Matthew 26:57-75 Part 4


As was said earlier we will now go back and look into the text a little more deeply.  As you know I don’t usually do things this way, preferring to take our time and probe into the things of God as we go – verse by verse.

But there is so much here.  And it’s overwhelming.  And we are so incredibly limited!  I thought it wise (mostly for my own sake I suppose) to learn the details about what happened… and then to come back for a more intense look into the profound and exquisite.

So, as we begin to do that I want to present to you just a preliminary note or two concerning the concept of the priest and the priesthood.  And all we’ll have time for here is a minute or two for the “essential” idea.

Israel was the people of God, the second creation of heaven and earth, and, as such, the entire nation was to approach Him in worship and adoration.  However, due to its inherent and manifest depravity, a separate “nation” of domestic priests (the tribe of Levi, and especially the sons of Aaron) was set aside to perform the “priestly” function of mediation.  Therefore these Levites were the representatives of the people before a holy God.

So in the simple fact of worshipping and offering their gifts to God through “representatives”, the Israelites were to constantly have before them the consciousness of their “estrangement” from God.

But there was also an insufficiency of the priesthood (due to depravity).  And it was expressed by their being excluded from the Holy Place (the Holy of Holies in the tabernacle and the temple).  Only the chief priest (in whom the whole concept of the priesthood was concentrated) could penetrate that inner place (which was a man-made copy of the heavenly sanctuary); and that only once a year, and under the most stringent restrictions (or he would die).

He would, on that day, make atonement for the guilt of the entire people… first confessing his own sin and bringing an offering; and laying aside all his priestly garments and covering himself with white linen.  Then he could come into the holy place to represent all the people there.

So the priest (Hebrew word “cohen”, which means one who presents himself as the representative of another) presents atonement to God for the people, and he presents the gifts of a reconciled people; and he brings back the blessing of grace, mercy and peace from the presence of God.

So the priests of God’s nation were to be taken out of the midst of the people (i.e. in close connection to the people they represented… and of the same nature as the people they represented); and they were chosen of God… not because of any special human qualities (although their obedience was required thereafter).  For none had human qualifications which merited God’s favor!

So, they were not special people chosen by God; they were people especially chosen by God to represent the people to God as mediators.  See the difference here.  (God is no respecter of persons.  People aren’t chosen of God because they are choice-worthy; the emphasis is to be put on His choosing rather than on the worthiness of the choice!)

Now, the qualifications of the priest, and the special orders, and the anointment and the garments and the duties (especially those of the high priest) are all expressed with great care in God’s Law; and they are all of immense significance with respect to the One Who was foreshadowed in it all.

Now it would certainly be edifying to go through it all.  But my purpose in this today is much more limited.

It is the priesthood – the representative/mediator before God for the people, the foreshadowing of the Christ – before whom Jesus is brought for judgment!

Every law; every duty; every function of the priesthood (even down to the shape and colors and ornaments of the priestly garment) were ordained by God as figures of the coming High Priest and Mediator – Jesus Christ!  And yet it is this representative of the people … this “Foreshadowing” of the One to come… who stands before a “bound” Christ as His judge!

We mustn’t miss this (which must seem to us) the greatest irony of all – that God’s priesthood became the judge of the very One Who they anticipated and foreshadowed for sixteen hundred years!

The entire existence and function of the priesthood was to be that which caused all the people to anticipate and hope for the High Priest of God to come.  But the priesthood became – not the office which prefigured the Christ, but – the religion itself.  And the two men – Annas and Caiaphas – bore the eternal dishonor of being the judges of the Christ in the fullness of time.

The priesthood was no longer “of the people’ and “from the midst of them”, but had become a separate and distinct and select class – elevating themselves as superior to the common.  They were no longer the representatives of the people before God, but they, themselves, were the focus of the religion.  (This is the essence of “sacerdotalism” which has to do with the distinction and separateness of the priesthood.)

But having become a separate and superior “class” in society, and the focus of the religion, the priesthood thereby “perverted” all its duties and turned God’s spoken Word upside down.  And the people who they were to serve and to bring before God were left without mediation and representation!

