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courtroom trials November 6 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading: Luke 23:1-12; Mark 15:1-5; Matthew 27:11-14; John 18:28-38

Court Trials and Injustice

Through the library interlinked system we can get about any book or DVD, even old Perry Mason courtroom dramas. Do we remember Perry Mason, the lawyer who almost never lost? Watching those TV episodes gave us hope in the justice of the courts (especially if Perry Mason was our lawyer). It is not that way in the real world. Notorious courtroom dramas like the O.J. Simpson trials lead us to believe, whether right or wrong, that there is injustice in the court system. This is nothing new; it has been happening for a very long time. It happened in Jesus’ day. How did Jesus suffer injustice in the court system, and how did he react? How should we react when suffering injustice?

After Jesus betrayal by Judas, Jesus was unjustly tried as a criminal. The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the N.T., by Walvoord and Zuck, © 1985, has many insights into the religious and civil trials of Jesus. What follows is a summary of pp.85-87, 182-185, 261-262, and 335-338, with personal comments.

The injustices that Jesus suffered started with his arrest. It is common in an arrest to follow certain legal proceedings. Even the Jews had them. However, there were some legal proceedings that were not followed in the arrest of Jesus. First, there was no charge or allegation of wrongdoing; his accusers made that up later. Second, legal proceedings were not allowed between sunset and sunrise, and yet Jesus was put through three trials before sunrise.

After his arrest, Jesus was taken to Annas, the father-in-law to Caiaphas, the high priest that year (John 18:13). We do not know why they took Jesus to Annas first. Perhaps Caiaphas wanted to show off his prize prisoner, perhaps he sought to honor his father-in-law by seeking his judgment first (he was High Priest before Caiaphas), or perhaps this was done to allow sufficient time to assemble the Jewish ruling body, the Sanhedrin. After the questioning by Annas, Jesus was brought to Caiaphas for trial (Matthew 26:57).

There was something strange about the allegations brought against Jesus in the trial under Caiaphas. Though many spurious allegations were leveled against Jesus, no allegations were able to stick (Matthew 26:59-62). After charges were leveled against him, the religious leaders required Jesus to testify against himself, which was another violation of Jewish court procedures. They finally convicted Jesus of blasphemy because he claimed to be God’s Son, making him equal in nature to God. However, their charge was wrong because Jesus spoke the truth; Jesus is the Son of God.

Jesus received rough treatment during the trial of Caiaphas. He was blindfolded, mocked, spit upon, slapped, struck with fists and beaten (Matthew 26:67-68). All this was done without even a conviction. Jesus did not defend himself, though he suffered this injustice.

After Caiaphas, the next trial of Jesus was held by the Jewish ruling body, the Sanhedrin (Matthew 27:1-2). They met and came to a decision to put Jesus to death, but they had no authority to execute anyone. They had to take him to Pontius Pilate, the ruling Roman governor of Judea.

The Sanhedrin had decided Jesus was guilty of blasphemy for claiming to be God’s Son. However, they did not take this charge to Pilate because the Roman government cared nothing about Jewish laws and traditions. Therefore, the Sanhedrin charged Jesus with subverting the nation, opposing taxes to Caesar, and claiming to be Christ, a King (Luke 23:1-2). The Roman government wanted peace in the provinces; they did not want insurrectionists. The Roman government wanted no opposition to the payment of taxes. Furthermore, the Roman government did not want a rival king.

When questioned by Pilate, Jesus allayed his fears telling him that his kingdom was not of this world (John 18:36).

The Jewish leaders pressed their case against Jesus that he was stirring up the people in Galilee. Hearing this, Pilate sent Jesus to Herod Antipas, who ruled over the province of Galilee but just happened to be in Jerusalem at the time (Luke 23:6-7). Herod was eager to receive Jesus because he heard about his miracles and hoped this notable prisoner would perform for him. He was disappointed, however, because Jesus performed no miracles and remained silent throughout all the questions and the accusations of the religious leaders. Herod and his soldiers mocked and clothed Jesus with a royal robe and sent him back to Pilate.

Throughout his trials Jesus did not say much of anything. According to Isaiah 53:7 he was like a lamb before a slaughter or a sheep before his shearer’s. Jesus was “the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world” (John 1:29, NIV), but first he had to be slain. As painful as it would be, Jesus death on the cross for our sins, in our place, was necessary for our salvation (more...). We will look at this in our next two Bible studies.

Christians, how do we respond to injustice in our world? 1Peter 2:19-23 gives us some helpful instructions:

For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God.

But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it?

But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.

To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.” When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. (NIV)

Peter summarizes his instructions to suffering Christians in 1Peter 4:19: “So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” (NIV)

Lessons to live by:

  • As unfair and painful as it was, Jesus death on the cross for our sins and in our place was necessary for our salvation (more...).
  • Injustices are a part of our sinful world. We need to separate civil injustice from wrongful treatment because of our faith. If we suffer civil injustice we should seek peaceful resolutions if possible (Romans 12:18). Failing that, we may, as citizens in our American society, seek legal means of rectification.
  • If we suffer injustice because of our Christianity, we should entrust ourselves to God, who judges justly, and not seek to retaliate. We should continue to do good as a proof of our Christianity.

Today’s Bible memory verse:

1 Peter 4:19 “So then, those who suffer according to God's will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” (NIV)

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