THE TRIAL OF JESUS BY THE KANGAROO COURT
This article deals with the trial of Jesus Christ, perhaps the most famous trial that ever took place. Jesus Christ, according to Christian believers, was born on 25th December of 1 BC in Bethlehem (though some maintains that it must be in between 6 BC-4 BC). His father was Joseph, a carpenter and his mother was Virgin Mary, virgin because she was conceived by the Holy Spirit. It was the belief that the new born shall become the “King of Jews”.
Herod I was the ruler of Galilee ( part of Israel) at that time succeeded by Herod Antipas. The area was a client state or protected state of Roman Empire and was under the control of a Governor appointed by the Roman ruler. Herod was very much disturbed by the news of the birth of this “King of Jews” and ordered to kill all children below two years of age. On getting this information, Joseph and marry fled to the nearby state of Egypt. They did not return and settled at Nazareth .
We do not have much information about the life of Christ till his 30th year when he was said to have been baptized by John, the Baptist. Jesus traveled through the state preaching his message and teaching the crowds. The people were very much attracted by his teachings and he had a huge army of followers. Jesus spoke primarily about the Kingdom of God (or Heaven) and his divine role. He also performed so many miracles according to believers. The Transfiguration was a turning point in Jesus ministry. Just before it and thereafter, Jesus warns that he is to suffer, die and rise again.
As already stated, a governor was appointed by the Roman Empire and Pontius Pilate was the Governor at the relevant point of time. Needless to say the rulers were disturbed by the ever growing popularity of the Jesus Christ and they feared that he may ultimately become a threat to them and the Empire itself. So they were looking for a chance to catch the “Son of God” and finish him.
According to the Synoptic Gospels like Mathew, Luke and Mark, Jesus came with his followers to Jerusalem during the Passover festival where a large crowd came to meet him, shouting, “Hosanna”! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the King of Israel! Etc Etc. He is said to have went to the temple in Jerusalem and overturned the tables of moneychangers who crowded the verandas of the temple. Later that week Jesus celebrated the Passover feast which is regarded as the “Last supper”. After that Jesus went to the garden of Gethsemane with his disciples. Jesus had 12 apostles of which one was Judas Iscariot.
At this time a serious conspiracy was going on for the arrest and ultimate killing of the Jesus. It took place in the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin was an assembly of twenty-three judges appointed in every city in Israel. Caiaphas, was the High priest as well as the Chairman of Sanhedrin. While Jesus and his followers were sitting in the garden the guards arrested him. Judas Iscariot, one of his apostles betrayed Jesus by identifying him to the guards with a kiss on the cheeks of Jesus ( stated to be for 30 silver coins). There is a controversy whether the trial was in the night or on the next day morning.
It is believed that Jesus was taken to the house of Caiaphas and he was put to the trail before the Sanhedrin on 3rd April, Friday,33AD - in the morning. The Sanhedrin was nothing but a KANGAROO COURT (A mock court characterized by dishonesty or incompetence). The officials were corrupt. They all wanted to finish Jesus and thus the verdict was a matter of foregone conclusion.
But there was a difficulty. It was doubtful whether the Jewish law can pass a death sentence in the facts and circumstances of the case. Many false witnesses made statements before the Sanhedrin and most of them were contradictory too. So none of the evidences were sufficient to award a death sentence. Faced with such a situation they framed the charge of blasphemy against Jesus and handed over him to Roman governor Pontius Pilate for pronouncing the punishment. Blasphemy means showing irreverence towards holy personages, customs, religious beliefs etc. It may be noted that under the Roman law the power of execution was unlimited.
I am giving below an account of the trial before Sanhedrin as described in the Gospel of Mark in 14:53-65 whereby the said Tribunal somehow found Jesus guilty of Blasphemy.
They all condemned him as worthy of death. They took Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests, elders and teachers of the law came together. Peter followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. There he sat with the guards and warmed himself at the fire.
