Life Of Christ:
Jesus Before Annas
Jesus Before Caiphas
Jesus Before Pilate
Jesus Before Herod
Jesus Is Condemned To Death
Way Of The Cross
Crucifixion Of Jesus
Seven Last Words Of Jesus
Miraculous Events At Our Lord's Death
Side Of Jesus Pierced With A Lance
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Jesus Before Caiphas
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
PETERS DENIAL OF JESUS
ANNAS and his associates deemed the case of Jesus to be one which came within the province of the Sanhedrim, or great court, and Our Lord was accordingly sent by them to Caiphas. The attendants, therefore, led Him straightway across the courtyard to the hall, where the infamous high-priest was waiting with his colleagues to proceed with their nefarious trial. "And the chief priests and the whole council sought false witness against Jesus, that they might put Him to death. And they found not, whereas many false witnesses had come in. And last of all there came two false witnesses, and they said: This man said: I am able to destroy the Temple of God, and after three days to rebuild it. And the high-priest rising up, said to Him : Answerest Thou nothing to the things which these witness against Thee? But Jesus held His peace. And the high-priest said to Him: I adjure Thee, by the living God, that Thou tell us if Thou be Christ, the Son of God. Jesus saith to Him: Thou hast said it; nevertheless, I say to you, here-after you shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of the power of God, and coming in the clouds of heaven. Then the high-priest rent his garments, saying:
He hath blasphemed ; what further need have we of wit nesses? Behold, now you have heard the blasphemy: what think you? But they answering, said: He is guilty of death. Then they spit in His face, and buffeted Him, and others struck His face with the palms of their hands, saying: Prophesy unto us, O Christ, who is he that struck Thee." (Matt. xxvi. 59-68.)
During the whole of this accusation, Jesus was standing in the presence of the high-priest, His hands tied be-hind His back, His eyes modestly cast down. No shadow of displeasure passed across His features as perjury after perjury was uttered against Him. His dignified silence disconcerted the judges, and filled them with confusion and rage. If He would only speak, they might vent their pent-up fury against Him. His silence was intolerable. It filled Caiphas with such passion that, starting to his feet, he exclaimed: "Answerest Thou nothing to the things that these witness against Thee?" His face was distorted with anger; his wicked eyes, sparkling with hate, peered into the countenance of Jesus, as he waited amid breathless silence for an answer to his question. But not a word passed the lips of Our Lord. Then, lifting up his voice, Caiphas uttered that solemn adjuration, which his crafty soul knew full well would extort an answer from his prisoner, and, at the same time, give him something upon which to fasten an accusation: "I adjure Thee," he said, "by the living God, that Thou tell us if Thou be Christ, the Son of God." Amid the deep silence which followed so solemn an appeal, there issued from the hitherto sealed lips of Jesus the startling response : " I am: and you shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of the power of God, and coming with the clouds of heaven." (Mark xiv. 62.) Caiphas, unappalled by this thrilling announcement, seized upon these words as the most damning evidence of guilt; and crying out with well-assumed horror: "He hath blasphemed," rent his garments, and, appealing to his associates, received from them the long-expected answer: "He is guilty of death."
By the loud acclaim of the whole assembly, Jesus had been judged guilty of death. It is very likely that Caiphas, on hearing the unanimous sentence of his col-leagues, rose up with them and left the hall. If he did not do so, but remained behind and looked on approvingly while Jesus was subjected to the treatment which the evangelists describe, this fact will be another brand of infamy upon his deeply stained character, marking him as a vile wretch, who to his many evil qualities added the degrading vice of malignant cruelty. For the wretches who stood around immediately began to maltreat Jesus, who stood defenceless in the midst of them. These were the soldiers, the menials, the hangers-on of the palace of the high-priest, into whose souls the devil seems to have entered and filled them with diabolical rage and cruelty against Our Lord. Some of them spat in His adorable face; others plucked at His hair and beard; others, clenching their fists, dealt Him blows on the face which stunned and staggered Him; with derisive shouts and laughter others struck Him with the palms of their hands, and, in allusion to His prophetic character.
asked Him to tell them " who it was that struck Him." This treatment they continued the whole of that dreadful night. The evangelists have drawn a veil over the secrets which its darkness conceals, and have contented themselves with saying: "And blaspheming, many other things they said against Him." (Luke xxii. 65.)
