We are continuing our meditation of the drama of the hours that led up to Christ being crucified. At Jesus’ words saying that He was and is the Great I AM, finally the high priest thought he had enough to condemn Christ. He ripped open his outer shirt. The tearing of the clothes of the high priest was a pictorial way of stating that something blasphemous had just happened. In this case, the Jewish leadership clearly understood that Jesus was making the statement that He was (and is) God in the flesh. After they reached the verdict, they continued the beating and humiliation. Luke describes the beating with these words:
63The men who were guarding Jesus began mocking and beating him. 64They blindfolded him and demanded, “Prophesy! Who hit you?” 65And they said many other insulting things to him (Luke 22:63-65).
It is possible that Peter was a witness to this game of blind man’s bluff with a difference, at least for a time. They used Jesus for a punching bag, but the Lord did not retaliate. He suffered nobly in silence. Peter later writes that “When he was reviled, He did not revile in return; when he suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:23). It must have been hard for Peter to watch what they were doing to Christ, especially after he had just denied even knowing Him. Matthew tells us that they took turns beating Him with their fists and spitting on Him: 67Then they spit in his face and struck him with their fists. Others slapped him 68and said, “Prophesy to us, Messiah. Who hit you?” (Matthew 26:67-68). If Peter was there, he did not have the courage or the will to try and intervene. It was probably at that point that he left. We don’t know how long the beating went on. By this point in time, Jesus would have been already weakened by having no sleep and also by the struggle in the garden of Gethsemane.
Having convicted Christ of blasphemy, the Jewish elders now began to think of how to kill Him. To the Jewish elite, it was not enough to stone Him, the normal method of execution of a condemned criminal in Israel. In the book of Acts, we read of Stephen being stoned by the Jews (Acts 7:54-60), and the woman caught in the act of adultery was to be stoned to death (John 8:4-7). If stoning was a common way of dealing with those pronounced guilty, why was Jesus crucified instead of being stoned?
The ruling elite plotted how they might curse Jesus by having Him lifted above the earth to die on a tree. In their minds, a man that was cursed by hanging on a tree would dispel any notion that Jesus was the Messiah. They may have referred to the Scripture in Deuteronomy: “You must not leave the body hanging on the pole overnight. Be sure to bury it that same day, because anyone who is hung on a pole is under God's curse” (Deuteronomy 21:23). Jesus allowed Himself to be cursed, He would take the curse that we deserved. Later, He was to be crowned with thorns, the symbol of the curse (Genesis 3:18).
There was now only one problem. The Roman government had taken away the option of capital punishment from the Jews, so they had to get Pilate to condemn Him, too. The ruling leaders led Jesus off to Pilate:
1Then the whole assembly rose and led him off to Pilate (Luke 23:1).
We must consider this verse of Scripture because we see the whole assembly abandoning the place of judgment, i.e. another illegality. No one stayed to see if any late witnesses would appear. It was after the Sanhedrin had disbanded that Judas came back to testify of his lie and the innocence of Jesus. This was not about justice; this was about murder. Keith Thomas
Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, study 62:Jesus Before Pilate and Herod.