Luke22v63toLuke23v25: THE TRIAL OF JESUS

(A) Introduction. Read: Luke23v1to25

It seems that after Jesus was arrested at night he was taken to be interrogated by Annas. I deal with this preliminary investigation in my exposition on John13v12to27. After this, Jesus was sent to the palace of Caiaphas where he waited under guard until the full Sanhedrin was convened at daybreak. The Council was prohibited from sitting at night. The Sanhedrin on finding Jesus guilty of blasphemy then took him to Pilate intent on securing his execution. I cover Jesus' trial before Pilate in my exposition on John18v28to40. Pilate tried to buy some time by sending Jesus to Herod for judgment but Herod quickly gets bored with Jesus and sent him back to Pilate who desperately sought to secure his release before giving in to the demands of the Jewish leaders.

I intend to examine briefly the attitude of those involved in Jesus' travesty of a trial. Sadly, the participants in the trial of Jesus have their counterparts today.

(B) The temple guards. See Lk23v63to65.

The temple security men bullied Jesus while he waited for the Sanhedrin to be convened. They blindfolded him and demanded, "Prophesy! Who hit you?" And they said many other insulting things to him.

If the burly guards had been questioned about their abusive behaviour toward Jesus I expect they would have made the familiar excuses common to all bullies:

(1) We were bored. There was nothing to do. We had hoped for a bit of aggro when we went to arrest Jesus but his supporters all ran away. We had to do something to liven things up.

(2) We were only having a bit of fun. It was a lark. We didn't really hurt Jesus. All we did was blind fold him and give him a few taps. It was just a game.

(3) He asked for it. Jesus led the people astray claiming to be a prophet when he wasn't. A bit of roughing taught him a lesson.

The facts were:

(1) The guards were ignorant. They had no IDEA who they were bullying - the creator, God's anointed, the Saviour of the world, the future judge of all men - who had 12 legions of angels at his disposal.

(2) The guards were cowardly. It is easy to knock about a man whose hands are bound especially when he is outnumbered.

(3) The guards were sadistic. They, like all bullies, enjoyed tormenting Jesus. They took pleasure in mocking him and hitting him.


Whenever Christians are in the minority they are always liable to be bullied. Militant secularism is taking a hold in Britain and Christian nurses and teachers are being bullied for expressing their faith.

In other countries where there is a Muslim or Hindu majority it can be much, much worse. In the Sept 2010 edition of Evangelicals Now there was this news item:

In August, two Christian women said village officials extorted relatively large sums of money from them - and severely beat the husband of one - for proclaiming Christ to Muslims.

There were investigations into fabricated charges that Christians had paid Muslims to participate in river baptism on May 26th. Only six men among 55 converts were baptised as the rest were intimidated by protesting Muslims.

(C) The members of the Sanhedrin. See Lk22v66 to Lk23v3.

The priests, Pharisees and lawyers on the Sanhedrin displayed implacable hostility to Jesus. They hated Jesus and their hatred made them:

(1) Irrational.

Jesus knew that there was no reasoning with the members of the Sanhedrin. "If you are Christ," they said, "tell us."

If I tell you, you will not believe me, and if I asked you, you would not answer." Lk22v68.

The Sanhedrin would neither accept that Jesus was the Messiah nor answer questions on what they expected of the Messiah. No discussion was possible. The chief priests and Pharisees were so consumed by envy and malice that they were beyond reason. Nothing Jesus said would make any difference whatsoever to their attitude.

(2) Blind.

Such was the chief priests and Pharisees hatred of Jesus that they were blinded to his good works and life full of grace and truth. The Jewish leaders hated Jesus for his popularity, exposure of their hypocrisy and campaign against corruption in the Temple. They were unable to see that he was both the Son of Man and Son of God.

When Jesus said: "But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God." They ALL asked, "Are you then THE Son of God?"

He replied, "You are right in saying I am."

I think the Authorised Version captures the sense of Jesus' reply with: "Ye say that I am." Lk22v70. Jesus replied as we sometimes do: "You've said it." or "You've got it." There is always a certain amount of irony in such a response. It is a typical riposte by Jesus.

The members of the Sanhedrin did not adjourn to properly discuss Christ's claim. They didn't look at the evidence. Instead, consumed by hatred, they, by common consent, dismissed Jesus as a liar and accused him of blasphemy.

(3) Untruthful.

