Was Jesus legally crucified? Some would like to have you believe so! It is time you became aware of what really happened at Jesus' trial!
In the previous issue we learned of the shocking events surrounding the arrest of Jesus. We also discovered that prominent writers have been led into believing that Jesus' arrest, trial and conviction were legal and just! We learned the Jewish point of view — and the means by which the mob in Jesus' day brought Jesus to trial. Then we learned the first four reasons why Jesus' arrest and trial were absolutely illegal and a mockery of justice:
First four reasons
First, Jesus was arrested illegally. He was arrested secretly, by night, on no formal charge of any crime, by those who were to be His judges. Second, Jesus was illegally subjected to a secret preliminary examination by night, contrary to the law. Third, the indictment against Jesus was illegal because the judges themselves brought up an unprovable charge against Jesus without any prior testimony by witnesses. Fourth, the trial of Jesus began illegally before sunrise in order that no one could testify on Jesus' behalf. Now to continue with this second installment:
In the case of Jesus, the Sanhedrin was illegally convened to try a capital offense on a day before an annual Sabbath. Notice why: "They shall not judge on the eve of the Sabbath, nor on any festival," says the Mishna, "Sanhedrin" IV, 1. In Wise's Martyrdom of Jesus, page 67, we read the following conclusive — and shocking — evidence: "No court of justice in Israel was permitted to hold sessions on the Sabbath or on any of the seven biblical Holy Days. In cases of capital crime, no trial could be commenced on Friday or the day previous to any Holy Day, because it was not lawful either to adjourn such cases longer than overnight, or to continue them on the Sabbath or Holy Day." The opponents of Jesus even violated their law by arresting Jesus on the day before an annual Sabbath. They arrested Him at the beginning of Wednesday in A.D. 31; the first annual Sabbath that year was Thursday.
The trial of Jesus was illegal because it was concluded in one day. We read from Jewish law: "A criminal case resulting in the acquittal of the accused may terminate the same day on which the trial began. But if a sentence of death is to be pronounced, it cannot be concluded before the following day" (Mishna, "Sanhedrin" IV, 1). This was to allow sufficient opportunity for any witnesses in support of the accused to present themselves. The court did not want to allow Jesus this opportunity.
The indictment against Jesus was false and its use illegal because it was founded upon Jesus' uncorroborated statement. The court pronounced sentence on Jesus with no supporting evidence whatever. Consider: The only evidence presented by witnesses to the court was given by two false witnesses. But their testimony was not even used by the court in sentencing Jesus to death. Here is what happened: Two false witnesses testified that Jesus said, "I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands" (Mark 14:58). The Jews used this belated statement as an indictment against Jesus. But this piece of evidence was not what Jesus said. He never said the words that is made with hands. Jesus was not referring to the physical Temple of Herod erected by human hands, but to His body (John 2:19, 21), which would be raised in three days. Then "the high priest arose and said to Him, 'Do You answer nothing? What is it that these men testify against You?' But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest answered and said to Him, 'I adjure You by the living God that You tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God' " (Matt. 26:62-63). The question the high priest asked Jesus had nothing to do with the indictment! Jesus was indicted on the false charge that He would destroy the physical Temple and rebuild it in three days' time. But the court condemned Him on another matter altogether. Notice the facts. They asked: "'Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God.' Jesus said to him, 'It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.' Then the high priest tore his clothes, saying, 'He has spoken blasphemy! What further need do we have of witnesses? Look, now you have heard His blasphemy! What do you think?' They answered and said, 'He is deserving of death'" (verses 63- 66). Jesus was indicted on one charge, tried on another and condemned on His own testimony. Jesus was not condemned because He said, "Within three days I will build this temple." He was immediately condemned on the charge of blasphemy. Here is what the Jewish scholar Maimonides wrote in his book: "We have it as a fundamental principle of our jurisprudence, that no one can bring an accusation against himself. Should a man make confession of guilt before a legally constituted tribunal, such confession is not to be used against him unless properly attested by two other witnesses" ("Sanhedrin" IV, 2). Jesus was condemned on His own testimony, even though His testimony was not proved blasphemous. The court didn't even examine Him according to the law to see whether His statement was blasphemy. They only demanded, "Are you the Son of God?" And He responded: "You're going to see the son of man seated at the right hand of power and coming in the clouds of heaven." Was this blasphemy? Of course not! Jesus did not even refer directly to Himself. He