The Arrest and Trial

(these events are not complete, as that is not the purpose of this section. The emphasis is on a few little-known facts and Jesus' claim to be God Himself.)

 

After supper, Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. When He had finished, He went to wake his disciples, saying, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour has come, and the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!" Judas identifies Him with a kiss to the priests who had come to arrest Him. John records that Jesus asked the guards, "Who is it you want?" and they answer "Jesus of Nazareth." Jesus' answer, in the Greek, is not apparent in the English. The English simply states that Jesus said, "I am he." But the Greek words used by our Lord were not that simple. Jesus replied, "ego eimi." That translates into "I am I am," with the "I" emphasized in the first word and the "am" emphasized in the second. Jesus was, immediately, claiming He was God, the I AM of the burning bush of Moses' time.

It is recorded that Peter used a sword to try to defend Jesus. His aim was not terrific, though, as we are told he only cut off a servant's ear. John tells us it was the right ear which means, unless Peter was standing behind the servant, that Peter was left-handed.

There is another moment to note which is rarely mentioned in sermons and expositions regarding the arrest and trial. Look at Mark 14:51-52 -- A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, he fled naked, leaving his garment behind. That young man was probably Mark, himself. Quite young at the time -- probably in his late teens or early twenties -- he must have tagged along to see things after the supper (this is another indication that the Upper Room was probably in his mother's house). He was not dressed to go out, but had only thrown on a linen covering when everyone had left, so he wouldn't lose where they were going. At any rate, he escaped the clutches of the guards, but only by leaving his linen covering behind and fleeing naked!

Shortly after His arrest, Jesus was taken to Annas, the father-in-law of the High Priest, Caiaphas. As stated in the Jewish New Testament Commentary on John18:13, by David H. Stern, "'First they led him to Annas.' Only John tells us of this irregular preliminary hearing. Annas had been cohen gadol (High Priest) from 6 - 15 CE. Many members of his family became cohen gadol after him, including five of his sons as well as his son-in-law, Caiaphas. He retained his title after leaving office, and obviously remained a powerful behind-the-scenes figure; perhaps this is why his advice on how to deal with Jesus was sought first." Stern, with this explanation, clears up what may be confusing in John 18:19 and 24, as both verses mention the High Priest but who are obviously different people. (It is similar to calling the US Presidents by the title of President even when they are out of office.)

Annas sends Jesus to Caiaphas. But there is a problem here. By Jewish law, it was illegal for a trial to be held at night and it was also illegal for both the trial and conviction to take place within 24 hours. At this point, then, they were breaking their own laws. It was also illegal for them to pass a death penalty; only the Romans could do that. Stoning had also become illegal under Pilate's rule. The Talmud states tht the Jews lost the power of capital punishment forty years before the destruction of the Temple. That would be in about 30 AD. So while we are told in John that the priests had previously tried to stone Jesus, at the time of His arrest, that was no longer an option.

Annas and Caiaphas were evidently in the same building, for Peter is warming himself by the fire in the courtyard during all three denials. Meanwhile, inside, Matthew records that a fast search was going on for any witnesses, false or otherwise, who could provide the testimony that would allow them to demand the death penalty for Jesus. In a sense, however, Jesus saved them that trouble. When the High Priest asked Jesus if He was the Christ, the Son of God, Jesus answered, simply, "Yes, it is as you say." But then Jesus added something that caused the High Priest to tear his own clothes as a sign of deep anguish at hearing blasphemy, for Jesus then states that in the future all would see Him, Jesus, sitting at the right hand of God and coming in the "clouds" of heaven. The problem with the translations we have is that 'clouds' is not plural, but singular. Jesus would be coming in the cloud of heaven, or the Shekinah Glory Cloud. That was the Cloud that led the Israelites through the wilderness; that was the Cloud Abraham saw; that was the "whirlwind within a whirlwind" (not a wheel within a wheel) that Ezekiel saw. Its divine resident was God Himself. So Jesus was not only saying He was the Son of God, but that He Himself WAS God. Although other Jews would tear their clothes when in mourning or deep distress, the High Priest was forbidden to do so. But this time he did it. And, as Matthew records, the kind of blasphemy that would cause the High Priest to do this was considered worthy of death.

Now they just had to get Roman permission to put this man to death. Mark 15:1 states, "Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, reached a decision. They bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate." (All these people must have been summoned in the middle of the night for this "trial"). In normal course of events, when the leaders of the Jewish people demanded the death penalty, they would have to apply to Caesarea and then wait to get a response. But the Passover feast was coming up -- a high holy time -- and they wanted this thing done before that. They had only hours. Pilate was the Roman governor of the area. Going straight to Pilate was eliminating the middle man step in Caesarea. They had to get Pilate out of bed. Jesus had to be killed that day. Little did they know that it was necessary to fulfill prophecy. They only knew they wanted Him gone before Passover.

Pilate questions Jesus, then sends him to Herod, who also questions Him. Herod had his own reaon for wanting to see Jesus. In Luke 8, we read that one of the women Jesus had healed was Joanna, the wife of Cuza, who was the manager of Herod's household. We also read that she had been helping to support Jesus financially or materially. Thus, Herod would have heard about this "healing man," and was curious about Him. Luke 23:8-12 records what happened there:

When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform a sign of some sort.  He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer.  The chief priests and the teachers of the law were standing there, vehemently accusing him.  Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate.  That day Herod and Pilate became friends—before this they had been enemies.

Jesus was now back in Pilate's court. Pilate's wife warns her husband not to hurt this Man for she has suffered in a dream because of Him. Pilate finds nothing wrong with Jesus and simply has Him whipped. He offers to the Jews to let Him go. They have a choice between Jesus and Barabbas, because it was the custom to let a prisoner go at the time of this feast. The crowd, whipped up by both the leaders in the Temple and their own disillusionment with Jesus not gathering an army to defeat the Romans, choose the release of Barabbas, a known thief and insurrectionist.

Jesus would be crucified that day.

We have put up a parallel chart of the events of the trial and crucifixion which shows which author said what.

continue to Crucifixion