Convicted in 1982 for the murder of a McDonald’s security officer. Exonerated 2008.
One hopes that when they are convicted of a murder, that the defending attorneys truly believe that their client is innocent. Unfortunately, even if the attorneys know that their client is guilty, they are required by law to defend them to the best of their ability. In Logan’s case, the defending attorneys of another man knew that he was an innocent man because their client had secretly confessed to them. Three witnesses identified Logan as the killer and he was almost sent to his death, except for two people in the jury who voted against the death penalty. Logan was released 26 years later after the death of Andrew Wilson, the real killer. The attorneys defending Wilson made an agreement that if he died, they would bring forward all the information needed to release Logan. Despite all the hard time in prison, Logan holds no hard feelings.
Can you imagine what it would be like to be wrongly accused, convicted and sentenced for a crime you did not commit? We would like to believe it could not happen but evidenced by the story above it can and in fact does.
But what if you were accused of a crime, convicted and sentenced and though innocent accepted the punishment? Willingly going to your death for something you did not do?
In a small middle eastern city over 2000 years ago a trial like the one described above actually took place.
Jerusalem 2000 years ago like the Jerusalem of today was a divided city. Most of the civilized world at that time was under Roman authority and Jerusalem was no exception.
For thousands of years, the Jewish people had lived primarily under foreign rule (Egyptian, Syrian, Babylonian, Persian, Greek, Roman, etc.), with only brief periods of independence. In the first century the area known as Palestine (modern day Israel), was ruled by the Romans and it is here that Jesus was born and lived his life.
In the hierarchy of power, the Jewish self-government reported to the authority of the local Roman government (King Herod), which reported to Pontus Pilate and eventually to Rome (Emperor Caesar).
The Jews were unwilling subjects. and resented the occupation of the Romans. At the time of Jesus’ birth, the local Roman ruler, King Herod who perceived this coming king reported to him by the Magi as a threat had initiated a massacre of all Jewish baby boys under the age of two. Herod was also responsible for placing forbidden idols within the Jewish temple. These actions only added to Jewish resentment and hatred of the foreign Roman government.
The Jews understood the world to be divided into two types of people: Jewish and Gentile (non-Jew) and worked hard to disassociate themselves from the Gentiles.
The Jewish people were allowed a certain amount of freedom in both their governing system, and in maintaining their own traditions, yet the Roman government required that everything be ultimately subject to Roman authority. For example, Jewish citizens were under the authority of the Jewish court system (the Sanhedrin), yet all rulings for the death penalty were sent to the Roman government.
(This is an important fact to note concerning Jesus eventual trial)
The Jewish religious and governing system was divided between two parties: the Pharisees – the ‘people’s party’, taught the law and traditions of Israel’s patriarchs, and were strictly conforming to Jewish law; and the Sadducees – the wealthy and conservative leaders who rejected the traditions in favor of political and religious cooperation with the Romans.
It is into this time that Jesus comes onto the scene and conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees was inevitable.
Why? Jesus came with an “untraditional” message one that spoke to a relationship with God being a matter of the heart, not following law and traditions.
He hung out with tax-collectors (made one of them part of his inner circle) prostitutes and social outcasts, defended a woman caught in adultery and even healed Gentile children.
The religious elites outrage grew as his message and actions began to increase in popularity among the common people.
He called the Pharisees hypocrites, blind guides, sons of hell, white washed sepulchers (a stone room with a stone coffin), murderers and snakes Matthew 23 challenged their resistance to healing on the Sabbath and did not observe the ritual cleansing practiced before eating Mark 7:3-6 among other things.
Jesus was seen as a threat and must be stopped.
As a result of these reports—and on short notice—the chief priests and Pharisees called a meeting of the high council.
Pharisees: What are we going to do about this man? He is performing many miracles. If we don’t stop this now, every man, woman, and child will believe in Him. You know what will happen next? The Romans will think He’s mounting a revolution and will destroy our temple. It will be the end of our nation. John 11:47-48
Caiaphas, the High Priest that year gives us a hint of things to come: You have no idea what you are talking about; what you don’t understand is that it’s better for you that one man should die for the people so the whole nation won’t perish.
