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The Illegal Court Cases Against Jesus

Today we want to look at what Jesus endured before being crucified—His appearance before Annas, Caiaphas, and the council of Elders of Israel.

Israel’s system of jurisprudence was one of the best in the world, and the truth was held in high esteem, except when it came to Jesus. In Israeli law, a man could not be questioned without his lawyer being present, but Jesus was given no lawyer. A man could not be tried during the night, yet Jesus endured two trials at night by Annas and Caiaphas before His third public trial at dawn before the Sanhedrin, i.e., the elders of Israel. If there was a guilty verdict, those giving the judgment were to stay a whole day where the pronouncement of guilt was stated in case someone came forward with additional evidence.

Also, Israel's system of jurisprudence held that no one could incriminate himself and that there needed to be at least two witnesses to any crime committed. Therefore, Jesus was silent before His accusers. More than 600 years previously, the prophet Isaiah prophesied that when the Messiah would come, He would be “oppressed and afflicted, yet did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7).

When Jesus came out of the house of Annas, He witnessed Peter’s third denial and betrayal before being taken across the courtyard to the home of Caiaphas, the puppet high priest. Jesus stood boldly and did not reply to the lies and accusations from Annas and Caiaphas about Him. In capital cases, all legal proceedings of the ruling elders had to be open to the public. Because Jesus gave nothing incriminating, perhaps to weaken His resolve and courage, He was beaten before or after the public trial in front of the Sanhedrin (John 18:22), maybe both.

Early in the morning, the elders of the Sanhedrin sat in judgment of Jesus as He stood there in silence, bloodied, and bruised. The meeting was just a mock trial to satisfy the legal requirement; the actual trial was illegally held before Annas and Caiaphas during the night. The accusation before the Sanhedrin was one of blasphemy, claiming that Jesus stated Himself to be God and Messiah:

66At daybreak the council of the elders of the people, both the chief priests and the teachers of the law, met together, and Jesus was led before them. 67“If you are the Messiah,” they said, “tell us.” Jesus answered, “If I tell you, you will not believe me, 68and if I asked you, you would not answer. 69But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.” 70They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?” He replied, “You say that I am.” 71Then they said, “Why do we need any more testimony? We have heard it from his own lips” (Luke 22:66-71).

Jesus worded His response so that He would not incriminate Himself; after all, He was not the one on trial. It was the ruling elders and high priests who were on trial. The high priests themselves were the ones who would speak blasphemy as would occur later: “Shall I crucify your king?" Pilate asked. "We have no king but Caesar," the chief priests answered” (John 19:15). As the trial went on, the high priests couldn’t get Jesus to say anything blasphemous, so bluntly and directly, the high priest put Him under oath to tell them if He was the Messiah, the Son of God:

I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God (Matthew 26:62).

Mark tells us that Jesus remained silent before finally answering:

61But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” 62“I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 63The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked. 64“You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?” (Mark 14:61-64 (Emphasis mine).

How boldly He stood and spoke the truth as to who He is. He didn’t say I am the Messiah, instead, He used the Greek form of the Name of God, the way God revealed Himself to Moses before the Exodus from Egypt, “This is what you will tell the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you” (Exodus 3:14). Like our Lord, may we all stand boldly and speak the truth of God's Word. Keith Thomas

Taken from the more extended study 62 in Luke’s Gospel Jesus Before Pilate and Herod


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