I know the day that we celebrate our Lord’s resurrection (Easter) has passed, but the reality of the circumstances surrounding the illegal way in which Jesus was arrested, tried, convicted and murdered, still remains. I just want to finish what I started because this information is staggering. This blog will contain illegal trials number one and two.
The first man before whom Jesus stood was a crook. John 18:13 tells us they led him to Annas. Why Annas?! He wasn’t even the High Priest! He was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the High Priest. What’s the father-in-law doing seeing an accused man at 2 o’clock in the morning when he is no longer in the court? That’s Caiaphas’s job. Well, do you remember when Jesus put together some leather thongs, and he made a whip, and went into the temple and he drove the moneychangers from the temple (Matthew 21:12, Mark 11:15)? Well, the man in charge of that bazaar at the time was named Annas, who was the High Priest at that time. He has been the High Priest for seventeen years. He was the boss of the Mafia.
The Mafia was in charge of two special things at Passover. First, the changing of money (and the discount rate was atrocious). Second, the purchasing of sacrificial animals (and the cost was incredible). If you were smart enough to bring your own animal, you had to have it pass the Mafia, or Annas’ men. And when you brought your animal there, they would take a careful look at the animal and would surely find some marks that would keep you from using your animal. So you must buy their animal, and their animals were three times, sometimes four times more than you would ever pay back home for a good old sheep. And all the profit wound up in Annas’ pocket. He was a crook.
He passed off the throne to his son-in-law who was nothing more than a puppet of Rome and a pawn in the hand of his father-in-law. Annas never forgot the time Jesus drove them out of the temple and he lost all that money. And he wrote down in his mind, “One of these days, buddy, I’m going to get back at you.” And now he’s got his chance.
Here’s Jesus, hands ties behind his back, standing in front of Annas. Everything about it is illegal. He has no business standing before someone who is not in council. And there are no witnesses. As a matter of fact, he wasn’t even required to answer! No Jew had to make his own statement. There were statements made against the accused and the council would decide on a verdict, but the accused could remain mute from beginning to ending. But that’s not the way they did it.
There are two things that he probed. Annas wanted to know about the men, and then he wanted to know about his teaching (John 18:19). Jesus doesn’t answer to his first question, but as to his teaching he answers in a most unusual way.
John 18:20-21, “Jesus answered him, I spake openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing. Why askest thou me? ask them which heard me, what I have said unto them: behold, they know what I said.”
Jesus was struck by an officer after he said this (verse 22). By the way, brutality was never allowed in the court either. Under the rules of trial procedure, Jesus knew that it was against the law to solicit the testimony of any, except witnesses and collaborators. Besides, under the law, no prisoner had to undergo preliminary examination. So, Jesus told him to ask witnesses what he taught. After he was struck, “Jesus answered him, If I have spoken evil, bear witness of the evil: but if well, why smitest thou me?” (John 18:23).
Jesus was under perfect control of the Holy Spirit. And let me add, when you are treated unjustly and unfairly, which is the lot of the Christian, if nothing more, etch it into your mind Jesus’ great control and be sure that you can have the same kind of control.
1 Peter 2:21-25, “For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.”
He bore this without retaliation. Hands behind his back, taking the punches of grown men, and we never read where he fell unconscious. He never fell with that cross. That comes from Church tradition, that’s not in scripture. He could have, but it doesn’t say he did. The point is, without sleep, and without a break, Jesus endured everything from the soldier’s heel in the garden all the way to the nails in the cross.
When Annas was finished with him, he had no answer. He was silenced. He himself was judged, not Christ. And so they carted him off to Caiaphas (verse 24).
Mark 14:53, “And they led Jesus away to the high priest: and with him were assembled all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes.”
Caiaphas got together a group of men about 3:30 in the morning. Remember, it’s illegal because it’s dark, it’s illegal because it’s a preliminary hearing, it’s illegal because they’re in the wrong place, Caisphas’ house, they’re not in the council chamber. It’s a clandestine meeting, it’s a kangaroo court!
Mark 14:56-59, “For many bare false witness against him, but their witness agreed not together. And there arose certain, and bare false witness against him, saying, We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands. But neither so did their witness agree together.”
These witnesses were contradicting each other. Caiaphas has to get this case down to Pilate. He was told by his father-in-law that he wants this man killed! And Caiaphas knows that he has no witnesses! So what does he do? Well, he tries another illegal route. He talks to the accused (Mark 14:60), but Jesus held his peace and said nothing (verse 61). Then Caiaphas asks him if he’s “the Christ, the Son of the Blessed” (verse 61), and Jesus answers him! “I am.”
You might be wondering why does he answer now and not before? In another gospel, just before Caiaphas asked this question, Caiaphas said, “I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God” (Matthew 26:3) And when a pious Jew heard that, he was obliged to answer. Under oath, he could not plead any amendment, he had to answer. And look at his answer:
Mark 14:62, “And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.”
That sounds like he’s God! In fact he is. He was simply laying a prophesy on Caiaphas that he couldn’t handle. And in good legal fashion, Caiaphas grabbed the collar of his robe and he gave it a yank. Because the Talmud required that when a moderator heard blasphemous words, he was to publicly disagree by tearing his garments. By the way, Leviticus taught that no official was to tear his garments, and so that’s where the Talmud cuts grains with scripture, but they were driven by the Talmud…at least the parts that they liked. The other parts they left out.
Mark 14:63, “Then the high priest rent his clothes, and saith, What need we any further witnesses?”
That’s a nice out, isn’t it? Who needs witnesses when you don’t have them? By the way, it’s not allowed for the moderator to make the decision, the council had to make a decision. He didn’t say let’s take a vote in the order prescribed by law. No. Instead he said “What think ye?” (verse 64), and they all condemned him. Then they added some extra curricular activities; they spit on him, covered his face and beat him with their fists, and mocked him. (Charles Swindoll)