The Trial of Jesus



Dr. John Hoole



(Click on pictures and charts to see larger version)

Let me begin by asking you a question – one for you to think about.  Which event is the most important- (1) the death or (2) the resurrection of Jesus the Messiah?  Of course there would be no resurrection had Jesus not been crucified.  But, the fact is, He was.


But what if, after Jesus was crucified, dead and buried, He had not resurrected from the grave?  There would be no salvation.  There would be no proof that Jesus is indeed God in the flesh.


The crucifixion and the death of Jesus Christ on the cross, His burial and His resurrection from the dead on the third day, are the cornerstones and the basic tenets on which Christian faith is founded.


Today I want to take you to Jerusalem to track the last few days in the life of Jesus Christ that ends in the Crucifixion.  In the last 24 hours prior to His crucifixion, Jesus went through 6 trials or inquiries.  Three were Jewish and three were Roman.  But before these trials and interrogations, our Lord and His disciples were at a couple of other locations.  Let’s follow Jesus and His disciples through these trying days.


In this satellite view, the white line is the wall that exists currently around Old Jerusalem.  But, according to1st Century historian, Flavius Josephus, the wall extended further south in the 1st century.  He gives very descriptive details of the walls and the additional territory is shown in pink.  And the yellow line outlines the ancient City of David.  This was the size of Jerusalem when King David took it from the Jebusites.  The Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque did not exist in the first century, so let me make it more representative of that era.  And here is the location of the Zion Gate, as well as the area of Old Jerusalem known as Mount Zion.


As you can see from the depiction, the Zion Gate is in the shape of an “L”  Here is an aerial view of Mount Zion and the location on Mt. Zion in the wall of the Zion Gate.  Here is another, showing where the Upper Room was located.  Now, let me take you there.  It is here we begin our walk with Christ to the cross.


Here is the location on the satellite map.  Christians regard this location as that of the Upper Room where the Last Supper was observed.  This would have been observed on the upper floor of the building.


Here we are walking down a narrow street to the Upper Room.  Then we climb a flight of stairs to the second floor.  This is a photo taken inside the upper room of this building.  And one more.


The building we visited is not a first century building – but a Crusader 14th century construction.  But we are quite certain the Upper Room was located here.  While two story houses were common in Israel in the first century, they generally constructed the second story out of wooden beams or other combustible materials.  Therefore, uncovering houses with intact upper floors does not often happen.  Over the remains of this first century building has been constructed the building we visited.


First, let’s read where the Upper Room is mentioned in the Bible.  All four gospels record the Last Supper and what happened there.  But Luke gives us some preparatory comments that the others do not.  You will read them in Luke 22.


Luke 22:7-13 NKJV


7          Then came the Day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover must be killed.

8          And He sent Peter and John, saying, "Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat."

9          So they said to Him, "Where do You want us to prepare?"

10        And He said to them, "Behold, when you have entered the city, a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him into the house which he enters.

11        Then you shall say to the master of the house, 'The Teacher says to you, "Where is the guest room where I may eat the Passover with My disciples?"'

12        Then he will show you a large, furnished upper room; there make ready."

13        So they went and found it just as He had said to them, and they prepared the Passover.


The Passage is very interesting to me – almost intriguing.  Jesus sends Peter and John to make preparation for them to eat the Passover.  When they ask him “where,” He tells them “as you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you.”  Now, I know that Jesus could see all this happen before it does, and through the Holy Spirit, could tell them in advance about it.  But He doesn’t say “when you will see a man carrying a jar of water, follow him.”  Rather, “a man carrying a jar will meet you.”  It is like the man will be looking for them.


It is almost as if Jesus had prearranged for this meeting.  And here is another intriguing part of the scenario.  Men did not usually carry earthen jars of water – women did.  This is something out of the ordinary.  Jesus’ instructions sounds like some kind of pre-arranged signal, perhaps in order to hold the Passover meal in secret, in a place unknown to his enemies.


Alfred Edersheim, in his book, “The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah,” wrote:

"Evidently, neither the house where the Passover was to be kept, nor its owner, was to be named beforehand within hearing of Judas. That last Meal with its Institution of the Holy Supper, was not to be interrupted, nor their last retreat betrayed, till all had been said and done, even to the last prayer of Agony in Gethsemane.”

It is here in the Upper Room that Jesus institutes the Last Supper – the Holy Communion, which, through the Apostle Paul’s instruction, become one of the ordinances of the Church.  The Lord’s Supper is to be observed often – though we are not told how often.  And in its observance, we remember the Lord’s death.


