The Mock Trial of Jesus

We are continuing day by day to look at the drama of the events that led up to the biggest murder of all time, the crucifixion of Christ. Israel’s system of jurisprudence was one of the best in the world, and truth was held in high esteem, except when it came to Jesus. A man could not be questioned without his lawyer being present. Jesus was given no lawyer. A man could not be tried during the night, yet Jesus endured two trials at night by Annas and Caiaphas before His third public trial at dawn before the Sanhedrin, i.e. the elders of Israel. If there was a guilty verdict, those giving the verdict were to stay a full day in the place where the pronouncement of guilt was given in case someone came forward with additional evidence.

Justice was to be protected and opportunity given for late testimony before punishment was carried out. Israel’s system of jurisprudence also held that no one could incriminate himself and that there needed to be at least two witnesses. Therefore, Jesus was silent before His accusers.  More than 600 years previously, it was prophesied by the prophet Isaiah that, when the Messiah came, He would be “oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7).

When Jesus came out of the house of Annas, He witnessed Peter’s third denial and betrayal before being taken across the courtyard to the house of Caiaphas, the puppet High Priest. Jesus stood boldly and did not reply to the lies and accusations from Annas and Caiaphas about Him. All legal proceedings of the ruling elders in capital cases had to be open to the public, and nothing incriminating was given by Jesus, so Christ was beaten, perhaps to weaken His resolve and courage, either before or after the public trial in front of the Sanhedrin (John 18:22), maybe both.

Early in the morning, the elders sat in judgement of Him. Standing before the Sanhedrin, the ruling body of seventy elders, He was already bloodied and bruised. The meeting of the Sanhedrin was just a mock trial to satisfy the legal requirement. The real trial had been illegally held before Annas and Caiaphas during the night. The accusation before the Sanhedrin was one of blasphemy, claiming that Jesus stated Himself to be God and Messiah:

66At daybreak the council of the elders of the people, both the chief priests and the teachers of the law, met together, and Jesus was led before them. 67“If you are the Messiah,” they said, “tell us.” Jesus answered, “If I tell you, you will not believe me, 68and if I asked you, you would not answer. 69But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.” 70They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?” He replied, “You say that I am.” 71Then they said, “Why do we need any more testimony? We have heard it from his own lips” (Luke 22:66-71).

Luke points out the fact that Jesus would not incriminate Himself; after all, He was not the one on trial. It was the ruling elders and high priests who were on trial. Everything that they did was illegal and an affront to Israel’s system of jurisprudence. The high priests themselves were the ones who would speak blasphemy as would occur later: “Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked. “We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered” (John 19:15). As the trial went on, the high priests could not get anything blasphemous out of His mouth, so in a blunt and direct manner, the high priest put Jesus under oath to tell them if He was the Messiah, the Son of God: “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God” (Matthew 26:62).

61But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” 62I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 63The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked. 64“You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?” (Mark 14:61-64).

Here before us, Jesus was saying that He was and is, the Great I Am, the name by which the Israelites would recognize God being among them (Exodus 3:14). Thank you, Jesus, for paying the price of our redemption.

Taken from the series on the Gospel of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. Click on study 62 at this link, Jesus Before Pilate and Herod (Luke 23:1-25). Keith Thomas

Jesus Cleanses the Temple

45Then he entered the temple area and began driving out those who were selling. 46“It is written,” he said to them,” ‘My house will be a house of prayer’; but you have made it ‘a den of robbers.'” 47Every day he was teaching at the temple. But the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the leaders among the people were trying to kill him. 48Yet they could not find any way to do it, because all the people hung on his words (Luke 19:45-48).

It was confrontation time! One person, Jesus, stood against the High priest who was overseeing a corrupt system. The Court of the Gentiles in the Temple had been taken over by money changers and merchants hired by Annas, Caiaphas’ father in law, who had also been High Priest. When birds or animals were brought to the Temple to be sacrificed, they would often be refused for no apparent reason other than the fact that Annas wanted more money. A worshipper that bought an animal inside the Temple precincts would be charged fifteen times more than one bought outside the Temple, but if a person bought it outside the temple, although it was much cheaper, the priests who inspected the animals, would often refuse it, thus forcing the worshipper to buy another animal inside the temple.

Annas presided over everything that was going on and was responsible for this system of purchase and trade, which exploited the poor. The Temple tax also had to be paid in Israelite Shekels. Visitors from different nations would be short changed and robbed, but there was nothing they could do against it, such were the corrupt practices that went on in the temple courts. Instead of a place where the Gentiles could pray and seek God, they smelled animal dung and the clink of coins. It would have saddened any true worshipper who understood how people were being treated in the Name of God. Mark records how Jesus responded to such behavior in the House of God:

15On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts (Mark 11:15-16).

