Charles F. (Charles Force) Deems.

Who was Jesus? online

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party had determined that Jesus should die, thus pronouncing
sentence upon him before any beginning of even
a show of trial. Then they had appointed emis-
saries, employing evil men, for none but wicked men, feigning
themselves to lie good, could be engaged in such work, to dog the
Bteps of Jesus and entangle him in his talk. There was nothing
done by Jesus which any one was willing to lay voluntarily be-
fore the authorities and denounce as a crime against God or social
order. So far from this, they arrested him before any allegation
was made, and they did this craftily and stealthily, so that " the
people " might not know. They desired to postpone the arrest
until the termination of the Passover should have emptied the
city of the multitudes from all parts of the country who had
heard and seen Jesus, not one of whom had accused him of any
crime, and many of whom might have given testimony in his favor.
When circumstances hurried up the operations of Judas they
seized Jesus, rushed him through a mock trial, and crucified him
in the Bpace of less than ten hours. We shall examine each point
in the progress of this affair in the light of the Hebrew law as
stated by M. Salvador, a learned defender of his ancestors and
their action in the case of .Jesus.

In the first place it was unjust to begin to prosecute, not to say
per ecute, him before any charges had been laid before the ( rrand

Council. In the next place it was a gross irregu-

, . ii- ' i i ' Irregailariti'M.

lanty to attempt to take him privately, and not
give him the benefit of nil the; publicity of a most open trial
in clear daylight, and nol in the night. This was enhanced by
employing a spy, and bribing him to assist in their unlawful proce-
dure. They go about to take him without any regular and legal
Roman or Jewish order lor his arrest. The Sanhedrim had had


a conclave, but not a regular sitting, and did not proceed as a

court of law, but rather as a band of conspirators. They took

counsel how they might slay him, as John says (xi. 53), not how

they might administer justice in his case. And I think we shall

see how the whole procedure was the execution of a foregone

conclusion, and was the condemnation of a man before trial.

The signal of Judas was a kiss. lie was not to lay hands

on his Master, nor join this mob in their attack. He was simply

to designate Jesus, and this was the preconcerted
The signal. . /, , . „ . . . , . .

sign, the selection ot which perhaps intimates

that Jesus was accustomed to receive this affectionate mode of
salutation from his apostles, when they had been separated for
a season. Judas approached him and said, so as to be heard by
the band, "Hail, Rabbi," and kissed him. The reply of Jesus
was most mild, and to Judas must have been painfully cutting.
Matthew repeats it as, ." Friend, for what are you here ? " Luke
sa}'s that Jesus said, " Do you betray the Son of Man with
a kiss?" — and his manner of narrating it might imply that
Jesus prevented the kiss by the question ; but Matthew and
Mark distinctly affirm that Judas actually kissed Jesus; all
the historians showing that Jesus knew the intent of this salu-

Upon this Jesus stepped forward to the crowd and said,
"Whom do you seek?" They replied, "Jesus the Nazarcne."
lie answered, " I am he." What there was of
majesty, innocence, and spiritual power in his
presence and reply we may conjecture from the fact that though
they were all armed, and were many, coming out against a man
whose friends were few and unprepared for conflict, they stag-
gered backwards and fell to the ground. Here was a man
capable of inspiring such awe, and yet never voluntarily, so far
as we can perceive, putting forth any influences to serve or
save himself. He stood alone in that garden, in the broad
light of the full paschal moon, and the band of conspirators
and ruffians who had come to take him lay prone on the ground.
He recalls them by asking a second time, "Whom seek ye?"
And they made the same reply as before, "Jesus the. Kazarene."
He said to them, " I have told you that I am he ; if, therefore,
you seek me, let these go away," so that his disciples might not
Buffer with him.


They then advanced to seize him, and his disciples, perceiving

what would follow, said, "Lord, shall we smite with the sword?"

