Countries must have rulers and rulers must have councils to sit with them in judgment.
The term “Sanhedrin” comes from Hebrew words meaning “sitting together.” Such councils “sit together” in many capacities:
- As lawmakers,
- As courts to judge lawbreakers,
- As elders deciding issues within the community, and
- As keepers of the flame, so to speak, the ones who hold on to the traditions that define the nation itself.
The Sanhedrin performed all these tasks in the Jerusalem of Jesus’ day.
Before the Sanhedrin
After the arrest and pre-trial examination at the home of the High Priest, Jesus was dragged before the Sanhedrin Council. These were not necessarily evil men. They had the most difficult challenge of holding the nation of Israel together while occupied by Rome. They were a monotheistic—one God—nation ruled by a polytheistic—many gods—occupying force. Their job was to find the dynamic center between two powerful polar forces.
- The traditions of their true religion calling them to worship one God, and
- The power of Rome threatening to devour them and absorb their religion, culture, and customs into the melting pot of the Roman Empire.
They “sat together” in hopes of surviving the Roman scourge and preserving their own way of life. This succession of “Messiahs” rising up to challenge Rome was no help at all. This man called Jesus was the most threatening of them. He moved in the power of God, it seemed, and spoke of the Kingdom of God with an authority they had never before witnessed. They had Him now, in their grasp, and standing before the Council.
Who were these men?
It is a mistake to think that these were all evil men. We can see men of spiritual wisdom among them:
- Joseph of Arimathea (Mark 15:43),
- Nicodemus (John 3:1; 7:50) and
- Gamaliel (Acts 5:34)
- The High Priests were also members of this council: Annas and Caiaphas (Luke 3:2). (Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary © 1968)
Sincere men, men of heavy responsibilities, were “sitting together” with the opponents of Jesus. These men—scribes, Pharisees, priests—opposed Jesus, not out of principle but out of greed and lust for power. If Jesus was anything at all to them, He was a threat to their positions of influence and wealth.
The central question was put to Jesus directly:
“If You are the Christ, tell us.”
It was a trap of course. To declare such a thing was blasphemy of the highest order. Jesus was above all their trick questions and dodged this one.
“If I tell you, you will by no means believe. And if I also ask you, you will by no means answer Me or let Me go.”
They waited for Him to elaborate so He gave them something unexpected to consider:
“Hereafter the Son of Man will sit on the right hand of the power of God.”
They demanded a more explicit answer:
“Are You then the Son of God?”
Silence filled the room driving all the air from the chamber. No one breathed while the Council waited to hear Jesus’ answer.
“You rightly say that I am.”
The silence continued one last minute as those sitting together took a collective breath, issued a collective groan, and then shouted with joy. It was over. They had their evidence from His own words. Two of them, Joseph and Nicodemus did not join in the rejoicing. They were not at this meeting.
As soon as it was day, the elders of the people, both chief priests and scribes, came together and led Him into their council, saying, “If You are the Christ, tell us. “But He said to them, “If I tell you, you will by no means believe. And if I also ask you, you will by no means answer Me or let Me go. Hereafter the Son of Man will sit on the right hand of the power of God.” Then they all said, “Are You then the Son of God?” So He said to them, “You rightly say that I am.” And they said, “What further testimony do we need? For we have heard it ourselves from His own mouth.”
Matthew 10:27-33 NKJV
“Whatever I tell you in the dark, speak in the light; and what you hear in the ear, preach on the housetops. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.
Lord Jesus, Your courage before the Sanhedrin is an inspiration to me. When I am called upon to testify about You before people, help me to be so bold. Your Word tells us not to fear those who can destroy the body for that is extent of what they can do to us. We must rather live in reverence of God, who made the body in the first place and who holds the keys of life eternal. Give me the courage and strength to confess You before all people today. Make me fearless for You, Lord Jesus! Amen.
I’ll Tell the World that I’m a Christian
Words and Music: Baynard L. Fox
1. I’ll tell the world that I’m a Christian.
I’m not ashamed His name to bear.
I’ll tell the world that I’m a Christian.
I’ll take Him with me anywhere.
I’ll tell the world how Jesus saved me
And how He gave me a life brand new.
And I know that if you trust Him
That all He gave me He’ll give to you.
I’ll tell the world that He’s my Savior.
No other one could love me so.
My life my all is His forever
And where He leads me I will go.
2. I’ll tell the world that He is coming.
It may be near or far away.
But we must live as if His coming
Would be tomorrow or today.
For when He comes and life is over
For those who love Him there’s more to be.
Eyes have never seen the wonders
That He’s preparing for you and me.
O tell the world that you’re a Christian.
Be not ashamed His name to bear.
O tell the world that you’re a Christian
And take Him with you ev’rywhere.
© 2018 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved
TheJesusStory devotions are also found at KingdomWinds.com.