merely said: "the son of man." The court did not seek to prove who the "son of man" was. They knew, of course, that Jesus meant Himself. For all through His ministry, they came and purred in front of Him, and asked: "'How long do you keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.' Jesus answered them, 'I told you, and you do not believe.'" But as soon as Jesus even gave an indirect statement at the trial, they did not doubt whom He meant by "son of man." On this testimony Jesus was condemned despite the scripture in Psalm 110. Even Mr. Radin admits that Jesus' testimony was not blasphemy. On pages 248 and 249 he says: "The 'blasphemy' which the Pentateuch mentions is a literal cursing of God or a direct defiance of him. The only pentateuchal reference makes this clear. It is in Leviticus, chapter 24, and the incident which gave rise to the statute indicates the character of the offense of blasphemy in Jewish law. The half-Egyptian had cursed God — the Israelitish God — as under the circumstances of the quarrel there described, he would have been likely enough to do. No such thing could have been charged against Jesus by his most inveterate enemies." Yet the religious leaders did this very thing! Now consider another violation of law in extracting this testimony from Jesus: "No attempt is ever made to lead a man on to self-incrimination. Moreover, a voluntary confession on his [the defendant's] part is not admitted in evidence, and therefore not competent to convict him, unless a legal number of witnesses minutely corroborate his self-accusation" (Mendelsohn, Criminal Jurisprudence of the Ancient Hebrews, page 133).
The condemnation of Jesus was illegal because the merits of the defense were not considered. When they heard Jesus' statement, the high priest shouted, "He has spoken blasphemy!" But the law in Deuteronomy 13:14 says, "Then you shall inquire, search out, and ask diligently." The law in the Mishna says, "The judges shall weigh the matter in the sincerity of their conscience" ("Sanhedrin" IV, 5).
The condemnation of Jesus by part of the Sanhedrin was illegal because those who would have voted against the condemnation of Jesus were not there. Notice what took place at Jesus' trial before dawn, according to Mark 14:64: "'You have heard the blasphemy! What do you think?' And they all condemned Him to be worthy of death." It was unanimous. There was no investigation, no examination to see if He did or did not blaspheme. They just used His testimony against Him without further investigation. They all did it immediately, instantaneously, simultaneously. It was mob spirit that condemned Jesus! Here is what Mendelsohn states of such a procedure: "A simultaneous and unanimous verdict of guilt rendered on the day of the trial has the effect of an acquittal." The verdict against Jesus was simultaneous and unanimous, although the law required at least one of the council to serve as a defense counsel. The proper method of voting was to have "the judges each in his turn absolve or condemn" (Mishna, "Sanhedrin" XV, 5). "The members of the Sanhedrin were seated in the form of a semicircle at the extremity of which a secretary was placed, whose business it was to record the votes. One of these secretaries recorded the votes in favor of the accused, the other against him," states the Mishna, "Sanhedrin" IV, 3. "In ordinary cases the judges voted according to seniority, the oldest commencing; in a capital case, the reverse order was followed. That the younger members of the Sanhedrin should not be influenced by the views or the arguments of their more mature, more experienced colleagues, the junior judge was in these cases always the first to pronounce for or against conviction," says Benny, in Criminal Code of the Jews, pp. 73-74. Furthermore, the high priest rent or tore his clothes at the trial (Mark 14:63, Matt. 26:65). In Leviticus 21:10 the high priest is forbidden to do so: "And he who is the high priest among his brethren, on whose head the anointing oil was poured and who is consecrated to wear the garments, shall not uncover his head nor tear his clothes." See also Leviticus 10:6. He tore his outer garment to stir up emotion, to prejudice others. The high priest should have remained calm so that no mistake in judgment would be made. In Jesus' trial none of these requirements were followed. Let Wise's book, Martyrdom of Jesus, page 74, explain the law on this point: "If none of the judges defend the culprit, i.e., all pronounce him guilty, having not defender in the court, the verdict guilty was invalid and sentence of death could not be executed." Jesus was condemned contrary to the law! Now notice which members of the Sanhedrin were missing during the trial. Take the case of Joseph of Arimathaea. After Jesus was crucified, we read from Luke 23:50- 51, Authorized Version, "And, behold, there was a man named Joseph, a counsellor; and he was a good man, and a just." The word counsellor is admitted by all hands to represent a member of the Sanhedrin. "The same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them" — and neither had Nicodemus. In Mark's account we learn that all those present condemned Jesus instantaneously and unanimously. But since the night meeting was illegal, Joseph of Arimathaea was not present. The opponents of Jesus wanted to make sure he could not defend Jesus. Think of the utter lack of any fairness in this trial!
