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.
At daybreak the council of the elders of the people, both the chief priests and the teachers of the law, met together, and Jesus was led before them. “If you are the Messiah,” they said, “tell us.”
Jesus answered, “If I tell you, you will not believe me, and if I asked you, you would not answer. But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.”
They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?” He replied, “You say that I am.” Then they said, “Why do we need any more testimony? We have heard it from his own lips.”
Christ was now on his own. His guards were rough and cruel men, who enjoyed a bit of sport at the expense of their captives. No doubt they particularly enjoyed having fun with religion. After all, people were saying this man was a prophet. So why not blindfold him so he couldn’t see and play the “tell us who hit you” game with him? So, they mocked and beat him through the night.
When day came, Jesus, now badly dishevelled and bruised, was led before the council of chief priests and elders for what was supposed to be an investigation of the facts. Of course, it was nothing of the kind. They were not interested in knowing the truth, as Jesus pointed out to them in his opening response. No matter what he said they wouldn’t believe him. Nor would they engage in any meaningful discussion to establish the facts. They were simply looking to trap Jesus into saying something that would provide them with a pretence to have him condemned to death.
So Jesus didn’t answer their question in the way they expected. Instead he spoke of his identity in terms of his coming ascension back to heaven: “from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.”
It was a staggering claim for any mere mortal – as they believed Jesus to be – to make. He was claiming deity. Just to be sure they asked him: “Are you then the Son of God.” Christ replied, “You say that I am.” The phrase may seem ambiguous to us in English. But it wasn’t in the slightest ambiguous to those listening, as their subsequent response reveals. It was completely clear that Jesus was indeed claiming to be the Son of God.
They now had all they needed. For any man to claim to be the Son of God was serious blasphemy, deserving of death.
But Jesus wasn’t a man claiming to be the Son of God. He was the Son of God who had become a man and who now through his resurrection and ascension was going back to be with the Father. Already they had ample evidence of this. Soon they would have more. But their minds were completely closed to the truth. As far as they were concerned, further questions were unnecessary. Their so-called investigation was over. He deserved to die.
Most people, including me, would rightly refuse to believe any human being who claimed to be God. But that is not what we have in Christianity. In Christianity, God became man, the Word became flesh and lived for a time among us, and as John, one of the eyewitnesses was later to write, “We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth… No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in the closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.” (John 1:14, 18)