Then the whole multitude of them arose and led Him to Pilate. 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 23:1-2)
Examining The Indictment Against Jesus
The trial of Jesus before the Jewish Sanhedrin and the court of Pilate is historically a travesty of justice from the Hebrew and Roman sides of the law. Jesus was charged, convicted, and executed on the perverted testimony of two witnesses, the blatant disregard for Hebrew law by the High Priest and Jewish council, and the cowardice of Pontius Pilate, governor of Judea. Jesus was arrested on Thursday night by a band of Temple officers and Roman soldiers and by Friday afternoon was dead. After His arrest, Jesus was taken before Annas and then to Caiaphas. Following a preliminary examination, Jesus was arraigned before the Sanhedrin and formally tried and condemned to death on the charge of blasphemy. A second assembly of the Jewish Court determined to send Jesus to Pilate.
When Jesus was brought before Pilate, the accusers charged Jesus with high treason against Caesar. Their indictment was threefold: Jesus had perverted the nation, taught the people to refuse to pay taxes to Caesar, and called Himself a king. Charging a man with perverting a nation is extremely vague. Accusing Jesus of leading a rebellion against taxes was utterly false. When asked whether to pay taxes or not, Jesus had taught that men should render to Caesar what was required and render to God what is commanded. The final charge was true but conveyed in such a manner to induce guilt. Jesus was a king, but He never claimed to usurp authority as a king on earth in the political sense but as a spiritual ruler. Pilate acquitted Jesus of the charges when he said, “I find no fault in this Man.”
Realizing they were losing their momentum against Jesus, the people were the more fierce with Pilate and accused Jesus of stirring up the people, teaching throughout Judea. Again, another vague charge with no legal authority and testimony. Jesus did teach throughout Israel, but He never taught insurrection against the Roman government. He taught against the hypocrisy of the Jewish leaders, who, from envy, sought to have Jesus killed. Instead of releasing Jesus, Pilate thought he could let Herod, Tetrarch of Galilee, handle the case. Staying only a short time and being mocked and brutalized by the soldiers of Herod, Jesus is returned to Pilate.
Pilate calls for the Jewish leaders announcing that Herod found no fault in Jesus and reminding them he had also found no charge against the man from Nazareth. Pilate sought to end the case by offering to scourge Jesus and release Him. This was rejected by the Jews, who demanded Jesus be crucified. Cowardice filled the heart of Pilate and he yielded to the crowd’s demands and ordered Jesus crucified.
When Jesus was taken to Caiaphas, the chief priests, elders and all the council sought false testimony against Jesus to put Him to death. Many false witnesses came forward, but no solid charges could be made. Finally, two false witnesses were found who charged Jesus with claiming to destroy God’s Temple and build it in three days. Again, false charges are based upon misrepresenting the teaching of Jesus. When Jesus drove out the merchants and money changers from the Temple, the Jews asked for a sign for authority to do such a thing. Jesus told them that if they destroyed the temple, He would raise it up in three days. The Jews were astonished at what Jesus said, reminding Him it took forty-six years to build the Temple and He would raise it up in three days? Jesus was not talking about the Temple in Jerusalem but the temple that was His body. The Lord signified His death and resurrection.
It is ironic the indictment against Jesus was that He would tear down the temple and raise it the third day. They were right in their charge, but they were wrong in the application. What they were doing was the will of the Father. Jesus was going to die Friday afternoon and on the first day of the week, God would raise Him from the dead. The trial of Jesus before the Jews and Gentiles was a declaration of the need of all men for salvation. Under Jewish law, Jesus was tried and convicted illegally. Jesus was not a Roman citizen and was executed illegally by the Romans. All men stand condemned for bringing false charges against Jesus, exercising false judgment against the Son of God, and facing the indictment of God’s wrath for killing His Son.
Fifty days after the trial of Jesus, His death and resurrection, three thousand Jews learned what they had done to the Holy One. God was willing to forgive those who repented and sought His forgiveness – even for killing His Son. The stain of sin corrupted the trial of the Sanhedrin and the pretense of Pilate and Herod, but the trial of Jehovah God in the day of judgment will be pure and holy. His Son will not be on trial and there will be no false charges brought into the court of God’s law. All men will be tried according to divine truth and divine justice will be meted out to all who are guilty and joy for those who are faithful. God’s judgment is righteous. Are you ready to meet your Judge?