The trial of Jesus was a sham from the very start. Here are some of the illegal aspects of Jesus' trials. All of the following material has been attributed to the work of Chuck Swindoll. I have edited out some of the material for the sake of brevity. I realize it is still rather lengthy but it is very informative and well worth the read.
- The arrest – According to Talmudic Law:
a. “A man could not be arrested for a capitol crime at night. Such
arrest had to be make during the day time. When Jesus was arrested, it
was about 2:00 in the morning.”
b. “If a man was arrested for a capital crime, no one cooperating in
the arrest could be in any way
connected to the one who is accused. No arrest for a capital crime
could be made based upon information given by a follower or colleague
of the accused. Because they felt if the accused was guilty so were
his followers. But the entire plot revolved around Judas, one of the
followers. This law was blatantly and openly ignored.”
c. “No Jewish trial could ever be held at night. The law stated that
it must be held in the daytime. Listen to the code, which is taken
from the Talmud: 'The members of the court may not alertly and
intelligently hear the testimony against the accused during the hours
of darkness.' Both before Annas and before Caiaphas, these trials were
held in darkness.”
d. “The members of the Jewish court, after hearing the testimony of
true witnesses (none of which were ever brought before Jesus) in a
capital crime, could not immediately act and judge. They were to go
home and remain alone and separate from one another for two days (at
the least, one full day), thinking about the testimonies they had
heard. During that time, here's what they were to do. Here's the
language of the code: 'Eat like food, drink like wines, sleep well.
And once again return and hear the testimony of the accused. Then, and
only then, shall you render a vote.' They didn't do that. They Jewish
court never left the presence of Caiaphas!”
e. “Even the method of voting was specified! They never took an 'all
in favor say I, all opposed say no' kind of vote. Their vote was
supposed to be taken from the youngest to the oldest so that the
youngest wouldn't be intimidated or influenced by the older votes.
This never happened.”
f. “No trial could be held before only one judge, and never without a
defense attorney. All of that was overlooked, openly, willfully
ignored and disobeyed. Even though they were people of the book, they
didn't follow their own rules. In the history of jurisprudence, I
don't know of a more fallacious series of trials.”
- The first trial was before Annas.
Why was Jesus taken before Annas? This was nothing more than an act of
vindictiveness on the part of Annas.
“Annas wasn't even the High Priest! He was the father-in-law of
Caiaphas, the High Priest. What's the father-in-law doing seeing an
accused man at 2 o'clock in the morning when he is no longer in the
court? That was Caiaphas's job. When Jesus put together some leather
thongs, and he made a whip, and went into the temple and he drove the
moneychangers from the temple (Matthew 21:12, Mark 11:15) the man in
charge of that bazaar at the time was named Annas, who was the High
Priest at that time. He has been the High Priest for seventeen years.
He was the boss of the Mafia. The Mafia was in charge of two special
things at Passover. First, the changing of money (and the discount
rate was atrocious). Second, the purchasing of sacrificial animals
(and the cost was incredible). If you were smart enough to bring your
own animal, you had to have it pass the Mafia, or Annas' men. And when
you brought your animal there, they would take a careful look at the
animal and would surely find some marks that would keep you from using
your animal. So you must buy their animal, and their animals were
three times, sometimes four times more than you would ever pay back
home for a good sheep. And all the profit wound up in Annas' pocket.
He was a crook.”
“He passed off the throne to his son-in-law who was nothing more than
a puppet of Rome and a pawn in the hand of his father-in-law. Annas
never forgot the time Jesus drove them out of the temple and he lost
all that money. And he wrote down in his mind, “One of these days,
buddy, I'm going to get back at you.” And now he's got his chance.”
“Here's Jesus, hands ties behind his back, standing in front of Annas.
Everything about it is illegal. He has no business standing before
someone who is not in council. And there are no witnesses. As a matter
of fact, he wasn't even required to answer! No Jew had to make his own
statement. There were statements made against the accused and the
council would decide on a verdict, but the accused could remain mute
from beginning to ending. But that's not the way they did it.”
“There are two things that he probed. Annas wanted to know about the
men, and then he wanted to know about his teaching (John 18:19). Jesus
doesn't answer to his first question, but as to his teaching he
answers in a most unusual way.
