Summary: This messages examines the claim of Jesus to be the Son of God that resulted in the sentence of death.
Five years ago I began what I planned to be a seven-year series of messages. It is based on the book by James Montgomery Boice and Philip Graham Ryken that is titled, Jesus on Trial. My goal is to teach on seven important aspects of the trial of Jesus Christ: the diabolical conspiracy to kill him (which I covered five years ago); his night-time arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane (which I covered four years ago); the short resistance that the disciples mounted in his defense (which I covered three years ago); the witnesses who accused him of blasphemy during his ecclesiastical trial before the Jewish Sanhedrin (which I covered two years ago); the verdict reached in his civil trial by the Roman governor Pontius Pilate (which I covered last year); the sentence of death that his enemies demanded (which I plan to cover this evening); and his execution by crucifixion (which I plan to cover next year).
Pontius Pilate believed that Jesus was innocent of all charges against him. He said to the Jewish religious authorities, “You brought me this man as one who was misleading the people. And after examining him before you, behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against him. . . . Look, nothing deserving death has been done by him” (Luke 23:14-15). But the mob cried out for the death of Jesus by crucifixion, and so Pilate said, “I have found in him no guilt deserving death” (Luke 23:22).
But the mob was even more urgent, demanding with loud cries that Jesus should be crucified. Pilate never actually officially handed down a sentence of death. He could not because Jesus was not guilty of any crime. However, Pilate eventually gave in to the demand of the crowd and condemned Jesus to die.
The Bible simply states the sentence of death in John 19:16:
16 So he [i.e. Pilate] delivered him over to them to be crucified. (John 19:16)
A sentence is defined as follows: “The judgment formally pronounced by the Court or Judge upon the defendant after his conviction in a criminal prosecution, imposing the punishment to be inflicted.”
If you had been privy to what was going on behind the scenes regarding the trial of Jesus, you would have been aware that it all began with a conspiracy. The religious leaders and the political leaders had conspired together to get rid of Jesus. But they were having great difficulty doing so because of Jesus’ immense popularity with the people. However, a stunning development took place when one of Jesus’ own inner circle of friends stepped forward to betray him to the authorities. Judas Iscariot volunteered to betray Jesus for some unknown reason.
Then, on the evening of 15 Nissan, 30 AD Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. A large band of soldiers had managed to arrest Jesus without too much trouble.
The brief resistance from Jesus’ disciples did not amount to much. Jesus was quickly taken into custody, and a hasty trial was convened. Actually, there were two trials on the night of Jesus’ arrest. The religious leaders tried to find a way to accuse Jesus of some offense of which he would be guilty, for as Mark said, “Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking testimony against Jesus to put him to death” (Mark 14:55).
Most of the testimony presented at the ecclesiastical trial was vain testimony. Many bore false witness against Jesus, and their testimony did not agree (Mark 14:56). The high priest must have been beside himself because he could not get two witnesses to agree on their testimony. So, he did something that was entirely improper in a capital trial: he himself intervened. He asked Jesus if he was the Christ, the Son of the Blessed. Jesus said he was, and the Sanhedrin accused Jesus of blasphemy.
Because the Jewish Sanhedrin could not put someone to death, they therefore sent Jesus to the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, for a civil trial.
But Pilate found nothing deserving death had been done by Jesus (Luke 23:15). In fact, he insisted, “I have found in him no guilt deserving death” (Luke 23:22). But the religious authorities persisted, and eventually Pilate’s verdict was to deliver Jesus over to them to be crucified (John 19:16). Basically, Jesus was sentenced to death because he claimed to be the Son of God.
Tonight, I would like to examine the claim of Jesus to be the Son of God that resulted in his sentence of death.
I. The Divine Testimony
First, let’s look at the divine testimony about Jesus’ identity.
First, God the Father testifies that Jesus is his Son. At Jesus’ baptism God the Father said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). Later, on the Mount of Transfiguration, God the Father said something similar, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” (Matthew 17:5). God never testified in this manner about anyone else. This is weighty testimony.