Sermons

Summary: Jesus was the only person to live His entire life without doing anything wrong. Yet, He was arrested, tried, convicted, and condemned to suffer a punishment normally reserved for the Roman empire’s worst criminals.

Analysis of a Courtroom Fiasco

Selected Scriptures

Sermon Series: Jesus: The Greatest Life of All

From the Bible-Teaching Ministry of Charles R. Swindoll

Introduction

Jesus was the only person to live His entire life without doing anything wrong. Yet, He was arrested, tried, convicted, and condemned to suffer a punishment normally reserved for the Roman empire’s worst criminals. His arrest was a betrayal and His trials a farce, His convictions illegal and His punishment a travesty of justice. Yet through it all, He remained calm, He answered questions honestly, He spoke the truth with dignity, and He calmly resolved to allow the Father to vindicate Him at the proper time. We would do well to imitate Christ in our response to the injustices we experience in our lives.

Exposition

1. General Observations about Jesus’s Trials

After celebrating the Passover meal with His disciples, Jesus suggested they walk to their familiar retreat at the base of the Mount of Olives, a garden called Gethsemane. Jesus knew that Judas was carrying out his treacherous plan to betray Him to Israel’s religious leaders, and He also knew that He was beginning a long, torturous ordeal which would lead to an agonizing death on a cross. He spent His last night of freedom praying for courage to quell the overwhelming feeling of dread and for strength to endure with dignity the coming trial. But most of all, Jesus was praying for the Father’s sovereign plan to prevail.

The assault at Gethsemane set in motion a series of six trials; three before the Jewish religious authorities and three before the civil authorities of Rome. In this study, we will examine the first three trials of Jesus.

Sometime during the night, a cohort of Roman soldiers and several Jewish officers quietly surrounded the garden. Judas then greeted his Master with a kiss, signaling to the assailants hidden in the shadows. While the religious leaders came prepared for a fight, Jesus offered no resistance, even suppressing Peter’s impulse to take on the small army with his dagger. A few simple words reveal Jesus’s perspective, helping us understand how He could endure the outrageous injustices of the next several hours: “The cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?” (John 18:11).

First-century Israelites were a law-conscious people and they maintained a strict procedure for hearing civil and criminal cases. A document called the Mishnah, compiled around AD 200, records the oral traditions handed down by the Jewish people from one generation to another over several centuries. A portion of this document describes the guidelines that governed the Jewish ruling council, called the Sanhedrin, which was responsible for hearing cases, rendering judgment, and passing sentence on the guilty. This document very likely describes the traditions that governed the Sanhedrin during the time of Jesus. A chart listing some of the rules in the Mishnah is provided below, as well as the biblical accounts of the trials of Jesus.

--- Mishnah: Sanhedrin Guidelines for Capital Cases ---

Rule 1: No trials were to occur during the night hours (before the morning sacrifice).

Primary Source: Mishnah: Sanhedrin 4:1

Secondary Source: Laurna L. Berg. “The Illegalities of Jesus’ Religious and Civil Trials,” (Bibliotheca Sacra, Vol. 161, No. 643, July–September, 2004), 330–342.

Actual Practice: Jesus was taken to Annas, Caiaphas, and the Sanhedrin at night.

Rule 2: Trials were not to occur on the eve of a Sabbath or during festivals.

Primary Source: Mishnah: Sanhedrin 4:1

Secondary Source: Laurna L. Berg. “The Illegalities of Jesus’ Religious and Civil Trials,” (Bibliotheca Sacra, Vol. 161, No. 643, July–September, 2004), 330–342.

Actual Practice: The trials occurred at night during the Passover celebration.

Rule 3: All trials were to be public; secret trials were forbidden.

Primary Source: Mishnah: Sanhedrin 1:6

Secondary Source: Laurna L. Berg. “The Illegalities of Jesus’ Religious and Civil Trials,” (Bibliotheca Sacra, Vol. 161, No. 643, July–September, 2004), 330–342.

Actual Practice: Jesus was taken before the Sanhedrin at night for questioning and was immediately declared “guilty.” Only his official sentencing took place during the day.

Rule 4: All trials were to be held in the Hall of Judgment in the temple area.

Primary Source: Mishnah: Sanhedrin 11:2

Secondary Source: Laurna L. Berg. “The Illegalities of Jesus’ Religious and Civil Trials,” (Bibliotheca Sacra, Vol. 161, No. 643, July–September, 2004), 330–342.

Actual Practice: Jesus was first taken to Annas then Caiaphas before put before the Sanhedrin.

Rule 5: Capital cases required a minimum of twenty-three judges.

Primary Source: Mishnah: Sanhedrin 4:1

Secondary Source: Laurna L. Berg. “The Illegalities of Jesus’ Religious and Civil Trials,” (Bibliotheca Sacra, Vol. 161, No. 643, July–September, 2004), 330–342.

Actual Practice: We don’t know how many judges were present. The trials took place at night during a festival.

Rule 6: An accused person could not testify against himself.

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Stephen Fagerburg

commented on Feb 16, 2008

Pastor Chuck Swindoll is my all-time favorite preacher for sermon content and delivery. I hope we see more of his sermons on Sermon Central. My great, great uncle, who pastored First Baptist Church of Los Angeles, said in effect, "Every great sermon should be preached more than once." Keep 'em coming Dr. Swindoll!

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