The armed men who came with Judas bound the Lord and He was taken to the palace of Caiaphas, the high priest. We follow from Gethsemane up into the city and to the palace near the temple. We look two ways: to a hall above, where scribes and priests were gathered and the Lord was standing in the midst before them, and to the open court below, where servants were passing and talking together.
In the hall above the priests were calling witnesses to find some excuse to bring the Lord to Pilate, the Roman governor, and demand His death. They found none, except the Lord's own declaration that He was the Christ, which would indeed have been blasphemy if it had not been true. But it was true, a blessed truth of hope for all the world.
In the meantime Peter and John had followed the Lord to the palace, and as John knew the high priest they let him in, and he got permission for Peter to enter also. It was cold and the servants had made a charcoal fire, probably in a large metal dish or brazier, in the court or open space around which the palace was built. Here were the servants and the people who were not allowed inside the palace. It was a dangerous place for Peter to be, for as a disciple of the Lord he too might have been taken before the high priest, and yet he wanted to stay to learn what he could of what was happening. All the people about him must have been talking against the Lord, not believing in Him, and all that was happening must have seemed like an awful dream to Peter, so different from anything that he had expected. It was then while he was warming himself that a maid came up and looked at him and said, "Thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth," but Peter denied it. Then Peter went out into the porch and the cock crew. A maid there also saw him, possibly the maid who had let him in, and she said to those standing by, "This is one of them, but Peter denied again. Yet again one of the people standing near said, "Surely, thou art one of them: for thou art a Galilean, and thy speech agreeth thereto," but Peter denied the third time. Then the cock crew the second time, and Luke tells us that the Lord turned where He stood, and looked upon Peter, and Peter remembered His words and he went out and wept bitterly.
It was a terrible lesson that Peter learned that night. He learned that he could not trust himself. It is good to know that after that night Peter was one of the bravest of the disciples, and at last did lay down his life gladly for the Lord's sake.
The story of the trial and condemnation of the Lord divides into two parts: before the priests, and before Pilate. The first part we study today; the second part, next week. The Lord was led first to Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas the high priest, but soon after to the palace of Caiaphas himself. Picture the paved courtyard with the buildings of the palace around it. The servants passed to and fro and warmed themselves at a fire of charcoal, for it was night and was cold. Peter sat with them. In a lighted hall a little above the court, priests in robes and turbans had hastily gathered and sat upon a divan about, the high priest Caiaphas presiding. The Lord stood in the midst, bound and guarded by servants. The priests were determined that the Lord should be put to death, and sought some pretext to make to Pilate the governor. They could find no wrong that He had done; He remained silent as they accused Him. "As a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He openeth not His mouth." At length in answer to the high priest's question, the Lord told plainly that He was the Christ, the Heavenly King. It was enough. They would make it appear to Pilate that the Lord disputed Caesar's power. The priests scattered to their homes, and the Lord was struck and insulted by the servants.
The story pauses here to tell us how it fared with Peter in the court below. The first verse of the next chapter tells again of a gathering of the priests. The first was perhaps an informal meeting; this was a meeting of their council to take formal action and to lead the Lord to Pilate.
But we must return to Peter and the touching story of his denials of the Lord, and his tears.
1. Where was the Lord taken from Gethsemane? Who was high priest?
2. What were the priests determined to do? What excuse could they find?
3. What disciples followed to the palace? What prediction of the Lord's came true?
A few points for deeper study. We have seen a spiritual meaning in the fact that it was night when the Lord was taken and the disciples scattered. Is there also a deeper thought in the mention of the cold in connection with Peter's denials of the Lord? (Matthew 24:12)
Had the Lord said that He would destroy the temple and build another? What had He said? And of what temple was He speaking? (John 2:19; E. 220; T. 221)
How would the Lord sit on the right hand of power? Compare Mark 16:19; Matthew 28:18. How would He come in the clouds of heaven? What cloud is now opened to reveal Him? (E. 687; A. 9807)
What kind of grief was represented by rending the clothes? And why? (A. 4763)
What spiritual meaning is there in Peter's three times denying the Lord? (T. 211; S. 29)
The cock crowing suggests the ending of the night and the beginning of the dawn. Do you see the beginning of a new state with Peter? (E. 9)