The impetuous Peter did not wait for a reply, but

Peter's zeal
immediately made a blow at the nearest man,

who happened to be one Malchus, a servant of the high-priest,
aud cut off his right ear. M. Dupin argues that the fact that
Peter was not arrested, either at this moment or afterwards, when
he was recognized bv a relative of Malchus at the house of the
high-priest, is proof that this was an illegal seizure, otherwise
Peter's resistance would have been "an act of rebellion by an
armed force against a judicial order." Jesus healed the priest's
servant with a touch. lie also restrained his disciples, who,
under the awe which the presence of Jesus inspired in his per-
secutors, might have perhaps delivered him. Tie said to Peter,
" Return your sword into its place ; for all who take the sword
shall perish by the sword. Do you think that I am not able
to pray unto my Father, and He shall forthwith give me more
than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scrip-
ture be fulfilled, that thus it must be? The cup which my
Father has given me, shall I not drink it?"

He did not, however, forbear to let the multitude understand
that he knew the illegality of what they were doing. "Have
you come out as against a thief, with swords and
clubs, to take me? I sat daily teaching in the
Temple, and ye laid no hold upon me. But this is the hour,
and the power of darkness. All this has come to pass that
the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled." It was a dis-
tinct intimation to the mob that he was suffering voluntarily,
and quite as distinct an intimation to his disciples that he waa
going to suffer certainly. So they understood it, and forsook
him and tied.



Section A:.— The Trial.

Then the band and the captain and officers of the Jews Lv,w
'"ukIs on Jesus, and bound him and led him away. This \\;i-
another outrage. He was alone and unarmed.
He offered no resistance to his cantors, but lutu
come forward and surrendered himselt volun-
tarily, and vet they treated him as a conaemueu
malefactor or resisting culprit.

i* naav morn-
mir, Apru O, A.U.
5JU. a rresn out-


They took Jesus to 1'he house of Annas. Annas had been
high-priest, lie was first appointed to that ottice about a.d. 7,
by Quirinius, Proconsul of Syria, but wa? de-
posed by Valerius Gratus, Procurator of Judaea,
aoout seven years later, who gave the office to Ismael, and



then to Eliezcr, the son of Annas, who held it only a year, was
succeeded by Simon, who held it another year, and then it fell
into the hands of Caiaphas, the son-in-law of Annas. Annas had
not been high-priest for nearly twenty years; but as father-in-law
of the actual high-priest, and his sag an or substitute, and having
held the high office himself, he exerted great influence. Never-
theless the carrying of Jesus to Annas was a vexatious and irre-
gular procedure, contrary to the spirit of the Hebrew law, as
subjecting amr, before any trial or condemnation, to an insult-
ing inspection.

Annas had no right to question Jesus. lie was not the proper
person to deal with the case. He had no jurisdiction. If he had
had, it was not lawful to put a man in a position

to condemn himself: indeed, according to Jewish .. . a

law, his own words could not be used against him-
self. So that any catechising of Jesus in regard to his disciples
and his doctrines was unlawful. It was a compliment to Annas,
but an insult to Jesus, as a citizen, to be carried forward to
gratify the curiosity of this bad old man, who was one of the
conspirators against the life of the prisoner. There was an
opportunity now to do Jesus simple justice. If Annas had
been right-minded he would have taken Jesus into his house,
and, even if under guard, have kept him until the daylight. His
great personal influence, his relations with the high-priest (who
had married his (laughter) and with the Sanhedrim, would have
justified Annas herein. Instead of which he aided and abetted
those lawless men in their persecution of Jesus. He sent him
bound, in the night, to the palace of Caiaphas.

This palace must have been near the chamber in which the
Sanhedrim held its sessions. The night was wearing away. It
was growing so cold that while the Sanhedrim
was being unlawfully assembled, for it could
not meet at nighl or on the Sabbath, they made a fire. Until
the council could bo gathered, Caiaphas seems to have taken
upon himself the catechising of Jesus, which he had no right
to do personally, but only in his place as President of the San-
hedrim. He asked him of his doctrines and his disciples, with
evident malice of intent to criminate the prisoner and inculpate

his friends.

His dignified reply was, "I Bpoke openly to the world. I


at all times taught in the synagogue and in the Temple, where
all the Jews resort, and I have said nothing in secret. Why
do you question me ? Question those who heard me what I
said unto them : behold, they know what I said." Here he
threw himself upon the great reserved Hebrew rights, freedom
of speech and being confronted by one's accusers. Caiaphas
must have felt that his proceeding was at least irregular. If he
had been conducting a trial he should have called for witnesses.

