The Illegal Trials of Jesus

Before his crucifixion, Jesus faced a total of 6 trials: three religious trials and three trials  before the Roman authorities.

The religious trials took place before  Annas (the former high priest), Caiaphas (the current high priest and son-in-law of Annas), and the Sanhedrin (a council of 70 men who met at the temple in Jerusalem.) The civil trials were before Pilate, then Herod, then back to Pilate. His trials were illegal, breaking many of the civil and religious laws of the time, despite the fact that the Roman judicial system was the most advanced in the world.

  • When Judas lead the soldiers to capture Jesus, the law declared it mandatory to tell the accused what the charges were. This didn’t happen.
  • As a former high priest, Annas had no official role. He was, however the one who allowed the moneychangers into the temple, and he lost money when Jesus cleared the temple of them.
  • Law dictated that the official at the trial be neither friend nor foe of the accused. As a Sadducee, Caiaphas was known to be in fierce opposition of Jesus.
  • The trial was held during the Passover feast.
  • The Sanhedrin “sought false witness against Jesus, that they might put him to death” (Matthew 26:59). Furthermore, the right to try capital cases had been taken away from the Jews 40 years earlier.
  • The Sanhedian had a membership of 70, but the night of Jesus’ trial there were only 23 present.
  •  The trial was held before dawn, but trials were not to be held at night.
  • Self incriminating questions were forbidden, but Jesus was asked if he was the Christ.
  • According to the law, the accused was to have someone representing them. Jesus did not.
  • They were unable to prove his guilt. The onus was on them to prove He was not the Son of God.
  • Jesus was convicted by acclamation, in defiance of the rule that says each member must individually and privately vote, and despite the fact that he was pronounced innocent THREE TIMES by Pilate. Furthermore, Pilate broke the law by turning him over to the mob instead of acquitting him.
  • A night must pass before a death sentence was carried out, in case new evidence was discovered. Jesus was crucified within hours.
  • Last, but definitely not least, when a charge was made it was to be followed through with consistency. At first Jesus was accused of claiming that he would destroy the temple, and then build another in three days. When that charge proved invalid, the indictment was changed to blasphemy. Jesus was then turned over to the Romans, and since the Romans were not disposed to execute people for theological reasons Jesus was accused of being a rival of Caesar.

As Jesus hung on the cross he prayed, “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.” And indeed they did not know, for they were being used by God to fulfill his promise to mankind.

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