Matt. 26:1 When Jesus had finished all these words, He said to His disciples, 2 “You know that after two days the Passover is coming, and the Son of Man is to be handed over for crucifixion 3 Then the chief priests and the elders of the people were gathered together in the court of the high priest, named Caiaphas; 4 and they plotted together to seize Jesus by stealth and kill Him. 5 But they were saying, “Not during the festival, otherwise a riot might occur among the people.”

           The “pious planners” must have been up all night. Judas left Jesus and the other disciples right after they shared the bread and wine earlier that night in the “Upper room.”  It must have been getting late.  How did the religious rulers get the word around so quickly?  Something leads me to believe this wasn’t completely spontaneous.  They didn’t have cell phones or autos, so someone had to really “hustle” to rouse everyone out of bed.  It appears this thing had been a long time in planning, a long time in coming. The rulers had been sneaking and conspiring for months.  Never adopting or following any honest procedure.  Always clandestine in their evil, cunning plotting.  So, when Judas came forward that was the catalyst for which they were waiting. 

            Think about it!  The most respected, trusted leaders…RELIGIOUS leaders…under cover of night.  Long before the ordinary workday began.  It’s worth noticing, I believe, how careful they were not to “step on a crack.”  My  mind is boggled over how “particular” and nit-picky they were over the very slightest regulation . . . and then ran roughshod over truth, justice, fairplay and their own established laws!  Jesus never had a chance.  Their minds had been made up long before Judas’ action. Their “end” result justified any cruelty or excess.  Proper procedure, regard for human rights?  Who cared? The objective was simply:  GET RID OF THIS TROUBLESOME PROPHET!!  In blind, red rage, they weren’t about to be stopped.

           And, please remember:  Here we aren’t talking about savages.  We aren’t talking about barbarians who cut off heads and leave people dead and dying.  We aren’t talking here about Adolph Hitler.  Or Saddam Hussein.  Or Atilla the Hun. Or Osama Bin Laden or their like.  We are witnessing acts of outrageous disregard for life and law BY THE RELIGIOUS AND CIVIL OFFICIALS who knew better.        

          That was one of the first things I noticed which, it seems to me, is certainly immoral or unethical if it isn’t illegal. It doesn’t ever appear that any kind of “warrant” was officially issued for Jesus’ arrest, or the relentless pursuit the object of their hatred.  

57 Those who had seized Jesus…Look at this!  They come out in the dark with swords and clubs. Big, bad, brave dudes when they work in the dark!  And in a pack.  Cowards.  Bullies.  Hypocrites. How disgusting!  Educated hoolligans.  Jesus had “nailed it” earlier when He said the Pharisees were like a polished white grave stone that gleamed in the sunlight, but concealed rottenness and corruption beneath the surfaceled Him away to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were gathered together. 58 But Peter was following Him at a distance as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and entered in, and sat down with the officers to see the outcome. 59 Now the chief priests and the whole Council A “called meeting?”  This time of night? IS THAT LEGAL? By whose authority was that decision made?  Based upon what law?   Got all of the “honchos” up and out of bed.  Could you have aroused them for anything else?  Wasn’t there a clear headed, right thinking person in the entire body? The decision had already been made.  Days before.  The deck was stacked against Jesus.  The outcome of the “trial” now was inevitable.  kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus, so that they might put Him to death. 60 They did not find any, even though many false witnesses came forward. But later on two came forward, 61 “and said, “This man stated, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God and to rebuild it in three days.’”

          That doesn’t sound like such a ‘big deal’ to me.  But they must have figured something out. They took it to mean He had some kind of God complex or something. Even though they’d gotten a liar, probably a ‘paid performer.’ to perjure himself.  You can’t conceal your contempt for such high and mighty authority.  Look back at that for a moment and examine it a little more closely.  Isn’t it illegal to solicit false witnesses?  Or bribe them?  Or intimidate them into perjuring themselves?   62 The high priest stood up and said to Him, “Do You not answer? What is it that these men are testifying against You?”  Consider this statement, and what he says next.  Does that sound like an illegal attempt to intimidate a witness, or unduly influence testimony?   Isn’t that illegal?  Doesn’t common decency or jurisprudence make provision that you are not required to answer questions or testimony which would incriminate you?  Does it also strike you as being a bit absurd?  How pompous!   How pretentious!  How stupid and evil!  Nothing Jesus had to say would make any difference, so He didn’t say anything. The old spiritual says: “He never spoke a mumbling word!”                                                                 You know, the more you look at this entire happening, the more you begin to wonder:  “WHO’S ON TRIAL HERE?” While the religious leaders are screaming and slobbering, looking like fools and fanatics. . . like a pumped up, distorted version of a Jerry Springer production, Jesus stands above the fray.  His calm, regal dignity intact.  And later, when a politician continuously wets his finger to see which way the prevailing public wind is blowing so he can determine what his position is. . . worrying, of course about his popularity falling in the polls!  What do you make of that?  Does it sound in any way like anyone about whom you’ve read or heard lately?            

          In that connection, have you prayed or hoped for statesmen of integrity to replace those who masquerade as politicians or leaders? Without stooping ever to their level. . . without dignifying false or ridiculous charges with even a reply. . . He did, indeed, seem less like the “defendant” and more like the Son of God.