The sentence against Jesus was pronounced in a place forbidden by law. After the mob seized Christ, they led Him away, after having been at Annas', and brought Him into the house of Caiaphas, the high priest. The trial of Jesus wasn't held in court! Read Luke 22:54: "Then, having arrested Him, they led Him and brought Him into the high priest's house." The court building wasn't legally to be opened until after sunrise. According to the law, "A sentence of death can be pronounced only so long as the Sanhedrin holds its sessions in the appointed place," says Maimonides, in his book, Section XIV. The Talmud says, "After leaving the hall Gazith [the court] no sentence of death can be passed upon anyone so ever" (From Bab. Talmud, " Abodah Tarath" or "Of Idolatry," ch. 1, fol. 8). A sentence of death may be passed only in a legal court, not in some private home, as occurred in Jesus' case.
Most Sanhedrin members themselves were legally disqualified to try Jesus. According to Mendelsohn, Hebrew Maxims and Rules, page 182, "The robe of the unfairly elected judge is to be respected not more than the blanket of the ass." Some of the judges were elected unfairly. We have the names from the Bible and from Josephus of most of the men who were on the Sanhedrin at the time of Jesus. Such men as Caiaphas, Eleazar, Jonathon, Theophilus, Mathias, Ishmael, Simon, John, Alexander, Ananias and many others were, according to Josephus, recipients of bribes and appointed by members of the family who themselves had no right to sit on it, bought their offices and were disrespected by their people. There were 12 ex-high priests living at this one time, all part of the Sanhedrin. The Bible expressly requires a man to be high priest throughout his lifetime, at the end of which another took his place. But under the Romans, high priests could be voted into office year by year. The whole official arrangement — the whole choice of offices — was wrong. But there was another reason that disqualified almost all Jesus' judges. It is this: "Nor must there be on the judicial bench either a relation, or a particular friend, or an enemy of either the accused or the accuser," writes Mendelsohn, page 108. Many of the judges were Jesus' enemies. They even paid bribe money to betray Him. In Benny's work, Criminal Code of the Jews, page 37, this surprising statement is found: "Nor under any circumstances was a man known to be at enmity with the accused person permitted to occupy a position among his judges." Everybody knew that the Sadducees and Pharisees were at outs with Jesus. Yet they were permitted to try Him.
The court illegally switched the charges against Jesus from blasphemy to sedition and treason before Pilate. Observe how it was done! The next step in Jesus' trial was to take Him to the legal court for a mock, private trial at sunrise.
Pilate began to see... trouble brewing. He had a mob on his hands. This was trial by mob rule!
"As soon as it was day, the elders of the people, both chief priests and scribes, came together and led Him into their council" - now that they had already condemned Him of blasphemy, they were going to take Him to court for a mock trial! — "saying, 'If You are the Christ, tell us.'" Notice that they repeated the same questions over again. "But He [Jesus] said to them, 'If I tell you, you will by no means believe. And if I also ask you, you will by no means answer Me or let Me go. Hereafter the Son of Man will sit on the right hand of the power of God.'" They had to make this trial look legal. So "they all said 'Are You then the Son of God?' And He said to them, 'You rightly say that I am.' And they said, 'What further testimony do we need? For we have heard it ourselves from His own mouth.' Then the whole multitude of them arose and led Him to Pilate" (Luke 22:66-71, 23:1). This meeting probably didn't last any more than a few minutes! Now their trial, which was illegally conducted in the private home of Caiaphas, was outwardly legalized. But instead of taking Jesus out to be stoned for blasphemy, they switched the charges after the court was dismissed! They took Him to Pilate, and here is what we read in John 18:28-31: "Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas to the Praetorium [hall of judgment], and it was early morning. But �they themselves did not go into the Praetorium, lest they should be defiled, but that they might eat the Passover. Pilate then went out to them and said, 'What accusation do you bring against this Man?' They answered and said to him, 'If He were not an evildoer, we would not have delivered Him up to you.' Then Pilate said to them, 'You take Him and judge Him according to your law.'" Pilate was difficult to convince. He didn't want to be bothered at this hour in the morning. But the enemies of Jesus replied, "It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death." Why wasn't it lawful? Let Luke give the surprising answer: "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" (Luke 23:2). Notice that the Jews did not charge Jesus with blasphemy. Had they done so, Pilate would have told the Jews not to bother him, but to deal with Jesus according to their own law by stoning. The religious leaders were afraid of their own people! So they trumped up other and new charges against Jesus before Pilate. Pilate now had reason to be surprised. The only cases for which the Jews could not try a man involved sedition or treason. "Then Pilate entered the Praetorium again, called Jesus, and said to Him, 'Are You the King of the Jews? ' Jesus answered him, 'Are you speaking for yourself on this, or did others tell you this about Me?' Pilate answered, 'Am I a Jew?'" He didn't like the Jews, did he? "'Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You to me. What have You done?'" "Jesus answered, 'My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants [the disciples] would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here'" — not of this time, not of this world order. "Pilate therefore said to Him, 'Are You a king then?' Jesus answered, 'You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.' Pilate said to Him, 'What is truth?'" Jesus chose not to answer that.
