A Synopsis of Paper 184: Before the Sanhedrin Court
Jesus was brought before Annas at his palace on Mount Olivet. Annas knew that the Sanhedrin waited for Jesus at Caiaphas's palace but it was illegal to convene a court before three in the morning.
Annas was the most powerful person in Jewry during that era. Annas had taken a positive interest in Jesus when he was younger, but the recent assault on the money-changers in the temple had turned Annas against him. Annas charged Jesus with disturbing the peace and questioned him about the names of his disciples. Jesus did not reply.
Annas was disturbed by Jesus' silence. He reminded Jesus that he had some power over the pending trial. Jesus said, "Annas, you know that you could have no power over me unless it were permitted by my Father. Some would destroy the Son of Man because they are ignorant, they know no better, but you, friend, know what you are doing. How can you, therefore, reject the light of God?" Annas continued to question the Master, but his mind was already set that Jesus must be either banished or killed. As dawn approached he sent Jesus under guard to Caiaphas.
While Annas was questioning Jesus, Simon Peter waited shivering in the palace courtyard. John Zebedee knew Annas' doorkeeper and requested that Peter be allowed to enter. Peter was nervous about being inside the enemy's courtyard. He was unarmed and confused; he should have been with the other apostles in hiding.
The doorkeeper came up to Peter as he warmed himself by the fire and asked, "Are you not also one of this man's disciples?" Peter immediately replied, "I am not." Another servant said that he thought he had seen Peter in the garden with Jesus, but Peter denied that he knew the Master. The portress drew him aside privately and asked him once again why he denied being a disciple. Peter cursed her, insisting that he never even heard of Jesus before. Twice more he was asked, and twice more Peter denied Jesus.
As he uttered his final denial, Peter heard a cock crow. He was reminded of what Jesus had predicted earlier that night. Guilt washed over Peter as the palace doors opened and guards led Jesus out. Jesus saw the despair on Peter's face, and looked on him with such pity and love that Peter never forgot the look as long as he lived. Jesus and the guards left the palace, and Peter wept bitterly. He joined his brother Andrew in hiding.
Jesus' trial before the Sanhedrin began at half past three in the morning. Since the Sanhedrin had already agreed that Jesus was guilty, they were now concerned with developing charges that would justify a death penalty. More than twenty false witnesses were on hand. Their testimony was so trumped up that even the Sanhedrin were ashamed to listen.
After some time Caiaphas shouted to Jesus, "Do you not answer any of these charges?" Jesus stood in silence. Caiaphas, no longer able to watch Jesus standing there in quiet composure, shook his finger in the Master's face and said, "I adjure you, in the name of the living God, that you tell us whether you are the Deliver, the Son of God." Jesus answered, "I am."
Caiaphas angrily declared that they had witnessed blasphemy, and the court cried out for his death. Annas wanted the trial to continue until they showed charges that transgressed Roman law, but the rest of the Sanhedrin were eager to finish the trial. Jewish law forbade them to work past noon the day before Passover, and Pilate was only in Jerusalem for a short while. Caiaphas hit Jesus.
Annas was truly shocked when the other Sanhedrin left the room, spitting at Jesus and slapping him as they passed by. In this unprecedented confusion, the first session of the trial ended.
In order to pass a death sentence, two sessions of court were required, one day apart. The Sanhedrin waited one hour. Jesus spent the break in the audience chamber with guards and servants who mocked him, spit on him, and beat him. When the abuse began, Jesus made John leave the room.
Throughout his suffering, Jesus was silent. A shudder of indignation filled the universe as celestial observers witnessed the sight of their Sovereign submitting himself to ignorant, misguided people. These were the moments of the Master's greatest victories.
At half past five the court reassembled. Jesus was sent into the side room where John waited, while the Sanhedrin drew up a three-point indictment. This entire procedure was against Jewish law for many reasons: false witnesses, lack of witnesses for the defense, failure to wait one day between sessions, absence of witnesses to verify charges in the final indictment, and the fact that the prisoner was never told the charges against him. By six in the morning, the trial was over. Jesus was led away to appear before Pontius Pilate.