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
Sermon Series: Jesus: The Greatest Life of All
From the Bible-Teaching Ministry of Charles R. Swindoll
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.
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.