posted by Phil Johnson
The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive. The following excerpt is from "Christ Before Annas," a sermon preached on a Thursday evening (26 October 1882), and first published posthumously in 1903. Spurgeon preached this sermon as part of a series he intended to have published under the title Our Lord's Passion and Death. The book was finally published in 1904, some twelve years after Spurgeon's death.
"They led him away to Annas first" (John 18:13).
ho was this man, to whose palace the Lord Jesus was first conducted? He was a man who had been high priest actually for a time, and had, for some fifty years, been regarded as high priest by the Jews, while members of his family, one after another, had in turns nominally held the office.
The high-priesthood had been degraded from its permanence to become little more than an annual office, and hence the evangelist significantly says of Caiaphas that "he was the high priest that same year." But Annas would seem to have been secretly regarded by the Jews as the real high priest, and respect to him in that capacity was the more easily offered because, according to Josephus, five of His sons, and his son-in-law, Caiaphas, had succeeded him in the sacred office. To him, then, it was due that the victim of the priests should be first taken; he shall have this mark of distinction: "they led him away to Annas first." The Sacrifice of God, the Lamb of his passover, the Scapegoat of the Lord's atonement, shall be brought before the priest, ere he be slain.
The house of Annas was united to that of Caiaphas, and it was proposed to detain the prisoner there till the Sanhedrim could be hastily convened for his trial. If he should be brought into the palace of Annas, the old man would be gratified by a sight of Jesus, and by conducting a preliminary examination, acting as deputy for his son-in-law. Without leaving his own house, he could thus indulge his malice, and have a finger in the business.
Priestly hate is ever deep and unrelenting. To-day, none are such enemies of Christ's holy gospel as those who delight in priestcraft, and it is not without prophetic meaning that our Lord must be led, as a prisoner, first to a priest's house: "they led him away to Annas first." Not in the soldiers' barracks, nor in the governor's hall, but in the high priest's palace must Jesus meet with his first captivity: there it is that a Christ in bonds seems not altogether out of place.
"See how the patient Jesus stands,
Insulted in His lowest case!
Sinners have bound the Almighty hand,
And spit in their Creator's face."
Annas bore a very promising name, for it signifies clement or merciful, yet he was the man to begin the work of ensnaring the Lord Jesus in his speech, if he could be ensnared. He examined him first in a semi-private manner, that, by cunning questions, he might extract from him some ground of accusation. Under pretence of mercy, he turned inquisitor, and put his victim to the question.
This priest, whose name was clemency, showed the usual tender mercies of the wicked, which are proverbially cruel. When Jesus is to be ill-treated in his servants, there is usually a presence of pity and compassion. Persecutors are grieved to feel forced to be harsh; their tender spirits are wounded by being compelled to say a word against the Lord's people! Fain would they love them if they would not be so obstinate! With sweet language, they inflict bitter wounds; their words are softer than butter, but inwardly they are drawn swords.
If I read aright the character of this man Annas, he was one of the Savior's bitterest enemies. He was a Sadducee. Is not this the "liberal" side? Do we not reckon Pharisees to be the straitest sect of the Jews? Why he should have been so bitter against the Savior, is pretty clear, since, if Pharisees, in their multiplication of ceremonies and self-righteousness, hate the Christ, so also do the Sadducees, in their unbelief and rejection of the great truths of revelation.
Here, Ritualism and Rationalism go hand in hand, and the free-thinker, with all His profession of liberality, usually displays none of it toward the followers of the truth. The Broad Church is usually narrow enough when the doctrine of the cross is under discussion.
Whether this Sadducee had an interest in the sales that were effected in the temple, and whether, as some suppose, he was greatly irritated, and touched in a very tender point, namely, in his pocket, when Jesus overthrew the tables of the money-changers, and the seats of them that sold doves, I cannot tell; but, certainly, for some reason or other, Annas was among the first of our Lord's persecutors, not only in order of time, but also in point of malice.
The wealthy latitudinarian has a fairest enmity to the gospel of Christ Jesus, and will be found second to none in hunting down the adherents of Christ.