There is one factor we have not investigated and provides the most important clue. It is recorded in all four accounts of the Gospel.
Mark 11:15-18–They continued into Jerusalem and made their way up to the temple.
Upon reaching the temple that morning, Jesus dealt with those who were selling and buying animals for sacrifices and drove them out of the area. He turned over the tables of those who exchanged money for the temple pilgrims and the seats of those selling birds, and He physically prevented anyone from carrying anything through the temple.
Jesus (to those who were listening): 17 Didn’t the prophets write, “My house will be called a house of prayer, for all the people”? But you have made it into a “haven for thieves.”The chief priests and the scribes heard these words and knew Jesus was referring to them, so they plotted His destruction. They had grown afraid of Him because His teachings struck the crowds into astonishment.
Alfred Edershiem a scholar and writer on the traditions of Jewish faith and the life of Christ, wrote in his book “The Life And Times of Jesus the Messiah” concerning Annas to whom Jesus was first taken to first on the night of his arrest
“No figure is better known in contemporary Jewish history than that of Annas; no person deemed more fortunate or successful, but none also more generally execrated than the late High-Priest.He had held the Pontificate for only six or seven years; but it was filled by not fewer than five of his sons, by his son-in-law Caiaphas, and by a grandson. And in those days it was, at least for one of Annas’ disposition, much better to have been than to be High-Priest. He enjoyed all the dignity of the office, and all its influence also, since he was able to promote to it those most closely connected with him. And, while they acted publicly, he really directed affairs, without either the responsibility or the restraints which the office imposed.
We have seen what immense revenues the family of Annas must have derived from the Temple-booths.
Without referring to Christ’s interference with that Temple-traffic, which, if His authority had prevailed, would, of course, have been fatal to it, we can understand how antithetic in every respect a Messiah, and such a Messiah as Jesus, must have been to Annas. He was as resolutely bent on His Death as his son-in-law, though with his characteristic cunning and coolness, not in the hasty, bluff manner of Caiaphas.”—
One of the reasons the Pharisees and the religious elite were searching for a way to kill Jesus was because of his popularity. “The chief priests, the religious scholars, and the leading men of the city wanted to kill Him, but because He was so popular among the people—who hung upon each word He spoke—they were unable to do anything”. Luke 19:47-48
Now Jesus upsets the money making temple trade. And it must have driven them over the edge.
They were afraid if they did it openly it would bring Roman wrath down upon them.
“The Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were two days away. The Jewish leaders—the chief priests and the scribes—gathered to discuss how they might secretly arrest Jesus and kill Him. Jewish Leaders: 2 We can’t do it during the festivals. It might create an uproar”.
They needed was someone to lead them to Jesus secretly away from the crowds…
“The chief priests and religious scholars continued looking for a way to kill Jesus; they hadn’t been able to act yet due to their fear of the people’s reaction. At this point, Satan entered into one of the twelve, Judas (also called Iscariot). Judas set up a private meeting with the chief priests and the captains of the temple police to discuss a plan for betraying Jesus and putting Him in their hands. This was just the kind of break they had been waiting for, so they were thrilled and agreed to a handsome payment. Everything was settled, and Judas simply waited for the right moment, when the crowds weren’t around, to betray Jesus into their custody”.
The following is the Biblical record of the events that take place on the eve of Passover through the arrest and sentencing of Jesus.
The disciples are gathered to eat the Passover meal with Jesus. It is a bittersweet moment for Jesus. He knows what the disciples do not know yet, that this will be the last time they will be together like this.
Luke 22:15 ; 20-21
“Jesus: It has been My deep desire to eat this Passover meal with you before My suffering begins.
And similarly, after the meal had been eaten, He took the cup.
Jesus: This cup, which is poured out for you, is the new covenant, made in My blood. But even now, the hand of My betrayer is with Me on this table.
