Jesus on trial


In John 11, we see an amazing miracle: Jesus brings Lazarus, who has been dead for four days, back to life.
Now you would assume that on seeing such a miracle, people would believe that Jesus was indeed the Son of God, just as he claimed. Who else but God could bring a dead man back to life?

But let’s read what happened immediately after this event:

Read John 11:45-53.

  • What two distinct groups of people are found here? (vs 45, 46)
  • What do the Jewish leaders decide? (v 53)


Jesus stands before the Jewish Council

Not long after this, the plot to get rid of Jesus is well and truly hatched. After his betrayal and arrest, Jesus is taken before the Sanhedrin – the Jewish Council – and put on trial. However things do not flow as smoothly as the Jewish leaders had hoped.

Read Mark 14:55-59

This is obviously a trumped-up trial – hastily convened and held at night in secret. And the Jewish leaders have already determined the outcome. They are seeking testimony against Jesus so they can put him to death. But their rent-a-witness scheme fails because the people they bring in have not planned their testimonies very well. There are so many lies and half-truths being told that they contradict one another.

  • If they had wanted true witnesses who could they have called?

As the trial wears on, Caiaphas the high priest becomes very angry with Jesus because, despite what the witnesses are saying, Jesus remains silent. So at last he asks Jesus a direct question: “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?”

Read Mark 14:62. For his reply, Jesus quotes from Daniel’s vision in Daniel chapter 7, applying this prophecy to himself.

  • Who is Jesus claiming to be?

Read Mark 14:63-64

  • What does the High priest do?

False testimonies are believed, but the truth causes an uproar. How dare this man claim to be God? That is blasphemy! Jesus deserves to die! At last they have their official religious reason to justify putting him to death.


Jesus stands before the Roman authorities

However, there’s a catch. Under Roman rule, the Jews are not allowed to give the death sentence. So another trial is arranged in a secular court, conducted by a Roman ruler. Having stayed up all night, by early morning their plans are finalised. They bind Jesus and, after dealing with him cruelly, lead him away to Pilate, the governor of the Roman province of Judaea. They take Jesus to the praetorium where Pilate is staying. Pilate
has the authority to sentence Jesus to death.

Read John 18:28

  • What is ironic about the Jewish leaders’ refusal to go into the Roman governor’s headquarters?

The Jewish leaders, who want to kill Jesus, refuse to go inside this Gentile praetorium, because that would make them ritually unclean, and thus unable to celebrate the Passover. They are about to sacrifice God’s true Passover Lamb, who will die for the sins of whole world, yet all they can think about is staying ritually clean!

So the trial before Pilate is held on the footpath outside the praetorium. By now Jesus is beaten, bruised, tired, unkempt and unwashed.

Now because the Jewish leaders want to ensure that Jesus is put to death, they have to come up with a new charge that will hold sway in a Roman court. So they say that Jesus is claiming to be a King and these “virtuous Jews” want him killed so he will not cause trouble against Caesar and the Roman Empire.

So Pilate asks Jesus straight out: Are you the King of the Jews? And Jesus replies: You have said so.

The Jewish leaders then begin accusing him of many other things, their words tripping over each other. But Jesus remains silent. This amazes Pilate. Prisoners usually protest their innocence quite vehemently. But Jesus, who truly
is innocent, is fulfilling the prophesy in Isaiah 53:7.

When Pilate finds out Jesus is from Galilee, he decides to send Jesus to Herod (who is nearby in Jerusalem at that time) because Galilee is Herod’s jurisdiction. But in Herod’s court Jesus once again remains silent. So Herod and his soldiers ridicule and mock him and dress him in an elegant robe and send him back to Pilate.

Once Jesus is back at the praetorium, Pilate realises that he still has quite a dilemma on his hands. If he lets Jesus go, trouble will follow. But should he send an innocent man to be crucified?


The substitute

Then the crowd provides him with a possible way out. They remind Pilate that the Romans have a custom of releasing a prisoner at the Passover Festival each year. So Pilate asks the crowd who they’d like released: Jesus or Barabbas? Barabbas is a notorious, violent murderer.

Stirred up by the religious leaders, the fickle crowd cries out for Barabbas to be released and Jesus to be crucified. Again there is irony. Barabbas, whose name means ‘son of the father’ actually has led a political uprising against the Roman government – the very thing they have accused Jesus of doing.

So the murderer Barabbas, the ‘son of the father’ is set free; and Jesus, the ‘perfect Son of the perfect Father’ is flogged and taken away to be killed on as cross.

Judas, Annas, Caiaphas, the religious leaders, Herod, Pilate and the mocking crowd are all against Jesus andare totally responsible for their actions. Yet little do they realise that as they plan and scheme to send Jesus to his death, they are doing the very thing God has planned for his Son from before the foundation of the world.
See Acts 2:22-23.

Jesus endured four unjust, trumped-up trials. He suffered agonising pain and humiliation as he died on the cross. Yet in doing so, he fulfilled God’s plan: that his only Son should die for the sins of the whole world. Do you realise that Jesus’ sacrifice is enough to cover all your sin? This is what Easter is all about. If you haven’t already done so, turn to him in repentance and faith and receive the forgiveness and eternal life he offers.


Let’s sing of God’s great love to us in Jesus Christ

How Deep the Father’s Love for Us – Stuart Townend; Christ our Hope in Life and Death – Keith and Kristyn Getty, Matt Papa; It was Finished Upon that Cross – CityAlight; Nothing But the Blood of Jesus – CityAlight; When I Survey the Wondrous Cross – Isaac Watts; Jesus Paid It All – Elvina Hall.