Session #14  (Most quotes are NIV)


After the High Priest “rent his garments” as a ceremonial sign of outrage, all three synoptic Gospels give us a detail which is usually interpreted as general abuse of Jesus.  Luke 22:65-65 says “The men who were guarding Jesus began mocking and beating him.They blindfolded him and demanded, “Prophesy! Who hit you?” And they said many other insulting things to him.”  (Matt. 26:67-68 and Mark 14:65 also have this)

Why did they blindfold Jesus, hit him and say “Tell us who hit you?”  It wasn’t mere abuse.  The Jews were VERY sensitive about their despicable history of rejecting and abusing the Old Testament prophets.  Their history had included many incidents which were not included in our Bibles but which spoke of Jewish beatings and even killing of the prophets!

  On Tuesday, Jesus had told them IN PUBLIC about the Parable of the Tenants of the Vineyard (Luke 10:9ff) who beat up everyone sent to them and had in the end killed the son.  Luke 10:19 “The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest him immediately, because they knew he had spoken this parable against them. But they were afraid of the people.”  (Later, in Acts 7:52, Stephen the first martyr said:  Was there ever a prophet your ancestors did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered him.”  I don’t think they appreciated HIS insight either!)

Given this sensational history of abuse, the Jewish rabbis had conceived a method of telling whether a prophet was the “real deal.”  They interpreted Isaiah 11:3 (“He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears.”) and the apocryphal book  Psalms of Solomon 17:37 (“And he will not weaken in his days, thanks to his God, for God made him powerful in the holy spirit and wise in the counsel of understanding, with strength and righteousness.”) to mean that a true prophet doesn’t need his eyes or ears.  God will give him the understanding to judge by his sense of smell.

  Now I KNOW that these verses don’t exactly say that, but this is the way the rabbis interpreted them.  So, some of the Temple Guards were asked to perform a “check” on Jesus to make sure that he was not a real prophet.  They didn’t want to add to their list of prophet-abuses!  One last test never hurts, so they blindfold Him and check for prophetic insight.


All four Gospels now include Peter’s denial.  Jesus had predicted this in Mark 14:30“Truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “today—yes, tonight—before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.”  Matt. 26:34 “I tell you the truth,”Jesus answered,“this very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.”

First, let’s deal with the “watch system.”  The Jewish military, from as far back as the period of the Judges, had used a 3-watch system during the night (4 hours per shift).  You can see this reflected in Judges 7:19 “Gideon and the hundred men with him reached the edge of the camp at the beginning of the middle watch, just after they had changed the guard.”

The Roman legions used a 4-watch system (3 hours per watch) as follows:  1. Evening watch 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. 2. Midnight watch 9 p.m. to midnight 3. Cockcrow watch midnight to 3 a.m. 4. Dawn watch 3 a.m. to 6 a.m.  By the time of Jesus, the Jews had adopted the 4-watch system.  (Look at Mark 13:35.  Matthew and Luke also have this brief warning, but Mark is the most complete:  “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn.”)

Some commentators have tried to tell us that roosters “are so reliable in their crowing” that the soldiers relied on the midnight crowing and the 3 a.m. crowing  of roosters to change their watches.  (What alternate universe are these people from?  Are these “Magic Jewish Roosters” with built in timers?)  There was a rooster in our neighborhood a couple of years ago, and that goofy bird crowed when he felt like it—but rarely only once, and thankfully not at midnight!  Roosters often crow as dawn approaches, but don’t set your Rolex by their crowing!  Romans normally blew a trumpet only once to signal the watch change.  

Was this the “cockcrow sound” reflected in the Gospels?  Perhaps.  Or was it a simple crowing of a rooster?  Those who say it was the trumpet blast of the cockcrow watch then place the exact time of Peter’s third denial at 3:00 a.m.  If this was a rooster crowing, the time is less exact but well before 6:00 a.m.  See this passage from Juvenal, Satires ix, 107:  “Make everyone leave the place, have no one sleep nearby; by the second cock-crow what the man does will still be known to the nearest tradesman, well before dawn;” this would indicate a rooster crowing, not a trumpet blast.  I prefer to think that this rooster started his crowing around 5:00 a.m., just about the time Peter finished his denials, and not too long before the legal trial began.

Both Matthew (26:70) and Mark (14:68) have Peter saying “I do not know what you are saying.”  Our modern ear doesn’t pick this up:  this is a formal statement by Peter which is a LEGAL denial.  In other words, we today would phrase it this way:  “I swear on the Bible that I don’t know him.”  John 18:26 is one of four renditions of why Peter thought this necessary:  “One of the high priest’s servants, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, challenged him, ‘Didn’t I see you with him in the garden?’”  Oops—best to swear on the Bible that I wasn’t there!

A truly dramatic moment is added by Luke 22:61 “The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter.”  This is THE LOOK!  It isn’t just a look; the Greek word means to “fix one’s gaze upon” or “look intently,” or “stare at.”  Arthur Just, Luke, Vol. 2, p 876, properly states that “Jesus’ look is a call to repentance.”  This special look is found only one other time:  Luke 20:17  “Jesus looked directly at them [his enemies] and asked, “Then what is the meaning of that which is written:  ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’?”  I can only imagine this same LOOK on Judgment Day will terrorize those who are headed for hell!

This look may have occurred as the Jewish leaders were leading Jesus from the “back room” to a larger hall where the Jewish Council members had assembled.

Peter ran out and cried.  It took a lot of reassurance, even after the Resurrection, that Peter had been forgiven in order for him to embrace the notion that Jesus still loved him, just as we often fail to believe the Savior’s forgiveness is ours as well!


Only Luke gives us details of this third “quickie” trial, but all three Synoptics acknowledge it.  Mark 15:1 adds the word πρωῒ, a Greek word which means “first light.”  Matt. 27:1 uses a less classical Greek form of the word.  Luke 22:66—the most Gentile oriented of the three Synoptics—doesn’t use the word at all but just says “And when day came….”

The point is this:  the Council members are still pretending to be “good Jews” who must follow the Law and have a legal trial before they take Jesus to Pilate.  They cannot have a legal trial until there is light in the sky, and Mark’s word (“first light”) is the most precise.  We might think of it as “alpenglow,” the rosy light of the rising or setting sun.  

Matthew and Mark gloss over the trial because we already KNOW the charge which the Council is going to lay on Jesus.  John skips this step completely.  But Luke dedicates a few verses to this “legal” trial.  The most important is Luke 22:70 They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?”  He replied, “You say that I am.”  An exact translation is “You say that I am.”  But the meaning is “YES!”  This is an idiom—“BINGO, right on the money!  You bet I’m God!”

“Hi-ho, hi-ho, it’s off to Pilate we go!”  We passed the death sentence on him—now we have to figure out how to get Pilate to pass the death sentence.  And that won’t be easy!