The reply of Jesus was just what any Hebrew would naturally
give under the circumstances, provided he had intelligence

enough to know and courage enough to assert
j ' his rights. But one of the ecclesiastical officers

who stood by struck Jesus with the palm of his
hand and said, " Do you answer the high-priest so % " The reply
of Jesus is full of indescribable dignity and forbearance : " If I
have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil : but if well, why do
you smite me ? " Here is another speech which shows that Jesus
knew his rights and was aware that they were invaded. The
man who struck him might have borne testimony against him, if
they were both together in a court having jurisdiction; but if he
did not appear as a witness he had no right to insult him by
striking him when he was bound. This was an additional out-
rage which the high -priest permitted to be perpetrated. It
accumulates the proof that Jesus never had a fair trial as a
citizen. "When another high-priest commanded those who stood
by Paul, when he was up for a hearing, to smite him on the
mouth, the intrepid Apostle answered, " God shall smite you,
you whited wall ; for do you sit to judge me after the laws
and command me to be smitten contrary to law?" (Acts
xxiii. 3.)

All this persecution of Jesus, it is to be noticed, took place in
the night, contrary to law, which demanded daylight and utmost

In the mean time Peter began to recover his self-possession.
He desired to learn what was happening to his Master, and so

went, to the palace of Caiaphas and lingered

outside. He was joined by "another disciple"
(John xviii. 15) whose name is not given. It has been assumed
to be John. There seems little ground for the presumption.
We can only speculate. The probabilities are that it was Judas.


Whoever that other disciple was, he was "known to the high-
priest." There is no reason to believe that John was ; while
we know that that very week Judas had been with this digni-
tary making arrangements for the betrayal of Jesns. This will
also account for the freedom with which he entered the palace of
the high-priest, and the interest he could make for the admission
of Peter. John would have been in almost as much danger
as Peter, as he was generally as prominent in the group about the
Teacher. On the supposition that this other disciple was Jndas
the whole history becomes easy. Peter might have been ad-
mitted on the supposition that he was an accomplice with Judas
in the delivery of Jesus. On any of the theories which have
been advanced on his character and motives it was natural that
Judas in his excitement should follow Jesus into the palace of
the high-priest to see the result, and would be relieved by the
presence of another disciple.

However that may have been, Peter entered. In the court
of the palace the slaves and officers had made a fire, and stood
warming themselves. Peter went up to the
lire and warmed himself with them. It may be
that tiie maid who kept the door began to fear that she was
admitting strangers too freely, or she may have seen the look
of concern on the face of Peter. She went up to him and said,
"And are you not one of this man's disciples?" lie denied it
before them all, saying, " I am not ; I do not know him, nor do I
understand what y on are saving."

This peremptory challenge disconcerted Peter, and he walked
out into the court. Perhaps he put on the air of a man insulted

before ;i company. Put an excitement had been

i^.ii- a *i i His second de-

begun by Jus presence. Another maid-servant,

probably passing him in the court and coming up

t the fire, stated her belief that the uneasy man out there was a

disciple of Jesus. While Peter was out in the court-yard the

cock crew. Put it docs not seem to have recalled the prediction

of Jesus. Upon his return to the fire the whisper went round :

"This fellow was also with Jesus tin- Nazarene," until one boldly

blurted out the charge, and Mill another directly put the questiou

to him : " Are you not one of hiB disciples I" lb- made a second
distinct denial, hacking it up with some profane expression, and
asserting that he did " not know the man."


These denials seem to liave occurred while the high-priest was
examining Jesus. There was an interval of an hour, which was
spent in assembling the Sanhedrim and in inducing men to be-
come witnesses. It was cold. Jesus was in the hall inside, which
opened probably on the court where Peter and the servants and
officers were. The embarrassing examinations to which Peter
had been subjected began to be painful. He must have re-
collected the prominent part he had taken in the affair of Geth-
semane. He endeavored to throw suspicion from himself by
engaging in free conversation with the others, as being no more
personally interested in what was going forward than they were.
But it did not succeed. His very garrulousness aroused suspi-
cion. One said, " Of a truth this man was with him ; for he is a
Galilaean : his speech betrays him." Jesus was of Galilee. The
Galileans were a turbulent race. Most of the disciples of Jesus
were known to be Galilreans. Their dialect was not that of cul-
tivated Jews, nor of even the uncultivated inhabitants of the me-
tropolis. So they made his accentuation a proof against him.
This called special and unfriendly attention to him. A slave of
the high-priest and brother of that Malchus whose ear Peter had
hacked with his sword, regarding him carefully, brought the
charge home upon him, saying, " Did I not see 3 r ou in the garden
with him ? "

