The Trial Before Annas

The high priest then asked Jesus of His disciples and of His doctrine. Jesus answered him: "I have spoken openly to the world, I have always taught in the synagogue and in the Temple whither all the Jews resort, and in private I have spoken nothing. Why askest thou Me? Ask them who have heard what I have spoken to them; behold, they know what things I have said." And when He had said these things, one of the officers standing by gave Jesus a blow, saying: "Answerest Thou the high priest so?" Jesus answered him: "If I have spoken ill, give testimony of the evil; but if well, why strikest thou Me?" And Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas, the high priest. - John 18:19-24

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1. This preliminary trial still shows Our Lord in all His dignity. He knows that Annas has no real jurisdiction over Him; therefore He gives him no direct answer. More than that, Annas inquires first of Our Lord's disciples, as if he would gladly involve them in the ruin of their Master. Here, in deed, for us English Catholics, is an anticipation of those attempts at involving others by cross-examination of our martyrs with which their records are full. But Our Lord sets the example of a model answer. He does not deny that He has followers; indeed, all the world are His followers; He points to all those who have listened to Him "in the synagogue and the Temple"; of His very own He says nothing; of those whom His Father had given Him He has not lost any one.

2. The answer is exasperating, precisely because it is so true. It is triumphant, and therefore to the vanquished it appears as an impertinence. So does it appear to this court. "And when He had answered these things, one of the officers standing by gave Jesus a blow, saying: Answerest Thou the high priest so?" No doubt Our Lord had been struck already since the affair in the Garden; but this is the first blow of His life that is recorded. We hear it fall; we see the livid marks it leaves upon His face; we know that from henceforth those blue stripes will be there. As we look we recall the words of the greatest of heathen philosophers. When he describes his ideal of a man, he says that he will have a great heart which will endure bravely great misfortunes, will accept even shame with equanimity. But there he draws the line; he says there is one shame which no great man will accept; to accept it, he says, marks a feeble soul; he will not endure to be struck in the face. Yet here Our Lord endures it! One may say with truth, that blow marks the boundary line between paganism and Christianity; the line where paganism stops and Christianity goes forward.

3. The blow has fallen; there follows a solemn silence; for the moment all there present, soldiers, and high priest, and on lookers alike, are awed by this wanton act of shame. They feel that they have overstepped all bounds. And in the midst of the silence is heard the solemn rebuke: "If I have spoken ill, give testimony of the evil; but if well, why strikest thou Me?" But they have now waded too deep; they will not go back. They break up the assembly; they pack off the Prisoner to another court; themselves they slink away like whipped curs, as a sinner slinks away when he has done a deed of shame, and in the very act his conscience rises up and rebukes him.


1. Our Lord's defence of Himself and of His own.

2. The blow He received; the dividing-line between paganism and Christianity.

3. The rebuke which followed it, making the sinner ashamed.

- from The Crown of Sorrow, by Archbishop Alban Goodier