October 7

Text: Matthew 26:65, 66

Then the high priest tore his robes, saying, "He has blasphemed! What further need do we have of witnesses? Behold, you have now heard the blasphemy; what do you think?" They answered and said, "He is deserving of death!"  (NASB)

The problem with the pronouncement of the high priest does not lie in the penalty for blasphemy  (see Leviticus 24:10-15).  Originally, blasphemy involved actually speaking God’s name in an inappropriate manner.  The penalty for such acts was death by stoning as a public event.  By Jesus’ lifetime (probably long before Jesus lived), blasphemy did not require actually saying God’s name and likely included speaking against the temple (see Mark 14:57-59; 15:29, 30 [the “hurling abuse” can be translated “blaspheming”]; Acts 7:47-50).

However, claiming to be the Messiah (the Christ) was not typically regarded to be an act of blasphemy.  Here Jesus’ statement seems to serve the high priest’s purpose rather than being an act of blasphemy.  The statements of the false witnesses were not accomplishing the objective of the trial—the façade of a “just trial” could not be presented through the false witnesses’ contradictions.

Something needed to occur that carried an automatic death sentence which made the false witnesses unnecessary.  A declaration of blasphemy would be ideal!  It would make the court the witnesses.  The high priest could pretend sorrow (tearing the robes) and make a declaration.  The false witnesses would be unnecessary.  The law-abiding Jesus who did not lie would convict himself.  A Jewish death sentence would be mandatory—thus the court merely would respond to the unspeakable.  Plan B worked!

Have you been involved in or witnessed a procedure when the objective was all important, but the means were secondary—at best?  Jesus’ death was important.  The court proceedings were unimportant.  The proceedings were merely a means to a predetermined outcome.

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 Copyright 2011 David Chadwell