The Mock Trials of Jesus

Scripture Reading

And they that had laid hold on Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled.

Matt. 26:57

Prelude to the trials

The mock trials of Jesus are carefully documented in all four gospel accounts by the authors known as Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. This helps to establish the authenticity of the events that took place with trials marked by evidence of mockery, hypocrisy, deception, deceit and injustice upon Jesus. To briefly recap the events prior to the arrest and detainment of Jesus let us see what transpired immediately before these circumstances. Jesus called his closest disciples together in what is commonly known as the last supper. During this time he proclaimed a foretelling comment in reference to his crucifixion as he shared wine with his disciples by figuratively saying, “For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.” [Matt. 26:28]  During the same supper and much to the dismay of his disciples, Jesus then told them that one of them would betray him.

Following these circumstances with his disciples, Peter’s famous denial was about to take place after he claimed that he would never deny Jesus. But, as we shall see, the scriptures document how Peter eventually denied him three consecutive times during the initial detainment of Jesus. Before this however, as Jesus entered a place called the garden of Gethsemane, he went off to pray to the Father with tremendous sorrow as noted in this passage telling three of his disciples, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.” [Matt. 26:38b] With this context now in place, the events then began to unfold leading to the detainment and mock trials of Jesus.

But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.

Matt. 26:56

The betrayer of Jesus

This occurred when Judas Iscariot, known in the scriptures, as the man who would betray Jesus, came to the place where Jesus was located. He came with a band of men and officers from the chief priests and Pharisees bringing lanterns, torches and weapons. Other gospel accounts add swords and staves along with captains of the temple participating in the detainment of Jesus. One would think they were coming out to detain a common thug or barbarian in contrast to Jesus who preached to them, and taught and healed the multitudes during his earthly ministry. Even Jesus remarked about their initial behavior in coming out to him in this manner when he said to them, “Are ye come out as against a thief with swords and staves for to take me? I sat daily with you teaching in the temple, and ye laid no hold on me.” [Matt. 26:55] But as Jesus concluded there was a reason for all of the events that were about to transpire when he stated, “But all this was done, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” [Matt. 26:56]

Following this, the band of men then bound Jesus and led him off into the presence of two individuals with the first one being Annas who was father in law to Caiphas the high priest. It is not indicated how long he was with Annas since most of the dialogue revolves around his encounter with Caiphas who likely had more influence among the religious leaders. Interestingly, records show that they brought Jesus to the house of Caiphas, since these events took place under the cover of darkness at night when no official business was being conducted. When the high priest asked Jesus about his doctrine, meaning what are his teachings all about, Jesus responded by saying, “I spake openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing. Why askest thou me? ask them which heard me, what I have said unto them: behold, they know what I said.” [John 18:21-22] While this was all true one of the servants struck Jesus for his candor before the high priest.

The mockery with Caiphas

During the encounter with Caiphas in the mock trials of Jesus, the elders and chief priests sought to find false witnesses who could speak against Jesus but this fell short since none of the witnesses could agree upon any of the events that took place or what Jesus had spoken about to the multitudes. In short, the scriptures record that they “found none” that could serve as false witnesses. As the interrogation continued by Caiphas the high priest, he then asked Jesus if he was “the Christ, the Son of the Blessed”. This was followed by Jesus making this profound proclamation, “I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” [Mark 14:62] 

With this statement, Caiphas then tore his clothes in contempt of Jesus’ comments resulting in his indictment for apparent blasphemy which brought with it the sentence of death. And so, the religious leaders were on their way to the road of crucifixion for Jesus. With this, the physical assaults then began to take place upon Jesus as the guards and religious leaders spit on his face, buffeted him, smote him with the palm of their hands, taunted him to prophesy who hit them since he was blindfolded, and labeled him as a common malefactor!

As these events transpired, Jesus was then detained overnight under watch of the guards. Then the next day, the chief priests, scribes and elders delivered him over to Pontius Pilate the governor. But during that time however, his betrayer, Judas Iscariot realized that he had betrayed innocent blood and proceeded to throw down the money before the religious leaders that he received as a ransom for leading the religious leaders to him. From there, in utter despair and despondency, he went off and as the scriptures recorded, Judas Iscariot hanged himself. In the words of Jesus, the fate of Judas Iscariot came true, “The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born.” [Matt. 26:24]

I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.