I will dip a piece of bread in My cup and give it to the one who will betray Me.
He dipped one piece in the cup and gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. After this occurred, Satan entered into Judas.
Jesus (to Judas): Make haste, and do what you are going to do.
When Jesus finished praying, He began a brief journey with His disciples to the other side of the Kidron Valley, a deep ravine that floods in the winter rains, then farther on to a garden where He gathered His disciples.
Judas Iscariot (who had already set his betrayal in motion and knew that Jesus often met with the disciples in this olive grove) entered the garden with an entourage of Roman soldiers and officials sent by the chief priests and Pharisees. They brandished their weapons under the light of torches and lamps. Jesus stepped forward. It was clear He was not surprised because He knew all things.
Jesus: Whom are you looking for?
” Jesus the Nazarene”
Jesus: I am the One.
Judas, the betrayer, stood with the military force. As Jesus spoke “I am the One,” the forces fell back on the ground.
So the Roman commander, soldiers, and Jewish officials arrested Jesus, cuffed His hands and feet, and brought Him to Annas (the father-in-law of Caiaphas the high priest). You may remember that Caiaphas counseled the Jews that one should die for all people.
The Six Illegal Trials of Jesus
Illegal because according to Jewish law
1. No one could be arrested for a capital crime at night
2. If a man was arrested for a capital crime, no one cooperating in the arrest could be in any way connected to the one who is accused. No arrest for a capital crime could be made based upon information given by a follower or colleague of the accused. Because they felt if the accused was guilty so were his followers. But the entire plot revolved around Judas, one of the followers. This law was blatantly and openly ignored.
3. The members of the Jewish court, after hearing the testimony of true witnesses (none of which were ever brought before Jesus) in a capital crime, could not immediately act and judge. They were to go home and remain alone and separate from one another for two days (at the least, one full day),
4. The method of voting was specified! They never took an “all in favor say I, all opposed say no” kind of vote. Their vote was supposed to be taken from the youngest to the oldest so that the youngest wouldn’t be intimidated or influenced by the older votes. This never happened.
First trial: Before Annas
Jesus is brought before Annas. It is illegal because Annas is not even a member of the council, there are no witnesses and it is at night “The law stated that it must be held in the daytime. The code, which is taken from the Talmud states: “The members of the court may not alertly and intelligently hear the testimony against the accused during the hours of darkness.” Everything about it is illegal. He has no business standing before someone who is not in council. And there are no witnesses.
Second trial: Before Caiaphas
Mark 14:53, “And they led Jesus away to the high priest: and with him were assembled all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes.”Caiaphas called together a group of men about 3:30 in the morning. Remember, it’s illegal because it’s dark, it’s illegal because it’s a preliminary hearing, it’s illegal because they’re in the wrong place, Caisphas’ house, they’re not in the council chamber.
Mark 14:56-62 There were plenty of people willing to get up and accuse Jesus falsely, distorting what Jesus had said or done; but their testimonies disagreed with each other, and the leaders were left with nothing. Some gave the following distorted testimony:
Witnesses: We heard Him say, “I will destroy this temple that has been made by human hands, and in three days, I will build another that is not made by human hands.”
But even here the witnesses could not agree on exactly what He had said.
Finally Caiaphas asks Jesus-
The high priest stood up and turned to Jesus.
High Priest: Do You have anything to say in Your own defense? What do You think of what all these people have said about You?
But Jesus held His peace and didn’t say a word.
Jesus, God’s Anointed, the Liberating King, has come not as a conquering king but as a sacrificial lamb who will die without defending Himself.
Are You God’s Anointed, the Liberating King, the Son of the Blessed One?
Jesus: I am. One day you will see the Son of Man “sitting at His right hand, in the place of honor and power,”[ and “coming in the clouds of heaven.”
Then the high priest tore his clothes.
High Priest (to the council): What else do we need to hear?
