is ever a total loss – it can always be used as a bad example.” We shall find
both good and bad examples here. The good example is Christ, and his conduct
in the face of persecution. The bad examples will show us the perversion of
justice for the expediency of the state.
John 18:2-12 NASB
Now Judas also, who was betraying Him, knew the place, for Jesus had often met
there with His disciples. (3) Judas then,
having received the Roman cohort and
officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, *came there with lanterns
and torches and weapons. (4) So Jesus,
knowing all the things that were coming upon Him, went forth and *said to them,
"Whom do you seek?" (5) They answered Him, "Jesus the
Nazarene." He *said to them, "I am He." And
Judas also, who was betraying Him, was standing with them. (6) So when He said to them, "I am He," they drew back and fell to the ground. (7) Therefore He again asked them, "Whom do you seek?" And they said,
"Jesus the Nazarene." (8) Jesus
answered, "I told you that I am He; so if you seek Me,
let these go their way," (9) to
fulfill the word which He spoke, "Of those whom
You have given Me I lost not one." (10)
Simon Peter then, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's slave,
and cut off his right ear; and the slave's name was Malchus. (11) So Jesus said to Peter, "Put the sword into the sheath; the cup which the Father has given
Me, shall I not drink it?" (12)
So the Roman cohort and the commander
and the officers of the Jews, arrested Jesus and bound Him,
four Gospels record this incident, which signifies its importance. We may see
here the tragedy begin:
First, Jesus is
betrayed by Judas, one of the twelve who have been with him since the beginning
of his ministry.
Peter – who will
later deny him – reacts in a very wrong way. He defends the Prince of Peace
with the sword. (Luke assures us that the servant was healed by Jesus.) Jesus
rebukes him for this; those who live by the world’s ways do not live by God’s
All the disciples
leave him – in accord with prophecy. Jesus, alone, will pay the price of
reconciliation. It is as planned; it is as Jesus wanted it; but it still
leaves him alone.
may point out one more thing: the awe in which the mob held him. No number of
chickens ever added up to one lion. Jesus has great courage; he will need it.
John 18:12-14 NASB
So the Roman cohort and the commander
and the officers of the Jews, arrested Jesus and bound Him, (13) and led Him to Annas first; for he was
father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. (14) Now Caiaphas was the one who had advised the
Jews that it was expedient for one man to die on behalf of the people.
John 18:19-24 NASB
The high priest then questioned Jesus about His disciples, and about His
teaching. (20) Jesus answered him, "I have spoken openly to the world; I always taught in
synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together; and I spoke
nothing in secret. (21) "Why do you question Me? Question those who have heard
what I spoke to them; they know what I said." (22) When He had said this, one of the officers
standing nearby struck Jesus, saying, "Is that the way You answer the high
priest?" (23) Jesus answered him, "If I have spoken wrongly, testify of the wrong; but if
rightly, why do you strike Me?" (24)
So Annas sent Him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.
must be remembered that inner Jerusalem of that time was about two miles along
the diagonal – so all these trials in so short a time are indeed feasible.)
brings two charges which are favorites of those who pervert justice:
First, there is
his teaching. Remember that most societies permit only the veneer of free
speech – controlling what is said in public, by fear, uncertainty and doubt, is
a common form of government power.
The next is more
familiar to modern students: conspiracy. Have you ever heard of a conspiracy
theory without some evil intent to it? Those who do good need not conspire in
secret to do it, the argument goes.
short, there is plotting in the dark here. We want the names of all the
defense is rather straightforward. It consists of the truth, put directly. If
the doctrine is pernicious, produce witnesses to testify to it! If there is
something wrong, be specific.
last is most important. It used to be a hallmark of English and American justice
that a defendant could only be tried for a crime known to the law. You had to
be able to point to law and section for the accusation; only those accusations
could be tried in court. Now, very generic crimes are allowed.
and the Sanhedrin
Mark 14:53-65 NASB
They led Jesus away to the high priest; and all the chief priests and the
elders and the scribes *gathered together. (54)
Peter had followed Him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high
priest; and he was sitting with the officers and warming himself at the fire. (55) Now the chief priests and the whole Council
kept trying to obtain testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, and they
were not finding any. (56) For many were
giving false testimony against Him, but their testimony was not consistent. (57) Some stood up and began
to give false testimony against Him, saying, (58)
"We heard Him say, 'I will destroy this temple made with hands, and in
three days I will build another made without hands.'" (59) Not even in this respect was their testimony
consistent. (60) The high priest stood up and came forward and questioned Jesus, saying,
"Do You not answer? What is it that these men are testifying against
You?" (61) But He kept silent and did
not answer. Again the high priest was questioning Him, and saying to Him,
"Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?"
