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Jesus's Trial, Part 3. The 5 Stages of Jesus’s Trial

“You shall not distort justice…Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, that you may live and possess the land which the Lord your God is giving you.”
(Deuteronomy 16:18a, 20)

This is the third of five articles discussing the events and circumstances of Jesus’s religious trial before the Jewish authorities. The purpose of these articles is to highlight the injustices done to Jesus during His religious trials, by demonstrating the various ways the religious establishment violated or loopholed God’s laws and their own rules in their efforts to execute Him.

The violations of the Law of Moses and the Mishnah as part of the case against Jesus took place over an extended time-period. These injustices occurred over the course of five distinct stages.

These five stages were:

  • The Conspiracy Against Jesus
  • The Arrest of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane
  • Jesus’s Preliminary Trial in the house of Annas
  • Jesus’s Nighttime Trial in the house of Caiaphas
  • The Sanhedrin’s Sunrise Condemnation of Jesus

The First Stage of Jesus’s Prosecution: The Conspiracy Against Jesus

The Conspiracy against Jesus began during His ministry when He chose to follow God’s commands instead of complying with the Pharisees’ system of rules. God’s commands instructed the Jews to love and serve people. The rulers’ rules were designed to generate control for them, which they then used to exploit others for personal gain (Matthew 23:14, 23-25).

The rulers continually challenged Jesus about His company and behavior. But Jesus reframed their questions, designed to trap him, and exposed the Pharisees for their hypocrisy. Jesus refused to be manipulated by their threats. This angered them. As Jesus’s popularity and influence grew because of His authoritative teaching and miracles, the Pharisees grew more and more afraid that He would take away their perceived control. But as they were powerless to destroy Him with their words, they began to conspire how they might literally destroy Him.

The conspiracy appears to have begun on a Sabbath, when Jesus healed a man with a withered hand (Matthew 12:9-15). Over time the conspiracy expanded to include the Sadducees and Caiaphas, the High Priest (John 11:47-57). It reached fever pitch after Jesus cleared the Temple of moneychangers (during His final Passover) and bested the priests and elders when they challenged Him in the Temple (Matthew 22-23). They plotted to kill Him but didn’t know how to do it without upsetting the people (Matthew 26:3-4).

Then something unexpected (to them) happened. Jesus’s disciple, Judas, offered to betray Jesus to them (Matthew 26:14-16). And so, they eagerly waited for the right opportunity to pounce.

But then Judas returned to them the night of Passover with alarming news. Jesus had identified him as His betrayer during their Seder meal together (Matthew 26:20-25; John 13:27, 30). Judas’s return was likely startling and sooner than expected. The sudden timing of this news possibly threw their plot into disarray.

Jesus forced their hand.

His identifying Judas as His betrayer and His awareness of their plot to kill Him threatened to expose them. If their intent became known prior to them executing their plan, it might undermine not only their conspiracy but potentially pose an immediate threat to their power. If word got out that the Pharisees and Sadducees were trying to murder the Man many believed to be the Messiah, the results could be catastrophic for them. So, even though it was the night of Passover (Nisan 15), their actions show that the religious authorities were desperate. Jesus had to be dealt with immediately and decisively. Despite being ill-prepared to try Him properly, the religious leaders acted swiftly and with great force.

Their haste and excess reveal the depth and magnitude of their fears.

The Second Stage of Jesus’s Prosecution: The Arrest of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane

Judas knew where Jesus was likely to be (John 18:2). He led a “large crowd [armed] with swords and clubs” (Matthew 26:47) to Jesus’s location in the dark a few hours after midnight. The crowd consisted of Judas and four distinct groups:

  • Chief Priests [Sadducees] (Luke 2:52), including the High Priest’s servant (Matthew 26:51)
  • Officers of the Temple (Luke 22:52) — Temple guards
  • Elders [Pharisees] (Luke 22:52)
  • a Roman Cohort (John 18:3) consisting of between a hundred and six hundred soldiers.

The presence of a Roman Cohort meant that a high level official or officials in the Sanhedrin requested its force, which would have to be granted from Pilate. Such a request would have required Caiaphas’s authorization. This also may explain why Pilate was awake and already in court so early in the morning (John 18:28). Pilate already knew about the arrest and anticipated the Jews were going to bring Jesus to him for execution.