Caiaphas did not have the authority to make the decision. The council did not vote. Instead Caiaphas made the decision and they all condemned Jesus.
You have heard the blasphemy from His own lips. What do you have to say about that?
The verdict was unanimous—Jesus was guilty of a capital crime.
65 So the people began to humiliate Him. Some even spat upon Him. Then He was blindfolded, and they slapped and punched Him.
People: Come on, Prophet, prophesy for us! Tell us who just hit You.
Then the guards took Him, beating Him as they did so.
Third Trial: Before the Sanhedrin
When dawn had given way to full day, the Sanhedrin council assembled, consisting of religious leaders of the Sadducean party, along with the chief priests and religious scholars. They took Him to their headquarters for interrogation.
Sanhedrin: If you are the Anointed One whom God promised us, tell us plainly.
Jesus: If I give you an answer, you won’t believe it. 68 And if I ask you a question, you won’t answer it. 69 But this I will say to you: from now on, the Son of Man will take His seat at the right hand of the power of God.
Sanhedrin: So You are the Son of God, then?
Jesus: It’s as you say.
Sanhedrin: What more evidence do we need? We’ve heard it with our own ears from His own lips.
The charge was blasphemy, but that would not stand up in a Roman court. Therefore, between the time that they dismissed and gained an audience with the governor, Pilate, they made plans to switch the accusation to treason, and they claimed that he was guilty of attempting to overthrow the government.
Luke 23:1– So the whole council got up and took Jesus to Pilate.
Fourth Trial: Before Pilate
Pilate was a marked man in the mind of Caesar, and also his court, because of the number of revolutions that had broken out under his rule. He had made some unwise decisions, he had murdered some Jews, he had severely applied Roman requirements, and he lacked diplomacy. Therefore, the State over which he served was in turmoil.
Caiaphas knows he needs friends in high places to put an end to Jesus, so he turns to Pilate, the Roman governor. It is Pilates job to look out for Roman interests in Judea. He is an irritable man, unnecessarily cruel and intentionally provocative. Many Jews will die on his watch. For Pilate, Jesus is just one more.
Pilate bound by Roman law uses four laws of criminal code
Before the sun had risen, Jesus was taken from Caiaphas to the governor’s palace. The Jewish leaders would not enter the palace because their presence in a Roman office would defile them and cause them to miss the Passover feast. Pilate, the governor, met them outside.
Pilate: 29 What charges (Accusation) do you bring against this man?
Priests and Officials: If He weren’t a lawbreaker, we wouldn’t have brought Him to you.
Pilate: Then judge Him yourselves, by your own law.
Jews: Our authority does not allow us to give Him the death penalty.
All these things were a fulfillment of the words Jesus had spoken indicating the way that He would die.
So Pilate reentered the governor’s palace and called for Jesus to follow him.
Pilate: Are You the King of the Jews? (Interrogation)
Jesus: Are you asking Me because you believe this is true, or have others said this about Me?
Pilate: I’m not a Jew, am I? Your people, including the chief priests, have arrested You and placed You in my custody. What have You done?
Jesus: My kingdom is not recognized in this world. If this were My kingdom, My servants would be fighting for My freedom. But My kingdom is not in this physical realm.
Pilate: So You are a king? (Defense)
Jesus: You say that I am king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the cosmos: to demonstrate the power of truth. Everyone who seeks truth hears My voice.
Pilate (to Jesus): What is truth?
Pilate left Jesus to go and speak to the Jewish people.
Pilate (to the Jews): I have not found any cause for charges to be brought against this man. (Verdict)
The fourth step is a verdict. Accusation, interrogation, defense, and a verdict. And all four are acted out here. Pilate says he finds no guilt! All he finds is some spiritual kingdom, and that’s not going to affect or threaten Rome! Jesus is not guilty of treason!
Pilate (to the chief priest and crowd): 4 I find this man guilty of no crime.
Sanhedrin (growing more intense): 5 He has been stirring up discontent among the people all over Judea. He started up in Galilee, and now He’s brought His brand of trouble all the way to Jerusalem!