Jesus breaks the bread and passes the cup.  He predicts the betrayal by Judas  (Matthew 26:21-25).  Judas leaves, but the disciples don’t fully understand what was said by Christ to Judas.  And before they leave the upper room, Mark 14:26 says they sang a song.


According to Josephus, there was a gate to the south of Mount Zion.  It was known as the Gate of the Essenes.  I can imagine them taking the route through this gate, then east down the Valley of Hinnom, then north, up the Kidron Valley to the Garden of Gethsemane.


Jesus continues to talk as they walked.  As they walk, Christ says, “All of you are going to stumble because of Me tonight.”  Jesus says, in effect, they will all forsake Him because of what will happen to Him.  Peter strongly says he would never forsake his Savior.  And Jesus responds by saying that before rooster crows, Peter would deny Him 3 times.


Garden of Gethsemane


They arrive at the Garden and Jesus wants to pray.  Gethsemane comes from the Hebrew “Gat Shemanim.”  In Aramaic, it is “Gath-Smané”  It literally means, “Oil Press” and always has Olive oil in mind.  Although we call it a garden, it really was an olive orchard, as it is to this day.


Let me show you a couple of photos I have taken.  It is kept like a garden with many Olive Trees.  Some of the trees are so old, they may have been mere seedlings when Christ was here.  If not, some certainly date back to within a couple hundred years of Christ.


Luke 22:40 NIV


40        On reaching the place, he said to them, "Pray that you will not fall into temptation."


Didn’t He say to them earlier, that they would meet the temptation and all would forsake Him?  Jesus gives his disciples the same advice that He himself will shortly follow -- that is, to pray in the time of crisis, that the temptation will not get the better of them.


It was in this garden that the greatest battle by a single person was ever fought.  We are told that before He begins to pray, He was “deeply distressed”  (Matthew 26:37).  Luke records that He was in agony and his sweat became like drops of blood (Lk. 22:44)He prayed, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me.”  But, in the end He accepted the Father’s will.  “Not as I will, but as You will.”  (Matthew 26:39).  After Jesus is finished praying, He awakens the disciples, who were sleeping, just as Judas entered Gethsemane.


Matthew 26:47 NKJV


47        And while He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, with a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief priests and elders of the people.


And with Judas, a “great band of soldiers,” and priests and elders.  There could be several hundred soldiers in this group.  Whatever the size of the group, Jesus would have seen and heard them coming across the Kidron, and had time to escape if He wanted.  But He had prayed and His mind was made up.  He would endure the cross for us – He loved us that much.


If you study the trial of Jesus in light of Jewish laws of the time, there were a number of irregularities.


1.  The arrest took place at night.


It was an established and inflexible rule of Hebrew law that when it came to capital offenses, all legal proceeding, including arrests were forbidden at night.  So, not only was the preliminary trial of Jesus illegal, but so was His arrest.  They both occurred at night.


2.  They bound Jesus before He had become legally condemned


John 18:12 NKJV


12     Then the detachment of troops and the captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound Him.


                   It was unlawful, in Hebrew law, to bind a person who was yet innocent.


Let’s follow where they take Jesus.  Look again at the map of old Jerusalem.


Matthew 26:57  (NIV)


57     Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled.


It so happens that the palace of Caiaphas, the High Priest, is just a short distance from the Upper Room.  Caiaphas lived on Mount Zion, just east of the Upper Room.


Here are the stone steps leading to the courtyard of the palace of Caiaphas.  These steps have been dated to the first century, therefore, Jesus most likely walked up these steps.  Here is another picture taken a little higher up the steps.




First of all, his full name was Joseph Caiaphas – Yoseph bar Kayafa.  That literally is translated, Joseph, son of Caiaphas.  But he also went by the name Caiaphas.  The Bible says that he is the son-in-law of a previous High Priest, named Annas.


The Roman governor, Valerius Gratus, appointed Caiaphas as high priest in 18 A.D.  Valerius Gratus was succeeded as governor of Judea by Pontius Pilate.  And Caiaphas remained the High Priest for a lengthy 18 years, until AD 36.


In the Old Testament times, a priest became high priest because of family blood lines.  During Roman rule, they were appointed by the governor.  From the biblical narrative, Caiaphas seems to take a leading part in trying to get Jesus condemned to death.  He asked for false witnesses to come before the Sanhedrin in an attempt to put together a case against Jesus.  But they could not get any agreement among the witnesses.


Mark 14:55-59 NKJV


55        Now the chief priests and all the council sought testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, but found none.

