Calvin's Commentaries, Vol. 33: Matthew, Mark and Luke, Part III, tr. by John King, [1847-50], at sacred-texts.com
MATTHEW 26:62-68; MARK 14:60-65;
62. And the high priest, rising up, said to him, 227 Answerest thou nothing? What is it that those men testify against thee? 63. And Jesus was silent. And the high priest answering said to him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us if thou art the Christ, the Son of God. 64. Jesus saith to him, Thou hast said it; but yet I tell you, hereafter you shall see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. 65. Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath blasphemed; what further need have we of witnesses? lo now you have heard his blasphemy. 66. What think you? And they answering said, He is worthy of death. 67. Then they spat in his face, and gave him blows; 228 and others struck him on the face with the palms of their hands, 68. Saying, Prophesy to us Christ, Who was it that smote thee?
60. And the high priest, rising up in the midst, interrogated Jesus, saying, Answerest thou nothing? What is it that those men testify against thee? 61. But he was silent, and answered nothing. Again the high priest interrogated, and said to him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? 229 62. And Jesus said, I am; and you shall see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven. 63. And the high priest rent his garments, and said, What further need have we of witnesses? 64. You have heard the blasphemy: what think you? And they all condemned him to be worthy of death. 65. And some began to spit on him, and to cover his face with a veil, and to give him blows, and to say to him, Divine. 230 And the servants gave him blows.
63. And the men who held Jesus mocked him, and struck him; 64. And, having blindfolded him, struck him on the face. And they interrogated him, saying, Prophesy, Who is it that struck thee? 65. And many other abusive things they spoke against him. 66. And as soon as it was day, the elders of the people, and chief priests, and scribes, assembled, and led him into their council, 67. Saying, Art thou the Christ? Tell us. And he said to them, If I tell you, you will not believe. 68. And if I also put a question, you will not answer me, nor let me go. 69. Hereafter shall the Son of man sit at the right hand of the power of God. 70. And they all said, Art thou then the Son of God? He said, 231 You say that I am. 71. And they said, What further testimony do we need? for we ourselves have heard from his own mouth.
Matthew 26:62. And the high priest, rising up. It is certain that Christ was silent when false witnesses pressed hard upon him, not only because they did not deserve a reply, but because he did not seek to be now acquitted, knowing that his hour was come. But Caiaphas triumphs over him on account of his silence, as if he was struck dumb by being vanquished; which is usually the case with men who are conscious of having done wrong. But it is an instance of extreme wickedness that he insinuates that Christ is not free from blame, because witnesses speak against him. The question, What is it that those men testify against thee? amounts to this: “How comes it that those men oppose thee, but because they are urged by conscientious views? For they would not have appeared against thee without a good reason.” As if he did not know that those witnesses had been procured by fraud: but this is the way in which wicked men, when they find themselves in the possession of authority and power, throw off sham and indulge in arrogance. Christ was again silent, not only because the objection was frivolous, but because, having been appointed to be a sacrifice, he had thrown aside all anxiety about defending himself.
63. I adjure thee by the living God. The high priest thought that this alone was a crime sufficient to condemn Christ, if he professed that he was the Christ. But since they all boasted of expecting redemption from Christ, he ought first to have inquired if such was the fact. That there would be a Christ, by whose hands the people were to be delivered, they would not have ventured to deny. Jesus came publicly forward, bearing the title of the Christ. Why do they not consider the fact itself? Why do they not examine the signs, by means of which a correct decision might have been formed? But, having already determined to put Christ to death, they are satisfied with this pretense of sacrilege, that he claimed for himself the glory of Divinity. And yet Caiaphas examines the matter on oath, as if he had been prepared to yield as soon as it was fully ascertained; but all the while his whole mind is filled with a malicious hatred and contempt of Christ, and is so blinded by pride and ambition, that he takes for granted, that as soon as the fact has been ascertained, without inquiring whether it is right or wrong, he will have just grounds for condemning him.
If thou art the Christ, the Son of God. From the words of Caiaphas we may infer, that it was at that time common among the Jews to bestow on the Messiah the title of the Son of God; for this form of interrogation could not have originated in any other way than from the ordinary custom; and, indeed, they had learned from the predictions of Scripture that he was not less the Son of God than the Son of David. It appears, too, that Caiaphas employed this epithet, with the view either of terrifying Christ, or of exciting a prejudice against him; as if he had said, “See where you are going; for you cannot call yourself the Christ, without claiming, at the same time, the appellation of Son of God, with which Scripture honors him.” Such is also his reason for using the word Blessed, which Mark gives instead of God; for this pretended reverence 232 for God was intended to bring a heavier charge against Christ than that of profaning the holy name of God.
