courtroom trials November 6 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): Luke 23:1-12; Mark 15:1-5; Matthew 27:1-14; John 18:28-38

Court Trials and Injustice

Through the library interlinked system or the internet we can get about any book or DVD, even old Perry Mason courtroom dramas. Do we remember Perry Mason, the lawyer who almost never lost? Watching those TV episodes gave us hope in the justice of the courts (especially if Mason was our lawyer). It is not that way in the real world. Notorious courtroom dramas like the O.J. Simpson trials lead us to believe, whether right or wrong, that there is injustice in the court system. This is nothing new; it has been happening for a very long time. It happened in Jesus’ day. How did the Lord suffer injustice in the court system, and how did he react? How should we react when suffering injustice?

After Jesus’ betrayal by Judas, the Lord was unjustly tried as a criminal. The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the N.T., edited by Walvoord and Zuck, © 1985, has many insights into the religious and civil trials of Jesus Christ. What follows is a summary of pp.85-87, 182-185, 261-262, and 335-338, with personal comments.

The injustices which Jesus suffered started with his arrest. When someone is arrested by a civil authority, it is common to follow certain legal proceedings. Even the Jews had them. However, there were some legal proceedings which were not followed in the seizure of Jesus. First, there was no charge or allegation of wrongdoing—his accusers made that up later. Second, legal proceedings were not allowed between sunset and sunrise, and yet Jesus was put through three trials before sunrise.

After his arrest, Jesus was taken to Annas, the father-in-law to Caiaphas, the high priest that year (John 18:13). We do not know why they initially took Jesus to Annas. Perhaps, Caiaphas wanted to show off his prize prisoner, or maybe he sought to honor his father-in-law by seeking his judgment first (he was high priest before Caiaphas). Another possibility is that Jesus was taken to Annas to allow sufficient time to assemble the Jewish ruling body, the Sanhedrin. After Annas questioned him, Jesus was brought to the high priest for trial (Matthew 26:57).

There was something strange about the allegations brought against Jesus in the trial under Caiaphas. Although many allegations were leveled against him, none were able to stick (Matthew 26:59-62). Having failed in this effort, the religious leaders then required Jesus to testify against himself, which was another violation of Jewish court procedures. They finally convicted Jesus of blasphemy because he claimed to be God’s Son, making him equal in nature to God. However, their charge was wrong because Jesus spoke the truth—Jesus is the Son of God.

Jesus received rough treatment during the trial of Caiaphas the high priest. He was blindfolded, mocked, spit upon, slapped, struck with fists and beaten (Matthew 26:67-68). All this was done without even a conviction. Jesus did not defend himself, although he suffered humiliation and brutality.

In today's Bible reading, Jesus appears on trial before the Jewish ruling body, the Sanhedrin (Matthew 27:1-2). They meet and come to a decision to put Jesus to death, but they have no authority to execute anyone. They have to bring him to Pontius Pilate, the ruling Roman governor of Judea.

The Sanhedrin decided Jesus is guilty of blasphemy for claiming to be God’s Son; however, they do not take this charge to Pilate because the Roman government cares nothing about Jewish laws and traditions. Therefore, the Sanhedrin charge Jesus with subverting the nation, opposing taxes to Caesar, and claiming to be Christ, a King (Luke 23:1-2). The Roman government wants peace in the provinces—they do not want insurrectionists. The Roman government wants no opposition to the payment of taxes. Furthermore, the Roman government does not want a rival king.

When questioned privately by Pilate whether Jesus considers himself a king, Jesus satisfies him by telling him “my kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). It is a spiritual kingdom, and so Pilate perceives no threat to the Roman empire.

The Jewish leaders press their case against Jesus saying that he is stirring up the people in Galilee. Hearing this, Pilate sends Jesus to Herod Antipas, who rules over the province of Galilee but happens to be in Jerusalem at this time (Luke 23:6-7). Herod is eager to receive Jesus because he heard about his miracles and hopes this notable prisoner will perform for him. He is disappointed, however, because Jesus performs no miracles and remains silent throughout all the questions and the accusations of the religious leaders. Herod and his soldiers mock and clothe Jesus with a royal robe and send him back to Pilate.

Throughout his trials, Jesus does not say much of anything (John 18:39–19:16). According to Isaiah 53:7 he is silent like a lamb to a slaughter or a sheep before his shearer’s. Jesus is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29, NIV), but first he must be slain. As painful as it is, Jesus death on the cross for our sins, in our place, is necessary for our salvation (more...).

Christians, how do we respond to injustice in our world? The Apostle Peter gives us some helpful instructions.

For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly (1Peter 2:19-23, NIV).

Peter summarizes his instructions to suffering Christians: “So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good” (1Peter 4:19, NIV).

Lessons to Live By

  • As unfair and painful as it was, Jesus death on the cross for our sins and in our place was necessary for our salvation (more...).
  • Injustices are a part of our sinful world. We need to separate civil injustice from wrongful treatment because of our faith. If we suffer civil injustice we should seek peaceful resolutions if possible (Romans 12:18). Failing that, we may, as citizens in our American society, seek legal means of correcting wrongs done against us.
  • If we suffer injustice because of our Christianity, we should entrust ourselves to God, who judges justly, and not seek retaliation. We should continue to do good as a proof of our Christianity.

Focus Verse

1 Peter 4:19 (NIV) “So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.”

Watch a dramatized version of the events leading to Jesus' crucifixion

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A Look Ahead: After the trials, Jesus is Unjustly Convicted and Sentenced! What should we do if we suffer like that? Join us for our Next Lesson.

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