THE MISTRIAL OF JESUS

We all know that Jesus had to die.

Here’s something you may not have known. If the High Priest and Great Sanhedrin—the Jewish Supreme Court—followed their own laws they would have had to let Jesus go! They broke so many of their own laws that, if the Judge was truly impartial and just, he would declared a mistrial and let Jesus go free. For example,

THE DECISION TO ARREST JESUS, Matthew 26:3-5

  • All meetings of the Court were to take place in the Hall of Hewn Stone IN THE TEMPLE. It was forbidden to hold Court anywhere outside this Hall. The first two of Jesus’ Jewish trials were held in the homes of Annas and Caiaphas.
  • The meetings of the Court were to be held in the Temple in order that the meetings be public and open to the people. Jesus’ trials before Annas and Caiaphas were held in private.
  • The law forbade the Court from passing and imposing the death sentence before it even arrests, indicts, and tries the accused. Death could not be meted or imposed before the accused has had a chance to defend himself before the Court. Jesus was condemned to death before He was even arrested.
  • The death sentence was passed only as a last resort. A cardinal rule of law was that the Court was to be consumed with life and not with death. A single reasonable doubt—even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary—was sufficient to spare the accused from death. The Court was to make every attempt, exhaust every means, to preserve the life of the accused. The Court in this case made absolutely no attempt to preserve Jesus’ life.
  • Jesus’ arrest was conducted by night. According to law, it was forbidden to conduct any criminal proceedings after sunset.
  • The arrest was conducted with the aid of a paid accomplice, hence involving bribery. The giving and receiving of bribes was expressly forbidden by law.
  • Some members of the Court, who themselves were judges, participated in the arrest, hence prejudicing them against the Lord.
  • Contrary to law, Jesus was arrested without a charge and without evidence or witnesses against him. There was no legal grounds to arrest Him, therefore, He should not have been arrested.

THE HEARING BEFORE ANNAS, John 18:12-14 

  • Jesus’ hearing before Annas was conducted privately in Annas’ palace. The law required all trials to be held in public. A defendant could not be tried in private.
  • A defendant in a capital case could not be tried, judged, or condemned by one judge. A minimum of twenty-three judges was required.
  • Annas sought to obtain a charge against Jesus without the law’s requirement for witnesses.  
  • Annas tried to get Jesus to incriminate Himself. By law, no man could testify against himself, hence, such testimony would not be admissible in Court.
  • It was unlawful to abuse a defendant during the trial. Jesus was slapped without reprimand from the High Priest.
  • It was unlawful to detain a person without charge, evidence, or witnesses against him. Instead of letting Jesus go, Annas sent Him to Caiaphas for further trial.

THE PRELIMINARY TRIAL BEFORE CAIAPHAS IN CAIAPHAS’ HOUSE, Matthew 26:59-68, Mark 14:55-65, Luke 22:63-65

  • The appointed meeting place of the High Court was in the Hall Of Hewn Stone in the Temple. Any meeting outside this Hall was deemed illegal. Caiaphas brazenly held court in his house.
  • The High Court could meet only during the day. Trials in a capital offence could not be conducted by night. Jesus’ trial was conducted in the darkness of night.  
  • The Court could not hear, or try, a capital offence on the day before Sabbath or a feast day. Jesus was tried the night before Passover.
  • The judges were disqualified from judging our Lord because they were already determined to put Jesus to death. The verdict and sentence had already been determined—even in the absence of a formal charge and witnesses.
  • In the absence of valid witnesses, the law ordained that the defendant be immediately released. Caiaphas did not do this as required by law.
  • Caiaphas stepped outside the boundaries of the law by interrogating Jesus and acting as prosecutor against Him when, as yet, Jesus was not charged with any criminal mischief.
  • Caiaphas asked Jesus a question that the law forbade him from asking. By the use of adjuration, he forced Jesus to answer it. And, in the process, he got Jesus to incriminate Himself. By law, a defendant could not be asked to incriminate himself.
  • Although Jesus was charged with blasphemy, He was not formally tried on that charge. He was condemned without being put on trial for blasphemy.
  • By law, once witnesses were found, the trial must proceed with arguments for the defense. Prosecution could not begin until the defendant presented his defense. In Jesus’ trial, no witnesses were summoned in His defense. He was charged and condemned without being given the chance to defend Himself.
  • The judges in Jesus’ trial acted as witnesses and prosecutors against Him. Their job was to defend Him, not prosecute Him.
  • The decision to convict and condemn our Lord was unanimous, which automatically rendered it null and void. The law stipulated that at least one judge must vote to acquit the defendant.  
  • By law, the death sentence could not be passed anywhere except in the Hall of Hewn Stone. In Jesus’ case, it was passed in Caiaphas’ house.
  • The death sentence was passed on the same day as the trial. Legally, it could not be passed until the next day. The law required that the Court take a whole day to consider the punishment when the defendant’s life was at stake.