56        For many bore false witness against Him, but their testimonies did not agree.

57 Then some rose up and bore false witness against Him, saying,

58      We heard Him say, 'I will destroy this temple made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.'"

59        But not even then did their testimony agree.


Now what is happening here?  Under Jewish law, in a capital case, guilt could only be established by at least two witnesses.  And the witnesses must agree on all points.  If the witnesses could not corroborate each other’s testimony, it was mandated the accused was to be set free and acquitted.


Deuteronomy 17:6 NKJV


6          Whoever is deserving of death shall be put to death on the testimony of two or three witnesses; he shall not be put to death on the testimony of one witness.


You find the same instruction in Numbers 35:30.


Matthew 26:59 makes it clear that the Sanhedrin sought false testimony.  This had failed, so they decided to interrogate Jesus Himself, hoping He would make a statement they could use against Him.


While all this was happening to Jesus – from Gethsemane to standing before Caiaphas – we are told about two of His disciples.


John 18:15 NKJV


15        And Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did the other disciple. Now that disciple was known to the high priest, and went with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest.


Luke 22:54 says Peter followed at a distance.


The other disciple is not named here.  Many – probably most – believe this is the apostle John, because he often talked about himself in the third person.  Others would say “John was a Galilean, and would not have been known to the priests.”


But this has caused some to raise the question: “Was the apostle John of a priestly family?”  Here, John follows Christ directly into the High Priest quarters.  Another passage that lends support, but not difinitively, is found in the Gospel of John.  In John 20, Mary tells Peter and John that the tomb was empty.  We are told the two of them ran to the tomb, and John was faster and arrived before Peter.  But it says, “he, stooping down and looking in, saw the linen cloths lying there; yet he did not go in.”


This would be a normal action for a priest, because to go into a tomb would make him unclean.  Peter didn’t have this reluctance, for when he arrives, he goes directly into the tomb.  We are not given enough information to know for sure the heritage of the apostle John.  But, to me, it is an interesting thought.  Also notice that at Caiaphas’ home, Peter is at first outside the gate to the courtyard.


John 18:16-17 NKJV


16        But Peter stood at the door outside. Then the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to her who kept the door, and brought Peter in.

17        Then the servant girl who kept the door said to Peter, "You are not also one of this Man's disciples, are you?" He said, "I am not."


At the insistence of the other disciple – possibly John – Peter was allowed inside the courtyard.  And it is inside this courtyard that he denies Jesus three times.


Let me show you some pictures of the area of Caiaphas’ palace.  Here is the present-day courtyard.  The next picture is of the steps leading down to the dungeon, where Jesus was probably held the night before his crucifixion.  In the first century, there would not have been any steps leading down to the dungeon, only a hole to lower a person through.


The trial was also illegal because it happened on or the day before a holy day.


Jewish court trials were not allowed either on the day of a holy day or on a 7th day Sabbath.  Neither could a capital case be held on the day before either of those occasions.  This is because, in capital cases, if the verdict is guilty, there must be two sessions a day apart.  To quote directly from the Jewish Mishna:  “They shall not judge on the eve of the Sabbath, nor on that of any festival.” (Mishna Sanh. IV.2)


There would not have been any steps in the first century down to the dungeon.  There would only have been a single hole through which they would have lowered Christ.  As we leave the Upper Room, you could sees a weather vane in the form of a rooster a reminder of Peter’s denial and the crowing of the rooster’s.


Let’s return to the trial of Jesus.  They continue to interrogate Him.


Mark 14:60-65 NKJV


60        And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, saying, "Do You answer nothing? What is it these men testify against You?"

61        But He kept silent and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked Him, saying to Him, "Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?"

62        Jesus said, "I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven."

63        Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, "What further need do we have of witnesses?

64        You have heard the blasphemy! What do you think?" And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death.

65        Then some began to spit on Him, and to blindfold Him, and to beat Him, and to say to Him, "Prophesy!" And the officers struck Him with the palms of their hands.* 


In these verses, we hear Jesus saying He is the Christ – the Messiah.  Caiaphas tears his clothes and accuses Jesus of blasphemy.  He believes he has the evidence he needs to order the death of Jesus.  He asks those present if they agree – and they do.


But Caiaphas has a couple of problems:


1.      While he can order someone be killed, he can’t do it without the consent of the Romans.


2.      At this time Caiaphas only has the charge of blasphemy.  That may be a violation of Jewish law, but not to the Romans.


Mark 15:1 NKJV


1.       Immediately, in the morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council; and they bound Jesus, led Him away, and delivered Him to Pilate.


