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The Secret Codes in Matthew: Examining Israel’s Messiah, Part 21: Matthew 26:31-27:36, by Kevin M. Williams

Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea both sat on the court, but of the 71 Sanhedrin members, the majority of the seats were held by the Sadducees, and these two followers’ votes would not have made a difference. Sadducees, as you may recall, do not believe in the resurrection, and on this point alone, they would have opposed Yeshua. To them this rabbi’s teachings were dangerous and opposed to their interpretation of the Torah. The Pharisees, as we have seen over earlier editions of this study, came to despise Yeshua as well and wanted him put to death. Others, Caiaphas included, are reputed to have been political puppets of Caesar and Herod, and ill disposed toward a fair trial. In essence, the court was stacked against Him, and the outcome inevitable.

For some, that may sound like this was a corrupt court. Perhaps it was. Perhaps those particular members of the Sanhedrin were incapable of making a fair and un-biased judgment in Yeshua’s trial, in which case they should have recused themselves from the proceedings. That would, therefore, have also meant recusal for Nicodemus and Joseph, who also came to the court with a predisposed bias. Perhaps, had it been anyone other than Yeshua, or any other crime, they would have been able to judge righteously. This author cannot wholly address such issues of due process in the New Testament era, nor judge it by today’s American legal system.

The fact remains however—the outcome was inevitable. Yeshua had told the disciples two times on that Passover eve that it was going to happen because it had been ordained by God to come to pass. It was a significant part of God’s noble and enduring plan. Was it Judas’ fault? Was it the Sanhedrin’s fault? Was it the disciples’ fault for letting it happen? Am I guilty? Are you guilty? The answer to all of those questions is “yes.”

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” (Matthew 26:65).

High drama? Certainly. I am sure you could have heard the air rush into everyone’s lungs as the high priest tore his garment. They all understood the implications: the high priest of God’s Temple was forbidden from impurity, and by tearing his robes, he was proclaiming that he was in mourning.4

Duke University professor and author, E. P. Sanders writes, “When a priest publicly presented himself as in mourning, it was especially emotive because mourning is associated with the death of a loved one, and the priests were ordered ‘not to defile themselves’ for dead relatives, except for the next of kin (Lev. 21.1f.). The high priest was forbidden not to mourn at all for anyone … The signs of mourning, called ‘defiling oneself,’ were associated with contracting corpse impurity. Thus, if in fact the high priest tore his garments, especially during a festival, his councilors would have done what he wished.”5

Caiaphas follows up his drama with what might pass as a call for a vote, “‘What do you think?’ They answered and said, ‘He is deserving of death!’” (Matthew 26:66).

The rest of chapter is full of woe and sorrow, and needs no exegesis.


Now when morning had come, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put Him to death; and they bound Him, and led Him away, and delivered Him up to Pilate the governor. Then when Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to that yourself!” (Matthew 27:1-4).

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Category: Biblical Studies, Pneuma Review, Summer 2006

About the Author: Kevin M. Williams, Litt.D., H.L.D. has served in Messianic ministries since 1987 and has written numerous articles and been a featured speaker at regional and international conferences on Messianic Judaism.

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