The Jewish Sanhedrin was designed to intimidate.
By the time of Christ, the Sanhedrin had become a pseudo-religious wing of the Roman government.
Initially a gathering of 70 elders called by Moses according to the advice of his father-in-law Jethro to help rule the nation of Israel as a theocracy, it had become a powerful wealth-gathering machine by Jesus’ day. The Sanhedrin only pretended to rule according to God’s Word. The pretense was designed to keep the peace in Jerusalem, a known hotbed of discontent among the Roman empire. More than that, the religious pretense was designed to protect the vast income derived from selling sacrificial animals on the Temple Mount, and from the currency exchange required of all individuals to pay their temple tax. Roman coins had to be exchanged for Temple money in order to make contributions – and the exchange rate was purposed to earn income for the members of the Sanhedrin.
At the time of Jesus, Annas, (the High Priest emeritus,) was the wealthiest man in the nation of Israel. The protective nature of the Sanhedrin had much to do with Jesus being put to death by their ‘ruling.’ They were simply protecting their ‘turf’ from Jesus – or anyone else for that matter – who would seek to change the peoples’ minds about whose authority they (the Sanhedrin) ruled by.
Jesus called them “hypocrites,” and publicly accused them of the type of thievery and misrepresentation of God that violently aroused their attention and violence toward Him. He overturned the tables of their money-changers, and drove out their sellers of sacrificial animals.
This is the group we find Peter and John arrested by and called to trial before. This is a very threatening position for two fishermen from Galilee. They both knew the Sanhedrin was unfavorably disposed to their cause, and they both knew unless they were very careful the Sanhedrin would have them put to death by the Romans as they had Jesus.
That Peter and John responded with such boldness at every phase of their trial is a great lesson and example to each of us. It is never men but Satan who challenge the authority of the Word of God. But the Word of God has power to save…even the Sanhedrin. (From themselves.)