John 18:20-21, “Jesus answered him, "I have spoken openly to the
world; I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the
Jews come together; and I spoke nothing in secret.”
“Jesus was struck by an officer after he said this (verse 22). By the
way, brutality was never allowed in the court either. Under the rules
of trial procedure, Jesus knew that it was against the law to solicit
the testimony of any, except witnesses and collaborators. Besides,
under the law, no prisoner had to undergo preliminary examination. So,
Jesus told him to ask witnesses what he taught. After he was struck,
“Jesus answered him, "If I have spoken wrongly, testify of the wrong;
but if rightly, why do you strike Me” (John 18:23). When Annas was
finished with him, he had no answer. He was silenced. He himself was
judged, not Christ. And so they carted him off to Caiaphas (verse 24).
- The second trial is before Caiaphas, Mark 14:53,
“They took Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests, the
elders and the teachers of the law came together.”
Caiaphas got together a group of men about 3:30 in the morning.
Remember, it's illegal because it's dark, it's illegal because it's a
preliminary hearing, it's illegal because they're in the wrong place,
Caisphas' house, they're not in the council chamber. It's a
clandestine meeting, it's a kangaroo court!
Mark 14:56-59, “For many were giving false testimony against Him, but
their testimony was not consistent. Some stood up and began to give
false testimony against Him, saying, 'We heard Him say, ‘I will
destroy this temple made with hands, and in three days I will build
another made without hands.’ Not even in this respect was their
These witnesses were contradicting each other. Caiaphas has to get
this case down to Pilate. He was told by his father-in-law that he
wants this man killed! And Caiaphas knows that he has no witnesses! So
what does he do? Well, he tries another illegal route. He talks to the
accused (Mark 14:60), but Jesus held his peace and said nothing (verse
61). Then Caiaphas asks him if he's “the Christ, the Son of the
Blessed one” (verse 61), and Jesus answers him! “I am.”
You might be wondering why does he answer now and not before? In
another gospel, just before Caiaphas asked this question, Caiaphas
said, “I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou
be the Christ, the Son of God.” (Matthew 26:63) And when a pious Jew
heard that, he was obliged to answer. Under oath, he could not plead
any amendment, he had to answer. And look at his answer: Mark 14:62,
“And Jesus said, “I am; and you shall see the Son of Man sitting at
the right hand of power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”
He was simply laying a prophesy on Caiaphas that he couldn't handle.
And in good legal fashion, Caiaphas grabbed the collar of his robe and
he gave it a yank. Because the Talmud required that when a moderator
heard blasphemous words, he was to publicly disagree by tearing his
garments. By the way, Leviticus taught that no official was to tear
his garments, and so that's where the Talmud cuts grains with
scripture, but they were driven by the Talmud…at least the parts that
they liked. The other parts they left out. Mark 14:63, “Why do we need
any more witnesses?” That's a nice out, isn't it? Who needs witnesses
when you don't have them? By the way, it's not allowed for the
moderator to make the decision, the council had to make a decision. He
didn't say let's take a vote in the order prescribed by law. No.
Instead he said “You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think? They
all condemned him as worthy of death.” (verse 64), and they all
condemned him. Then they added some extracurricular activities; they
spit on him, covered his face and beat him with their fists, and
- The trial is before the Sanhedrin
By the time the first two trials were over, Jesus was bleeding and
bruised when, as yet, there was no official verdict cast upon his
life. All that transpired occurred during the hours of darkness, and
therefore nothing would be recognized as official by the Romans until
he had his audience before the Sanhedrin.
a. Luke 2266-71 records what transpired about 6 o'clock in the
morning. Luke 22:66 says it was day. Mark 15:1 tells us it was early
in the morning. Understand that the supreme court of the Jews was the
Sanhedrin. What they discovered and declared became law. There was no
such thing as going to a higher court, because there was no higher
court. Therefore, when the Sanhedrin met, and passed final judgment,
it was as the law of the Medes and the Persians, Jesus was destined
for the cross.