This was too much for Peter. He could not retreat from his
former denials. He was at the point to be discovered. His im-
petuous sword-thrust in the garden was about to
His third denial. , , , . TT • . i .1 i

be turned upon him. He was in mortal peril and

in mortal fear. There was nothing to be done but to plunge for-
ward. He broke into cursing and swearing, and, amid dreadful
imprecations, denied that he ever had any knowledge of " this
man " of whom they were speaking. Amid his ungrateful denials
and horrid blasphemies the cock crew a second time. And Jesus,
whose smiting Peter had witnessed, turned and looked upon
him. It was the last look Peter received from the eyes of his
Master before his death. The look and the crowing of the cock
came together, and Peter saw how truly had come to pass what
Jesus had so pathetically predicted, that before the cock should
crow twice he should deny his Master thrice. Covering his head
with his mantle he flung himself out of the company and went off
weeping bitterly.



"We now return to the examination of Jesus. The night had

been spent in a fruitless search for witnesses willing to render

such testimony as the persecutors of Jesus sup-

. Daybreak,

posed sufficient to convict him. Only two were

necessary, but these could not. be obtained. The bribes they were.

able to offer, of security and gain, could not move Judas and

another to testify against him. The day began to break over

Olivet. The Sanhedrim was assembled. " The priests, the

elders, and the scribes " were there, three classes of men having

special enmity against Jesus. They led the prisoner, perhaps in

solemn procession, from the palace of the high-priest into the

council-chamber on the Temple mount.

In the examination which followed there finally came forward
two witnesses. The testimony of the first was : " lie said ' I will
destroy this temple made with hands, and in three
days I will build another made without hands.' "
The testimony of the second was : " This man said, ' I am able to
destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days.' " The
friends and biographers of Jesus asserted that both statements
were false, both in form and in intention. The nearest that the
words of Jesus approached any formula that could have been
even wrested into either of these statements is when he said, " De-
stroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up," pointing
probably to his body, at least his friends say that he signified that
(John ii. 10), and that he spoke in this evasive way as being a
proper reply to his enemies under the circumstances. But the
first of these witnesses made the impression that lie had threat-
ened to destroy the Temple, and the second that he merely asserted
his power to do so. Their testimony did not agree, and " one
witness is do witness."

Then tlif high-priest rose up and said to Jesus, " Do vu answer
nothing to what these witness against yon?" But Jesus held
his peace. The testimony refuted itself. Then they asked him,
" If you are the Christ, tell us." He replied, " If I tell you, yon
will not believe; and if I shall question, you will uo1 answer."

It will be perceived that his persecutors desired to obtain evi-
dence against him on two counts,— first, blasphemy; Bccondly,
sedition : on the first they could condemn him to
deatli as Lords spiritual, and on the second the Ro-
man power could execute him. It' the} could prove only the


former, as it was a mere question of religion, tlic secular arm
would not destroy him, and the right to inflict capital punishment
had been taken away from the Jews. If they proved only the
latter, they would leave to him all his moral influence over the
people, in whose eyes any rebellion against Rome was a high vir-
tue. If both together could be made out, the prisoner would
perish. They could have found ample proof that Jesus had vio-
lated the Sabbath, according to their law of observance ; but the
testimony would have shown that he had always therewith con-
nected the performance of a miracle. They could have proved
that he had denounced the clergy and the church, and set the
traditions and ceremonials of Pharisaism at naught ; but that would
have excited in his behalf the friendly feeling of the Sadducees,
who, as well, despised churchism. There was a narrow path to
tread, and they persistently kept in it. They could not prove the
necessary allegations, and they attempted illegally to extort con-
fessions from the prisoner which they might use to his damage.