Later, in verse 16, the place where Pilate was located was called the Praetorium.  It is not absolute, but many theologians believe that to be the Fortress of Antonia.  Pilate did not live in Jerusalem, and had his governor’s palace in Caesarea Maritima.  But when he was in Jerusalem, it is quite likely that he resided in Antonia’s Fortress.


Herod the Great built the fortress at the northwest corner of the Temple Mount and named it for his friend Mark Antony.  Although it looked like a fortress, it was actually very palatial.


There were several reasons for placing a fortress or tower at the north end of the Temple Mount.


1.      It allowed the Romans to visibly see what was happening in the Temple area.  The Temple was the center of Jewish life, therefore the Romans could keep tabs on any potential rebellion.


2.      Also, the northern wall of the Temple Mount was the lowest with regards to the surrounding ground level.  This meant that if there was an invasion of the Temple Mount, it would probably happen there.  This allowed for the Temple’s protection.


Here is a picture taken at the model city showing the Antonia Fortress.  Here is another photo.  It was rectangular in shape – measuring 490 feet west to east and 260 feet north to south (Larger than a soccer field).


It is here in the Praetorium that Jesus is questioned by Pilate.  After some questioning, Pilate goes to the religious leaders and says, “I find no fault in Him.”  You can read that in Luke 23Caiaphas and the religious leaders knew they needed something more solid on which to accuse Jesus.


Luke 23:2 NKJV


2      And they began to accuse Him, saying, "We found this fellow perverting the nation, and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, saying that He Himself is Christ, a King."


There are three charges given by the religious leaders.


                   1.      He subverts the nation


                   2.      He opposes payment of taxes


                   3.      He claims to be a King.


These were, of course, totally false accusations because:


1.      He didn’t subvert the nation.  He criticized the Jewish leaders on religious issues, not political.


2.      Jesus never opposed paying taxes.


3.      Jesus refused the title of king in a political sense.


The religious leaders would not accept the “no fault” assessment by Pilate and accused Jesus of disrupting society from Judea to Galilee.  Pilate asks if Jesus was a Galilean, and when finding out He was, he has Jesus sent to Herod, the Tetrarch who had jurisdiction of the Galilee region.  They walk several hundred yards to the Palace of Herod.


Here is a picture of a model of what Herod’s palace looked like at that time.  The palace had been built by Herod the Great, who had died several decades earlier.  Here is another view of the palace.


Herod the Tetrarch finds no fault in Christ and has him sent back to Pilate.  Pilate once again asks the Jewish religious leaders what the charge is.


When speaking of the religious leaders, two groups of people are in mind – Sadducees and Pharisees.  On one side are these religious leaders – probably most of them hated Jesus, and did whatever they could to bring about His death.  On the other side were the common people who at this time were attracted to Jesus.  So much so, that the leaders feared to do anything against Him.


For a while, Pilate tries to bargain with the Jewish religious leaders.  But they, more vociferously, call for Christ’s crucifixion.  In the end, Pilate gives in to the religious leaders.  Jesus was beaten and taken to Calvary to be crucified.


But, regardless of where the people of the world positioned themselves – for or against Him, when He died, He died for all of them.  And that is the essence of GRACE.


When Christ was on the cross of Calvary, He spoke to His Father, saying, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing.”


The apostle John, in his gospel, said Jesus “became flesh and blood and we beheld His glory, the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”


         The act of forgiveness is Grace.


                   The fact of forgiveness is Truth.


When Jesus stepped onto the world’s stage, people could not only hear the demands of truth but they also could see Truth Himself.  And no longer were there fleeting glimpses of grace – but Grace Himself.


                   TRUTH“Behold the Lamb of God…”


                   GRACE“…Who takes away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29)


Jesus was hounded by Pharisees, betrayed by a friend, forsaken by His disciples, brutalized by temple police, beaten by His inquisitors, led in disgrace to a rigged trial.  Arrogant men sat in judgment over Him, crowning Him with thorns, mocking and disdaining Him.  Beating Him without mercy, nailing Him to a cross, the worst of tortures, stretched out between thieves.


In addition to grace, Jesus was full of Truth.  Jesus prayed, in John 17, “Sanctify them by the truth; your Word is truth.” (17:17).


Truth is more than mere facts.  It is not just something we act upon.  It acts upon us.  We cannot change the truth, but the truth can change us.


Jesus said, in John 14:6, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no man comes to the Father except by Me.”  He did not just say He would show the truth or teach the truth or model the truth.  He IS the Truth – Truth personified.  He is the reference point for evaluating all claims to truth.


And when He died on the Cross, He died for you and for me.