Pilate finds Jesus innocent
"And when he had said this, he [Pilate] went out again to the Jews, and said to them, 'I find no fault in Him at all' " (John 18:33- 38). When Pilate heard that Jesus was from Galilee, he told the Jews to take Him to Herod: "And as soon as he knew that He belonged to Herod's jurisdiction, he sent Him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time" for the Passover (Luke 23:7). After an interview with Jesus, Herod sent Him back to Pilate. To frighten the Roman governor, the opponents of Jesus stirred up the mob outside. Pilate began to see that there was trouble brewing. He had a mob on his hands. This was trial by mob rule! So Pilate took Jesus, terribly scourged Him, let the soldiers plait on Him a crown of thorns and array Him in purple. Pilate brought Jesus out again and shouted to the mob: "'Behold, I am bringing Him out to you, that you may know that I find no fault in Him.... when the chief priests and officers saw Him, they cried out, saying, 'Crucify Him, crucify Him!' Pilate said to them, 'You take Him and crucify Him, for I find no fault in Him.'" The opponents answered and said, "We have a law, and according to our law He ought to die" — and now for the first time they reveal to Pilate why they condemned Him — "because He made Himself the Son of God" (John 19:4-7). They were getting very angry.
No justice here! An innocent man condemned by mob violence! The... act of crucifixion followed.
Pilate became frightened. He didn't want to have anything happen for which he would be held responsible by the Roman gods. Upon this, Pilate definitely sought to release Him (John 19:12), for there were no witnesses whatever in this trial before Pilate. The mob had commenced accusing Jesus without proof, without witnesses, without testimony. Then the ignorant mob cried out: "If you let this Man go, you are not Caesar's friend." They were threatening Pilate with loss of his. office. Matthew 27:24-26 picks the story up: "When Pilate saw that he could not prevail at all, but rather that a tumult was rising, he took water and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, 'I am innocent of the blood of this just Person. You see to it.'" The ignorant mob responded: "His blood be on us and on our children:" What they were really saying is: "You execute Him. We don't want to stone Him; we want you to execute Him." Then Pilate "scourged Jesus, [and] he delivered Him to be crucified." The purpose of scourging was to prepare a criminal for death. But notice — Pilate did not even give a formal decision against Jesus Christ. He just turned Him over to the soldiers to do what the mob wanted.
Jesus crucified though found innocent by Pilate
That is where the trial of Jesus abruptly broke off. No justice here! An innocent man condemned by mob violence! The dastardly act of crucifixion followed. Yet some today would still falsely claim, in the face of all this evidence, that Jesus' trial was legal, and His crucifixion justified. Most of us have not really examined the trial of Jesus before. Just look at this trial. What a mockery of justice it was! Can you imagine what it would be like if you had been on trial, to be spitefully treated as these thrill-seeking soldiers treated Jesus? What consideration, what fairness would have been given you? All this suffering Jesus endured to pay the penalty of sin for you! Yet not you only, but to pay the penalty of the sin of the whole world. It is time you personally were made to look at the last hours of Jesus in mortal flesh to see what a miscarriage of justice led up to the crucifixion — what a mockery was made of trial — and to understand the reasons why the conviction of Jesus was an utter fraud — all voluntarily endured by Christ to pay the penalty of your sin In your stead!