The Lord shall scatter thee among all peoples, and shall give thee there a trembling heart, and thy life shall hang in doubt before thee, and thou shalt fear night and day. Deut. 28: 64.



Demolished as a body politic; no longer an organized power, horribly cut down in number, festering with the memory of their appalling subversion, homeless, friendless, forlorn, the entire people, by squads and in various directions, began those world-wide wanderings that as yet have not ended.  And as they began, so have they continued, for all along the way what calamities!  Constantine outlawed them, cut off their ears, and dispersed them as vagabonds.  Justinian excluded them from the provisions of his civil code, abolished their synagogues, made them incapable of bearing testimony, and deprived them of the right of bequeathing property.  The earliest legislation in France was an ordinance against them.  Even Magna Charta legalized an act of injustice toward them.  In the German States they were reckoned the slaves of the emperor, and were enormously taxed and plundered.  In most countries they were prohibited from owning land, and were excluded from universities and schools.  Seven times they were expelled from France.  At one time every Jew in England, without distinction of age or sex, was imprisoned, and their wealth confiscated to the Exchequer. Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury, prohibited all Christians from selling to them the necessaries of life.  At another time, fifteen thousand were expelled from that country, and were not allowed to return for about four hundred years.  At York, fifteen hundred perished by mutual slaughter, including women and children, because they were denied their lives at any price.  In Spain one hundred and seventy thousand families were driven forth at one time in circumstances of atrocious cruelty.  And how they are dealt with in Russia our own eyes have seen.  But, enough: these specimens may suffice.  A universal treatment they have received so cruel and disastrous, it was estimated two hundred years ago that at that time the whole number of Jews in the world was not more than three millions.



Look back now and behold them.  Despised, slain, starved, enslaved, banished.  They glutted the slave markets of imperial Rome, the sword has devoured them by millions, famine has destroyed them by myriads, and the contumely of sixty generations has deluged them, the whole world has been choking them with “the wormwood and the gall”.  Long, long have been the wanderings of the tribe of the weary foot, and, scattered from one end of the earth to the other, everywhere, “from Moscow to Lisbon, from Japan to Britain, from Borneo to Archangel, from Hindostan to Honduras”, fleecing, violence, massacre, banishment, hunger, thirst, and want of all things, have dogged them as their shadow; the desert breath of scandal has shrivelled them, the bloodhounds of hate have yelped at and torn them in pieces.  They have had “a trembling heart, and fear day and night, and no assurance of life”: the infamy of mankind, “the one proverb common to the whole world”.



And yet, despite it all, a people ineffaceable they remain; as much apart from all others as when, amid their prowess under Joshua, the sun stood still upon Gibeon, and the moon in the valley of Ajalon.  A full end has been made of their ancient enemies.  “The Egyptians, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Romans, have not a single representative on earth;” but the commonwealth established by Moses has even now its patriot representatives overspreading the world, who, in spite of “the deep damnation” of their eighteen hundred years of earth-wide scattering and consumption and torture, are to-day as strong in the principle of political unity, as was Samson in muscular grip when he rent the roaring lion before him as he would have rent a kid.  The Jew is the miracle of mankind.



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It is most wonderful to see the critical and supreme encounter between Christ and the official heads of God’s chosen people, officials who were acting, with unchallenged power and authority, on behalf of the only nation in the world that stood for Jehovah.  The nation that possessed the Temple, and the Priests of Jehovah, and a line of Prophets for centuries, was face to face with One claiming to fulfil all the prophecies of the Messiah who was to come; and we see the marvellous encounter, step by step and word for word, as Israel made official and (for two millenniums) final contact with the Son of God.



First we see the Court before which our Lord was brought.  The Sanhedrin, consisting of seventy leaders of Israel, stood for the seventy Elders whom Moses summoned (Num. 11: 6) at the command of God; and it consisted of three houses.  The first house, the House of Lawyers, with whom was the power of life and death, was dissolved with the coming of the Romans, who refused capital punishment to the Jews.  The second house was the House of the Chief Priests, consisting of the heads of the twenty-four priestly families, together with certain Temple officials, and presided over by the High Priest; and all its members were called ‘chief priests’. The third house was the House of the Elders, representatives of the leading Jewish families, together with Rabbis of note.  These two last houses - so often called in Scripture ‘the Chief Priests and Elders’ - constituted the Court before which our Lord was tried.