Pilate hears the word “Galilee”. Galilee really isn’t under his jurisdiction, and since he doesn’t want this case, he will attempt to let somebody else to try Jesus!
Fifth trial: Before Herod
Pilate: Just a minute. Is this man a Galilean?
When Pilate learned that Jesus was indeed Galilean—which meant He was officially under Herod’s jurisdiction—Pilate sent Him over to Herod, who was currently in Jerusalem.
Until this time Herod and Pilate had been enemies. Herod had beheaded John the Baptist, shown extreme cruelty over the Jewish people. Now he hoped to see Jesus do some miracle
Herod was fascinated to meet Jesus for he had heard about Him for a long time. He was hoping he might be treated to a miracle or two. He interrogated Jesus for quite a while, but Jesus remained silent, refusing to answer his questions. Meanwhile the chief priests and religious scholars had plenty to say—angrily hurling accusations at Jesus.
Eventually Herod and his soldiers began to insult Jesus, mocking and degrading Him. They put expensive clothing on Him and sent Him back to Pilate. This ended a long-standing rift between Herod and Pilate; they became friends from that day forward.
Sixth trial: Before Pilate again
Pilate did not want to declare him guilty, so he tried several avenues to get out of that verdict. The first thing he offered was to chastise and beat Jesus, then release him, but the crowd said no.
The second thing he tried was to release Jesus through a custom of that day, to release a prisoner on the Passover.
Now the governor had a custom. During the great Jewish festival of Passover, he would allow the crowd to pick one of the condemned men, and he, Pilate, would set the man free. Just like that. Gratuitous, gracious freedom.
Barabbas was a notorious criminal, he was a murderer, he was an insurrectionist, he was guilty of sedition, and he was bound in prison awaiting death by crucifixion. It was a capital crime he had committed. He was the one guilty of treason. Pilate thought that if he were to put Barabbas next to Jesus, and offered to release one of them, the crowd would say, “Don’t release Barabbas! Release Jesus!” It didn’t work.
Then Pilate sat down on his judgment seat, and he received a message from his wife: “Distance yourself utterly from the proceedings against this righteous man. I have had a dream about Him, a dream full of twisted sufferings—He is innocent, I know it, and we should have nothing to do with Him.”
But the chief priests and the elders convinced the crowd to demand that Barabbas, not Jesus, whom-some-call-the-Anointed-One, be freed and that Jesus be put to death.
Pilate (standing before the crowd): Which of these men would you have me free?
Crowd (shouting): Barabbas!
Pilate: What would you have me do with this Jesus, whom some call the Anointed One?
Crowd (shouting): Crucify Him!
Pilate: Why? What crime has this man committed?
Crowd (responding with a shout): Crucify Him!
It is clear Pilate has laid his own trap. He realizes he has given the crowd a choice, but the crowd doesn’t choose as he expects them to.
Pilate saw that unless he wanted a riot on his hands, he now had to bow to their wishes. So he took a pitcher of water, stood before the crowd, and washed his hands.
Pilate: You will see to this crucifixion, for this man’s blood will be upon you and not upon me. I wash myself of it.
Crowd: Indeed, let His blood be upon us—upon us and our children!
So Pilate released Barabbas, and he had Jesus flogged and handed over to be crucified.
The governor’s soldiers took Jesus into a great hall, gathered a great crowd, 28 and stripped Jesus of His clothes, draping Him in a bold scarlet cloak, the kind that soldiers sometimes wore. 29 They gathered some thorny vines, wove them into a crown, and perched that crown upon His head. They stuck a reed in His right hand, and then they knelt before Him, this inside-out, upside-down King. They mocked Him with catcalls.
Soldiers: Hail, the King of the Jews!
They spat on Him and whipped Him on the head with His scepter of reeds, 31 and when they had their fill, they pulled off the bold scarlet cloak, dressed Him in His own simple clothes, and led Him off to be crucified.
Next: Death Because of Love