“When it was day, the Council of elders of the people assembled, both
chief priests and scribes, and they led Him away to their council
chamber, saying, 'If You are the Christ, tell us.' But He said to
them, 'If I tell you, you will not believe; and if I ask a question,
you will not answer. But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at
the right hand of the power of God.' And they all said, 'Are You the
Son of God, then?' And He said to them, 'Yes, I am.' Then they said,
'What further need do we have of testimony? For we have heard it
ourselves from His own mouth.'”
b. This third trial was the shortest of all the trials. Jesus, in
their mind, was guilty. Besides Nicodemus, who acquiesced in silence,
they voted unanimously to take him to Pilate. The charge was
blasphemy, but that would not stand up in a Roman court. Therefore,
between the time that they dismissed and gained an audience with the
governor, Pilate, they made plans to switch the accusation to treason,
and they claimed that he was guilty of attempting to overthrow the
government. Luke 23:1, “Then the whole body of them got up and brought
Him before Pilate.”
- The fourth trial is before Pilate Major Points omitted by John
- The fact that Peter swore with an oath that he did not know Jesus.
- The fact that Peter left and wept bitterly over his denial of the Lord.
- Judas' remorse over his betrayal of Jesus.
- The warning of Pilate's concerning Jesus.
- The washing of Pilate's hands.
- The account of the un-named young man who fled naked in the garden.
The law is no longer the Talmud, the law is now the Roman Code of
Criminal Procedure; And there were four steps that they must follow to
make this an accurate court of law. We'll carry them through one by
Firstly, here's a little background on Pilate. He was an anti-Semitic,
Spain born Gentile. He was appointed by Caesar to govern Judea. He is
what we would call the governor of the State, though in those days
they had provinces. Pilate was a marked man in the mind of Caesar, and
also his court, because of the number of revolutions that had broken
out under his rule. He had made some unwise decisions, he had murdered
some Jews, he had tightened the screws of Roman requirements, he
lacked diplomacy. Therefore, the State over which he served was in
Caesar, with tacit approval, left him there as governor, but he was
under investigation at this particular time. After the trial and death
of Jesus, Pilate was banished to Gall and, while he was there, he died
of suicide. Pilate was a very unstable man, and because of a few
political maneuverings on his part, he became the governor of a
The time was around 6:30 to 7 o'clock in the morning. John 18:28,
"Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment: and it
was early; and they themselves went not into the judgment hall, lest
they should be defiled; but that they might eat the Passover."
They were criminal in attitude, but they were extremely legal in their
religion. The Talmud stated that no Jew could enter a Gentile court on
Passover, or he would be defiled. So, they stayed out of the court
itself, and apparently, Pilate came out to them. a. The first law
of Roman criminal code in its procedure was accusation.
That was the first thing that Pilate covered. John 18:29, “Pilate then
went out unto them...” You'll see him coming out and going back in
John 18:29-30, “…What accusation bring ye against this man? They
answered and said unto him, ‘If he were not a malefactor, we would not
have delivered him up unto thee.’” This is a sarcastic answer and did
not answer Pilate's question. “If he was not guilty, we wouldn't be
John 18:31, “Then said Pilate unto them, ‘Take ye him, and judge him
according to your law...’” Pilate doesn't know that it's a capital
punishment under way. He simply said if it's a problem in your law,
then you take him and you judge him.
John 18:31, “...The Jews therefore said unto him, It is not lawful for
us to put any man to death:” This changes the whole thing. From the
other gospels, they declared that he's guilty of treason, and that he
claimed to be another Caesar.
John 18:33, “Then Pilate entered into the judgment hall again…” You
see, he's entering in again. “...and called Jesus.” b. The second law
of Roman criminal code in its procedure, after accusation, was
This was done to probe and search for evidence against the man. So,
Pilate asked the following questions:
John 18:33-35, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered him, 'Do
you say this thing of yourself, or did others tell it of me?' Pilate
answered, 'Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have
delivered you unto me: what have you done?" He wanted to know if Jesus
was in the process of overthrowing the government in Palestine.
John 18:36, "Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my
kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I
should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from
hence." If Jesus wanted to overthrow the government, his servants
would be fighting, carrying on a revolution, taking lives, storming
this temple, ruining this procedure. What Jesus told them to do
instead was “go home!”
c. The third process in the Roman code was defense.
