The members of the Sanhedrin bribed Judas with thirty pieces of silver to betray Jesus. They needed Judas to show them where Jesus was staying, so they could arrest him in secret. They also needed Judas as a witness to testify against Jesus, but he committed suicide before this could happen.
The Bible tells us that Judas was given a cohort of soldiers. According to Roman law, a cohort could not be dispatched to make an arrest until someone appeared before the governor to accuse someone of a crime punishable under Roman law. This means that when he left the Passover meal, Judas not only went to the chief priests; he also went before Pilate to accuse Jesus. This explains why Pilate was dressed and ready to conduct the trial in the early hours of the morning. He anticipated this because he had already released the cohort to make the arrest.
A Roman cohort consisted of several hundred soldiers. According to the Gospel accounts, this cohort was joined by the captains of the temple — basically, the temple police — members of the Sanhedrin, and the servant of the high priest. John tells us that this servant’s name was Malchus.
When this posse arrives to arrest Jesus, Simon Peter decides to take action. It really is an act of great faith by Simon, even if it misses the point. On one side you have hundreds of Roman soldiers, temple guards, and many others carrying torches and weapons. And on the other side, you have Simon Peter with his one sword. But Simon is ready to take them on; he draws his sword and cuts off Malchus’s right ear. But Jesus rebukes Simon Peter; and with a touch, He miraculously heals Malchus. Even in this critical moment, Jesus heals someone who actually stands against Him. He loves His enemies, even to the very end.
These arresting forces take Jesus to Annas, the father-in-law of Caiphas, the high priest. Annas had served as high priest about twenty years earlier but he retained control of the priesthood because he was succeeded by several of his sons; his son-in-law; and later on, his grandson. He was the head of what the Pharisees referred to as “the Bazaar of the Sons of Annas,” a money-changing and sacrifice-selling business. Annas was sort of like “The Godfather” of the Temple in those days. He and his family were greatly feared; they controlled everything that happened in the Temple; and, best of all, they received a cut of all the action.
Why would they take Jesus to Annas first? Because he had a grudge against Jesus. Remember earlier in the week, Jesus went to the Temple and drove out the money-changers and poured out the coins and drove out the animals being sold for sacrifices. Those money-changers were Annas’s underlings. The tables he overturned belonged to Annas. More importantly, the money lost on that day came directly out of Annas’s pocket. Luke says that on the heels of this, the chief priests (the Sadducees) and the scribes (the Pharisees) and the principal men of the people (that’s Annas and his cronies) were seeking to destroy Jesus (Luke 19:47).
By going immediately to Annas, they begin Jesus’s religious trial. But doing so at night and in secret violated the Sanhedrin’s law, which signals what a sham trial this is going to be. The religious leaders presented one false witness after another, trying to find two that could agree. But one by one, their testimonies were disqualified. Mark 14:56, For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree.
All of this seems to frustrate Caiphas, the high priest. He asked Jesus, Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you? (Matt. 26:62) But Jesus remained silent. Legally, He was not obligated to answer, because asking Him to speak when they failed to produce reliable witnesses was a violation of their own regulations. Yet all of this further exasperates Caiphas, so he says, I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God (Matt. 26:63). In a Jewish court of law, the phrase, “I adjure you,” is a way of putting someone under oath, which obligated the adjured to answer. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus responds to the question by saying, I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven (Mark 14:62).
This is where the lawlessness of the “law crowd” really shows. Caiphas rips his garments, something he was forbidden to do except when someone blasphemed the name of God; yet Jesus did not do this. Furthermore, Caiphas initiated the charge of blasphemy, which also violated Sanhedrin regulations. They broke yet another of their laws by announcing the guilty verdict on the same day as the trial. Mark 14:64, And they all condemned him as deserving death. This decision was unanimous, which should have proven the innocence of Jesus.
Mark 14:65, Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, “Prophesy!” And the guards took him and beat him. According to their own law, judges were to be kind and humane. Their own law also stated that a person condemned to death was not to be scourged or beaten beforehand. But these restrictions were completely ignored. To hit someone with the fist was punishable by a fine of four days wages. To slap someone with the palm of the hand was even more insulting, punishable by a fine of two hundred days wages. Worst still was to spit in someone’s face; this was punishable by a fine of four hundred days wages. More than a year’s salary is what it would cost you to spit in someone’s face. Yet no one was fined on this night.