Summary: How much do we really understand about the context behind the trial and death of Jesus. Why were the Jews so insistent that Jesus should be put to death and what's more by the hated Romans?
Passover Jesus to Pilate
It is the feast of the Passover in the city of Jerusalem around AD30.
The city is full of pilgrims from all over the Mediterranean world to attend this great national festival when they celebrated their release from slavery in the land of Egypt.
Now they were effectively slaves to a new oppressor, the Romans and they wanted their freedom.
Some were more zealous than others and fought the Romans through terrorist activities, the band of freedom fighters known as the zealots were the most notorious.
So the city was not just overwhelmed with pilgrims but also Roman soldiers to keep the peace.
Pontius Pilate the Roman procurator brought his soldiers from his headquarters at Caesarea Philippi to Jerusalem for that very purpose.
The city’s population more than quadrupled in size and the Temple, the focus of the Passover festivities were a hive of activity.
All male Jews within a radius of 15 miles were to appear at the Temple bringing a young lamb as a sacrifice, its blood being collected in bowls of gold and then dashed at the foot of the altar.
The lambs were then taken home and roasted on spits and eaten; during the meal the eldest child would ask the father questions about the 1st Passover in the land of Egypt.
This background sets the context for the trial of Jesus before the high priest and the Jewish council.
In John’s gospel we are told that Jesus was brought first of all to Annas, he was notorious and the power behind the throne in Jerusalem.
Annas was high priest from AD 6 to 15 and then 4 of his sons also took this office of high priest and Caiaphas was his son-in-law - a somewhat incestuous relationship.
There had been a time, when the Jews were free, when the High Priest had held the office for life: but when the Roman governors came they appointed the High Priest.
So the office went to one of the governors cronies, to the highest bidder, to the man who was most willing to toe the line – an office for contention and intrigue, of bribery and corruption.
The High Priest was a Roman collaborator, the man who used money and brides to buy comfort and ease, prestige and power all at the cost of close co-operation with his country's enemies.
The family of Annas was immensely rich and one by one they had intrigued and bribed their way into office, while Annas remained the power behind it all.
Even the way in which Annas made his money was disgraceful.
In the Court of the Gentiles there were the sellers of the animals for the Temple sacrifices, these were the ones Jesus had driven from the Temple courts.
They were not traders: they were extortioners, every animal which was offered in the Temple had to be without spot and blemish.
There were inspectors to see that it was so and if an animal was bought outside the Temple it had to be inspected and examined, and it was certain that a flaw would be found.
The worshipper was then directed to buy at the Temple stalls where the animals had already been examined and where there was no risk of rejection
That would have been convenient and helpful but for one thing, the mark up price was extortionate, about 1500%.
The whole Temple business was sheer exploitation; and the stalls where the Temple animals were sold were called The Bazaars of Annas.
They were the property of the family of Annas; it was by the exploitation of the worshippers, by trading on the sacred sacrifices that Annas had amassed his fortune.
Jesus was the man who had attacked Annas' vested interest; Jesus was the man who had cleared the Temple of the sellers and traiders, and who had hit Annas where it hurt - in his pocket and his bank account.
Annas wanted to be the first to gloat over the capture, the defeat, the discomfiture of this disturbing Galilaean.
Ultimately Jesus when questioned by Caiaphas the high priest, he asked Jesus, ‘ Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?’ and Jesus answered, ‘ I am and you will see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.’
This violated the very principles of Jewish justice when Jesus was questioned in this way.
But Jesus never had any hope of justice, the self-interest of Annas and Caiaphas had been threatened; and so Jesus was condemned before He was even tried.
Jesus threatened the very profitable business of Annas and Caiaphas so He had to go.
So Caiaphas charged Jesus with Blasphemy and the punishment was death by stoning or strangulation.
So why didn’t it end there, after all that’s what happen to Stephen the 1st Christian martyr?