The Roman Cohort’s presence also reveals the high level of fear that the religious leaders had concerning Jesus. They had to arrest Him immediately that night (because of Jesus’s identification of Judas as His betrayer) or risk news of their evil plot being exposed for all Israel to see. Such exposure could be disastrous for them. So, they took no chances and mustered the largest force they could summon.

Two additional reasons the cohort may also have been summoned were fear of Jesus’s power and His disciples’ loyalty. Judas would have heard the disciples express a willingness to fight to the death alongside Jesus (John 11:16).

The Pharisees and Sadducees may have feared Jesus’s miraculous powers. They had heard about His mighty acts and even witnessed some of them. Even though Jesus had never used His miraculous powers for violence against anyone, in their minds, a large force may be necessary to compete with such capability. Ironically, they would indeed experience a supernatural expression from Jesus, but be undeterred in pursuing their dastardly plot (John 18:6).

Also, the Jewish leaders were likely aware of the disciples’ fierce loyalty to Jesus and their willingness to fight and die for Him. The religious authorities may have felt that an insurmountable show of force in the form of a Roman cohort would be more than sufficient to prevent any attack or skirmish should things turn violent. This large show of force indicates that the Jewish leaders desired Jesus be arrested and brought before Pilate. They did not want to be accused of creating a riot that resulted in deaths, as this also could get them into hot water with the Roman authorities.

The Sadducees and Pharisees among the mob came to Jesus’s arrest to ensure nothing went wrong. But the priests and elders made up the Sanhedrin Council. This means that some of those who would later be Jesus’s judges and condemn Him to death were also probably among those who came to arrest Him. Even without the other circumstances surrounding Jesus’s prosecution, their involvement in His arrest strongly suggests that the verdict was predetermined and that the trial was rigged against Him.

The arresting forces did not bring a charge (as required by their laws). They only came to seize Jesus, fight Him and His disciples (if necessary), and leave. Even though they were required to state a charge when they seized Him, and He could have summoned twelve legions of angels to His defense (Matthew 26:53), Jesus submitted to their illegal arrest any way. He merely pointed out their lack of protocol and excessive force (Luke 22:52-53) and requested that they let His disciples go (John 18:8), which they granted.

The Third Stage of Jesus’s Prosecution: Jesus’s Preliminary Trial in the House of Annas

After Jesus was arrested, He was brought to the house of Annas for a preliminary trial in the dark morning hours, most likely around 3 A.M. John recorded what happened (John 18:12-14, 19-23). The purpose of this preliminary trial seems to have been to discover and/or manufacture a charge with which they could condemn Jesus. Annas was a former high priest, and the father-in-law to the sitting high priest. As mentioned above, Annas and his family made a handsome profit from the temple market and money changers.

It would have been extremely unusual (and against protocol) to bring an arrested man to Annas’s house for interrogation at this very early hour. The strangeness of this event suggests two things:

  • The fear and urgency the religious establishment felt for killing Jesus during Passover week before the crowds became aware of what they were doing.
  • The level of Annas’s involvement and powerful influence.

The entire operation seemed disorganized and confused. This was perhaps brought on by Jesus’s unexpected identification of Judas as His betrayer on the night of Passover. By identifying Judas, Jesus forced not only Judas’s hand, but also the Pharisees and Sadducees, who it seems were caught off guard by the timing of Judas’s revelation. They quickly improvised. But the hasty trials that followed were chaotic and jumbled. The same sense of hurry and disorder prevailed throughout Jesus’s religious trials.

But there were strategic purposes for taking Jesus to Annas’s house first.

  • It gave the priests extra time to gather the wider Sanhedrin to Caiaphas’s house. That they omitted Nicodemus and Joseph suggests that this also allowed them to select members who would give the “proper” verdict.
  • The priests might have hoped it would expedite Jesus’s trial before Caiaphas.
  • It gave them an opportunity to produce an actual charge which they could use to execute Jesus.
  • It gave them time to drum up witnesses to falsely accuse Jesus.

