Summary: The civil trial of Jesus in Luke 23:1-12 shows us the innocence of Jesus.
Jesus was betrayed by Judas and arrested by the religious authorities in the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. He was taken to the high priest’s house where Peter denied knowing him three times before the rooster crowed. Then Jesus was subjected to a religious trial before the Jewish Sanhedrin where he was found “guilty” of blasphemy. But since it was not lawful for the Jews to put anyone to death (John 18:31), they sent Jesus to Pilate for a civil trial.
Kent Hughes summarizes what happened next, “A political trial under secular Roman authority and law was necessary. Thus came the most infamous trial in history, a weird, twisted thing that began before Pilate, the careerist Roman politician, then detoured to the tetrarch Herod, the half-Jew puppet ruler, and finally returned to Pilate where the awful judgment was rendered.”
Let’s read about Jesus before Pilate in Luke 23:1-12:
1 Then the whole company of them arose and brought him before Pilate. 2 And they began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king.” 3 And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” 4 Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no guilt in this man.” 5 But they were urgent, saying, “He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee even to this place.”
6 When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. 7 And when he learned that he belonged to Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him over to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. 8 When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had long desired to see him, because he had heard about him, and he was hoping to see some sign done by him. 9 So he questioned him at some length, but he made no answer. 10 The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. 11 And Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him. Then, arraying him in splendid clothing, he sent him back to Pilate. 12 And Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that very day, for before this they had been at enmity with each other. (Luke 23:1-12)
On Friday, April 15, 2016 a judge vacated the murder conviction of 76-year-old Jack McCullough. A prosecutor says McCullough was wrongly convicted in the 1957 killing of an Illinois schoolgirl. This means that one of the oldest cold cases to be tried in U.S. history has officially gone cold again.
McCullough was sentenced to life in prison in 2012 for the death of 7-year-old Maria Ridulph in Sycamore, about 70 miles west of Chicago. In a review of documents last year, a prosecutor found evidence that supported the former policeman's long-held alibi that he was 40 miles away in Rockford at the time of Maria's disappearance.
The Illinois judicial system worked well to free an innocent man who had been wrongly convicted of a crime.
Jesus was innocent of any crime. He had never ever done anything wrong in his entire life. And yet, the Jewish authorities wanted Jesus sentenced to death. But, because they were not able to impose the death penalty on anyone, they had to get the Romans to convict Jesus of a capital offense, and thereby get him sentenced to death.
The civil trial of Jesus in Luke 23:1-12 shows us the innocence of Jesus.
Let’s use the following outline:
1. The Accusations Against Jesus (23:1-2)
2. The Question of Pilate (23:3a)
3. The Answer of Jesus (23:3b)
4. The Verdict of Pilate (23:4)
5. The Disagreement of the Sanhedrin (23:5)
6. The Referral to Herod (23:6-7)
7. The Derision by Herod (23:8-11)
8. The Friendship of Enemies (23:12)
I. The Accusations Against Jesus (23:1-2)
First, notice the accusations against Jesus.
The religious trial of Jesus concluded shortly after dawn. As far as the Jewish Sanhedrin was concerned, Jesus’ admission that he was the Son of God was blasphemous and deserving of death (Luke 22:70; cf. Mark 14:61-64). But since they lacked the political ability to do so, they had to arrange for Jesus to have a civil trial. Then the whole company of them arose and brought him before Pilate (23:1).
Pontius Pilate was the Roman Procurator responsible for maintaining law and order in the region. His normal headquarters was at Caesarea. However, since it was the Passover, and tensions ran high during the Jewish feast, Pilate was in Jerusalem to ensure that law and order was maintained.
And the Sanhedrin began to accuse Jesus of three charges, saying, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king” (23:2).