The Rhetorical Slip: Matthew 26:57-68

Focus Passage: Matthew 26:57-68 (NCV)

57 Those people who arrested Jesus led him to the house of Caiaphas, the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders were gathered. 58 Peter followed far behind to the courtyard of the high priest’s house, and he sat down with the guards to see what would happen to Jesus.

59 The leading priests and the whole Jewish council tried to find something false against Jesus so they could kill him. 60 Many people came and told lies about him, but the council could find no real reason to kill him. Then two people came and said, 61 “This man said, ‘I can destroy the Temple of God and build it again in three days.’”

62 Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Aren’t you going to answer? Don’t you have something to say about their charges against you?” 63 But Jesus said nothing.

Again the high priest said to Jesus, “I command you by the power of the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.”

64 Jesus answered, “Those are your words. But I tell you, in the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of God, the Powerful One, and coming on clouds in the sky.”

65 When the high priest heard this, he tore his clothes and said, “This man has said things that are against God! We don’t need any more witnesses; you all heard him say these things against God. 66 What do you think?”

The people answered, “He should die.”

67 Then the people there spat in Jesus’ face and beat him with their fists. Others slapped him. 68 They said, “Prove to us that you are a prophet, you Christ! Tell us who hit you!”

Read Matthew 26:57-68 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

During the night Jesus was arrested and brought to trial, I find an interesting shift in the rhetoric the high priest uses to push his agenda towards death. It is subtle, and if we are not paying close attention to the verses, we might end up missing it.

When challenged by the high priest about whether He was the Messiah, Jesus responds by saying, “Those are your words. But I tell you, in the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of God, the Powerful One, and coming on clouds in the sky.” (v. 64)

Immediately following Jesus’ response, the passage says in verse 65 that the high priest “tore his clothes and said, ‘This man has said things that are against God!’” Firstly, the high priest was commanded to never tear his clothing. Other people were allowed to, but not the high priest.

But even deeper than tearing his clothes is a question we should all ask ourselves: What did Jesus say that was against God?

Jesus compliments God by calling Him the Powerful One, and all Jesus said is that in the future, God will elevate Him to the place of honor at His right hand. Perhaps the high priest found it disrespectful that God would place a human in the position of honor, or that Jesus would claim to know this. Either way, nothing in this statement speaks against God. If God wanted to, He could place any creature or object at His right hand. As King of the Universe, He can choose to honor anyone or anything He wants to.

But the High Priest uses the only statement Jesus says as a claim against God. First He frames the simple statement as one that is against God, then he follows up with confirmation: “We don’t need any more witnesses; you all heard him say these things against God.” (v. 65b)

In this response, we see the high priest using the only opening he has, and a very weak one at that, to seal Jesus’ fate. The decision was initiated by him, and all that was really needed were a handful of vocal supporters in the crowd to push the group to a consensus that supported the high priest’s argument.

Knowing there was the support in the crowd, the high priest opens the floor to the opinion of others (i.e. his vocal supporters), and his supporters quickly push the crowd towards thinking death rather than analyzing what the high priest has just done.

This brings up a very big truth that we must all remember: When looking at anything that involves faith, belief, and/or life, we must be extra diligent to look analytically at the details of what is happening. Belief in God never requires blind faith. God has given more than enough evidence for those who honestly seek it. When judging someone’s life, we must be wary of being swept up in the popular opinion of the crowd we are in.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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