Now the lawlessness of the trial at once provides a startling background for the radiant form of Christ.  The Law decreed that no trial must occur before sunrise; the accused must have an advocate, and be allowed witnesses; and no death sentence must be passed on the day of trial: here, the court sat before sunrise; the Accused was given no advocate, and allowed no witnesses; and the death sentence was passed on the day of trial.  No star-chamber was more lawless.



The heart of the whole scene at once reveals itself.  For the High Priest, after various suborned witnesses had failed to establish a case, conceives a master-question which, he believes, will compel the Prisoner to incriminate Himself.  It was a question which centred its whole weight on the heart of the claims of Christ: the High Priest had a perfect right to put it: it was, in his person, the whole of Israel cross-examining Jesus on the one vital point: it was, in the Law of Jehovah itself, a question of life and death.  Caiaphas puts the question: - “ART THOU THE SON OF GOD?” (Luke 22: 70).



But the matter is still more momentous.  The High Priest, deliberately and of set purpose, puts our Lord under oath; which he had a perfect right to do as the official representative of Jehovah; and no oath was ever uttered under circumstances so solemn, or on a question of fact so momentous.  So also our Lord, who had been hitherto silent, instantly responds; and by doing so accepts the alternative of either the truth or perjury.  Four times Jesus had been silent - once earlier before Caiaphas, once before Herod, and twice before Pilate: now, when it is no longer a matter of false accusations, but the challenge of the greatest of all truths, He speaks. Caiaphas says:- “I adjure thee” - I put you under oath - “by the living God” - the most solemn conceivable oath - “that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God” (Matt. 26: 63).  The Law said:-  “If anyone sin, in that he heareth the voice of adjuration” - he is put under oath - “if he do not utter it” - his witness - “then he shall bear his iniquity” (Lev. 5: 1) - silence is guilt.  So the High Priest, solemnly and officially, forces a confession, under oath, which will settle the controversy for ever: he directly charges home the fearful question, “Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed



The answer of the Lord could not be more explicit.  “And Jesus said” - returning Messiah’s official answer to the official challenge of God’s People, and speaking to the official leaders of Israel - “I AM” (Mark 14: 62). Here, in court, at the critical moment, in response to the legal examination of the only body authorized by God to put the question, and under oath; knowing that He was pronouncing his own death-sentence, by His answer; our Lord deliberately reaffirms the truth which is the one basis of the Christian Faith, a truth which revolutionizes all time and eternity: “I AM”.  And the Lord Jesus makes it still clearer by immediately appropriating to Himself prophecies of the triumphal return of the Messiah.  The prophecies ran thus:-  “The Lord saith unto my lord, Sit thou at my right hand” (Ps. 110: 1); and in Daniel (7: 13) – “There came with the clouds of heaven one like unto a son of man, that all the peoples, nations and languages should serve him Our Lord combines them both in what He now says of Himself.  “And ye shall see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming with the clouds of heaven  It is the plainest possible statement of the Divine Messiahship, and an indispensable basis of the new birth.  “Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God abideth in him, and he in God” (1 John 4: 15).