(62) And Jesus said, "I
am; and you shall see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and
COMING WITH THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN." (63)
Tearing his clothes, the high priest *said, "What further need do we have
of witnesses? (64) "You have heard the
blasphemy; how does it seem to you?" And they all condemned Him to be
deserving of death. (65) Some began to spit
at Him, and to blindfold Him, and to beat Him with their fists, and to say to
Him, "Prophesy!" And the officers received Him with slaps in the face.
see here another common perversion of justice. In our own times we have seen
too many men acquitted after years in prison by having the crime scene DNA
analyzed – and discovering that the “guilty” man had nothing to do with it.
One way we do it is with jailhouse informants – men who receive a reduced
sentence in return for cooperation. Something of the same sort happened here.
As is often the case, when in a hurry, the witnesses didn’t have time to get
their stories together.
Caiaphas knows the simple road. There is one thing that this man will not
deny: he has openly claimed to be the Christ. Since they “know” that he can’t
be the Christ, he must be guilty of blasphemy. The logical fallacy is easy to
spot, but here there is no other conclusion in anyone’s mind.
question, however, has not lost its importance: Just who do you say this Jesus
of Nazareth is? Is he the liar, the lunatic or the Lord?
– Round One
John 18:28-40 NASB
Then they *led Jesus from Caiaphas into the Praetorium, and it was early; and
they themselves did not enter into the Praetorium so that they would not be
defiled, but might eat the Passover. (29)
Therefore Pilate went out to them and *said, "What accusation do you bring
against this Man?" (30) They answered
and said to him, "If this Man were not an evildoer, we would not have
delivered Him to you." (31) So Pilate
said to them, "Take Him yourselves, and judge Him according to your
law." The Jews said to him, "We are not permitted to put anyone to
death," (32) to fulfill the word of
Jesus which He spoke, signifying by what kind of death He was about to die. (33) Therefore Pilate entered again into the
Praetorium, and summoned Jesus and said to Him, "Are You the King of the
Jews?" (34) Jesus answered, "Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did
others tell you about Me?" (35)
Pilate answered, "I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief
priests delivered You to me; what have You done?" (36) Jesus answered, "My kingdom is
not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be
fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My
kingdom is not of this realm." (37)
Therefore Pilate said to Him, "So You are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I
have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth
hears My voice." (38) Pilate
*said to Him, "What is truth?" And when he had said this, he went out
again to the Jews and *said to them, "I find no guilt in Him. (39) "But you have a custom that I release
someone for you at the Passover; do you wish then that I release for you the
King of the Jews?" (40) So they cried
out again, saying, "Not this Man, but Barabbas." Now Barabbas was a
viewers will no doubt recognize the phrase, “perp walk.” The accused is
paraded before TV cameras, in handcuffs, in what has become almost a ceremonial
fashion. The idea is to set in the public’s mind a clear conviction of the
person’s guilt. The technique has its ancestor here: we wouldn’t have
arrested him if he hadn’t done something.
is an experienced bureaucrat of the Roman Empire, and he knows what to do with
this. It was a point of pride of the Romans that they brought justice with
their conquests. You must remember that justice at this time, outside Roman
justice, was largely a function of the justice of the individual ruler. You
pleaded your case before the local prince, and he gave you whatever justice you
were going to get. The Roman system was a great improvement on this, and
Pilate is concerned to preserve the appearance of justice.
he attempts to pass the buck back to the Jews. The man seems to have violated
some Jewish law, but nothing a Roman magistrate would consider a crime. Fine.
