Word Press is being very slow on my system this morning. So we will see how this goes.
In my Lenten reading of David Seccombe’s The King of God’s Kingdom, I have reached the night before the crucifixion.
The night hearing described in Mark 14:53 ff. and its parallels gives the gospel writers the opportunity to show that evidence against Jesus was hard to pin down. The witnesses called could not identify a “smoking gun.” Seccombe attributes this to Jesus having taught in parables. His words about destroying the temple and rebuilding it, for instance, struck some people as figurative and others as a threat.
Apparently the hearing was not going as the high priest had planned. So he asked Jesus directly to state his view on whether he was the Messiah or not. Jesus replied by quoting the Bible, combining Psalm 110:1 with an apocalyptic passage from Daniel 7.
The high priest ruled that this was blasphemy and deserving of death. What Jesus had done was to take a standard Psalm about the political rule of David and his descendants and combine it with a vision about the “Son of Man” appearing with God in the clouds and receiving a kingdom that included all people and all nations. In the context of Daniel this linked with the resurrection of the dead and the ultimate judgment of the nations.
Now Jesus had regularly spoken of himself indirectly as the Son of Man. This could simply mean a human being or a mortal. The prophet Ezekiel seems to have used it that way to speak of himself. But in Daniel, the Son of Man is a heavenly figure who appears at the right hand of God exercising divine power over mankind. So in Mark Jesus finally clarifies his use of the term and is condemned for claiming this. The abuse and mockery in Mark 14:65 show scorn for these grand claims by someone who was clearly just human and weak.
Mark has Jesus answer the question directly. When the priest asks if he is the Messiah, he says, “I am.” But in Matthew Jesus says something that usually is translated “You have said so. But I say to you. . .” The sense of this probably is “Those are your words, but these are my words.”
Seccombe thinks Jesus probably did not come out and say “I am” as Mark tells it, but something closer to Matthew’s version.
Apocalyptic thinking was in the air in Jesus’ day. So why did this use of apocalyptic language precipitate a declaration that Jesus deserved death? Seccombe says:
“Presumably many members of the Council believed that sooner or later there would be a man for whom some of these things were true. But to hear them from the lips of one who had already alienated himself from the ruling and religious establishment, and who now stood bound before them, disheveled from the effects of a long day, his agony in the garden, arrest, and the beatings he had already been subjected to, was too monstrous for rational analysis” (P. 542).
John’s account has Jesus appear before the high priest’ s father-in-law, Annas, rather than the high priest himself. Seccombe points out that John or the Beloved Disciple seems to have had some kind of a relationship with the high priest (John 18:15). This is strange. But, if true, it gives greater credibility to the details in John’s version.