The effect of our Lord’s utterance it is impossible to exaggerate.  “And the high priest rent his clothes, and saith, What further need have we of witnesses?  Ye have heard THE BLASPHEMY  The Jews had plainly asserted (John 10: 33) that in saying He was the Son of God - “Thou, being a man, makest thyself God”.  They now can scarcely trust their ears that He, so deeply humiliated and already death-sentenced, could make such an assertion.  We little realize the fearful issues at stake.  “And they all condemned him to be worthy of death”, and in passing the death-sentence on blasphemy, they were acting strictly according to the Law, if blasphemy had been committed.  “He that blasphemeth the name of Jehovah, he shall surely be put to death; all the congregation shall certainly stone him” (Lev. 24: 16).  So therefore if our Lord could have denied Caiaphas’ challenge; or if He could have so softened down the High Priest’s expressions – “Messiah, the Son of the Blessed” - that they should not imply Godhead; it would not only have saved His life to do so, but if He was not God, it was the only truthful, honourable, righteous answer to give.  On the contrary, the sole count on which our Lord was condemned was nothing witnessed against Him, but His own simple statement of the truth of His Deity.



So now we face the outstanding consequences in all their fearful import.  (1) The whole scene proves in what sense Caiaphas used the expression ‘the Son of God’ on his own testimony - he had it carefully in mind when he put his challenge; and therefore it equally proves in what sense our Lord also uses the expression, for He is deliberately answering him: both meant Godhead, or it would not have been blasphemy.  And (2) there is an even more fearful consequence.  If our Lord is not God, He was guilty of blasphemy; but, on the other hand, it equally follows that if He was not guilty of blasphemy, He is God, and therefore everyone to-day who either praises Him or disparages Him, but who at the same time denies His Deity, is doing exactly what the Sanhedrin did - charging Him with blasphemy; and, in consequence - since our Lord spoke the truth - is guilty of actual (though unintentional) blasphemy himself.



A symbolic action of the highest significance closes the scene.  The High Priest did that which was strictly forbidden to a priest - he rent his clothes.  The command to priests was:-  “Neither rend your clothes, that ye die not, and the Lord be not wroth with all the congregation” (Lev. 10: 6): that is, it endangered the death-penalty.  The Old Testament symbolism depicted the High Priest’s robes as a picture of a perfect righteousness under the Law; and to tear up the robe was to despair of justification under Law, and to confess oneself a lost sinner.  This is exactly what Caiaphas unconsciously did; and what we all, sooner or later, must do; for Grace robes where Law makes naked.  Our very doubt was blasphemy, and our righteousness was tattered rags. But this is our salvation.  “HE hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, HE hath covered me with the robe of righteousness” (Isa. 61: 10).



It is amazing to find Israel’s stubborn refusal of our Lord’s own testimony, no less stubborn nineteen centuries after.  “If we can imagine says Mr. C. G. Montefiore (Hibbert Journal, July, 1937), “that Christianity had, from the beginning, taken up a rigidly Unitarian position, if Jesus had only been regarded as the perfect man, the perfect teacher, the revealer of the inmost nature of God, it is doubtful whether any bitter antagonism from the side of the synagogue would have arisen or have continued.  The Divinity of Christ, and then the Trinity, were insuperable obstacles  How our Lord could have been the perfect man, and much more the perfect teacher, and yet - according to the Sanhedrin itself - have been executed for blasphemy, is not explained: the assertion is (as we have seen) itself blasphemy.



And the iron hand of the Sanhedrin once more threatens the Holy Land.  Dr. W. M. Christie writes from Haifa to the British Weekly (Aug. 12, 1937):-  “We cannot conceal that the present struggle is not only for the elimination of the ‘Arab’, but also of things Christian.  In this connection we were astounded a few days ago when we found in a Hebrew Prayer Book, printed in Jerusalem, two ancient prayers that had caused trouble with the Christians in past ages, and which had been toned down, are now reprinted in their most offensive forms.  The first of these is called ‘Birkath ham Minim’ and we translate: ‘And to the Minim (early Christians, especially Jewish) and to the slanderers, let there be no hope, and let all the insolent perish in a minute: and all thy enemies and all thy haters, let them be speedily cut off; and let the kingdom of wickedness be rooted out, broken, brought to shame, and humiliated, speedily in our days.  Blessed be Thou, 0 Lord, breaking enemies and humiliating the Christians.’  Now every Jew who reads or recites this prayer to-day has without the smallest doubt the thought in his mind that he is praying against the Christians



D. M. PANTON (Vol. 14.  1937-38