MPGC16- CHRIST'S TRIAL BEFORE THE ROMAN AUTHORITIES
By Colleen Donahue

Translate This Page

It was early in the morning that the chief priests and elders finalized their decision that Jesus should be put to death. In order to put Jesus to death the Jewish leadership had two objectives to meet. First, they had to find a charge where the Jews would condemn Jesus and second they had to find a charge where he would be condemned by the Romans.

This was important because the Sanhedrin couldn't execute the sentence of death. They could examine a man and pass judgment but then it had to go to the Romans to be ratified. Therefore they needed to find charges that would be criminal in Roman eyes as well as condemned before Jewish eyes.

The charge they finally agreed upon was based on the Lord's words, "I will destroy this temple and rebuild it in three days." Jesus was talking about the temple of his body but the Jewish leadership took his words literally.

Both Jews and Romans took great pride in the temple. The Romans had helped to rebuild it. So here was some common ground -- not enough to put Jesus to death -- but it was common ground.

Finally when the High Priest asks Jesus point blank, "Are you the Son of God?" , Jesus answers with a definite, "Yes". With this "Yes" Jesus "put the nail in his own coffin." Proclaiming equality with God was blaspheming in Jewish eyes and proclaiming himself a king is equivalent to subverting the Roman government.

Armed with the evidence they needed they sent Jesus over to Pontius Pilate who was the governor. Let's look now at:

Christ's Trial Before the Roman Authorities

The Trial Before Pilate

Day 1-The Sanhedrin had met in the middle of the night to reach their guilty verdict. What time was it now when they took him to Pilate?
Matthew 27:1-2

Day 2- Once they got to Pilate's palace what did the Jews do?
John 18:28

In their blindness they were concerned to not defile themselves at a Gentile house. They wanted to partake of the Passover, but they didn't see the murderous hate filling their hearts. They were rejecting Jesus, the real passover lamb, and therefore the feast would have no more real significance. This blind hatred was now consuming them and was a good illustration of the Lord's words about what really defiles us.
Mark 7:15-20

Why were these Jews already unclean?
Mark 7:21-23

Day 3- Pilate could not have been in the best of moods to be called so early from his sleep. To be called from his bed meant that the Jews had someone they were very anxious to have tried and punished. No doubt he wanted to deal with things quickly and get back to bed. As he fixed his gaze on Jesus he saw a calm and dignified man that did not look anything like a criminal (and Pilate had seen many). What question did he ask of the Jewish leadership?
John 18:29

How did they "dodge" this question?
John 18:30

They said this with irritation in their voices. They had hoped to impress Pilate with their importance so that he would skip all the preliminaries. They could not substantiate their charges against Christ. They did not want a public examination. They were most eager to have their sentence ratified before other witnesses could tell a very different story.

It was common knowledge that Pilate was a weak and vacillating man. The priests thought they could get him to carry through with their evil plan (to inflict the death penalty) without giving Jesus a hearing.

Day 4- Pilate read through their purposes and something seemed to hold him back from just going along. He felt a determination to know the charges and if they could be proved. When they dodged his question what does he suggest to the Jews?
John 18:31a

The Jews quickly answered what they all already know.
John 18:31b

And so in the saying of it they fulfilled a prophecy that Jesus had spoken about himself.
John 18:32 / Matthew 20:18-19

Day 5- Since Pilate wanted some charges they began to accuse Jesus and came up with three main charges -- all without foundation.
Luke 23:2

Notice the Jewish leaders were trying to make it appear that Jesus was a political offender, working against the common law of Rome. Insurrection against Rome was common among the Jews and Rome dealt with such offenders swiftly in order to keep uprisings down. At all costs they did not want it to appear that Jesus had been arrested on religious ground. Pilate would have nothing to do with it if that's all it was.

Day 6- With the Jews still clamoring their accusations, Pilate turns to Jesus and asks him a direct question.
Luke 23:3a (Also Mark 15:2a / Matthew 27:11a / John 18:33)

Three of the gospels records Christ's answer the same.
Luke 23:3b (Also: Matthew 27:11b / Mark 15:2b)

"Yes, it is as you say." In answering this way Jesus has acknowledged that Pilate has spoken the truth from his own lips.