64. Thou hast said it. Luke inserts another reply, by which Christ reproves the malice of the priests, in not inquiring with a desire to know. If I tell you, says he, you will not believe: by which words he means, that though he were to prove to them a hundred times that he was the Christ, it would be of no avail with obstinate men. For they had not only heard, but had beheld with their eyes miracles, which, though Christ had been silent, would have confirmed his heavenly and divine power, and would even have cried aloud, that he was the promised Redeemer.
He next adds a confession, which, though it is related in many words by Matthew, does not convey a different meaning. Jesus affirms that he is the Christ, not for the purpose of avoiding death, but rather of inflaming the rage of his enemies against him. Though at that time he was exposed to contempt, and almost annihilated, by his mean garb, he announces, that at the proper time he will at length come with royal majesty, that they may tremble before the Judge, whom they now refuse to acknowledge as the Author of salvation. The meaning therefore is, that they are widely mistaken, if from his present appearance they form a judgment of what he is; because it is necessary that he should be humbled, and almost reduced to nothing, before he appear adorned with the emblems of his royal power, and with magnificent splendor. For by this word hereafter he distinguishes between his first and second coming.
We may draw from this a useful doctrine, which is still more extensive. For how comes it that wicked men are so much at their ease? How comes it that they are so insolent in rebellion, but because they do not set a high value on the crucified Jesus? It is therefore necessary to remind them of a dreadful judgment, which, with all their stupidity, they will not be able to avoid. And though they ridicule as a fable what is said about the future coming of Christ, still it is not in vain that the Judge summons them to his tribunal and orders them to be summoned by the preaching of the Gospel, that they may be rendered the more inexcusable. But this announcement is fitted to be of very great use even to believers, that they may now with the eyes of hope look for Christ sitting at the right hand of the father, and patiently wait till he comes, and may likewise believe that the rage of wicked men against him, while absent, will not be without its consequences; for they will be compelled to behold him on high coming from heaven, whom now they not only despise, but even trample upon in their pride.
Sitting at the right hand of power. The metaphor contained in the term right hand must be well known, for it frequently occurs in Scripture. Christ then sits at the right hand of the Father, because he is his deputy; and it is called the right hand or power, a, because it is only through the agency of his Son that God now displays his power, and will execute judgment at the last day.
65. Then the high priest rent his garments. By this we see how little advantage was derived by wicked men from the miracles by which Christ had proved his Divinity. But we need not wonder, that under the mean garb of a servant, the Son of God was despised by those who were unmoved by any anxiety about the promised salvation. For if they had not entirely laid aside every pious feeling, their deplorable condition ought to have led them to look anxiously for the Redeemer; but when they now, without making any inquiry, reject him when offered to them, do they not as far as lies in their power, destroy all the promises of God? The high priest first pronounces Christ to be a blasphemer, to which the others afterwards assent. The rending of the clothes plainly shows how boldly and wickedly those who profanely despise God make false pretensions of zeal. It would indeed have been praiseworthy in the high priest, if he heard the name of God shamefully profaned, not only to feel inward resentment and excruciating pain, but to make an open display of his detestation; but while he refused to make inquiry, he contrived an unfounded charge of blasphemy. And yet, this treacherous hypocrite, while he assumed a character which did not belong to him, taught the servants of God with what severity of displeasure they ought to regard blasphemies, and condemned by his example the shameful cowardice of those who are no more affected by an outrage on religion, than if they heard buffoons uttering their silly jokes.
Then they spat in his face. Either Luke has inverted the order of the narrative, or our Lord twice endured this highly contemptuous treatment. The latter supposition appears to me to be probable. And yet, I have no doubt that the servants were emboldened to spit on Christ, and to strike him with greater insolence, after they had seen that the council, so far as their decision had influence, condemned him to death. The object of all these expressions of contempt was, to show that nothing was more unlikely than that he should be a prince of prophets, who, in consequence of being blindfolded, 233 was not able even to ward off blows. But this insolence was turned by the providence of God to a very different purpose; for the face of Christ, dishonored by spitting and blows, has restored to us that image which had been disfigured, and almost effaced, by sin.
“Adonc le souverain sacrificateur se leva, et luy dit;” — “then the high priest rose, and said to him.”
“Et le buffeterent;” — “and buffeted him.”
“Le Fils de Dieu Benit;” — “the Son of the Blessed God.”
“Propheteze-nous;” — “prophesy to us.”
“Il leur dit;” — “he said to them.”
“Ce mot duquel Caiaphe use, faisant semblant d’avoir une grande reverence à la majesté Divine;” — “this word which Caiaphas employs, pretending to have a great veneration for the Divine majesty.”
“Lequel ayant seulement un voile devant les yeux;” — “who having only a veil before his eyes.”