THE FORMAL TRIAL BEFORE THE SANHEDRIN IN THE TEMPLE, Matthew 27:1, Mark 15:1, Luke 22:66-71

  • It was forbidden for the Court to meet in session during a holy day.
  • The trial began with the verdict and sentence already determined. The judges were already prejudiced against the defendant before the case was heard in Court.
  • It was unlawful for the Court to act as prosecutors in a life-and-death trial.
  • No witnesses were called at this trial. No charge was preferred against Jesus. He was unindicted, hence, innocent in the eyes of the law.
  • Jesus was condemned solely by His own testimony. By law, a man’s confession—apart from the testimony of eyewitnesses—can’t be used against him to condemn him to death.
  • Jesus was charged and condemned for blasphemy, but He was never tried on that charge. The Court did not investigate the falsity or truthfulness of Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God. By law, a man could not be condemned if he was not tried.
  • Jesus was not given the opportunity to defend Himself against the charge of blasphemy. No witnesses were called in His defense, which automatically rendered the trial null and void.
  • The Court convicted Jesus on the same day as the trial—something it could not do legally. Conviction had to come the day following the trial.
  • The death sentence was executed on the same day as the trial—something it could not do by law. At least a full day had to pass before the death sentence was carried out in order to give the Court every opportunity to spare the life of the defendant.

THE POST-TRIAL FORMALITIES OF THE COURT, Matthew 27:2-10

  • Upon conviction in a capital trial, the Court was to remain seated and convened in the hopes that new witnesses or evidence could be found in favor of sparing the defendant’s life. In Jesus’ case, all seventy-one judges vacated their seats and escorted Jesus to Pilate.
  • When new witnesses or evidence presented themselves before the Court in favor of the defendant’s innocence, the Court was obliged to summon the defendant back to Court for another hearing. The High Court failed to do this when Judas stepped forward with his confession of Jesus’ innocence.
  • Whereas it took two or three witnesses to condemn, it only took one witness to acquit. By law, Judas’ confession alone was sufficient to acquit and free our Lord. But the chief priests and elders refused to bring that confession to Court and to light.
  • The Court was obligated to execute false witnesses and set a condemned defendant free. The Court did neither.

So what’s the point in all these? Beside the obvious one that I mentioned at the start of this post, if Jesus was a chicken and wanted to save His own skin, He could have  argued for a mistrial and conceivably, or justly, gone scot free. By law He should have been freed!

But instead of insisting upon His rights and going free, He willingly chose to suffer the injustices and abuses of the Court so that He could save you! Friend, do you grasp the extent of Christ’s love for you? He could have walked out of court a free Man! But He didn’t! Do you know why? Because He loved you and felt that you were worth dying for and saving. Calvary is  irrefutable proof that God loves you. Don’t let the devil, anyone, or yourself, tell you otherwise.

2 Comments

  1. queenlorene said,

    March 29, 2013 at 12:47 AM

    Amazing! You have a deep understanding of the anchient Jewish legal trial procedures! I was fascinated reading this!

  2. queenlorene said,

    March 29, 2013 at 12:51 AM

    Reblogged this on RePrEsSeD ExPrEsSiOnS and commented:
    An amazing account of ancient Jewish Court law in regard to criminal trials. Thanks to Pastor Diaz for this well researched post.


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