When Annas questioned Jesus about His teaching and disciples (John 19:19), he was trying to discover a crime with which he could charge Him. Jesus insisted on His legal rights under Jewish law. Instead of answering Annas’s questions designed to get Him to testify against Himself, Jesus reframed the issue. He reminded His accusers that He had always taught publicly and called for them to produce witnesses (which they were required by law to do) against Him (John 18:20-21).

For respectfully exercising His rights under the Mishnah, Jesus was struck and rebuked (John 18:22). After being hit, Jesus only replied, “If I have spoken wrongly, testify of the wrong; but if rightly, why do you strike Me?” (John 18:23).

Having failed to determine a concrete charge against Him, and with the Sanhedrin now gathered, Annas then sent Jesus to Caiaphas (John 18:24).

The Fourth Stage of Jesus’s Prosecution: Jesus’s Nighttime Trial in the House of Caiaphas

It was still the middle of the night when Jesus arrived at the house of Caiaphas, the sitting High Priest “where the scribes and elders [of the Sanhedrin] were gathered together” (Matthew 26:57).

This too, was unusual and out of protocol for criminal trials, for there were to be no trials involving capital law at night (Mishnah. Sanhedrin: 4:1); and the only place the Sanhedrin could officially convene for judicial business was in “The Chamber Hewn of Stones” located on the Temple grounds (Mishnah. Sanhedrin: 11:2). Therefore, Jesus’s trial was conducted at an illegal time and in an illegal location. What Caiaphas and his co-conspirators did would be like if a quorum of Supreme Court justices conducted a secret trial of capital consequences in the home of the Chief Justice at 4:00 in the morning.

By the time the illicit trial began, Jesus’s accusers still did not have a specific charge to bring against Him. Instead, Matthew tells us that “the chief priests and whole Council kept trying to obtain false testimony against Jesus so they might put Him to death” (Matthew 26:59).

Remarkably the religious leaders of the Jews were trying to get a conviction and death sentence before they had any evidence. This is the equivalent of breaking God’s Law in the Ten Commandments: “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13).

The Sanhedrin’s actions further reveal how ill-prepared the Sanhedrin was for this trial. Once again, they were surprised when Judas came to them a few hours after dark to tell them that Jesus was aware of their conspiracy. The scene that unfolded reiterates how none of these leaders expected to be trying Jesus at this time, until just before it began. A few hours earlier, when the members of the Sanhedrin reclined to lead their families through the Passover at their Seder meals, it is unlikely that they expected to be secretly trying Jesus in the house of Caiaphas at this late/early hour. They likely expected to be asleep or just waking up at this time.

Matthew and Mark describe how the priests brought forward many false witnesses (Matthew 26:59; Mark 14:55-56). This was another breaking of God’s Law in the Ten Commandments: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” (Exodus 20:16).

Under Jewish law, for there to be a conviction, there had to be two or more witnesses who testified against the accused (Deuteronomy 19:15). And their testimonies had to essentially agree in every detail; they could “not contradict one another” (Mishnah. Sanhedrin 5:2).

But despite their collusion, the twisted testimonies of their many false witnesses contradicted one another. And so, they were unable to manufacture their desired conviction.

At last, two witnesses came forward with similar (but importantly, not identical) accounts. Their accusations seemed to have been fixated on the Temple. This was promising to the Sanhedrin; crimes against the Temple was the lone area of Jewish law which Rome granted the Jews the authority of capital punishment. All other crimes with the penalty of execution at that time fell under Roman jurisdiction. Matthew and Mark appear to record a different witness.

The conflicting, and therefore dismissing, detail in their accounts was that one accuser testified that Jesus said: “I am able to destroy the temple” (Matthew 26:61), while the other testified that He said: “I will destroy this temple” (Mark 14:58). The specific charge these two false witnesses failed to corroborate was “Blasphemy against the Temple.” So, “Not even in this respect was their testimony consistent” (Mark 14:59).

For the record, outside of the accounts of these two false witnesses, there is no evidence that Jesus ever said either of these statements. He did say, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). Notice how Jesus did not say that He would or could destroy it, but rather He claimed that He could raise it if it were destroyed. Moreover, when He said this, He was referring to His body as “this temple” (John 19:21). So, it appears the false witnesses misquoted Jesus and tried to twist His statements into a capital offense. But even though they colluded to distort His words, they still failed to produce evidence sufficient to justify convicting Jesus.