63 But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest said to Him, “I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God.” 64 Jesus said to him, “You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you will see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN.” 65 Then the high priest tore his robes  such a drama queen!  Oh, wooo. I’m impressed! And said, “He has blasphemed! What further need do we have of witnesses? Behold, you have now heard the blasphemy; 66 what do you think?”  What an actor!! They answered, “He deserves death!” On cue!  Right on cue! This entire thing has been orchestrated! That is so obvious. 67 Then they spat in His face and beat Him with their fists; and others slapped Him, 68 and said, “Prophesy to us, You Christ; who is the one who hit You?”  Wouldn’t you think this is illegal? Does any law in any civilized society allow officers of the court to brutalize or ridicule or abuse a “defendant?” There is a total loss of any semblance of civility or dignity here.  Officers of the Court!  Heads of the Synagogue!  They should have known better!!  Behaving like animals! If you wonder how low a person can stoop, take a look.  If you ever wonder what “religion” is capable of, when not governed by law and love, take a look.  If you wonder what law is capable of doing when its conscience is seared and silenced, this is your answer.

          The entire ordeal strikes me as being uncivilized.  Can you imagine how they must have looked if someone had a hand-held camera, or a phone camera.  How outrageous!  You’ve seen people emotionally out of control in public.  They almost always make themselves look like fools.. 

Mark 14:43And immediately, while He yet spoke came Judas, one of the twelve, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. 44And he that betrayed Him had given them a sign, saying, “Whomever I shall kiss, that same is he. Take him and lead him away safely.”45And as soon as he had come, he went straightway to Him and said, “Master, Master!” and kissed Him. 46And they laid their hands on Him and took Him.   

            Wonder who “they” were.  Were  “they” legal officials?  Or religious “lackeys?”  Do you suppose “they” included the high-placed prelate, or was he too soft and proud to “get his hands dirty?”  They “laid hands on Him.”  I doubt seriously if that is a gentle, polite gesture.  They grabbed Him.  Roughed Him up. It set the pattern for what would be happening for the next few hours. 

            When I read this part of the account, the question occurred to me: Did they have a warrant for an arrest? We already know there’s no such thing in play here as “Miranda Rights.”  But are these “vigilantes” acting legally in the first place.  Bribiing witnesses.  False accusations. 

             Everyone who’s studied history is aware of their respect for “The Law.”  That, and their belief in monotheism (Only One God, as opposed to a Heinz 57 variety of deities worshipped by other nations.). The other main party to this travesty was the local expression of the Roman Government.  The one that was so mighty and so successful in building an empire, constructing a sophisticated system of roads?  Yes, that Rome.  The same country noted for developing a system of jurisprudence which still serves today as a basis for government?  Yes that Rome!   Are you asking me to believe that the cream of society stooped to this level of barbarism? 

            You might, with good reason, suspect a Hitler, or a Sadam Hussein, or one of Bin Laden’s fanatical devotees use such tactics.  But a Jewish High Priest?  A responsible, educated public official?

            They were trying to build a case AFTER they had already arrived at a verdict.  Is THAT legal?   Verse 55 says “they sought for witnesses against Jesus to put Him to death, and found none.”  As you look this over, can you take a few moments to consider these questions? 

 1.    How many actual breaches of law or ethics or common decency can you identify during the process?

2.    Which of the revered Ten Commandments were broken?

3.    On appeal, what do you think the chances would be of gaining one and having the entire fiasco thrown out on appeal if heard by an honest judge with integrity?

4.    Do you “get it” that Jesus’ death was caused primarily because of the same kinds of sin we commit today and by the kinds of people who, even to this day, may stand in places of            religious and political leadership?

5.    Have you personally answered some of the compelling questions which came up during the trial?  Namely:  Who are you?   Are you the Christ?  What shall I do with Jesus who is          called the Christ?                                                                                                             

You have a lot hanging on your answers.   

God’s servant, your friend and fellow student 



One response to “WHO’S ON TRIAL HERE?

  1. I think the trials complied with the substantive and procedural criminal law in effect at the time. Both trials were basically legal- no major error in law justifying a reversal on appeal. I think it was unjust but not illegal. Why? It was not in the public interest to prosecute this man, even though the evidence was sufficient to obtain a conviction. A claim to equality with God is prima facie blasphemy. Prima facie means there’s enough evidence justifying a prosecution that forces the defendant to answer certain charges. The only real defense is that you are divine. That’s a tough defense to prove. It is not a reasonable doubt situation. Indeed, reasonable doubt does not appear to be the Jewish standard for acquittal. That defense probably had to be proven by the defendant on a balance of probabilities or more likely proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Miracles including raising the dead won’t prove it since such powers are capable of being “delegated” from the divine for sure and probably the demonic. Such delegated power would normally mean a subordinate status- the defendant was something less than divine. Inherent, not delegated, power over life and death might prove it. Jesus once claimed that power, the power to raise himself from the dead without any reference to aid from the Father (John 2:19), but that claim is not repeated anywhere else in the New Testament. It is always the Father raised him, not that he raised himself. In any event, that defense could only be demonstrated after an execution.

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