And now Pilate, acting on behalf of a defense attorney, begins to look
at this side of Jesus. By the way, the Roman Law, much like American
law, allowed for a defense attorney, but you never find where Jesus
was allowed that. So, Pilate looks at it from Jesus' point of view…
“so you're a king!” John 18:37, “Pilate therefore said unto him, Are
you a king then? Jesus answered, ‘You say that I am a king. To this
end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I
should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth
hears my voice.’”
John 18:38, “Pilate saith unto him, ‘What is truth?’” This has
nothing to do with the case, it has a lot to do with Pilate's mind
set. He was a very mixed up, miserable man. In a matter of months, he
would be taking his own life. He was in a quandary regarding the area
of objective, sound truth. And so he says, “What's truth?”
d. The fourth step is a verdict.
Accusation, interrogation, defense, and a verdict. And all four are
acted out for us right here. Pilate says …And when he had said this,
he went out again unto the Jews, and said to them, I find in him no
fault at all.” (verse 38). All he finds is some spiritual kingdom, and
that's not going to affect or threaten Rome! Jesus is not guilty of
treason! Luke 23:4-5, “I find no guilt in this man.” But they kept on
insisting, saying, “He stirs up the people, teaching all over Judea,
starting from Galilee even as far as this place.” Now when Pilate
heard the word “Galilee,” he had an ingenious idea. Galilee really
wasn't his jurisdiction, and since he didn't want this case, he tried
to find somebody else to try Jesus so he sent Jesus to Herod.
- The fifth and final trial is before Herod, Luke 23:6-7
Only Luke records Jesus' appearance before Herod. “When Pilate heard
of Galilee, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. And as soon as he
knew that he belonged unto Herod's jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod,
who himself also was at Jerusalem at that time.”
Herod was his life-long enemy up until this event. Herod's the one who
beheaded John the Baptist. He's the one who dealt with vicious cruelty
over his subjects. Now, Herod has looked upon Jesus as a magician, and
he has been anxious to see Jesus do a trick.
Luke 23:8, “And when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceeding glad: for he
was desirous to see him of a long season, because he had heard many
things of him; and he hoped to have seen some miracle done by him.”
By the way, you do not see where Jesus responds to Herod in any way.
It was no proceeding at all. All Herod wanted was a game, he wanted a
jester for his court, he wanted a clown. When Jesus wouldn't
cooperate, we read that they mocked him as a king.
Luke 23:10-11, “And the chief priests and scribes stood and vehemently
accused him. And Herod with his men of war set him at naught, and
mocked him, and arrayed him in a gorgeous robe, and sent him again to
- The sixth trial is before Pilate once again,
Now back at the Palace, Pilate was probably eating breakfast and
thinking, “Whew! That's over.” And he looks out his window, and there
came Jesus back, bound and robed as a king. It was obvious to Pilate
that Herod was not in any cooperative mood. The whole event brought
Herod and Pilate together as friends.
Luke 23:12, “And the same day Pilate and Herod were made friends
together: for before they were at enmity between themselves.”
Pilate did not want to declare him guilty, so he tried several avenues
to get out of that verdict. The first thing he offered was to chastise
and beat Jesus, then release him, but hey said no. The second thing he
tried to do was release Jesus through a custom they had. It was a
custom to release a prisoner on the Passover.
Matthew 27:15, “Now at that feast the governor was wont to release
unto the people a prisoner, whom they would.”
Barabbas was a notorious criminal, he was a murderer, he was an
insurrectionist, he was guilty of sedition, and he was bound in prison
awaiting death by crucifixion. It was a capital crime he had
committed. He was the one guilty of treason. So, Pilate thought that
if he were to put Barabbas next to Jesus, and offered to release one
of them, the crowds would say, "Don't release Barabbus! Release
Jesus!" But it backfired upon him. They said they wanted Jesus
crucified (Matthew 27:19-23)!
So, then they gathered a whole band of soldiers, stripped him and put
on a scarlet robe, placed a crown of thorns on his head, and a reed in
his right hand, mocked him by bowing down and saying, “Hail, King of
the Jews!”, and they struck him on the head, spit upon him, and led
him away to be crucified. (Matthew 27:26-31). Thus, ends the trials of
Jesus before the authorities.