Mark 14:62

The mockery with Pilate

We now enter the next phase of the mock trials of Jesus before the ruler called Pontius Pilate. There is far more detail recorded in the scriptures about Pilate and this will be expounded upon to document the mockery that took place. During this period, there are more profound comments made in reference to Jesus that will be shown in this study. So here it is, the next day, after Jesus had been apprehended by a band of men and religious leaders, paraded before Annas and then Caiphas, and then humiliated and punished by the guards. From these encounters, Jesus is then accused of blasphemy by declaring himself as the Son of God and now the chief priests and elders have put him before the governor, Pontius Pilate.

What does Pilate do but ask Jesus a very pointed question, “And Pilate asked him, Art thou the King of the Jews?” [Mark 15:2a] But Jesus merely acknowledged that Pilate had said this about him. Then when the chief priests and the elders accused him of things and laid false claims against him, Pilate urged him to respond but Jesus gave them no answer whatsoever. Pilate however knew that the chief priests and elders had delivered Jesus unto him out of envy. But then listen to what Pilate says about Jesus after the mockery of interrogation of him.

In the gospel of John, it is recorded that Pilate declares to the chief priest and religious rulers that he “finds no fault in Jesus’ not once, not twice, but three times! (John 18:38, 19:4, 19:6} Pilate also tells the Jews to take Jesus and judge him according to their own laws (John 18:31). In other words, he did not want to have anything to do with Jesus because he found no fault in him, meaning he was not guilty of anything. Soon thereafter, Pilate’s wife came to him in distress urging him not to have anything to do with “that just man” because she had suffered many things in a dream because of him. So much for being a so-called malefactor as accused by the Jewish religious leaders!

I have found no fault in this man touching those things which ye accuse him.

Luke 23:14

The mockery with Herod

Then the next phase of the mock trial of Jesus takes place when Pilate sends Jesus to Herod. This was nothing more than a charade as Herod was more desirous to see him out of curiosity, hoping perhaps to see some sort of miracle performed. Since Jesus would not stoop to entertain Herod’s curiosity, he was then sent back to Pilate but not until his guards adorned him with pseudo-royal attire mockingly befitting for the king of the Jews. And so, the chief priests and the scribes continued to vehemently accuse Jesus during this entire charade of a trial before the Roman rulers.

But Pilate continued to exonerate Jesus of any wrongdoing by stating, “I have examined him before you…” and once again Pilate proclaims, “I have found no fault in this man touching those things which ye accuse him.” Then get this, Pilate adds even more claims of innocence to Jesus in front of the Jewish religious leaders by stating, “No, nor yet Herod: for I sent you to him; and, lo, nothing worthy of death is done unto him I will therefore chastise him, and release him.” Luke 23:15-16] The chastisement in this case, was nothing more than an intended appeasement for the envious Jews but we shall see it fell on deaf ears.

The return of Pilate

Now things start to heat up more for Pilate but first let us recap what has transpired. First he tries to convince the religious leaders of the Jews that he finds no fault in Jesus, repeated three times for good measure. Then he tries to pawn Jesus off to Herod only to have it boomerang back to him. Then his wife suffers in a dream because of this just man. Now when Pilate chastises Jesus in a failed attempt to appease the Jews, they start charging up the multitudes to chant for the release of a convicted felon named Barabbas instead of Jesus.

To think that the crowd could be convinced into calling for the release of a common criminal, a robber, guilty of causing an insurrection and murder in place of Jesus who taught, preached and healed them for so many years. This was clearly an example of herd mentality and groupthink taking place before the governor. But Pilate was not finished appealing to the Jews in his attempt to claim the innocence of Jesus as he said to them, “What evil hath he done?” This however only led the crowd to yell out the more loudly, let him be crucified.

Let us now look into John’s account of this growing dissension between the Jews, the religious leaders and their false indictment of Jesus before Pilate. They now up the ante substantially even despite Pilate’s scourging of Jesus which brought an excruciatingly painful lashing on his back to the point of near death. Further, the Roman guards platted a crown of thorns upon the head of Jesus and mocked him by putting a purple robe of royalty upon him. Now surely all of this would have convinced the Jews and religious leaders that Jesus had been punished enough and that his teaching and preaching would no longer have an impact or threat upon them. But no, there was far more to their claims to come for after crying out to Pilate to have Jesus crucified despite a third plea from Pilate in that he found no fault in him, there was indeed more coming.

…he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin.

John 19:11b

The culminating event

Now came the culminating point in their argument against Jesus, surely getting the serious attention of Pilate. This was documented by the apostle John as follows in this scripture, “The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God. When Pilate therefore heard that saying, he was the more afraid;” [John 18:7-8] Although Pilate went in unto Jesus and appealed to him to answer him the question of who he was under threat of having power to release him or to crucify him, Jesus responded as follows, “Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin.” [John 19:11] If there ever was a biblical passage indicating that sin comes with degrees of severity this is the verse!