The Jewish leaders did not charge Jesus before Pilate of claiming to be the Son of God. This would have cut no ice with the Roman Governor - although later in desperation they did make this accusation. By then Jesus had so impressed Pilate that he made a determined effort to secure his release. See Jn19v7to12.

The chief priests and their officials made three allegations against Jesus:

(a) He was inciting rebellion. "We have found this man subverting our nation." Lk23v2. "He stirs up the people all over Judea by his teaching." Lk23v5. This was the reverse of the truth. On the one occasion the people tried to take him be force and proclaim him king Jesus escaped into the hills. See John6v15. It is true that Jesus did nothing to stop the crowd shouting out, "Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!" Lk19v39. However, Jesus chose to enter Jerusalem riding on a donkey!

(b) He advocated civil disobedience. "He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar." Lk23v2. This was a bare-faced lie. Jesus told the representatives of the high priests in the days preceding his arrest: "Then give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's." Lk20v25.

(b) He intended to challenge the authority of Caesar. The Jewish leaders told Pilate: "He .... claims to be Christ, a king." The implication was that Jesus intended to drive the Romans out Judea and set up his own kingdom. But as Jesus told Pilate: "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews." Jn18v36.

(4) Vindictive.

When Pilate on three occasions proposed to release Jesus because he found no basis for the charges laid by the chief priests both they and their officials shouted with increasing vehemence for Christ's crucifixion. As Jesus said at his arrest: "But this is your hour - when darkness reigns." Lk22v53. Such was the sheer spite and malice of the Jewish leaders that: With loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. v23.

Jesus enemies were determined he should pay the ultimate price for offending their dignity and challenging their authority. They were even prepared for a notorious terrorist and murderer to be released onto the streets if that secured the death of Jesus.

It rarely pays to dent the pride of those in authority. There is usually a payback time. There are those who harbour and feed a grudge for months and even years whom, when the opportunity arises, exact their revenge. This is a common but unlovely trait. Not many are like Abraham Lincoln of whom this story is told:

Lincoln once got caught up in a situation where he wanted to please a politician, so he issued a command to transfer certain regiments. When the secretary of war, Edwin Stanton, received the order, he refused to carry it out. He said that the President was a fool. Lincoln was told what Stanton had said, and he replied, "If Stanton said I'm a fool, then I must be, for he is nearly always right. I'll see for myself." As the two men talked, the President quickly realized that his decision was a serious mistake, and without hesitation he withdrew it.


Today there are several groups in existence that hate Christianity. These include militant atheists in Britain and Muslim and Hindus extremists in Asia. All these groups share most of the characteristics of the Jewish religious leaders. British atheists have an irrational distaste for God; they are blind to the attributes of Jesus; they make false allegations about Christians and want to kill off all reference to Jesus in public life.

Every month there are news items in Evangelicals Now about militant Muslims like the one below:

A dozen masked men shot five Christians dead in Pakistan as they came out of their church building on July 15th, two months after an Islamic extremist group sent church leaders a threatening letter.

The pastor and four church members were leaving the building after meeting to discuss security in light of threats they had received. In May church leaders received a letter warning the Christians to leave the area. The group is linked with an Islamic school whose students have been threatening the church since 2008.

(D) Pilate. See Lk23vs1to7 and Luke23vs13to25. See exposition on John18v28to40.

Pilate failed to do his job which was to administer justice and protect the innocent. Let us look at Pilate as the trial proceeded:

(1) He knew from the start Jesus was innocent of the charges laid against him.

Pilate didn't take long to come to a decision. The chief priests laid charges and this is what happened: So Pilate asked Jesus, "Are YOU the king of the Jews?"

"Yes, it as you say," Jesus replied.

Then Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, "I find no basis for a charge against this man."

In all four gospels Pilate is recorded to have asked this question and each time the stress is on the word, 'YOU'. Pilate had made up his mind about Jesus before the chief priests made their allegations before him. It is highly probable that Pilate's spies and informants had told him all about Jesus. He knew that Jesus was primarily a religious teacher and a thorn in the side of the Sanhedrin. Pilate would never have become Governor of Judea without showing aptitude as an administrator. He was well aware that the chief priests envied Jesus' popularity with the masses. Pilate had assessed Jesus and concluded that he was no threat to the rule of Rome. So he asked Jesus ironically - voicing his incredulity: "Are YOU the king of the Jews."