The Lord’s passion for His Father’s Name and glory burst forth in controlled anger. Later, the Apostle John writes: His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me” (John 2:17). His courage and zeal captured their hearts. How they adored Him for what He did that day. He was outraged at the religious leader’s insolence and greed. Just picture the scene: the money rolling everywhere, people scrambling for all they can grab as tables are overturned, doves flying in all directions, getting their freedom instead of being used for dishonest profit. The picture is one of bedlam inside the Court of the Gentiles. God had spoken that His house would be a house of prayer for all nations (Isaiah 56:7), but instead they were selling animals and birds.

Can you imagine the leading Jews being challenged by someone whom they believed was an illegitimate son from Nazareth? Their thoughts turned towards violence toward the One who challenged their practices (v.47). Where did He get the authority to do and say such things? They may have thought: “How can He assume to tell us we cannot sell our goods in the Temple precincts?” Surely, Jesus must have known that this behavior would not earn Him any friends or favors in the Temple Courts. His brave actions exemplified His passion and fervor for His Father’s house. May this same attitude be in us too, a passion for the household of faith.

Taken from the series on the Book of Luke, found in the middle column near to the top. To view, click here. Click on study 52. Luke 19:28-48, The King Comes to His Temple. Keith Thomas

Why Was Jesus Born in a Stable?

cross-shadow-on-manger-jesus-16016320-698-507I found it interesting when I was learning Hebrew at a school in Jerusalem that the town named Bethlehem is composed of two Hebrew words, “Beit” and “Lechem,” the words house and bread. Jesus, who called Himself the “Bread of Life” (John 6:35), was born in a town called House of Bread. Have you ever stopped to wonder why God arranged for Caesar Augustus to announce a census to be taken for tax purposes at the same time that Jesus was to be born? Mary and Joseph were living in Nazareth, a distance of 80 miles from Bethlehem. The promised Messiah was prophesied as being of kingly seed of the line of King David. Where was David from? Not from Nazareth in Galilee, but Bethlehem. To prove that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, He arranged that a census to be taken and for Jesus to be born at the time of the census and that Jesus, the descendant of David, to be on the town records of Bethlehem.

It’s an 80-mile trip to Bethlehem. Imagine what it would have been like for Mary to travel 80 miles on a donkey while in the last week of her pregnancy. Of course, we do not know that Mary traveled the distance on a donkey, scripture does not tell us. We pick that message up from Christmas carols. If it were on a donkey it would probably have taken around 4-5 days to get there. When you consider that she had to make such a journey at the worst possible time in her pregnancy, do you think she questioned God’s sovereignty?

On the four or five day journey, I wonder if Mary had thoughts of God arranging somehow for her son, the future King of the world, to be born in a palace? Every expectant mother starts to plan ahead as to the birth of her child, but Mary was forced to go on an eighty-mile journey over the hills of Israel carrying her son at the worst possible time of her pregnancy. How hard it must have been to find out that there was no palace, no hotel, and no one to even let them stay in a spare room or floor space. There was no place for the Son of God to be born. If you had been in Joseph’s shoes and couldn’t find a room what would you have done? The Bible does not say where the Son of God was born; we presume a stable because he was laid in a manger. William Barclay, a noted authority on Palestine in the time of Jesus says:

“The accommodation for travelers was most primitive. The eastern khan was like a series of stalls opening off a common courtyard. Travelers brought their own food; all that the innkeeper provided was fodder for the animals and a fire to cook. The town was crowded and there was not room for Joseph and Mary. So it was in the common courtyard that Mary’s child was born. The word that is translated manger means a place where animals feed; and therefore it can be either the stable or the manger, which is meant.[1]

What reason could there be as to why the Lord of the Universe should be born in a stable and not find a place in the Inn? That there was no room at the inn for Jesus was symbolic of what was to happen to Him. There was no room for Christ in Herod’s kingdom so He was hunted. No room for Him in Rome’s plans so Pilate washed his hands of Him. No room for Him in Israel’s thoughts, so He was rejected and despised of men (Isaiah 53:3). As we look around the world as a whole there are many churches that have no room for Him in their plans. Revelation 3:20 says that the Lord stands outside the door of the church, knocking to come in. The only place where there was room was on a cross. Why did God allow His Son to have no room? I put it to you today that it was for a reason. That He might identify with the very lowliest of us on planet earth. No one can ever say of the Messiah, “you just don’t know what it is like.” He knows exactly how it is. He bore it all for us. What a wonderful Savior! May your Christmas be one where He is invited into your home.

Keith Thomas

[1] William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible, The Gospel of Luke, page 21.