The saga unfortunately continued in futility for Pilate, a notable Roman leader who tried to appeal to the Jews one last time by asking them, “Shall I crucify your King?” [John 19:15b] This was met with a political response that Pilate could not back out of as the Jews claimed to have only one king and that was Caesar. For Pilate, this was the proverbial move of checkmate against him. He therefore, had no other recourse but to deliver Jesus over unto them to be crucified for he could hardly go against Caesar as king. Pilate finally made an absurd attempt of ceremonialism in washing his hands and claiming that he was innocent of this man’s blood; as if that meant anything since he was the one who granted authorization for Jesus to be crucified.

This was indeed the capitulation of the mock trials of Jesus from beginning to end, with a corrupt and greedy false disciple who betrayed him, with no credible witnesses to support the religious rulers false claims, with the bullying influence from the hypocritical religious leaders of the Jews, with brutish behavior from the multitudes relentlessly chanting for his crucifixion, all of this only to be eclipsed by an astonishing weakness of leadership within the Roman authority from a governor, named Pontius Pilate. Surely, his name in history was forever marked as the one “willing to content the people”, the one who, “…delivered Jesus to their will,” and the one who sent Jesus to the cross. But as Jesus stated himself, “…he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin.”

Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.

Matt. 10:32

Sentence of crucifixion

The mock trials of Jesus are now over, he was on the road to being crucified, the subject of the next Bible study. With all of this laid before us, how does this make you feel as a seeker of faith or as a Christian? This was only the beginning of the pain that would be subjected upon Jesus in place of us for the scriptures say that a penalty was required to atone for our sins. That penalty was the death of someone who knew no sin but took our sin upon himself as he died in sacrificial atonement upon the cross, for you and me. This was all according to the scriptures, prophetically written about in the Old Testament, centuries before it took place [Zech. 13:7], [Is.53:7], [Ps. 22:16], [Is. 50:6], [Ps. 22:14-15], [Ps. 69:21b [Ps. 22:7-8], [Ps. 109:4], [Ps. 22:18], [Is. 53:12b], [Ps. 22:1], [Ps. 34:20], [Ps. 16:10]. [Is. 53:9], [Ps. 16:10], [Is. 26:10].

How does this affect us?

Let us conclude this Bible study on the mock trials of Jesus by asking some questions. What is our reaction to the whole subject of Christianity when it surfaces in discussion during everyday life? How are we to react when people continue to mock Jesus in our culture? Are we like Judas Iscariot who betrayed him for a sum of money, are we like Peter denying the Lord Jesus three times, are we like the despicable religious leaders filled with their own hypocrisy, are we like the foolish crowds who just went along with herd mentality regardless of the consequences, or are we like Pilate who ended up caving into political influence and peer pressure?

This Bible study tends to ask the broader question on how we defend and stand up for our faith. Do we not fall guilty of the same dilemma in our modern culture? How do we react if Jesus becomes the brunt of jokes among friends or colleagues? What response do we have if the name of Jesus is blasphemed in movies or television? What should we say if changes are made that affect our religious freedom? Who should we speak to if our children’s school curriculum conflicts with our faith and beliefs? These are just a few examples that tend to parallel the mock trials of Jesus because if we are silent in these situations are we not complicit in our own behavior? Do we not put Jesus back on trial every time we fail to act upon our convictions of faith and belief in him?

It was Jesus after all, who spoke these memorable words that we should all give contemplative thought to and consideration for in our daily lives when he said, “Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.” [Matt. 10:32-33] As we go forth from this study, let us never give the pursuits of darkness and evil the opportunity to place the proverbial mock trials of Jesus back upon him as a result of our silence or inaction. We must all stand for our faith in Christ. We must all proclaim our faith as Peter did when he finally said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” [Matt. 16:16]

Bible Study Questions

  1. In this Bible study on the mock trials of Jesus, can you describe the events that preceded the detainment of Jesus?
  2. What was the name of the disciple who betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver?
  3. Who was the high priest that interrogated Jesus after his detainment?
  4. How many times did Pontius Pilate say that he found no fault in Jesus?
  5. What was the culminating event that led to Pilate sentencing Jesus to be crucified?
  6. In the conclusion of this Bible study, are there any people with whom you can relate to during the mock trials of Jesus?
  7. Is there something that you will do as part of your faith to confess Jesus before people when he is being mocked?

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