Text: John 18: 19-24
Text verse: John 18:23
In the next few pericopes, two trials are described to us. First the trial by Annas and Caiaphas. They act on behalf of the Jewish people. Then Jesus is brought before Pilate and Herod, representing the Roman government and the rest of the world.
Annas was the high priest from 6-15 BC, because Pilate’s predecessor deposed Annas as high priest. Yet Jesus was first taken to him because he was still considered by the Jews to be the real high priest.
Caiaphas was Annas’ son-in-law and the official high priest at that time. The official high priest had to attend the trial before the Jewish Council if they wanted the Roman authorities to accept the procedure. That is why Jesus is also sent to Caiaphas.
Jewish law provided that a person could not be tried by the Jewish Council until witnesses had been questioned to determine whether there were grounds for the charges against the person. Only when there was clear evidence, would such a trial begin.
So, what Annas is doing here is illegal. He abused his power by questioning Jesus without any witnesses against Him. However, Jesus knew how the law worked and therefore He demanded that witnesses be called before the trial could begin.
Herein it is clear that for the Jews it was not about a fair trial at all. They had already convicted Jesus before the trial even began. The injustice becomes even clearer when the guard slaps Jesus in the face for no reason. On top of that, Annas allows it and that while there is no evidence that Jesus is guilty. Yet, through it all, Jesus remains fully in control of the situation.
This is so different from us. A good example is Paul’s trial. When he was brought before the high priest, he became angry and said, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall!” (Acts 23: 3). In Paul’s defence, it is then mentioned that he did not know that it was the high priest.
The problem is that we are doing exactly what Paul did. We attack and insult. We do what Jesus forbids in Matthew when He teaches: “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” (Matt 5:39).
What Jesus forbids in the above passage is retribution.
In this case, Jesus defended the law. He stood up for what is right. Being a Christian does not mean that you should not stand up for what is right. The problem is that we think it means we can insult and hit and hurt back. However, that is not standing up for the law, that is retaliation.
Notice that Jesus does not strike back at the guard. He brings him before the court. He just accuses him there.
The reason we so want to retaliate is because we want that person to pay for the pain he has caused us. An eye for an eye ...
We will only be able to start looking at these situations differently if we see that Jesus is not doing this to us. He does not avenge our wrongdoing against Him. He does not expect us to pay for all the suffering we inflict upon Him.
On the contrary, He bears the suffering we inflict on Himself. He died for our sins by hanging on a cross in our place.
Only when you experience the grace of this salvation will you be able to look at your enemy differently. We must address sin in an orderly manner without wanting to take revenge. There is so much we are forgiven in Christ, the least we can do is show the same mercy to our enemy.
There will still be a lot of injustice because we are dealing with a broken system. However, Peter’s counsel is still valid, namely to carry undeserved suffering because we are called to it in Christ. Like Jesus, we must leave everything to Him who will judge fairly (also see 1 Pet. 2:21-23).