And being led by blind leaders whose primary concern was self-concern, the nation degenerated.  And their condition (millions of them) at the time of Christ (as we’ve so often described from the prophecy of Isaiah and others) was blindness and deafness and imprisonment and poverty and illness, etc; and they were ruled by pagan foreigners!

And it was into these conditions that the “Fullness” of God’s Word was made flesh.  The true Mediator; the Perfect Representative; the Blameless Man; the Revelation of the Truth of God… was brought in bonds before this blind, obstinate and perverted generation of priests; and they judged Him!!

He was a threat to their religion and their lifestyle; He would upset the political balance; He exposed the inconsistencies of their hypocrisy; and (most importantly) it was made evident to everyone that all the ill-effects of their blind leadership (upon the people) were being overturned (reversed!) by this Man!

So the very signs (spoken by the prophets) of the Messiah’s arrival turned in them to loathing; and they set themselves to destroy Him.

So, now having been brought up to date now on the priesthood and the setting (albeit short and incomplete), we must begin to see the things here in our text through the eyes of our Heavenly Father.

And although Matthew (as was his habit) sees sufficiency in brevity, John records for us the first judicial hearing of Christ as being before Annas (the father-in-law of Caiaphas).

Where Caiaphas was the appointed son-in-law of Annas, he was only the seventh in a long line of successors in a dynasty of high priests begun by Annas (after five sons and a grandson!).

But, where Caiaphas stands as Christ’s judge as the current high priest, it is Annas who stands as Christ’s judge as the head of an entire family of high priests.

God isn’t putting His anointed One before just one of a long line of decadent, trivial high priests; He’s placing Him before the founder of a family of high priests who reigned in carnal authority with the permission of Babel and Greece and Rome!  He’s subjecting His Son to the entire priesthood of the flesh – which could not stand before a holy God without dying!

Annas and Caiaphas stood as the reigning priests over the dilapidated furniture of the house of Israel – the last of sixteen hundred years of the Levitical priesthood.  And when the Royal High Priest of God is brought in bonds before them, they may either bow before Him in wondrous awe; or they can recoil in horror and enmity, and try to salvage some of the glory of Aaron’s legacy for themselves.

But, you see, the old was in ruins and disappearing.  The Reality of it all was here, and no longer was there necessity for foreshadowing.  Nothing could be salvaged no matter how this last priestly family raged against the finality of it all.

They were not the representatives of the people before God; they were the representatives of a wasting and collapsing system which, by the grace of Rome, was still exacting the tithe from the nation’s people.

And the stench of its rottenness wafted into the nostrils of God as His Royal High Priest stands in bonds, and is beaten and humiliated by these who chose the decayed and perverted figures of the past.  The ones who were the last stood (by the decree of God) in that final hour; and they stood defiant.

Now, according to the text of John, Annas asked Jesus of His disciples and of His doctrine.  And Jesus responded:


“I spoke openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, where the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing.  Why do you ask Me?  Ask them who heard Me what I said to them.  Lo, they know what I said.”


Annas, the father of the priestly dynasty, and the representative of the old, dying priestly system and caste, begins to question Jesus with great cunning – seeking to know how many and how well organized are the people following him.  And wanting to find out if Jesus had been secretively and mysteriously teaching them that He was Israel’s Messiah… with a view to the overthrow of the existing system!

But Jesus answers with a direct reference to Isaiah twenty-nine where the prophet speaks of judgment on straying people and faithless leaders who are deaf to the Truth!  And the prophet describes two groups of them… one who says, “I can’t read it; the prophecy is sealed!”  In other words, it’s not my fault; it’s inaccessible to me!  Everything it says is in secret!

And the other group says, “I am willing to receive the Truth, but I can’t read.  You’ve put it into the hands of another people, and it’s so mysterious; and I can’t read it; so it’s my education that keeps me from the Truth!”

What the prophet says is – so the excuses are always on the outside… there is some outward problem that keeps one from hearing and believing the Truth.  And Isaiah’s word is that judgment will come upon them, because the problem isn’t on the outside, it’s on the inside!  The problem isn’t one of education; the problem isn’t one of accessibility; the problem isn’t that one can’t open the book; the problem isn’t one of circumstances or impediments or other people or even a judgmental God.  The problem is that you will not hear!  Straying people and faithless leaders will not hear!