Jesus replied in kind saying enigmatically and ironically: "You've said it." "You've got it." In other words he concurred with Pilate. Jesus agreed with the Governor that it was ludicrous to suppose he was a king as charged by his accusers. This is why with no more ado Pilate dismissed the charges laid against Jesus.

(2) He both despised and feared the Jewish leaders.

Pilate didn't take the accusation of the chief priests seriously. He hated Jewish pride and exclusiveness. The members of the Sanhedrin wouldn't even enter his palace. He had to come out to them. This is all made clear in John's gospel. It is highly unlikely that Pilate knew much about Judaism and probably what he did know he didn't like. Yet, for all his contempt of the religious leaders Pilate feared them. They had done him harm in the past and could do him harm in the future. Pilate knew he was in trouble when the chief priests and their officials shouted: "If you let this man go you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar." Jn19v12.

(3) He didn't want to be involved.

Pilate didn't want to adjudicate in a dispute between Jesus and the Jewish leaders over religion. He told Jesus accusers: "Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law." Jn18v31. When this didn't work Pilate was only too pleased to shift the responsibility for trying and sentencing Jesus to Herod. He did this on discovering Jesus was a native of Galilee and as such came under Herod's jurisdiction. This seems to be a piece of important information Pilate's spies had not passed on. Right at the end of the judicial process - if you can call it that - Pilate attempted to shift the responsibility for Jesus' execution on to the Jews. He took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. "I am innocent of this man's blood," he said. "It is your responsibility!" Mt27v24.

(4) Pilate was weakened by past misjudgements.

Pilate had made two grave mistakes in the past. He trampled all over Jewish susceptabilities when he marched Roman soldiers carrying the imperial standard into Jerusalem. The Jews considered these standards to be graven images and were mortally offended. On another occasion Pilate took money from the Temple treasury to finance a water supply scheme.

Pilate must have realised that if civil unrest broke out again and a report was made to Rome about all these incidents he ran a very real risk of losing his job. He was politically expendable and any more complaints could spell the end of his career. The Jewish leaders had Pilate by the short and curlies and he knew it.

(4) He was in a genuine dilemma.

After Jesus came back from Herod - with doubtless a written declaration that Jesus had done nothing deserving death - Pilate proposed on three separate occasions to release Jesus. Each time he was shouted down. On the third occasion Luke records: But with loud shouts they insistently demanded that he be crucified, and their shouts prevailed. v23. Matthew wrote: When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere but that instead an uproar was starting ... . Mt27v24.

Pilate was faced with a difficult choice: to release Jesus and have a riot in which people died or sacrifice an innocent man to keep the peace. Pilate had a clear duty to administer justice but he also had a duty to maintain the public order. Which was most important? It is possible to have some sympathy with Pilate!

(5) He failed to administer justice.

Pilate lacked the courage of his convictions and bowed to pressure. He condemned an innocent man, one he should have protected, to death by crucifixion.

So Pilate decided to grant their demand. 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. Lk23v25.

Pilate had his priorities wrong.


(1) Immoral acts, foolish misjudgements and sinful attitudes weaken our moral authority. Many instances can be given of this. King David was never the same after his affair with Bathsheba. He lost control of his family. British MP's forfeited the public's respect over their exploitation of the expenses system. Many were forced to retire. I know a man who committed adultery and left his first wife. This led him to make the conscious decision to leave the moral guidance of his children to his second wife. By the time he tried to assert himself it was too late. We reap what we sow.

(2) There are times when all the members of the church have to get involved in a dispute. This is something Jesus taught. See Mt18v15to17. This may be very unpleasant but it is wrong to evade your responsibility.

(3) To act justly takes precedence over almost all other considerations. Jesus should have been protected even if this led to a riot. It is patently wrong to reward those who threaten violence but sadly it is still common practice. The British Government agreed to pardon IRA and Loyalist killers as part of the Northern Ireland 'Peace Process.'

Slavery was obolished and civil rights eventually granted to black people in the Southern states of the U.S.A. because it was just notwithstanding the violence that ensued.

It is important to be just in small things as well as large. Job appointments and promotion should be determined by merit; the selection process should be just. Too often it is not. People making the decisions often have planks in their eye - the planks of bias, prejudice, ignorance and self-love. See exposition on Luke6v37to42. I am afraid Christians are not immune from putting the 'well being of the church' before justice. I read of a church that expelled an elder for carrying on with younger women. He was a rich and influential. When he left he took others with him. The weekly collection plummeted and the church began to decline. So the wealthy but immoral elder was invited back and reinstated in his former position.

