Then the high priest stood up and said to Jesus, “Well, aren’t you going to answer these charges? What do you have to say for yourself?” But Jesus remained silent. Then the high priest said to him, “I demand in the name of the living God—tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.”
Jesus replied, “You have said it. And in the future you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
Then the high priest tore his clothing to show his horror and said, “Blasphemy! Why do we need other witnesses? You have all heard his blasphemy. What is your verdict?”
“Guilty!” they shouted. “He deserves to die!”
Then they began to spit in Jesus’ face and beat him with their fists. And some slapped him, jeering, “Prophesy to us, you Messiah! Who hit you that time?” (Matthew 26:62–68 NLT)
When Jesus was before the entire Jewish high council, Caiaphas, the high priest, was looking for some pretext under which he could be rid of Jesus for good. Caiaphas wanted to kill him, but he was looking for a way to offload that responsibility onto the Romans. For their kangaroo court, they went so far as to find men who would testify falsely against Jesus, either outright lying about the things he said or misconstruing his intent. Jesus’s response to these false witnesses is silence.
He would have been justified in attempting to correct his accusers on the salient points of their testimony, but he also knew any defense he mounted in his favor would have been disregarded or twisted to further the agenda of the council. Jesus’s self-control in this situation was rooted in the knowledge of who he is. He also knew he was exactly where he needed to be as he made his way to the cross.
Yet when the high priest demands, in God’s name, for Jesus to answer the most basic truth about who he is, he no longer holds his tongue. This, too, was self-control. As we noted a few days ago, self-control is not simply about inaction in the face of temptation, it is measured action in all things. Jesus’s answer to Caiaphas’s accusation concerning his identity got right to the center of things: it told everyone present the truth of his identity and even went one step further to equate the Messiah – and by proxy, himself – as being equal with God.
It’s more than likely the religious leaders here were operating under the common first-century assumption the Messiah would be a king who sat on David’s earthly throne, kicking out the Romans and ushering in a new age of prosperity and self-governance. All they needed from Jesus was a confession that he was planning to overthrow Rome. Rather than beat around the bush and allow this farce of a trial go on longer than it needed to, Jesus cut through all the extraneous bits. Not only did he give them their desired confession, but he went one step further and announced his divinity.
Throughout his trial, his questioning by Pilate, his torture, and even his time on the cross, Jesus displays immense self-control. Flowing directly out of his intimate connection with the Holy Spirit, Jesus’s self-control was rooted in his knowledge of who he is: the Messiah, the Son of Man come to take away the sins of the world, the Word made flesh, the second person of the Trinity.
Is your self-control – and on the larger scale, your personhood – rooted in a similar manner? Do you reside within the knowledge you are beloved by God as his child? Do you cling to the fact the Holy Spirit dwells within you? Do you find joy that Jesus chose you to serve among his representatives in this world?