2015-11-01 Jesus on Trial

LUKE 22:66-23:25                                                                           NOVEMBER 1, 2015


I think that many Americans could agree that the justice system in the United States needs repair. On the one hand some people seem to get away with committing crimes over and over, while others seem to receiver harsh sentences for a first offense. The judicial system also seems to be bogged down in frivolous lawsuits and the right to a speedy trial is ignored. Yet, in comparison to the majority of the world, our system is still a vast improvement. Bringing charges against Jesus seems absurd as one regards the merits of the case.  Yet Jesus was disrupting the status quo and the Jewish leaders wanted him stopped permanently or so they hoped.

In this long passage from Luke there are four trials (judicial proceedings) involving Jesus. The first trial before: the Sanhedrin, Pilate, Herod, and then Pilate again. Luke 22:66-69 (NIV) 66 At daybreak the council of the elders of the people, both the chief priests and teachers of the law, met together, and Jesus was led before them. 67 “If you are the Christ,” they said, “tell us.” Jesus answered, “If I tell you, you will not believe me, 68 and if I asked you, you would not answer. 69 But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.” The religious leaders got right to it and asked Jesus if he was the Messiah. The Sanhedrin wanted to declare that Jesus was a revolutionary so that Rome would then handle the problem of killing Jesus. The religious leaders were not allowed by the Romans to put someone to death without their approval.

Jesus in his reply made a startling claim indicating that he will be seated next to God and that he has authority over all people, including them. The Sanhedrin then counters by asking Jesus a follow up question. Luke 22:70-71 (NIV) 70 They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?” He replied, “You are right in saying I am.” 71 Then they said, “Why do we need any more testimony? We have heard it from his own lips.”

The Sanhedrin believed that Jesus had committed blasphemy by claiming to be the son God. Jesus is saying he is God. Mark 14:61-64 (NIV) 61 Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, 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.” 63 The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked. 64 “You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?” They all condemned him as worthy of death.” Jesus was not allowed to make a defense of his being the Son of God. The elders of the people had closed their minds and hearts to the truth of who is Jesus. For them, his statement was enough to have him convicted of blasphemy.

The second trial begins with Jesus being brought before the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate. Luke 23:1-2 (NIV) 1 Then the whole assembly rose and led him off to Pilate. 2 And they began to accuse him, saying, “We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Christ, a king.” The Sanhedrin makes three accusations against Jesus: 1. He is subverting, undermining the rules, the nation; 2. He opposes Roman taxation; 3. He claims to be the Christ, a king. The Jewish leadership fabricated the first two charges.

Pilate ignored the first two charges and went to the most serious accusation.  Luke 23:3-4 (NIV) 3 So Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied. 4 Then Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, “I find no basis for a charge against this man.”  The wording in the Greek is only a mild affirmative answer. Listen to how the ESV translates Jesus’ words.  “You have said so.” Jesus is not denying the charge. We know from the Gospel of John that Pilate asked Jesus a follow up question.  John 18:36 (NIV) 36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place.” Luke 23:4-7 (NIV) 4 Then Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, “I find no basis for a charge against this man.” 5 But they insisted, “He stirs up the people all over Judea by his teaching. He started in Galilee and has come all the way here.” 6 On hearing this, Pilate asked if the man was a Galilean. 7 When he learned that Jesus was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time.”

Pilate knew the accusations were without merit.  Pilate could have dismissed the case and released Jesus. Pilate saw a way out of displeasing the religious leaders and sent Jesus to King Herod, as Jesus was from Galilee, the district in which Herod ruled. Herod was pleased that he got the chance to see Jesus and hopefully see a miracle performed. Luke 23:9 (NIV) 9 He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer.” This is the third trial of Jesus. Herod, like Pilate, found no basis to convict him of any crime so he sent him back to Pilate. Luke 23:11 (NIV) 11 Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate.”

We now begin the fourth judicial hearing, which was before Pilate. Luke 23:13-16 (NIV) 13 Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers and the people, 14 and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him. 15 Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death. 16 Therefore, I will punish him and then release him.” Once again the trial should have ended here, with Jesus being punished by being whipped. Both Pilate and Herod were neutral concerning the claims of Jesus, They did not care what Jesus was doing and saying as they don’t believe him either.

Pilate wanted to give justice, but he yielded to the political pressure of the Sanhedrin and asked the people directly. He offered to either release Jesus or to release a true criminal, Barabbas, who was guilty of rebellion and murder. It would seem to be an obvious choice but the people, influenced by the religious leaders, begin yelling for Jesus to be crucified. One will rarely find justice at the hands of a shouting mob. Luke 23:20-22 (NIV) 20 Wanting to release Jesus, Pilate appealed to them again. 21 But they kept shouting, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” 22 For the third time he spoke to them: “Why? What crime has this man committed? I have found in him no grounds for the death penalty. Therefore I will have him punished and then release him.”

Pilate had no backbone and allowed himself to be swayed by the will of the crowd. Pilate could easily pass for a modern day politician as he rejects what is right for political expediency. Luke 23:23-25 (NIV) 23 But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. 24 So Pilate decided to grant their demand. 25 He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, the one they asked for, and surrendered Jesus to their will.”

The trial of Jesus revolved around the identity of Jesus. The question was and still remains: Is Jesus the Son of God, the Messiah? Jesus could have listed the scriptural proofs of the Messiah.  Daniel 7:13-14 (NIV) 13 “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. 14 He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed.” Psalm 110:1-2 (NIV) 1 The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.” 2 The LORD will extend your mighty scepter from Zion; you will rule in the midst of your enemies.” Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah and by his actions, with the miracles, that clearly revealed him to be the Son of God, and the promised Messiah.

In this trial we see two different reactions to Jesus. The religious leaders were vehemently opposed to Jesus in every way and opposed him in every way possible. The second reaction can be seen as expressed by the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate and King Herod. They revealed an indifference to Jesus. It did not matter who he was. Both reactions equal rejection. We know that a few of the religious leaders did later stand up for Jesus and were believers, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea. They represent a third reaction to Jesus: believing Jesus and coming to faith in Jesus Christ.

In our world today we still can observe these three reactions to Jesus. Vocal opposition and indifference to the identity of Jesus is still present. Jesus continued to be true to himself and his mission by going to the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. We must continue to be true to our Lord and be faithful to him by being good witnesses to our Savior. What is overlooked by many is that Jesus, as the Son of God, was and is the One who will judge all people on how we either accept or reject him. Each person must still answer the question: Who is Jesus? Where we spend eternity hinges on how we answer the question. May each of us be a faithful witness to Jesus, our LORD.

Let us pray.