The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any. Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree.
Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: "We heard him say, 'I will destroy this man-made temple and in three days will build another, not made by man.' "Yet even then their testimony did not agree.
Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, "Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?" But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.
Again the high priest asked him, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?"
"I am," said Jesus. "And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven."
The high priest tore his clothes. "Why do we need any more witnesses?" he asked. "You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?. Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, "Prophesy!" And the guards took him and beat him.
Pontius Pilate actually did not find any charges which would justify the capital punishment. He was also fearful of the public reaction if he pronounced the death punishment to such a popular personality. So he asked the mob whether Jesus should be put to death. The mob, instigated by the High priest and his men (most of them Pharisees- a group opposing Christ) demanded death punishment to Jesus. Thus Christ was crucified on Friday, the 3rd April which is known as Good Friday. It is a matter of belief that Christ resurrected on the following Sunday celebrated as Easter.
We shall now consider the legal aspects of the trial. The Christians complain that the Sanhedrin violated the following Mosaic laws.
(1) Bribery ( Deuteronomy- which means law) 16:19; 27:25);
(2) Conspiracy and the perversion of judgment and justice (Exodus 23:1-2);
(3) Bearing false witness, in which matter the judges connived (Ex 20:16); letting a murderer (Barabbas) go, thereby bringing blood-guilt upon themselves and upon the land (Nu 35:31-34; De 19:11-13);
(4) Mob Action, or 'following a crowd to do evil' (Ex 23:2, 3);
(5) In crying out for Jesus to be impaled, they were violating the law that prohibited following the statutes of other nations and that also prescribed no torture but that provided that a criminal be stoned or put to death before being hung on a stake (Le 18:3-5; De 21:22);
(6) They accepted as king one not of their own nation, but a pagan (Caesar) and rejected the King whom God had chosen (De 17:14, 15);
(7) They were guilty of murder (Ex 20:13).
We shall now consider some of the legal points in support of the Sanhedrin verdict and the final confirmatory judgment of Pontius Pilate.
(1) If Jesus is not God, then the Sanhedrin voted correctly. Under the Jewish Mosaic Law if a man committed blasphemy against God, he was to be put to death. Although nowhere in the Gospels does Jesus explicitly state "I am God", during Jesus' trial Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, the Christ/Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One, and the Son of Man who would come with the clouds of heaven (alluding to Daniel 7:13-14) - claims which the Jewish religious leaders interpreted as claiming to be God (Mark 14:61-64, Matthew 26:63-65, and Luke 22:66-71). Claiming to be God would be a blasphemy as well as idolatry, that is, encouraging people to worship him as a man instead of worshiping God. Repeatedly the New Testament states that Jesus' followers fell down and worshiped him live, in his presence. For Jesus to permit anyone to worship him as God would itself be blasphemy both by Jesus and those he allowed to worship him.
(2) The legality of the Sanhedrin's decision to recommend that the Roman Governor put Jesus to death ultimately rests upon whether Jesus was correct in claiming to be incarnation of God, such that there was no blasphemy in claiming to be what he actually was.
(3) The Sanhedrin, or any other Jewish court was forbidden to sit at night (Ex 18:24) nor could it meet during a festival, as it was the last night of the Passover Festival that had begun seven days earlier (Num 28:18). See "Seder service is planned for the last night of Passover" and "the last night of Passover... Observant Jews make a festive meal that night."
(4) Some take these inconsistencies with Jewish practice to indicate that such a trial most likely did not take place. The complete gospels notes for Mark 14:53-72: "...It is difficult to reconcile much of Mark's picture with known Jewish judicial procedures: a secret court session, at night, with trumped-up and contradictory evidence. Jesus' initial refusal to speak is no defense. Finally Jesus' avowal of his messiah ship (14:62) provokes the desired verdict."
Alas…what should be our verdict……Can any court pronounce the same now….not for 2000 and odd years…can we expect it in the near future?…Let us wait…AMEN…..