This infuriated Caiaphas.

They were running out of time. Failure to convict, after marshaling a Roman Cohort and summoning the Sanhedrin in the middle of the night would not only be humiliating, it could be disastrous—even more disastrous than if the news of their conspiracy had leaked. If the conspiracy had leaked before they acted, the Sadducees and Pharisees could deny it and discredit anyone who presented evidence to the contrary. In this way they could hope things would blow over quickly.

But without a conviction, it would be practically impossible to explain away or deny such a conspiracy against Jesus after they had arrested Jesus with a Roman Cohort, in the middle of the night, and then questioned Him, and summoned witnesses against Him before the Sanhedrin. Caiaphas’s position as high priest, the public trust, and the Roman backing of the Sanhedrin were at stake. Apart from a conviction, it would be hard to imagine how Caiaphas, or the Sanhedrin, would be able to recover from such a scandal. Failure to convict Jesus was not an option for them. But despite their best, twisted efforts—failure was the very outcome now staring them in the face.

It was at this moment that Caiaphas intervened,

“The high priest stood up and came forward and questioned Jesus, saying, ‘Do You not answer? What is it that these men are testifying against You?’”
(Mark 14:60)

Even though the high priest presided over the Sanhedrin, it was unusual for him to leave his seat and approach the accused. Perhaps one reason Caiaphas did not feel bound to his seat was because the Sanhedrin was illegally meeting in his house, and not where its court proceedings were supposed to be held (which was in the Hall Hewn of Stones in the Temple). When Jesus gets officially tried there during the final stage of the religious prosecution against Him, it appears that the Sanhedrin prosecutors, and not Caiaphas, are the ones who address Him (Luke 22:66-71).

Caiaphas demanded that Jesus respond. Up to this point Jesus was exercising His legal rights to remain silent. According to Jewish law, it was incumbent upon the prosecution to prove the guilt of the accused. With their failed attempts to do this, Jesus had no reason to say anything. But Caiaphas was trying to get Jesus to speak and say something—say anything—that could illegally be used against Him and condemn Him.

Caiaphas’s interrogation of Jesus in this way broke several judicial laws.

First, a magistrate cannot be the prosecution arguing for conviction and also be a neutral judge who dispassionately weighs all the evidence for the same case. Any man who assumes both roles for the same case is unable to “do no injustice in judgment…[or to be able] to judge [his] neighbor fairly” (Leviticus 19:15). By acting as a prosecutor, Caiaphas disqualified himself from presiding as Jesus’s judge.

Second, a judge is supposed to ensure that the trial is run according to the law to ensure justice. And according to Jewish law, this meant evaluating evidence from witnesses. After the witnesses failed to bring any legitimate evidence against Jesus, a fair judge would have ended the trial with an acquittal. But instead of doing this, Caiaphas intervened and tried to manufacture evidence against Jesus while He was in court. The courtroom is the place to weigh cases of possible crimes. It is not supposed to be a place that tries to stage a crime so that a conviction can follow. But this is exactly what the High Priest did.

Caiaphas’s harassment of Jesus was another violation of Jewish legal law. The accused could not be asked to testify against himself in the Jewish court of law. Moreover, even if the accused did testify against himself in a capital case, his testimony was considered invalid (Mishnah. Yevamot 25b:2). (The rationale for this prohibition was because a person is considered his own relative and relatives were disqualified from providing testimony in cases pertaining to the persons of those they were related—Mishnah. Sanhedrin 3:4).

Jesus, “like a sheep that is silent before its shearers… did not open His mouth” (Isaiah 53:7). He continued to exercise His legal rights under Jewish law. He was both completely innocent and shrewdly silent in the midst of wolves (Matthew 10:16).