And, you see, Jesus’ answer to Annas’ questions charges Annas with the prophecy of Isaiah!  He refers directly to it!  The people who heard Me and now follow Me know what I said!  They heard Me in the synagogues and they followed Me.  They heard Me in the temple… I’ve said nothing in secret; there is no mystery; the book of My teaching isn’t sealed; the “rabble” (as you call them), from whom you’ve separated yourself, and who you’ve left in a deplorable condition, have heard what I said.  And they believed, and they followed Me.

But, as Isaiah prophesied, you faithless leaders will not hear!  You are a faithless leader who can’t claim conditions on the outside for the fact that you will not hear!  It is your lack!  Everything I’ve said, I’ve said in the open to the world.  Nothing has been hidden from your ears – nothing secret… nothing mysterious!  The common people who you savaged as a ravenous wolf have heard.  Why haven’t you?  Because you will not.  And you, as Isaiah testifies, will not escape Divine judgment.

And thereupon an attendant, understanding Jesus’ reference to the prophecy of Isaiah, slaps Him in the face and chastens Him for answering Annas in this despicable manner.  And Jesus was immediately sent over to Caiaphas for trial.  And I have no doubt that Jesus’ answer to Annas was understood by many; and that it led further to the enragement and fury of Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin.

At least to some degree, life or death for Jesus was contingent upon His answer to the father of this priestly dynasty – the high priest emeritus.  And He did not flinch from the Truth, but referred Annas back to Isaiah.

Now, finally, will you beg to be excused from this matter?  Step out into the open – you who have been literally showered in preaching for the last ten or eleven years – you who have been steeped in Theology and Biblical ethics and apologetics and line-by-line exegesis of the Gospel of God!

Because when Annas (Israel, the flesh, the world order) asks Jesus who He is and what He teaches and who His disciples are, you are immediately involved in His trial!  Because our Lord points to you and says, “Ask him (or her).  He knows what I said?”  That’s troublesome and provocative, isn’t it?  It’s dangerous to live in the “New Jerusalem”!

And before the tribunal of the world, sitting in judgment on the Christ, what is your answer?  It certainly wouldn’t be Peter’s answer… “I don’t know the Man.”

Now you must stop looking for excuses – for ways to escape!  That’s the way the world order operates.  “I can’t read it; it’s too difficult; it’s Greek to me; I’m not educated enough yet; there are others who are better at this than I am; you need to see someone older and more experienced than I am; I know what He said, but I can’t explain it; I’m not good at apologetics; I don’t like confrontation…” and on and on and on!  All outward excuses!

But the Lord Jesus Christ has implicated you in His trial, because He has made your case His Own in the Presence of God the Father!  And when He’s on trial by the world order, you must give an answer!  He speaks the Truth on your behalf; and you can’t escape doing the same!

And what an apologetic!  “Why are you asking Me what I teach?  I’ve said nothing in secret.  I’ve said it all out in the open.  And all of these have heard Me; but you will not hear.  The problem is you.

A sublime apologetic; a heavenly apologetic; a Divine apologetic.  A straying people and faithless leaders will not hear.  And there can be no excuses.  The sound of the Gospel is everywhere (as is the Glory of God in His creation); and it is clear even to the common and the lowly!  They have heard.

So the problem isn’t on the outside!  The problem isn’t that the sound of the trumpet isn’t clear; the problem isn’t that there are so many “interpretations”; the problem isn’t that there are so many “denominations” and sects and cults and religions:  The problem is that you will not hear the Truth when He speaks!  The problem is inside.  It is you!  That apologetic is faultless!

That’s what Jesus said to Annas.  And it’s what Isaiah said seven hundred and fifty years before.  And frustrated men, filled with anger and bitterness, and faced with Truth –all excuses having been stripped away – judged and condemned the Royal High Priest of God.

And for all eternity they will be seen in that light – by both God and men.  But that same tribunal sits today – the tribunal of the world-order – and we are constantly, irrevocably drawn into the litigation!  No more excuses.  Speak the Truth.