Guilty or Sham?
They knew they were going to find Him guilty of something. They just needed to come together and agree on what He was guilty of. Sound familiar? Was Representative Adam Schiff fair in the impeachment proceedings? Did Jerry Nadler follow proper procedures as chairman of the rules committee? As votes are counted for the House Impeachment, the nation will remain divided on whether this trial proved President Trump was guilty or whether the entire process was a sham. But if the proceedings seem a little familiar, maybe it is because of another trial that was rushed—a trial where a man was determined guilty before He ever opened His mouth.
Two thousand years ago there was a trial that took place in the middle of the night. As everyone clamors about the impeachment trial, I hope you will give a few minutes to examine what really took place when Jesus was the one on trial. Instead of joining in the political fray, why not share the facts around a trial that forever changed the world.
After His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus was tried before Caiaphas the Jewish High Priest and the political Sanhedrin (with the Pharisees and Sadducees). Having predetermined his guilt they found Jesus guilty of blasphemy (Matthew 27:1; Luke 22:66-71). Jewish law demanded two witnesses agreeing in their testimony, and yet, we never read of two witnesses coming forward with collaborating stories that would permit the death sentence to be meted out to Christ.
Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin were bound by Jewish law, which plainly stated: “Whoever is deserving of death shall be put to death on the testimony of two or three witnesses; he shall not be put to death on the testimony of one witness.” (Deuteronomy 17:6). The law went on to state: ““One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established.” (Deuteronomy 19:15). In Mark’s account of what happened that fateful night he wrote, “For many bore false witness against Him, but their testimonies [k]did not agree. Then some rose up and bore false witness against Him, saying, “We heard Him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.’ ” But not even then did their testimony agree. (Mark 14:56-59).
They knew they were going to find him guilty of something. They just had to figure out exactly what it was. They finally settled on blasphemy and sent him off to Pilate to be crucified. But before we leave that Jewish trial I want to spend just a few minutes really examining what transpired. A study of Jewish law reveals that a number of those laws were broken the night Jesus was arrested and convicted (Bucklin, 1970).
- Arrests could not be made at night.
- The time and date of the trial were illegal because it took place at night on the eve of the Sabbath—a time that precluded any opportunity for a required adjournment to the next day in the event of a conviction.
- The Sanhedrin was without authority to instigate charges. It was only supposed to investigate charges that had been brought before it, but in Jesus’ trial, the court itself formulated the charges.
- As noted earlier, the stringent requirement of two witnesses testifying in agreement to merit the death penalty had not been met.
- The court did not meet in the regular meeting place of the Sanhedrin, as required by Jewish law.
- Christ was not permitted a defense. Under existing Jewish law, an exhaustive search into the facts presented by the witnesses should have occurred—but did not.
- The Sanhedrin itself pronounced the death sentence. During Roman captivity, however, the Sanhedrin was not allowed to impose the death sentence (John 18:31). As the Roman historian Tacitus recorded, “…the Romans reserved to themselves the right of the sword.”
Yes, our nation will debate the impeachment proceedings for years to come. But there was a trial that took place two thousand years ago in which we were all found guilty. And thankfully the only innocent man to ever walk this earth was willing to go through it all—all the way to the cross—so that you and I can have eternal life.
You want to talk about a sham of a trial? Tell someone about the trial of Jesus!