Exasperated, Caiaphas put Jesus under oath and legally ordered Him to answer his question. (The phrase “I adjure You” (Matthew 26:63a) is a way a plaintiff can put someone under oath and legally enforce their cooperation in providing testimony—Mishnah. Shevout 4:13):

“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.’”
(Matthew 26:63)

In an attempt to add weight to the oath under which Caiaphas was putting Jesus, he invoked “the living God”—the highest being in the Universe, who also happened to be the Man He was condemning—to force Jesus to answer him.

The question Caiaphas wanted Jesus to answer before the Sanhedrin was whether He was the Messiah and/or the Son of God. Caiaphas was apparently aware that Jesus acted as if He were the Messiah. He was also aware that the Messiah was called God’s Son.

But here at Jesus’s trial, Caiaphas hoped that if he could force Jesus to reveal the despised truth about His identity before the hostile Sanhedrin, then He would be condemned to death. The High Priest’s treacherous hopes would come to fruition.

Having been put under oath, Jesus finally spoke, and He answered truthfully.

In His response, Jesus said three things.

The first thing Jesus said to Caiaphas was: “You have said it yourself” (Matthew 26:64).

This expression both answered the High Priest’s question in the affirmative—it was an admission that He was both the Messiah and the Son of God; and it was a way of telling Caiaphas, “You said these words about Me,” implying that the reason Caiaphas was asking Jesus this question was because he feared that it was true.

The second thing Jesus said to Caiaphas was: “I am” (Mark 14:62).

This phrase also had a double meaning. On the surface it directly answered Caiaphas’s question with a short “Yes.” Jesus just confessed, “I am the Messiah and the Son God.” But He also confessed this by invoking the sacred name of “YAHWEH”—the name God used for Himself when He revealed Himself to Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3:14). The Jews considered it blasphemous to speak God’s name. And Jesus not only spoke God’s name, but He did so while claiming to be God. This would have been a blasphemous thing to say for anyone who was not God. But the Sanhedrin never investigated this claim. They simply presumed He was not.

The third thing Jesus said to Caiaphas was that “hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven” (Matthew 26:64; Mark 14:62).

The term “Son of Man” was a clear Messianic term. And it was one that Jesus often used to describe Himself.

(To learn more about the meaning of this term, see The Bible Says article: “Son of Man”)

Jesus was claiming that one day Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin would see Him as the Messiah sitting at God’s right hand and returning to earth with the armies of heaven. Jesus offered this future event as the final proof of His claims. God will exalt Him in due time (Isaiah 52:13; 53:12; Philippians 2:9-11). The risen Jesus is now seated on the throne at the right hand of God (Hebrews 12:2). He will return to earth to defeat His enemies and establish His kingdom (Revelation 19:11-21).

Jesus’s response was direct, unmistakable, and true. But it was also the kind of response Caiaphas was hoping to elicit. Not only did Jesus clearly and undeniably claim to be the Messiah and the Son of God, He did so with a juicy elaboration. Caiaphas pounced. With this statement, the high priest acted as though Jesus just committed the crime of blasphemy,

“Then the high priest tore his robes and said, ‘He has blasphemed!’”
(Matthew 26:65)

The tearing of garments was a sign of powerful emotion such as grief, mourning, and terrible lament. Relatives would tear the clothes they wore upon learning of a loved one’s death. But the high priests were forbidden to tear their robes (Leviticus 21:10b). The high priest’s robes were considered holy as the Temple was considered holy (Exodus 39:41).

For what it is worth, the Mishnah, however, seems to modify the Law of Moses; it allows the High Priest to rend “his garments from below when he is mourning” (Mishnah. Horayot: 3:5). But the Bible does not seem to grant any allowance for the priest to tear his robes.

Even if the Mishnah did allow for the High Priest to rend his garments, the genuineness of Caiaphas’s emotional outburst is highly questionable given the urgency with which he was desperately trying to condemn Jesus. In these circumstances, it seems more likely that he was ecstatic that Jesus finally said something which he could twist into a condemnation, however unlawfully. Therefore, his actions seem to be hypocritical and fake.

But whether he was genuine or not, this action was forbidden to his office as high priest according to the Law of Moses. Ironically, by tearing his holy garments in a display of outrage, Caiaphas appears to have committed the same crime that he and the Sanhedrin had been trying to condemn Jesus with for the past hour or more—Blasphemy against the Holy things of God’s Temple.

