Friday, March 21, 2008

A Mockery of Justice

On this Good Friday I reflect upon a mockery of justice over 2000 years ago. From the Biblical accounts, following is a summary of the trials of Jesus Christ, who having committed no crime, was brought before Jewish and Roman authorities to stand trial and be ultimately sentenced to death on a cross.

The night of Jesus’ arrest, He was brought before Annas, Caiaphas, and an assembly of religious leaders called the Sanhedrin (John 18:19-24; Matthew 26:57). After this He was taken before Pilate, the Roman Governor (John 18:23), sent off to Herod (Luke 23:7), and then returned to Pilate (Luke 23:11-12), who finally sentenced Him to death.

There were six parts to Jesus’ trial: three stages in a religious court and three stages before a Roman court. Jesus was tried before Annas, the former high priest; Caiaphas, the current high priest; and the Sanhedrin. He was charged in these trials with blasphemy, claiming to be the Son of God, the Messiah.

The trials before Jewish authorities, (the religious trials), showed the degree to which they carelessly disregarded many of their own laws. There were several illegal procedures from the perspective of the Jewish law:
(1) No trial was to be held during feast time. Jesus was tried during one of the greatest Jewish feasts, the Passover;
(2) Each member of the court was to vote individually to convict or acquit, but Jesus was convicted by acclamation;
(3) If the death penalty was given, a night must pass before the sentence was carried out; however, only a few hours passed before Jesus was placed on the Cross;
(4) The Jews had no authority to execute anyone;
(5) No trial was to be held at night, but this trial was held before dawn;
(6) The accused was to be given counsel or representation, but Jesus had none; and
(7) The accused was not to be asked self-incriminating questions, but Jesus was asked if He was the Christ.
The trials before the Roman authorities started with Pilate (John 18:23). The charges brought against Him were very different from the charges in His trials before the Jewish authorities. Before Pilate He was charged with inciting people to riot, forbidding the people to pay their taxes, and claiming to be King. Pilate found no reason to kill Jesus so he sent Him to Herod (Luke 23:7). Herod had Jesus ridiculed, but wanting to avoid the political liability, sent Jesus back to Pilate (Luke 23:11-12). This was the last trial as Pilate tried to appease the animosity of the Jews by having Jesus scourged. In a final effort to have Jesus released, Pilate offered the prisoner Barabbas to be crucified and Jesus released, but to no avail. The crowds called for Barabbas to be released and Jesus to be crucified. Pilate granted their demand and surrendered Jesus to their will (Luke 23:25).

The trials of Jesus represented the ultimate mockery of justice. Jesus, the most innocent man in the history of the world, was found guilty of crimes and sentenced to death by crucifixion.

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