Theme: On trial in a case of life or death.
This weeks lessons show that we are the ones on trial.
Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, 60 but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward
No single gospel writer gives a complete account of Jesus’ trial, but we can put together what they report to create a comprehensive picture of what happened. Concisely put, there were four events: 1) the arrest, 2) the Jewish trial, 3) the Roman trial, and 4) the execution. But each of the two trials, the Jewish and the Roman, had three parts.
1. The Jewish trial.1 The first part of the Jewish trial was a preliminary hearing before Annas. This seems to be what John describes in his gospel (John 18:19-23), though the issue is confused due to his calling both Annas and Caiaphas “the high priest.” The reason is that Annas was the true high priest, appointed for life as high priests were. But the Romans had replaced him by Caiaphas, the son-in-law of Annas, so that both held the title at the same time. Jesus was questioned at this preliminary hearing to see if there were grounds for bringing a formal charge against him, but the effort was frustrated because Jesus refused to answer questions, This phase of the trial ended when Annas gave up and sent him to Caiaphas.
The part of the trial conducted before Caiaphas was the significant trial. Therefore it is the one reported by Matthew and the other Synoptic writers (Matthew 26:57-68; Mark 14:53-65; Luke 22:54). It concluded that Jesus had committed blasphemy and determined that he should be put to death.
The third and last phase of the Jewish trial was a formal hearing before the entire Sanhedrin at daybreak. It is described in Matthew 27:1, Mark 15:1, and Luke 22:66-71. This formality was necessary because Jewish law did not allow night trials, and the verdict of the previous evening was inadequate by itself. At this hearing the pertinent questions of the previous night were reiterated and an official judgment was secured. From the stone hall of the Sanhedrin Jesus was sent to Pilate whose concurrence was needed if Jesus was to be executed.
2. The Roman trial. The Roman trial also had three parts. First, there was a prearranged appearance before Pilate, which is described in all four gospels (Matthew 27:2, 11-14; Mark 15:1; Luke 23:1; and John 18:28-38). At this appearance the anticipations of the Jewish leaders were frustrated, for rather than proceeding with a pro forma trial and judgment, which the leaders seem to have been expecting, Pilate suddenly reopened the case and tried to free the prisoner.
The second phase of the Roman trial occurred when Pilate learned that Jesus was a Galilean and tried to escape responsibility by sending Jesus to Herod, since Herod had jurisdiction over Galilee (Luke 23:-12).
Herod was not fooled by Pilates ploy. He sent Jesus back to Pilate, which meant that the third and final phase of the Roman trial was a second appearance before the Roman governor. At this phase of the trial Jesus was condemned to death even though he had done nothing wrong and had already been pronounced innocent by Pilate. John says that Pilate did this three times, declaring: “I find no basis for a charge against him” (John 18:38; 19:4, 6). This was the significant part of the Roman trial, and for this reason it also is reported by each of the gospel writers (Matthew 27:15-26; Mark 15:6-15; Luke 23:13-25; John 18:39-19:16).
1 Atlanta: The Harrison , 1956, p. xvi. Much of the following is taken from a more extensive handling of the Jewish trial in James Montgomery Boice, John: An Expositional Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1999), vol. 5, pp. 1383.
Name the three phases of Jesus’ Jewish trial.
Name the three phases of Jesus’ Roman trial.
What did Pilate think about Jesus?
In order to get a clearer picture of Jesus’ trial, make a chart or diagram of the cast of characters and the role each played. Include Annas, Caiaphas, Pilate, and Herod. Refer to all four gospels to gather as much information as you can. Pertinent passages from each gospel are mentioned in today’s lesson.
Jesus was condemned to death even though he had done nothing wrong.