Moreover, up until this point in the entire conspiracy against Jesus, His enemies never had a specific charge they were able to prove with which to condemn Him. But at this moment, Caiaphas, manufactured one. And it was the High Priest himself who initiated the charge. As Jesus’s judge, this was against judicial protocol for him to do.

As soon as Caiaphas tore his robes, he addressed the Sanhedrin: “What further need do we have of witnesses? Behold, you have now heard the blasphemy; what do you think?” (Matthew 26:65-66a).

These questions along with Caiaphas’s judicial theatrics were an attempt to condemn Jesus on the basis of emotions and a political stunt, not the rule of law. Caiaphas’s question, “What further need do we have of witnesses?” had an intended meaning of “You have heard this blasphemy yourselves and now it is time to condemn.” But it also had another (and perhaps unintended) meaning: “Why do we need to follow the Law which requires two witnesses and forbids judges from being witnesses in the trials they adjudicate?” The High Priest, who was supposed to be the guardian and personification of order in the courtroom, was functionally asking the Sanhedrin to disregard the laws they were to follow.

What’s more, no one present among the Sanhedrin was willing to weigh the evidence of Jesus’s claims. Evidence would have shown that Jesus is who He claimed to be. However, these Jewish leaders blindly assumed that Jesus blasphemed, because that was their predetermined conclusion. They had prejudged that Jesus could not be who He claimed to be. This conclusion was based on their arrogant pride, bitter resentment, and blind hatred of Jesus.

Jesus’s judges never seemed to take into account the evidence for Jesus as the Messiah.

(See the Overlooking the Evidence violation in the next article)

The evidence supporting His claim includes:

  • His virtue in regard to the Law of Moses (Matthew 5:17)
  • His numerous signs and miracles which validated His claims (John 5:36)
  • His fulfillment of the Messianic prophecies (John 5:39)

Without weighing this evidence or regarding the Law they so highly prize, the Sanhedrin answered Caiaphas: “He deserves death!” (Matthew 26:66b).

In one fell swoop, Caiaphas had successfully persuaded the court to condemn Jesus in a frenzied rage with little regard for the law.

After lengthy interrogations, many false witnesses, and illegal improvisations; an unplanned, disorganized, secret trial based on a verdict without a crime finally achieved its goal,

“They all condemned Him to be deserving of death”
(Mark 14:64).

The Fifth Stage of Jesus’s Prosecution: The Sanhedrin’s Sunrise Condemnation of Jesus

After His illegal nighttime trial before the Sanhedrin, in the home of Caiaphas, Jesus was held in custody for a short time.

“Now the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking Him and beating Him, and they blindfolded Him and were asking Him, saying, ‘Prophesy, who is the one who hit You?’”
(Luke 22:63)

Matthew and Mark add that “they spat in His face,” “beat Him with their fists,” and “slapped Him” (Matthew 26:67; Mark 14:65). They taunted Him and mocked Him as “You Messiah” (Matthew 26:68) when they hit and blindfolded Him, jeering for Him to prophesy.

This abuse was unnecessary and unethical and illegal. Judges were to treat everyone humanely, including the justly condemned criminals in their custody. Many of the basic laws outlining God’s description for humane treatment are found in Leviticus 19:9-37. Foremost among these is the great commandment to “Love your neighbor as you love yourself” (Leviticus 19:18b). But the officers who held Jesus in their custody did not abide by the Law of Moses’s commands for ethical treatment of others when they spat in His face, beat Him, slapped Him, and jeered Him.

The reason they held Him in custody was because they had to wait until morning before they could “legitimately” try and condemn Him. Nighttime trials for capital cases were not permitted under Jewish law (Mishnah. Sanhedrin 4:1). They put Jesus on trial at the earliest possible moment, as soon as it was day. But with a charge and verdict already determined thanks to the trial at Caiaphas’s house, and a final script in hand, it would take little time to finish this legal formality.

Having already explained the illegal night-time trial in the house of Caiaphas, Matthew only summarizes the replayed events of the official sunrise trial: “Now when morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people conferred together against Jesus to put Him to death” (Matthew 27:1).