Try him yourself. Then comes the problem: the Romans did not permit the Jews
capital punishment. We want him dead; you’ll have to do it.
this point Pilate – other accounts tell us – found Jesus’ silence very
frustrating. In Roman law the accused was required to defend himself;
otherwise, it might not be a valid trial. Only when Pilate asks Jesus if he is
the King of the Jews does he get a response. Even then, Pilate isn’t sure what
to do with it.
my dear, Pilate doesn’t give a &*((). But there is one revealing moment
here: “What is truth?” Pilate the cynic would be at home in modern
Luke 23:6-12 NASB
When Pilate heard it, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. (7) And when he learned that He belonged to Herod's
jurisdiction, he sent Him to Herod, who himself also was in Jerusalem at that
time. (8) Now Herod was very glad when he saw
Jesus; for he had wanted to see Him for a long time, because he had been
hearing about Him and was hoping to see some sign performed by Him. (9) And he questioned Him at some length; but He
answered him nothing. (10) And the chief
priests and the scribes were standing there, accusing Him vehemently. (11) And Herod with his soldiers, after treating Him
with contempt and mocking Him, dressed Him in a gorgeous robe and sent Him back
to Pilate. (12) Now Herod and Pilate became
friends with one another that very day; for before they had been enemies with
is nothing if not an experienced politician. The man is a Galilean. Herod is
in town. What simpler solution could you want – hand him over to the tame king
set up under Roman rule. The technique is classic: passing the buck.
like so many others of us, has a method for determining if Jesus is really who
he says he is. He’ll just tell him to perform a miracle for him. I hope you
see that this is indeed a contradiction of God’s character. The Lord of the
universe does not perform miracles on command, like some petty fraud. Just to
make such a demand is reason enough to deny it.
Matthew 27:15-26 NASB
Now at the feast the governor was
accustomed to release for the people any
one prisoner whom they wanted. (16) At that
time they were holding a notorious prisoner, called Barabbas. (17) So when the people gathered together, Pilate
said to them, "Whom do you want me to release for you? Barabbas, or Jesus
who is called Christ?" (18) For he knew
that because of envy they had handed Him over. (19)
While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent him a message, saying, "Have nothing to do with
that righteous Man; for last night I suffered greatly in a dream because of
Him." (20) But the chief priests and the
elders persuaded the crowds to ask for Barabbas and to put Jesus to death. (21) But the governor said to them, "Which of
the two do you want me to release for you?" And they said,
"Barabbas." (22) Pilate *said to
them, "Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?" They
all *said, "Crucify Him!" (23) And
he said, "Why, what evil has He done?" But they kept shouting all the
more, saying, "Crucify Him!" (24)
When Pilate saw that he was accomplishing nothing, but rather that a riot was
starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd, saying,
"I am innocent of this Man's blood; see to
that yourselves." (25) And
all the people said, "His blood shall be on us and on our children!"
(26) Then he released Barabbas for them; but
after having Jesus scourged, he handed Him over to be crucified.
may note four things to our understanding:
acknowledges that he finds no guilt in the man. He flatly tells the mob the
man is innocent. But their leadership wants blood.
has been warned by his wife to get out of this mess and hand it back to the
Jews. Dreams were taken seriously in those days, and the standard bearer for
Roman justice could not help but feel the guilt. Pilate was a just and merciful
man – until it got risky.
therefore, what might be called the “poison pill” defense. OK, I’ll crucify
the man for you – but you get Barabbas instead.
All practical help
at an end, Pilate resorts to the symbolic. He washes his hands in front of the
crowd. It is a pivotal moment, for it causes the Jews to acknowledge that they
killed the Christ. The results have haunted them since.
feels rewarded. He has disavowed responsibility and – a great triumph – he has
the notoriously rebellious Jewish leadership chanting, “We have no king but
Caesar.” It should be a triumphant moment for Pilate. Instead, it seals his
fate for history.
last thing we may note: Except to confirm the truth of his being the Messiah,
Jesus does not bother to defend himself. When faced with unjust persecution,
the Christian will do well to imitate this. This is the way our world treated
the Son of God, the Messiah. Do you think his followers deserve better?