Mark 14:53-65 – Jesus Before the Sanhedrin


Mark 14:53-65


Jesus’ trial is a travesty of justice that ends with a death sentence.


The trial of Jesus is a sham affair. It takes place under the cover of darkness and Mark makes clear that they can find no evidence that convicts Jesus. Mark depicts the chief priests and the elders as both sinister and bumbling. Even though they have conspired to arrest Jesus and have arranged for false witnesses to provide evidence to condemn him, they can’t even get their witnesses to lie correctly (14:56).

The pivotal moment in the trial comes when the high priest finally has the courage to voice their real fear. He asks Jesus point blank whether he is the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One (the “Blessed One” is a pious substitute for the name of God which as a devout Jew, the high priest would not utter). In his previous encounters with questioners, Jesus had played the trickster. Here, however, he answers simply and directly: “I am” (14:62). He does not stop with the simple affirmation though. Instead, Jesus goes on to elaborate on his identity, blending together quotations from Daniel 7:13 and Psalm 110:1. This blend of quotations contains an implied threat; the Son of Man in Daniel comes to exercise dominion over the enemies of Israel and Psalm 110 contains the promise that God will make the Messiah’s enemies into his footstool. The chief priests and the elders have arrested Jesus and are trying to condemn him to death. If Jesus speaks the truth, then they are the ones whom God will place under Jesus’ feet. It is this realization that leads to the high priest’s reaction. In a gesture of outrage, he rips his own clothing and accuses Jesus of blasphemy. Thus, in the greatest irony of the Gospel of Mark, it is the truth about Jesus, not the false witnesses, that leads to his death.