THE TRIALS OF JESUS
A. The trial and crucifixion of Jesus the Christ are the greatest miscarriages
of justice in all the annals of history
1. In less than twelve hours, just before His crucifixion, Jesus the Christ was put
through a series of proceedings that give the term “railroad” a whole new
2. First before Jewish officials, then before Roman authorities, Jesus was hauled
before illegal assemblies, falsely accused, subjected to verbal and physical
abuse, and finally sentenced to death by a spineless politician who had
pronounced Him not guilty at least three (probably four) times and repeatedly
stated his intentions to release Him.
B. Not only did these trials violate the written Law of Moses, but they violated
the civil laws that had been designed to carry out the principles of justice
enjoined by Mosaic Law.
C. It is good for us to be aware of these matters so that we may more fully
appreciate what Jesus went through for us – thus we may appreciate His love for
us, and we may love Him more deeply in return.
A. SOME PRINCIPLES FROM THE LAW OF MOSES
1. Establishment of guilt (especially capital cases) required at least two witnesses
a. Deuteronomy 17:6
b. Deuteronomy 19:15
2. The accused was to have an impartial trial (including diligent inquiry into the
facts) … Deuteronomy 13:13-14
3. Judges were to seek justice and were forbidden to take bribes © Exodus
B. SOME SPECIFIC JEWISH LAWS
(intended to implement principles and laws from Moses)
1. NOTE: This information is from the Talmud, a book of Jewish law and
commentary upon it
2. Makeup of the Sanhedrin (intended to make it well-rounded AND impartial):
a. Twenty-three each of priests (religious leaders), scribes (legal experts), and
elders (respected men of the community), plus two presiding officers (total
b. Qualification for judges were strict – both parents had to be Jews; well-
educated in Moses’ law and Jewish tradition, as well as other subjects;
gainfully employed [or retired]; morally upright.
3. Judges had to be disinterested (couldn’t be a relative or heir of the accused, or
stand to benefit by the accused’s death or condemnation) – goes to the
prohibition against bribes.
4. Vote on guilt or innocence took place the day after the trial (give emotions
time to cool, time for deliberation and reflection)
5. The accused was presumed innocent and could not be compelled to testify
6. There was no prosecutor except the witnesses
7. False witnesses were subject to the penalty of the crime charged to the
defendant (Deut. 19:16-21).
8. An accomplice to the crime could not testify
9. All court proceedings were to occur during the day (between morning &
evening sacrifices) in public [helped keep everyone honest–not supposed to be
any crooked dealings in private at night]
10. Balloting re: guilt/innocence was to begin with the youngest, most
inexperienced judge, and proceed upward to the High Priest, who voted last.
(Kept younger, less experienced judges from being intimidated and swayed in
11. If a defendant was acquitted, the trial was over & the accused was released
immediately; if a guilty verdict was reached in a capital case, it was
automatically appealed the next day (another vote was taken the next day –
judges could change their votes from convict to acquit, but not from acquit to
12. There were many other procedural regulations, but this is enough to give us a
taste for what ought to have occurred (in contrast to what did occur) in the
trials of Jesus.
C. THE HEBREW TRIALS OF JESUS
1. Preliminary examination before Annas
a. John 18:13, 19-24
b. This procedure was illegal!
1) It occurred at night
2) The law did not allow for preliminary examination; only the witnesses
played the role of prosecutor, and the accused could not be compelled to
testify against himself
3) The officer slapped Jesus without justification (the role of the judge was to
protect the accused and prevent his abuse)
c. Annas sent Him bound to Caiaphas . . .
2. First trial before the Sanhedrin (Caiaphas presiding)
a. Matthew 26:57-68
b. This trial was illegal!
1) It took place at night and was not in public but at Caiaphas’ home (Lk.
2) The judges were (again) acting as prosecutors, actively seeking testimony
(and false testimony at that!) against Jesus (Mt. 26:59)
3) Caiaphas illegally put Jesus under oath and compelled Him to testify (Mt.
4) The High Priest pronounced Jesus guilty before a vote was taken – if,
indeed, it was ever formally taken (Mt. 26:65) [Note the “crime”:
Blasphemy (capital offense)]
5) More physical abuse (Mt. 26:67)
c. To have any pretense of being legal, the Court has to meet again in the
morning . . .
3. Jesus’ 2nd trial before the Sanhedrin
a. Luke 22:66-71
b. This trial was illegal!
1) “As soon as it was day” (Lk. 22:66) – before the morning sacrifice – this
was too early for a trial (the accused did not have the protection of public
scrutiny – remember, the Jewish leadership feared the people, or they would
have murdered Jesus even before this, Mk.12:12; Lk. 20:19; 22:2)
2) Again they compelled Jesus to testify (vs. 67, 70)
c. Now they must take Him to the Roman authorities for execution . . .
D. THE ROMAN TRIALS OF JESUS
1. First appearance before Pilate
a. Luke 23:1-7
b. Note that now the charge is not blasphemy
1) When first they only called Him an “evil-doer” Pilate told them to judge
Him according to their own law, John 18:30-31; then they shifted to the
capital crime of treason so that Pilate would be forced to make a judgment
2) Jesus acknowledges being a King (but not earthly or political, John 18:36,
c. Pilate’s first acknowledgment that Jesus is not guilty (Lk. 23:4)
d. Pilate tries to pass the buck to Herod (Lk. 23:6-7)
2. Trial before Herod
a. Luke 23:8-12
b. This is Herod Antipas, who had beheaded John and had feared that Jesus was
actually John come back from the dead!
c. Now Herod wanted Jesus to perform a miracle so he could see it (v.8)
d. Herod questioned Jesus extensively, but the Lord did not answer (cf. Isa.
e. After abusing and mocking Him, Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate (no stated
3. Jesus’ second appearance before Pilate
a. Luke 23:13-25
b. Second acknowledgment that Jesus is not guilty (Lk. 23:14)
1) Pilate also interprets Herod’s inaction as meaning Herod found no crime in
2) Pilate wants to chastise Jesus (to satisfy the Jews) and then release Him,
v.16 (in keeping with custom of releasing a prisoner at Passover)
a) Pilate’s wife has warned him to have nothing to do with Jesus (Mt.
b) The Jews demand that Pilate release Barabbas and crucify Jesus (Mt.
c. Third acknowledgment that Jesus is not guilty (Jn 19:4)
1) This is after he scourges and abuses Jesus (19:1)
2) “Behold the Man” (Jn. 19:5) – probably an appeal to sympathy, as if to say
“just look at this pathetic man standing here beaten and bleeding – isn’t this
d. Fourth acknowledgment that Jesus is not guilty (Jn 19:6)
1) The Jewish leaders are not satisfied with the beating – they want Jesus
2) Since Pilate insists on Jesus’ innocence, the Jews now shift back to their
real complaint: that He said He is the Son of God (v.7)
a) This scared the pagan Pilate (was he about to crucify a god?!)
b) Pilate was more determined than ever to release Jesus (v. 12a), but . . .
e. Pilate delivered Jesus to be crucified
1) Finally he tripped on a political question (John 19:12)
2) Spinelessly “washed his hands” of the matter (Mt. 27:24)
a) Even then he affirmed that Jesus was a “just person” (Mt. 27:24)
b) The Jews anxiously accepted responsibility for His blood (Mt. 27:25)
A. Examining the accounts of the trials of Jesus should cause us to appreciate more deeply what he endured for us, and to be more firmly convinced of His love for us.
B. In turn, we ought to love Him with greater devotion, which should evidence itself in our loving obedience to His will.