve God, Peter shows us that naturally, of his own strength, it is not possible. The best of man is left broken and weeping outside. Jesus rises victorious as everyone else falls in failure. And that is why we must believe with the faith of Christ. Because it is only His faith that can save us. It is only His faith that has never failed. Repent of any faiths that are dead. Repent of faiths that are weak and human. And cast all your trust on the name of Christ. Make Him your permanent substitute. Not just for conversion, but for sanctification and glorification too. His humility and obedience is the key to unlock the gate of our human frailty and allow His Spirit to move in us in ways that are not possible in our own strength.
[Slide 28 (blank)] So what can we learn from these two trials? One that led to an innocent man dying and one that left a guilty man crying. How shall we live because of these two trials?
Thanks to Matthew, we are given two trials in this text. Both of them aren’t really legal trials. But both of them produce conviction.
The trial of Christ, although it was a sham from the beginning, produced the conviction of Christ that secured His glory and the bringing of many sons to that glory with Him.
The trial of Peter, although it was not in any court of men, produced conviction in Peter’s heart that rend it asunder and finally broke his pride. If anyone could have willed themselves to faithfully follow Christ it would have been Peter. Brash, zealous, passionate, act-before-you-think Peter.
But God showed him … NO PETER! You can’t simply will to follow me. You can’t simply get out of that boat and expect to walk to me. You can’t simply stand in my way to prevent me from dying. You can’t simply cut off someone’s ear and expect to avoid denying me. Peter you may love me, Peter you may have every intention to be faithful to me but Peter it doesn’t matter what your will says, what you want, because you are incapable of doing what you want. Peter you have confessed with your lips that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the Living God. Peter you have confessed with your lips that there is no other place to go because Jesus alone has the words of life. Peter you have enough faith to get you out of the boat. You have enough faith to follow Jesus to his trial. BUT PETER! You don’t have the faith it takes to follow me.
THAT is why Peter wept. He wept because even though he loved Jesus and had every intention of dying with Him… he. Still. Denied. Him.
Peter wept because he came to the end of himself. Peter wept because he realized that he could not win. Peter wept in defeat about the same time that Jesus declared His victory for all who would be in Him.
Don’t you see? Don’t you see friends. Faith is like a door. We pursue and we believe, but when we look back we realize that it was not our faith, but His. It was not our obedience, but His. Because as much as we would want to follow God, want to believe, want to obey, the simple fact is that we are not able.
Jesus stands in marvelous victory in this passage and natural man in GLORIOUS defeat. And until we weep with Peter we cannot die with Christ.
Have you reached the end of yourself? Are you realizing that no matter what you want or will, you cannot overcome your nature. Have you come to realize that you need a new nature?
This is where Peter was. He understood, vividly, that he could not be what he wanted to be. No matter how hard he tried, or how many ears he cut off, he could not do it.
If you see your nature as incapable of pleasing your King, when the bible says to crucify it, it makes absolute sense to do so. What else would you do with it?
Therefore Christ’s death secures the substitute, exchanging our nature for His. His victory becomes our victory and our wrath His wrath.
As a believer we live every day in this victory as it continues to transform our lives. The breaking of His body and the spilling of His blood becomes the avenue by which we can forever access the grace of God.
I could elaborate on this, probably for hours. But in order for this to be preaching – I must call you to something.
So here it goes.
The only way to have the victory of Christ is to crucify your flesh with Him. Repent and depend on Him and His finished work. And it matters very little if it is the first time or millionth time. God wants to conform you to the image of His Son. And He made that possible through The Son, and accomplishes it through The Spirit.
In a world where we want to blame everyone for our failures… the bible is clear. If you are not victorious in the son, then you have a flesh problem. Crucify it and depend on His victory. Then rise up in His faith and obey. [Slide 29(Attribution+end)]