Jesus’ Trial Before the Whole Sanhedrin

15 Jul
Jesus' Trial - 2

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One might argue that Jesus’ whole public ministry was one, big, three and a half year trial, but in reality his trials were intermittent. He wasn’t debating with the Jewish authorities every hour of every day, and neither was he correcting his disciples all of the time. I suppose he had many hours of pleasant discourse in what could be termed good times with those closest to him. After all, the text does say he loved his disciples, and they loved him (John 13:1; 15:9; 16:27), and love cannot exist under constant criticism or distrust. Nevertheless, during Jesus’ final hours, he was tried almost constantly. It began during his final meal with his disciples, and the trials didn’t end until the day was over, and he lay peacefully in the grave.

Luke didn’t record Jesus’ first trial by the Jewish authorities, which was held during the night by the high priest, as Matthew and Mark do (cf. Matthew 26:59-66; Mark 14:54-65). While those events took place, Peter waited by the fire to see how the matter would end (Matthew 26:58). After the first trial, Jesus was beaten, spat upon and generally mistreated by the Temple guard, as the men waited for the whole council to convene in the morning (cf. Matthew 26:67-68; Luke 22:63-65), and, when morning finally arrived, the whole Sanhedrin convened in order to try Jesus for the crime the smaller court found him guilty of hours earlier (Luke 22:66; cf. Matthew 27:1-2; Mark 15:1). However, the trial they held beforehand during the night wasn’t legal. The fact is, it was illegal according to their own laws to try a capital crime at night where a man’s life hung in the balance (cf. Acts 4:3). Notice how the rabbis phrased it in the Talmud:

“Civil suits are tried by day, and concluded at night. But Capital charges must be tried by day and concluded by day. Civil suits can be concluded on the same day, whether for acquittal or condemnation; capital charges may be concluded on the same day with a favorable verdict, but only on the morrow with an unfavorable verdict. Therefore trials are not held on the eve of a Sabbath or Festival.” [Babylonian Talmud; Sanhedrin 32a]

The whole matter of his being tried at night was illegal, and to be tried for a capital offence before an annual Holy Day was also illegal. This is why Jesus said nothing at his trial until the high priest called upon God to witness to what Jesus would say (Matthew 26:63-64). However, when the priests held the trial during the day, Jesus answered their questions (Luke 22:66-71). The high priest asked Jesus if he were the Messiah (Luke 22:67), and he answered he was, but it wasn’t a crime to claim to be the Messiah.

Jesus admitted to being the Son of Man (Messianic title) and that he would sit at the right hand of God (Luke 22:67-69; cf. Psalm 110:1). Yet, neither was admitting to this a crime. The council asked if Jesus meant that he was the Son of God (Luke 22:70), to which Jesus claimed he was. Nevertheless, it wasn’t a crime to call oneself a ‘son of God’ (cf. John 8:41). In fact, the Messiah himself, was understood to be the Son of God (Psalm 2:2, 7, 12).However, the council understood Jesus’ words as an admission to his being the actual Son of God (Luke 22:69; cf. Matthew 26:64; Mark 14:62 and Isaiah 19:1).

Nevertheless, scripture tells us that the Messiah would sit at the right hand of God (God’s throne) and judge his enemies (Psalm 110:1, 5-6). Concerning the mention of heathen at Psalm 110:6 (H1471), the word is also used for the people of Israel in Joshua 3:17; 4:1; 5:6, 8; 10:13; Judges 2:20; 2Kings 6:18; Daniel 11:23; Zephaniah 2:8-9; Zechariah 12:3, so Jesus’ words that the high priest would see him coming in the clouds to judge Jerusalem and the Temple was a fitting response for the Messiah to make.

Then the Council decided Jesus should be put to death (Matthew 27:1), because he claimed he was Messiah, the Son of the Living God (Matthew 26:63-64). Jesus was condemned to die because he made the claim that he is the Son of God, and, as we shall see later, he was crucified for this same charge, i.e. admitting to his true identity (John 19:7-16).


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Posted by on July 15, 2018 in Gospel of Luke


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