“Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and they schemed to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. “But not during the festival,” they said, “or there may be a riot among the people.” (Matthew 26:3-5)
The arrest, trial, conviction, sentencing and execution of Jesus Christ was and still is without legal precedent. He suffered the death penalty even though Pontius Pilate – the local Roman authority – found Him innocent.
The Messiah actually underwent two trials with three phases each. First came the religious trial where the charge was blasphemy; then came the civil trial where the charge was incitement to rebellion.
Jesus was tried before a “kangaroo court”. This is how the dictionary refers to a kangaroo court – (An unfair, biased, or hasty judicial proceeding that ends in a harsh punishment; an unauthorized trial conducted by individuals who have taken the law into their own hands, a proceeding and its leaders who are considered corrupt and without regard for the law). Like all such trials, it was preceded by a conspiracy: “Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, whose name was Caiaphas, and they schemed to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. “But not during the festival,” they said, “or there may be a riot among the people.” (Matthew 26:3-5)
The conspiracy included the Pharisees, the elders of the people, the Sadducees and the chief priests. These were two opposing camps and there was a great bitterness between them. But they had one thing in common; animosity towards the claims of the Messiah. While Jesus upheld the Law of Moses, He refused to uphold the traditions of either the Pharisees or the Sadducees. This was the reason He was hated by both groups. This hatred gave rise to a conspiracy against the Messiah, which was lead by Caiaphas, the High Priest. The plan was to arrest Jesus in secret, away from the attention of the masses, and kill Him before the people became aware of what had happened.
Matthew 26:14-16, Mark 14:11 and Luke 22:5 clearly declare that the conspirators were glad when Judas offered the opportunity to apprehend Jesus. They quickly made a promise to pay him for his services. The amount agreed upon was thirty pieces of silver. Judas was paid out of the “Temple” money that had been designated for the purchase of sacrifices. Little did the conspirators realize that they were indeed purchasing a sacrifice with temple money, for when the Messiah died, he died as the sin-sacrifice for all men.
The thirty pieces of silver had further meaning. According to Exodus 21:32 “If the bull gores a male or female slave, the owner must pay thirty shekels of silver to the master of the slave. . .” Thus, the leaders of Israel held the ministry of the Messiah to be the value of a slave. Yet at the same time, unknown to them, these leaders were fulfilling an Old Testament Prophecy. Zechariah 11:12 clearly states that His price would be thirty pieces of silver. Read Zechariah 11:12-13.
By the time of the Messiah, Judaism had developed a large body of law controlling every facet of Jewish life, which in the Scriptures is referred to as the tradition of the elders (read Mark 7:3-4).
Within this massive body of law were the commandments that dealt with the manner in which the Sanhedrin was to conduct a trial.
The main thing that the Pharisees and Sadducees had against the Messiah was His refusal to accept the traditions as being authoritative and binding. Yet they themselves were guilty of the very thing for which they condemned the Messiah. In trying to bring about the speedy death of the Messiah through a kangaroo court, they violated a number of their own laws.
The twenty two laws of the Sanhedrin which were violated at Messiah’s trial are as follows:
- There was to be no arrest by religious authorities that was affected by a bribe: “Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds those who see and twists the words of the innocent.” (Exodus 23:8)
- There were to be no steps of criminal proceedings after sunset. (“Let a capital offense be tried during the day, but suspend it at night.” (Mishna = the oral law, Sanhedrin 4:1)).
- Judges or Sanhedrin members were not allowed to participate in the arrest. “Then Jesus said to the chief priests, the officers of the temple guard, and the elders, who had come for him, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come with swords and clubs?” (Luke 22:52)
- There were to be no trials before the morning sacrifice.
- There were to be no secret trials, only public.
- Sanhedrin trials could only be conducted in the Hall of Judgment of the Temple Compound.
- The procedure was to be first the defense and then the accusation.
- All may argue in favor of acquittal, but all may not argue in favor of conviction.
- There were to be two or three witnesses and their testimony had to agree in every detail: (Deuteronomy 19:15)
- There was to be no allowance for the accused to testify against himself.
- The High Priest was forbidden to rent his garments (Leviticus 21:10)
- Charges could not originate with the judges. They could only investigate charges brought to them.
- The accusation of blasphemy was only valid if the name of God itself was pronounced.
- A person could not be condemned on the basis of his own words alone.
- The verdict could not be announced at night, only in the daytime.
- In case of capital punishment, the trial and guilty verdict could not occur at the same time but must be separated by at least 24 hours.
- Voting for the death penalty had to be done by individual count beginning with the youngest so the young would not be influenced by the elders.
- A unanimous decision for guilt shows innocence since it is impossible for 23 – 71 men to agree without plotting.
- The sentence could only be pronounced three days after the guilty verdict.
- A person condemned to death could not be beaten or scourged beforehand.
- Judges were to be humane and kind.
- No trials are allowed on the eve of the Sabbath or on a feast day. (The Mishna = Oral law says: “They shall not judge on the eve of the Sabbath, or on any festival.”
* * * * * * *
From Dr. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum’s teachings