Summary: This message looks at the problems in the arrest and trial of Jesus. Was preached in two parts on Good Friday
It had been a full week, it had started with the crowds on the streets of Jerusalem and now here they were, just the thirteen of them in a private room celebrating the Passover.
And only two people in that room knew where the night would lead.
Jesus, because he was. . . Jesus. And Judas because he had put the wheels into motion, the day before, when he had agreed to betray his friend for thirty pieces of silver.
And Jesus knew that he had been betrayed, and yet in this amazing display of grace he still invites Judas to celebrate with them.
And that is the invitation that continues to be extended by Jesus, even knowing all that we will do, and all the ways that we will betray his love and name he still says, come.
Last week we celebrated Palm Sunday and we looked at the dark side of the celebration and how it was after Jesus had entered into Jerusalem riding on a donkey while the crowds praised him and waved palm branches that the religious authorities felt that they had no option but to take matters into their own hands. It was at the point that they decided, that Jesus must die.
And that decision has led us to this point only five days later.
It was a perfect set up, it had to be this way. During the day Jesus was surrounded by crowds of sympathetic people who had come to hear him preach. People whose lives had been impacted by Jesus. Perhaps they had been healed by him, or maybe because of his teaching on forgiveness they had seen a relationship restored, or perhaps they had been part of the multitude he had fed by the shores of Galilee. Regardless of the how and why, those who gathered around him during the day would pose a considerable problem for the authorities, and so they came for him under the cover of night.
But even then they were taking no chances. And so to arrest the man who had spoken so much of love, forgiveness and grace a crowd was sent. Three of the gospels simply identify them as a crowd of men armed with swords and clubs, however John gets more specific and tells us in John 18:2-3 Judas, the betrayer, knew this place, because Jesus had often gone there with his disciples. The leading priests and Pharisees had given Judas a contingent of Roman soldiers and Temple guards to accompany him. Now with blazing torches, lanterns, and weapons, they arrived at the olive grove.
I don’t know if they expected Christ to fight or run, but either way they came prepared, what they didn’t prepare for was for him to simply surrender. And Jesus asked them in Luke 22:52-53 Then Jesus spoke to the leading priests, the captains of the Temple guard, and the elders who had come for him. “Am I some dangerous revolutionary,” he asked, “that you come with swords and clubs to arrest me? Why didn’t you arrest me in the Temple? I was there every day. But this is your moment, the time when the power of darkness reigns.”
And in that one statement Jesus was letting them know that he knew.
You see even though the night arrest made for good strategy and good theatre it was the beginning of the flawed prosecution of Jesus. And Jesus knew what they knew and that was if they couldn’t prove a case against him then they would fabricate a case against him.
And it started with the reality that The Arrest Was Flawed Historical we are told that there were two problems with the arrest, the first was that it was performed at night. There were all kinds of guidelines and regulations in place for the Jewish judicial process and one was that neither arrests or trials were to conducted at night.
Two thousand years ago in Israel justice was under the authority of the Sanhedrin, they were the supreme religious authority at the time, and functioned kind of like a supreme court. And there would have been no discussion about the separation of religion and state then. While Israel may have been under Roman rule they still considered themselves a Theocracy.
In Canada we enjoy a Democracy and that word can be traced back to two Greek words: “Demos” meaning “People” and “Kratia” meaning “Power”. 2000 years ago Israel was a Theocracy. “Kratia” still meant “Power” but “Theos” meant “God”. And so in manners of religious and civil law you had a religious court, the Sanhedrin, comprised of members of the Pharisees, Sadducees and the Priest Hood. The Grand Sanhedrin had 71 members and was only convened for matters of national security and then you had a cabinet of 23 that was probably the group that conspired against Christ.