Summary: The religious trial of Jesus in Luke 22:63-71 shows us the charge against 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 an illegal, hastily-convened religious trial before the Jewish council.
Let’s read about the religious trial of Jesus in Luke 22:63-71:
63 Now the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking him as they beat him. 64 They also blindfolded him and kept asking him, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?” 65 And they said many other things against him, blaspheming him.
66 When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people gathered together, both chief priests and scribes. And they led him away to their council, and they said, 67 “If you are the Christ, tell us.” But he said to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe, 68 and if I ask you, you will not answer. 69 But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” 70 So they all said, “Are you the Son of God, then?” And he said to them, “You say that I am.” 71 Then they said, “What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips.” (Luke 22:63-71)
After the arrest of Jesus there were a number of hearings and trials during the night and the early hours of daylight. Each of the Gospels emphasize different aspects. Generally speaking, however, there was a religious trial before the Jewish council and there was a civil trial before Pilate.
The Jewish legal system was actually a very impressive system of jurisprudence. God had given the Law to his people, and they were to implement it faithfully. God stressed the importance of justice. When God’s people were about to enter the Promised Land and be established as a nation, God commanded them in Deuteronomy 16:18-20:
“You shall appoint judges and officers in all your towns that the Lord your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment. You shall not pervert justice. You shall not show partiality, and you shall not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of the righteous. Justice, and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land that the Lord your God is giving you.”
John MacArthur notes that by the time of Christ, Israel’s judicial system had become well established. Every town with at least 120 men who were heads of households had a local court known as a Sanhedrin. This council, made up of twenty-three men (seven or three in smaller towns), acted as judge and jury in all legal matters. The Great Sanhedrin in Jerusalem was the final judicial authority in Israel, comparable to the Supreme Court of the United States. It consisted of seventy men from three categories (Mark 14:53): chief priests (mostly Sadducees), elders (religious and secular aristocrats), and scribes (mostly Pharisees).
The law mandated three requirements in a criminal proceeding: a public trial, a defense for the accused, and a confirmation of guilt by two or three witnesses (Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15; cf. Hebrews 10:28). Because the last point was crucial to a just verdict, the law prescribed a severe penalty for false witnesses – the punishment that the accused would have received if he had been guilty was to be inflicted on the liars. God said in Deuteronomy 19:16-19:
“If a malicious witness arises to accuse a person of wrongdoing, then both parties to the dispute shall appear before the Lord, before the priests and the judges who are in office in those days. The judges shall inquire diligently, and if the witness is a false witness and has accused his brother falsely, then you shall do to him as he had meant to do to his brother. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.”
The rules were particularly strict in capital cases:
On the day of the trial, the executive officers of justice caused the accused person to make his appearance. At the feet of the Elders were placed men who, under the name of auditors, or candidates, followed regularly the sittings of the Council. The papers in the case were read; and the witnesses were called in succession. The president addressed this exhortation to each of them: “It is not conjectures, or whatever public rumour has brought to you, that we ask of you; consider that a great responsibility rests upon you: that we are not occupied by an affair, like a case of pecuniary interest, in which the injury may be repaired. If you cause the condemnation of a person unjustly accused, his blood, and the blood of all the posterity of him, of whom you will have deprived the earth, will fall upon you; God will demand of you an account, as he demanded of Cain an account of the blood of Abel. Speak.”