Day 7- But John gives us some additional information. Remember that he was actually there at Caiaphas's palace and may well have gone along with the Jews to Pilate's palace. In John's gospel we learn that Pilate summoned Jesus into the palace alone hoping to gain the truth from Jesus amidst the tumult of the crowd.

When Pilate asks Jesus, "Are you the King of the Jews?", notice that Jesus doesn't answer directly.
John 18:34

We could rephrase the question like this:
"Was it the accusations of the priests or was it your desire to receive light from me that has prompted your questions?" Jesus knows that the Holy Spirit is working within Pilate and there is an opportunity here for Pilate to acknowledge his convictions.

Day 8- But the moment is lost when instead of acknowledging what Pilate believes is true he expresses indignation at being asked a question. In his pride and arrogance he exclaims, "Am I a Jew?" Then he asks another straightforward question to Jesus.
John 18:35

Day 9- Jesus doesn't answer him directly but instead states his mission interjected by another question from Pilate.
John 18:36-37

Day 10- Jesus was born to testify to the truth and that truth is God himself. What is this God of truth like? List his qualities as you read these verses.
Deuteronomy 32:4 / 2 Samuel 7:28 / Psalm 146:6

Day 11- In John 18:37b there is an amazing statement: "everyone on the side of truth listens to me." That means that anyone who really wants to know the truth will find it. In my own life when I heard some friends speak of Jesus I instinctively felt that I needed to learn more. The things that they were sharing with me spoke to my spirit (rather than just my head). I was someone on the side of truth and I had "heard the Savior."

But there are plenty of men and women that have no regard for the truth. How does someone that has little or no regard for the truth act?
Isaiah 59:4 / Jeremiah 9:5-6

Does this sound like many of the Jews? Could this be Pilate?

Day 12- While Pilate professes to want to know the truth he is a man caught in confusion. This confusion resulted from hearing the clear witness of Jesus (the truth) and comparing it to the voices of men both his own and those outside himself. And so he blurts out his famous question.
John 18: 38a

But notice he doesn't wait around for the answer.
John 18: 38b

The shouts of the insistent mob outside were at fever pitch as Pilate turned his back on Jesus "the truth" and attended to the voices of men.

Day 13- What were these voices insisting?
Luke 23:5

At this point Pilate has no thought of condemning Jesus. He sees that the Jews have condemned him through hate and prejudice. With the mention of Galilee, Pilate sees a way to shift the responsibility for this decision. He is a torn man -- torn between the crowds clamoring for Jesus' death and his own troubled heart. He does not want to be the one to condemn Jesus. How does he shift the responsibility?
Luke 23:6-7

Galilee was under the jurisdiction of Herod and he happened to be in Jerusalem at this time. Pilate in deferring to the authority of Herod not only shifted responsibility but healed an old quarrel between the two men.
Luke 23:12

Jesus Before Herod

Day 14- What was Herod's reaction upon seeing Jesus and what was he hoping to see?
Luke 23:8

Day 15- Ever since he had ordered John the Baptist beheaded he was terror stricken when he heard about Jesus. He thought it was John the Baptist back from the dead.
Mark 6:14-16 / Matthew 14:1-2

Day 16- Herod saw an opportunity here to save the life of Jesus and therefore ease his conscience concerning John's killing. He questioned Jesus at length. But how did Jesus answer?
Luke 23:9

Why? The proud, hardened, pompous and licentious Herod had rejected the truth given him through John the Baptist and he would receive no more. Christ's silence before Herod was the severest rebuke he could have given.

Day 17- While Jesus remained silent during Herod's questions what were the chief priests and teachers doing?
Luke 23:10

These Jewish leaders dreaded any show of the Lord's power through miracles. They had seen his power many times and if he used it now it would mean the death blow to their plans, perhaps even jeopardizing their own lives. And so they accused him all the more declaring him a traitor and a blasphemer.

Christ's silence tells us two things. First, there was no truth in the hearts surrounding him. (For you remember he had declared to Pilate that everyone on the side of truth listens to him). Second, Jesus had taken on the nature of man and therefore he would not work a miracle to save himself. He would do as all men would do in the situation.

Day 18- Herod was greatly irritated that Jesus was indifferent to his authority. What did he do to retaliate?
Luke 23:11

Jesus was now a common enemy of the Jews AND Rome. But like Pilate, Herod did not want to be the one to condemn Jesus. He moved the responsibility back to Pilate.

