- Rick LoPresti
Who's on trial?
The rulers of the Jews had been plotting to kill Jesus from the beginning of His ministry. They made 13 attempts on His life before His arrest:
1. Matthew 12:14 – withered hand
2. Matthew 21:46 - parables
3. Mark 11:18 - temple
4. Mark 12:12 – parable
5. Mark 14:1 – Passover
6. Luke 4:28-30 – synagogue
7. Luke 11:54 – catch words to accuse
8. Luke 19: 47-48 – temple
9. John 5:16 & 18 – make thyself equal
10. John 7:1, 30, 32, 44, 46 – tabernacles
11. John 8:59 – before Abraham was
12. John 10:31 & 39 – make thyself God
13. John 11:53 & 57 – after Lazarus
They were too cowardly to do it openly before the people, so they waited for the opportunity to do it in secret (Mark 11:32, Mark 12:12, Luke 22:2). They waited until He was away from the city in an olive grove at night. Also, they could not do it until it was the proper time (Matthew 26:18, John 7:6-8). They thought they were on control, but it was really Jesus dictating all of the events and their timing in perfect fulfillment of the plan of God. They could not have killed Him unless He layed down His life willingly (John 10:15-18). When they tried to identify Jesus in the olive grove, HE openly acknowledged Himself. When he did, they fell backwards to the ground. He said He could call 12 legions of angels to stop the arrest if He wanted to.
After He let them take Him away, they held a mockery of a trial against Him in which they broke as many as 16 of their own laws in attempting to find Him guilty of something they could use to have Him executed. They held a trial in secret at night. They held it at the high priest Annas’ home, not the judgment hall (Jn 18:13). They kept presenting false witnesses whose testimony did not agree, and did not prove any crime (Mt 26:59-61, Mk 15:59). They then conducted another hearing before Caiphas at his palace. Again, this is the wrong place and time (Mt 26:27-28). They demanded Jesus testify on His own behalf (Mt 26:62-63). The judges made the accusation that they finally pinned on Him, not the witnesses (Mt 26:65-66). Then they conducted another hearing in the morning where the Sanhedrin decided to execute Him based on nothing more than Jesus’ own testimony which was forced from Him illegally (Mt 27:1). At no point were any defense witnesses called. Nobody could be put to death without 2 or 3 witnesses (Deut 17:6, Deut 19:5). Because they could not by Roman law carry out executions, they then brought Him to Pontius Pilate (Mt 27:2, Jn 18:31). The Romans would never execute a man for alleged violations of Jewish religious laws, but only for a crime against Rome. Therefore the Jews changed the accusations again (Lk 23:2). Pilate asked them 3 times what accusation worthy of death they had against Him, and instead of answering they kept yelling for Him to be crucified (Lk 23:22-23), even after Pilate declared twice he found no fault in Him (Lk 23:4 & 14).
It was not really Jesus who was on trial. He had done nothing wrong, and the Jews and Pilate both knew it (Matthew 27:18). It was they who were on trial. Jesus was giving Himself for our sins in fulfillment of prophecy (Isaiah 53). It was the Jews and the Romans who were on trial. When Pilate realized this, he tried to get himself out of the situation. His own wife even warned him of this (Matthew 27:19). The Jews finally said they had not king but Caesar (John 19:15), and they asked for His blood to be on them and their children (Matthew 27:25). They publicly chose to reject their own Messiah and to have the rule of men instead. They chose to take responsibility for His death, and they did. Because of this choice they and their city were destroyed. Just as short time after the death and resurrection of Christ, those same people accused the apostles of attempting to bring the guilt of the blood of Jesus upon them through their preaching (Acts 5:28). Their own consciences knew they were guilty.
The same is true today. We may not have been there shouting "Crucify Him", but our sins are just as responsible for the death of Jesus as theirs. God does mean for this realization to condemn us, but to bring us to repentance (John 3:15-21). People today are still attempting to put Jesus on trial and kill Him, but it is not He that is on trial. It is us. We are all given an opportunity to be saved (John 1:9, Titus 2:11, 2Peter 3:9). We all will have an encounter with the Lord. Our response is on trial now in this life, and ultimately will be put on trial before the ages (Revelation 20:11-15). The Bible uses the word "Comforter" to describe a role the Lord wants to have with us (John 14:16 & 26, John 15:26, John 16:7, 1John 2:!). That word does not mean "to make comfortable". It means to be our defense attorney. We a re on trial for our sins, and Jesus Christ wants to represent us. Only His blood can get us off the charges against us (Matthew 26:28). Do we choose to go "pro se" and represent ourselves when we have such a powerful attorney who has never lost a case offering His services "pro bono" - for free? I pray we are not so foolish and stubborn. We understand that when we accept His services, there are conditions. These are not to be feared as some onerous burden (1John 5:3). They are to be embraced as our freedom (John 8:31-32).