Gospel of Matthew: a commentary & meditation 
"They answered, "He deserves death"

Gospel reading: Matthew 26:57-68
57 Then those who had seized Jesus led him to Ca'iaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders had gathered. 58 But Peter followed him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and going inside he sat with the guards to see the end.59 Now the chief priests and the whole council sought false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, 60 but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward 61 and said, "This fellow said, `I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to build it in three days.'" 62 And the high priest stood up and said, "Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?" 63 But Jesus was silent. And the high priest said to him, "I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God." 64 Jesus said to him, "You have said so. But I tell you, hereafter you will see the Son of man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming  on the clouds of heaven." 65 Then the high priest tore his robes, and said, "He has uttered blasphemy. Why do we still need witnesses? You have now heard his  blasphemy. 66 What is your judgment?" They answered, "He deserves death." 67 Then they spat in his face, and struck him; and some slapped him, 68 saying, "Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?"
Meditation: Jesus was cross-examined by the high priest and the Sanhedrin,the supreme court of the Jews. The high priest by law was required to wait until morning before he could call the Sanhedrin to try Jesus. In their eagerness to eliminate Jesus they did not hesitate to break their own rules for a fair trial and they used false witnesses.  Jesus' captors also used mockery and physical intimidation to trip up his testimony.  They hoped he would say something they could use as evidence of criminal action. When they pressed Jesus for his claim to be the Christ (or Messiah in Hebrew) and the Son of God, he did not deny it but stated simply, "I am". They understood the claim to be the Son of God an insult to God's majesty and therefore blasphemy, which was punishable by death.  Jesus bore ill-treatment, mockery, and the charge of blasphemy with peace and confidence.  In faith he knew beyond a doubt that what men would try to do to him could not thwart the purposes of God.  The cross would lead to ultimate triumph over sin and death and God's kingdom would prevail over the forces of evil and Satan.  Is your faith and hope securely anchored in Christ's victory on the cross?

"Lord Jesus, you willingly suffered and died for our sake and for our salvation.  You took upon yourself the burden of our guilt and the punishment due to our sins.  Strengthen my faith and help me in my trials that I may never deny you or forsake your ways."

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 (c) 2002 Don Schwager