Luke tells us that “When it was day, the Council of elders of the people assembled, both chief priests and scribes, and they led Him away to their council chamber” (Luke 22:66).

Matthew’s phrase: “when morning came” (Matthew 27:1), and Luke’s phrase: “when it was day” (Luke 22:66) and Luke’s mention of the Sanhedrin’s relocation to the council chamber—the Chamber of Hewn Stones—indicates the priests and elders were mindful of at least some of the reasons that the trial they just performed was illegitimate. It was illegitimate for many reasons, but two glaring disqualifications that would not be easy to explain or hide were that it occurred at night and it took place in the house of Caiaphas, instead of the council chamber where it was required (Mishnah. Sanhedrin 11:2).

This daybreak trial in the council’s chamber was the Sanhedrin’s flimsy attempt to legitimize their illegal actions.

Despite their efforts at legitimacy, this trial was just as much of a sham as the circus-trial in the home of Caiaphas. The trial was pre-scripted. Once Jesus was brought to the council chamber and it was declared daytime, the court simply replayed the necessary moments it had functionally just rehearsed an hour or two before.

Without the distraction and delay of false witnesses, and the frantic need to discover a charge, this predetermined trial began just as the last one ended. Luke describes the scene:

The prosecution asked Jesus, “If you are the Christ, tell us” (Luke 22:67a).

Jesus answered the Sanhedrin by commenting on the unjust manner in which they were prosecuting Him: “If I tell you, you will not believe; and if I ask a question, you will not answer” (Luke 22:67b-68). After observing their blind hate toward Him, Jesus repeated how they would finally recognize Him as the Messiah: “But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God” (Luke 22:69).

Desiring a clearer answer for the conviction record, “they all said, ‘Are You the Son of God, then?’” (Luke 22:70a).

“And He said to them, ‘Yes, I am’”
(Luke 22:70b).

This was the response they were hoping for. Just as their leader, Caiaphas had said earlier, so too now the Council said: “What further need do we have of testimony? For we have heard it ourselves from His own mouth” (Luke 22:71).

Despite the fact that it was technically day and located in the proper council chamber, Jesus’s sunrise trial was no more legal than the ones that occurred at night a few hours earlier.

Other violations of Jesus’s sunrise trial:

  • It was dishonest and rigged to produce a quick condemnation.
  • It never called for any witnesses.
  • It illegally used Jesus’s words against Him.
  • There was no neutrality. Jesus’s prosecutors were His judges and His judges prosecuted Him.

Satisfied with their conviction, the religious authorities had successfully (but illegally) condemned Jesus to death. They immediately took Him to the Roman governor, Pilate, while it was still “early” (John 18:28) to have Rome execute Jesus. Under Roman law, the Jewish leaders were not allowed to condemn anyone to death. Having previously granted their request for a Roman cohort to arrest Jesus a few hours earlier, and aware of their urgency because of the holy day, the prefect was already up and waiting for them.

This concludes the third article in this series about Jesus’s Religious Trial.

 

For further reading about Jesus’s Trial:

The first article is: “A Simple List of Laws the Religious Authorities Broke during the Trial of Jesus.” This first article is a simplified version of articles four and five. Instead of describing each law in detail and explaining how it was violated during the prosecution of Jesus, this article simply lists the various laws broken by the priests and Pharisees during Jesus’s trials.

The second article is: “The Law of Moses, the Mishnah, and the Political Actors who Condemned Jesus.” It explains the two sources of Jewish law in Jesus’s day as well as introducing the key figures groups who prosecuted Jesus. These groups and individuals are: The Pharisees; The Sadducees; Annas; Caiaphas; and the Sanhedrin.

The fourth article is: “An Explanation of the Judicial Principles that were Violated in the Religious Prosecution of Jesus.” This article focuses on three general judicial laws and sacred principles found in the Torah and/or the Mishnah that Jesus’s judges either violated or loopholed in order to condemn Him.

The fifth article is: “An Explanation of the Laws of Practice that were Violated in the Religious Prosecution of Jesus.” This article focuses on fourteen areas of judicial practice and procedure that were detailed in the Torah and/or the Mishnah that Jesus’s judges either violated or loopholed in order to condemn Him.




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