Then Caiaphas solemnly said to him, " I adjure you by the liv-
ing God, that you tell us if you are the Christ [the Messiah] the
Son of God." He calls upon the prisoner on

esus pu on ^^ to testify in regard to himself while he is on
oath. _ . .

trial on a criminal and capital charge, " a gross

infraction of that rule of morals and jurisprudence," says Dupin
"which forbids our placing an accused person between the dan
ger of perjury and the fear of inculpating himself, and thus mak-
ing his situation more hazardous." But when the high-priest per-
sisted, Jesus replied, " You have said it ; moreover I say to you,
From this time you shall sec the Son of Man sitting on the right
hand of power, and coming on the clouds of heaven."

Among the ancients the deity was represented, hieroglyphically,
as being in the clouds, to signify his celestial habitation. Traces
of the reduction of that picture to language are
found through the sacred books of the Jews.
" Jehovah rideth upon a swift cloud," Isa. xix. 1 ; "The clouds
are the dust of His feet," Nahum i. 3 ; "I saw in the night vi-
sions, and behold, one like the Son of Man came with the clouds
of heaven," Daniel vii. 13. It is very probable that Jesus had
special reference to this vision of Daniel, as well as general refer-
ence to the idea contained in this pictorial representation, which,
reduced to our language, would mean a claim upon the part of


Jesus to have a divine relation to the world and to be about to be
acknowledged as a divine person. It is not for a moment to be
supposed that he intended his words to be taken literally, or that
the Sanhedrim so took them. Literally they amount to nothing,
unless one should take them as the harmless exaggeration of a
weak head. But Jesus was no such man, and the hour was too
solemn for anything of the kind. lie was on trial for his life ;
he obviously believed that his hour had come ; and he was speak-
ing from the depths of his nature. lie did not mean that he was
coming on the clouds of heaven literally. It were a ridiculous
thing ; and thus far we have found nothing ridiculous, surely, in
the character and words of Jesus, how many soever inexplicable
things we may have discovered. The high-priest did not so un-
derstand him, else he would have burst into laughter instead of
exhibiting horror. Jesus meant to claim divinity. So Caiaphas
understood him, and so the Sanhedrim. Therein was the blas-
phemy. If this be not the meaning of Jesus, this part of his his-
tory seems to me wholly unintelligible.

When the high-priest heard the reply of Jesus he " rent hi?
clothes." The sacerdotal robe was worn only in the Temple. It
was his Simla, or upper garment, which Caiaphas

tore. This expression of pain and in-ief and hor- J Ju & ema

1 r & rage.

ror would at first burst forth naturally, afterward
it came to be enacted theatrically, as we frequently see grief
'• performed," al some of our modern funerals. It became so ex-
cessive that it was moderated by ecclesiastical law, among the
regulations of which was ne (Levit. xxi. 10) forbidding the high-
priest to rend hi> clothes. We learn, however, from 1 Macca-
bees xi. 71, and from Josephus, B.J~., ii. 15, § 2, 4, that this rending
was allowable to the high-priest in cases of blasphemy. To this
violent gesture Caiaphas added the exclamation, " See 1 he has
uttered blasphemy] What further need have we of witnesses?
See, now, yon have heard the blasphemy ! What is your opin-
ion?" Here i- one who is :it once accuser and j lldge, and he

presents the disgraceful spectacle of a judge in a rage. He de
mands a verdict of condemnation based upon the words of the
prisoner, as those words are interpreted by himself. All this was
contrary to well established Hebrew law.
The whole council caughl the temper of this violent man. The

judges excitedly asked him again, "Are you then the Son of


God?" — "I am," said Jesus. They cried out, " He deserves to

die." The officers, the slaves, the bystanders generally broke

into furious revilings, taunts, and insults. "While

still on his trial, before condemnation, the high
ment. t

pi'iest and the council gave him over to the bru-
talities of the unofficial people. They spat in his face, slave?
slapped him with the palms of their hands, they blindfolded him,
and said, "Prophesy to us, O Messiah, who is he that struck you."
And the judge and the jury allowed all this. Indeed these men
probably did it that they might obtain the favor of their masters.
And yet it is maintained by such learned and liberal modern
Jews as M. Salvador that as a Hebrew citizen Jesus was fairly

Online LibraryCharles F. (Charles Force) DeemsWho was Jesus? → online text (page 64 of 77)