Finally Caiaphas asks a straight forward question. “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God” [Matthew 26:63 ESV]. Up until this point Jesus has not answered any of their accusations. None of them were true. I do not know if he refused to dignify the accusations with a response, because they were not true, or he knew no defense would change their minds. Perhaps both. Caiaphas resorted to his last, best and final question. He demanded Jesus answer his question under oath to God. He saw only two possible answers from Jesus. Either he says “yes” in which case he accuses him of blasphemy, or he says “no” and he demeans Jesus as an imposter. In Caiaphas’ mind Jesus is either one or the other but he cannot be who he says he is.
In a way, Jesus affirms Caiaphas’ question. He does not come right out and say “Yes, I am Messiah.” Instead, he says “You have said so” [Matthew 26:64 ESV]. Luke gives a more elaborate response. “If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I ask you, you will not answer” [Luke 22:67-68 ESV]. Again, it does not matter what Jesus says or doesn’t say. They will not let him go. He will not allow them, or anyone, to put words in his mouth, to make him say something he did not say, or never would say. This is still true.
Jesus makes another prediction. We are deep in a study of his prediction of his death, burial and resurrection. All of the evidence says he was raised from the dead, just as he said he would. That prediction is true. He has predicted Peter will deny him three times before the first rooster crows in the wee hours of the morning. Jesus’ prediction of Peter’s denial was true. So is this prediction. Caiaphas has tried to put blasphemous words into Jesus mouth, forcing a confession which would give him an excuse to have Jesus condemned and executed. Jesus puts the words back into Caiaphas’ mouth. But he doesn’t stop there. He continues with an astounding prediction. “But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven” [Matthew 26:64 ESV].
This prediction has yet to happen. Jesus is sitting at the right hand of God but those in the world have not seen Him coming. Saying it is not true because it has yet to occur is illogical thinking. Too much time has passed for it to be immediately fulfilled. Like God saying to Adam the consequences of eating the forbidden fruit, dying you will die (“mûth” die “mûth” die, see Genesis 2:17), so Jesus states the ultimate occurrence, not the immediate. When Adam ate he began to die until he finally died. So, Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection means he has retaken his eternal place, set aside for a moment to accomplish something which shakes all creation. Caiaphas will see Jesus again, at death, and then death. Jesus predicts, because he knows, he will regain his place next to God, “at the right hand of Power” which is to say he is God. He predicts, or affirms, his control over all creation. He will come “on the clouds of heaven.”
Jesus tells Caiaphas he is God, he owns every created thing, and killing him will not stop him from being God or claiming all which is his. I am not going to try to justify the statements Jesus makes. His life, the evidence of his words, his teachings and predictions and works, the truth of his resurrection, are enough. Those who do not believe will not believe. All are told by God to examine the evidence honestly. But we can know there are many like Annas and Caiaphas who have made up their minds regardless of the evidence.
Caiaphas’ reaction is in keeping with his already made up mind. I have wondered if he practiced his indignation (kind of like athletes who practice their celebrations to get them right whenever they score). After tearing his robe (I wonder if he wore old clothing knowing he was going to rend his garment that night, or maybe he wore his best so the impact would be greater) he said “he has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy” [Matthew 26:65 ESV]. His words were spoken loudly, boastfully, forcefully, meant to show his utter contempt and hatred for Jesus. Blasphemy is the most serious charge which any may accuse another. It means the accused is attributing to himself or an idol that which belongs only to God. Jesus has been called a blasphemer before. From the beginning of his public appearances people had wanted to kill him because of his “blasphemy.” For them his “blasphemy” was His words and works which showed He is God in the flesh. In other words, they blasphemed when they refused to acknowledge him as who he is, attributing to something other than God the words and works of God.
If what he says is a lie then he is a blasphemer. If what he says is true then he is not. If what he says is a lie then the best anyone can do is to ignore him completely and seek truth. If what he says is true then we best not call his words a lie. Ignoring him because he is inconvenient only states he is a liar. Believing him demands the whole person, whom he has created for relationship with him, seek to know him both intellectually and intimately.
Once Caiaphas has given his judgment he affirms it with those standing near, all thinking and feeling like he that Jesus deserves death. “‘What is your judgment?’ They answered, ‘He deserves death'” [Matthew 26:66 ESV]. Jesus is now a convicted criminal, judged so by an illegal court held in the middle of the night by a judge and jury who had tried, judged, convicted and sentenced him long before he was brought before them.
What follows is exactly what is expected from an illegal court. Man’s desperate wickedness comes out in the abuse of Jesus. “Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him, saying, ‘Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?'” [Matthew 26:67-68 ESV]. Once the prisoner is condemned to death he ceases to be human and worth only ridicule and torture. It is impossible to ignore the way someone made in the image of God, and even the Image of God, is treated once people are given permission to abuse. There are no fancy insults, no elaborate speeches. There is only abuse.