It is a terrible thing when the innocent are sacrificed for the so called greater good. This is what Pilate did. Some might say that is what God did! I am very unhappy with this line of reasoning. At Calvary Jesus voluntarily offered himself as a sacrifice and God graciously accepted it.

(1) To act justly and protect the innocent and vulnerable should be the number one priority of the state. This is something the police seemed to have forgotten with their focus on targets and preoccupation with bureaucracy. It is easier to sit behind a desk than sort delinquents out on the street.

There are police forces that do not take anti-social behaviour and public disorder seriously because they are not 'crimes'. They seem to discount the acute distress such behaviour causes. In the Daily Telegraph for Saturday September 25th there is a report entitled: 'Yobs blamed for death of woman in manhole fall.' Teenagers made the life of 80-year-old Jenny Ward a misery by throwing stones at her, shouting things at her and taunting her. Eventually she fell into a manhole after the metal cover was removed in what neighbours believe was a deliberate trap. The same neighbours accused the police of failing to deal with episodes of anti-social behaviour and said Mrs Ward was regularly subjected to abuse and vandalism.

An even worse incident occurred when a woman tormented by feral youths torched herself and her handicapped daughter in her car because after 30 complaints the police had done nothing to remedy her situation. There was a tendency on the part of the police to see her as part of the problem.

Policemen who adopt this attitude are not one whit better, indeed they are significantly worse, than Pilate who washed his hands of Jesus' fate and abrogated responsibility for protecting the innocent.

(E) Herod. See Lk23v6to12.

Herod was characterised by frivolous curiosity. He was a man of no convictions. For him Jesus was:

(1) An exhibit.

When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he ahd been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform some miracle. Luke23v8.

Herod wanted to see Jesus to witness a marvel. He wanted to be thrilled and intrigued. Jesus was viewed as little more than a supremely gifted magician.

Herod's attitude persists. Even sceptics love it when religion puts on a spectacle. The usual anti-Christian BBC gave the recent visit of the Pope to Britain plenty of coverage. The cameras would have been rolling when Elijah took on the prophets of Baal on Mt Carmel. Pundits would queue up to give an explanation of how Elijah rigged it! I don't think the BBC would have given Paul much air time as he sat mending tents and chatted about the gospel. Yet Paul changed the world more profoundly than any pope or Old Testament prophet.

(2) An examinee.

Herod plied him (Jesus) with questions.

These questions must have been frivolous because Jesus made no attempt to answer any of them. It is significant that Jesus held Herod in more contempt than Pilate or even the chief priests. I wonder what sort of questions Herod asked. I think he may have asked Jesus how he pulled off his stunts of feeding the five thousand and raising Lazarus from the dead. Maybe he asked some salacious questions about the woman who followed Jesus around. I think he might have probed Jesus about how he was going to set up a kingdom without an armed following. Herod had asked John the Baptist a lot of questions and been mildly interested in the answers without showing any signs that he intended to repent and pursue God's interests.

There always has been and always will be people who find it entertaining to ply Christians with questions. I know that in my student days there was a fellow student who loved to interrogate me about a Christian's attitude to sex and my beliefs about the afterlife. My friend John Skull talked to me on a recent walk about a young man doing a Christianity Explored course who kept wandering off the subject and asking numerous questions on peripheral subjects. Needless to say the young man is making very slow progress on the course. He is a bit like some of my Geography pupils who delighted in introducing red herrings to keep me talking and themselves from working!

There isn't really much point answering frivolous questions or engaging in conversation with those who have no intention of making a commitment to Jesus.

(3) An entertainment.

In the end Herod and his soldiers used Jesus for crude entertainment. Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate.

Comedians, play writes, film producers and authors continue to ridicule and mock Jesus for cheap entertainment. Films like, 'The life of Brian' are anathema to Christians. It is not that Christians lack a sense of humour. Rather it is hard to enjoy witnessing the one you love and admire being made fun of. When Jesus returns to earth, NO ONE WILL MAKE FUN OF HIM!

(F) Conclusion.

Sadly the world has not changed. People like Pilate, Herod, the chief priests and the ignorant soldiers are about today. Christians should be aware it is always likely to be so. Jesus never promised his followers an easy ride!

ANY COMMENTS FOR JOHN REED: E-mail jfmreed@talktalk.net