Here is a subject for study and meditation, ye proud and sensitive children of men. O all ye who think of little else and seek little else than your own personal ad-vantage, who crave and covet the admiration of your fellow-beings, who lust for distinction, who demand the homage of the world, who vainly and foolishly labor to attract the eyes of others by your personal appearance, by gaudy dress, by affected and pompous demeanor, who cannot bear an insult, even though imaginary: in this spectacle you may discover and realize the wickedness of your personal vanity. For it is in atonement to His heavenly Father for such vanity that Our Saviour under-went such atrocious treatment.
Whilst Jesus was enduring in silence and meekness these unparalleled indignities, insults, and tortures from the hands of His enemies, still another disgrace was added, wounding still more deeply His sorrowful heart. Peter, His chosen apostle, denied Him. After Our Lord's apprehension, he fled, like the other apostles; but shame for his cowardice, as well as his love for Jesus, induced him to turn back and follow Him "afar off," even to the house of the high-priest. The evangelists describe his denial of Christ as follows:
"Now when Peter was in the court below, a porteress, one of the maid-servants of the high-priest, came, and when she had seen Peter sitting by the fire, warming himself, and had looked at him, she said : Art thou not also one of this man's disciples? Thou also wast with Jesus the Galilean. But he denied before them all, saying: I am not one of His disciples. Woman, I know Him not. I neither know nor understand what thou sayest. And he went forth before the court, and the cock crew. As he went out of the gate, another maid saw him, and she saith to them that were there: This man also was with Jesus of Nazareth. They said therefore to him: Art not thou also one of His disciples? And after a little while another seeing him, said : Thou also art one of them. But Peter denied again with an oath, and said : I am not; I do not know the man. After the space, as it were, of another hour, another man affirmed it, saying: Of a truth this man was also with Him, for he is a Galilean. And they that stood by came and said to Peter: Surely, thou also art one of them. Thou art a Galilean, for even thy speech doth discover thee. One of the servants of the high-priest, a kinsman to him whose ear Peter cut off, said to him: Did I not see thee in the garden with Him? Again therefore Peter denied, and began to curse and swear : Man, I know not what thou sayest. I know not this man of whom you speak. And immediately, as he was yet speaking, the cock crew again. And the Lord, turning, looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, as He had said: Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny Me thrice. And going out, he wept bitterly." (Matt. xxvi., Mark xiv., Luke xxii., John xviii.)
In truth, Peter had good cause to shed bitter tears of remorse and contrition. For, as the gospel so impressively states it, he had denied Jesus before all; he had denied his Lord by dissimulation, denied Him by a lie, by repeated lies, and by a solemly sworn assertion of falsehood. Lay it well to heart, devout reader, even an apostle it was who fell so low and so meanly, because he heeded not the warning of his Master; because he depended too confidently on his own strength; because, instead of preparing by prayer for the hour of temptation, he went to sleep; finally, because he went into danger unguarded.
Learn from the downfall of St. Peter not to be presumptive, but to stand in humility and fear, It may be that at this present moment you are leading a pure and holy life. You delight in prayer, pious reading, and in the devout reception of the sacraments. Vice is hateful to you, and in the strength of your present fervor you imagine that nothing in the world can separate you from the love of Jesus Christ. Nevertheless be on your guard; stand in fear. There have been many as good, as virtuous, and as fully determined to remain so, as you are at this moment; and we have seen them fall away and make shipwreck, not only of their virtue, but of their faith. They trusted too much in their own strength.
" Peter went out "that is, he left the occasion of sin, fled from further temptation and from the scene of his falló" and wept bitterly." His penance was a lasting one; for during the rest of his life he never ceased to be-wail his unfaithfulness. A pious legend relates that St.
Peter was never again seen to laugh, and at every sound of the cock-crow his tears gushed forth afresh. His repentance was perfect, so that he could afterward say with truth: "Lord, Thou knowest all things; Thou knowest that I love Thee." And his love was an humble, strong, and enduring love, a love till death. After pursuing a long, zealous, and laborious career in the service of the Church, his last request was that, as a final atonement and reparation for his denial of his Lord, he might be crucified head downward. His penance was crowned with its reward. Here below he was chosen to be the prince of the apostles and appointed head of the Church, and in heaven he was adorned with a martyr's crown. And all this reward came from that look of Jesus, a look full of grace, and from Peter's faithful and persevering co operation with the grace of that look.
O merciful Jesus! turn another such look of grace and pity upon me, that, like Peter, I may be strengthened to love Thee, and to serve Thee faithfully till the hour of my death.