“Now the chief priests and the whole of the Sanhedrin were looking for a false witness against Jesus so that they might put him to death. Yet, though many false witnesses came forward, none could be found until eventually two emerged.”
“Now the chief priests and the whole of the Sanhedrin were seeking a witness against Jesus to put him to death but none could be found, for though many bore false witness against him, none of the witnesses agreed.”
This is one of those areas where a harmony is extremely helpful in trying to sort out what was taking place. It is clear that the leaders in the Sanhedrin have already decided what the outcome of this trial is to be. At the same time, they are still going through the motions, trying to make this seem a legitimate trial. Realistically this could be explained on the basis that they wanted to discredit Jesus in the eyes of the Jewish people and likely they were trying to save face with the Romans by presenting Jesus as a tried and convicted man.
To do this, they entertained many false witnesses. You can almost imagine the chief priests rounding up their cronies and manufacturing stories against Jesus, twisting the truth to suit their own ends. Yet, something wonderful happens. The Sanhedrin sitting as judge and jury over Jesus cannot find two witnesses that agree on their stories. You can almost see the frustration in their faces as they bear the contrived stories of witness after witness (that they have sought out even!) who cannot agree on what they heard and saw.
So what is the big deal? Why bother finding witnesses who can corroborate each other’s stories? It is meant as a false trial anyway. Their goal was not to slap Jesus on the wrist nor was it to imprison him. Their goal was to see him dead and according to Jewish law, no person can be put to death unless on the testimony of two or three reliable witnesses (Numbers 35:30; Deuteronomy 17:6). They looked hard and wide and eventually found their witnesses, but it likely took some coaching. That is the significance of Matthew’s statement that eventually two emerged — they were looking for, as Mark points out, two false witnesses whose false accounts agreed with one another.
God is Truth and there is no darkness within him. The only way one can accuse the Lord of Truth is with the lies of the devil — false and manufactured — twisted realities to suit wicked ends. The bottom line is that while Truth can exist on its own, evil must have truth to twist and manipulate. Yet, how often we are guilty of allowing our ideas to be warped and twisted by the false witnesses out there in the name of tolerance or out of the fear of consequences if you speak truth in an unpopular way. The bottom line is that we must let our witness of Christ be visible and clear in this world around us, if we don’t, we are no less guilty than the procession of false witnesses that walked before this morning of Jesus’ trial.