Jesus Before Pilate A Second Time

Day 19- Pilate had to be disappointed and displeased that Jesus was being sent back to him. But he had another idea for releasing Jesus if he could appeal to their sense of justice. What did Pilate propose?
Matthew 27: 15-18

Day 20- At this point, God gave Pilate a message through his wife warning him about the deed he was about to commit. What was the warning?
Matthew 27:19

Day 21- Pilate was a man with confusion within and conflicting emotions. While for a few minutes he considers his wife's dream, the chief priests and elders had been busy persuading.
Matthew 27:20

And so when Pilate asked them who they wanted released the crowd was ready with the answer. The plan backfired and the crowd was like a demon in human form.
Matthew 27: 21-23

Day 22- To the chief priests, rulers and all the people Pilate restates his own convictions.
Luke 23:13-17

To this the crowd responded with one voice....
Luke 23: 18-19

Day 23- Pilate appeals to them again but the crowd is winning.
Luke 23: 20-21

The vacillating, weak Pilate now tried to appease the crowd.
Luke 23:22

He had just declared Jesus innocent, but was going to punish him anyway. To compromise with the crowd he would sacrifice justice and principle. His wavering and indecision would now prove his ruin. He was almost helpless in the hands of the mob.

Day 24- When Pilate saw he was getting nowhere with the crowd what does he do to appease his conscience?
Matthew 27:24

Now an act like this can appease a conscience before men but it cannot be acceptable before God. We are responsible for our decisions and no ceremony can negate that.

Day 25- Jesus was then turned over by Pilate to be flogged. Who took charge of Jesus?
Matthew 27:27

Make a list of all they did.
Matthew 27:28-31

While all this was physically painful no doubt it did not hurt half so much as being rejected by his own people.

Sadly, the very people to whom Christ first came now accepted the responsibility for his death and thus they rejected the Lord of Life.
Matthew 27:25

Day 26- John records one more significant incident and conversation. After having the innocent Jesus flogged Pilate tries once more to bring Jesus out before the Jews and state his convictions.
John 19:4-6

As soon as the crowd saw Jesus, how did they react? How was Pilate feeling inside?
John 19:6-8

Day 27- The fact that Jesus had claimed to be the Son of God put a new fear into Pilate. Once more he pulls Jesus aside from the crowd and proceeds with further questioning.
John 19:9a

How does Jesus answer this time?
John 19:9b

Day 28- The exasperated Pilate blurts out....
John 19:10

And this time Jesus answers his misguided statement.
John 19:11
According to the Lord's statement who bears the greater sin for having the Son of God killed?

Day 29- What does Pilate try and do from then on?
John 19:12a

The Jews however, in an absolute frenzy, shout accusations against Pilate. They know his weakness. He wants to be thought well of especially before his Roman peers.
John 19:12b

Day 30- A mob is a very powerful force for it is Satan having his way within an entire crowd. It was too much for the weak Pilate.
Luke 23: 23-25

While Pilate surrenders Jesus to the evil crowd, the Jews surrender their allegiance from God to Caesar. God's chosen people have rejected their God and chosen man's authority instead.
John 19:16

Just for a moment Jesus was fully in Satan's hands (masquerading as Jews) and very eager to have him dead.

Just for a moment Jesus, the self proclaimed Son of God looked like a helpless fraud.

Just for a moment evil looked like it would triumph.

Just for a moment the beloved disciples of Jesus looked like they had been fooled into believing.

Just for a moment the world was black.

Stepping Back

We can now step back and see the whole trial outside the small arena of that fateful night.

1- Although Jesus is on trial what we really see are the Jewish and Roman authorities on trial.

2- We see the true character of each person involved -- especially that of the innocent Christ.

3- We see the power of Satan as he works through the Jewish leadership, the mob and finally Pilate.

4- We see the power of selfish ambition and pride in the Jewish leadership and then in Pilate and Herod. When a person wants to stay powerful and in charge they will even resort to murder to stay there.

5- We see through the whole sham of this trial and can have only one conclusion. Jesus was innocent. He was charged and put to death because of envy and jealousy. All the charges were false.

At this black moment little did anyone know that death on this earth would not be the end of the story.

Back to Man's Problem God's Cure Table of Contents

Back to Seeking God Daily Home Page