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Sun, Jul 23, 2000

104 - The First Civil Trial

John 18:24-32 by Robert Dean
Series:John (1998)
Duration:58 mins 28 secs

The First Civil Trial; John 18:24-32

John 18:28 NASB "Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas into the Praetorium, and it was early; and they themselves did not enter into the Praetorium so that they would not be defiled, but might eat the Passover." We are not told in John what happens in this second trial before Caiaphas. So we will look at Mark 14. One of the things we need to note as we go through this is that both systems of law break down in this religious trial. The Jews had a very precise and profound system of law developed first in the Mosaic law and it was further developed and enhanced through the oral tradition of the Pharisees and the Sadducees so that they had a very good objective system of law. The whole thing breaks down as soon as people get involved in running law on the basis of religion.

Remember religion is man trying to gain God's approval through man's efforts. Christianity is not a religion, it is a relationship based on the completed work of Christ on the cross. There is a vast difference between biblical Christianity and religion. Biblical Christianity is based on grace, upon God doing all the work and man accepting it; biblical Christianity is not based on arrogance. Legalistic Christianity is always based on arrogance and whenever there is any kind of religion, whether it is Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, or legalistic forms of Christianity operating on arrogance, it always has damaging consequences for political institutions. 

Mark 14:53 NASB "They led Jesus away to the high priest; and all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes gathered together." This tells us that they are pulling together the Sanhedrin. They are meeting where? [54] "Peter had followed Him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest; and he was sitting with the officers and warming himself at the fire." We learn from this verse the second violation of law, and that is that the Sanhedrin was to meet officially in a court capacity in the temple, not in the private residence of the high priest. So they are in violation of law by where they meet. [55] "Now the chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, and they were not finding any." What happens here is that Mark in his explanation moves rather quickly from phase one of this section, the trial before Caiaphas, to the second section which is when they bring the council together. They were bringing in witnesses but the witnesses couldn't agree. They could not find any reason to condemn Jesus. [56] "For many were giving false testimony against Him, but their testimony was not consistent." Under Mosaic law any condemnation had to be confirmed by two or three witnesses. [58] "We heard Him say, 'I will destroy this temple made with hands, and in three days I will build another made without hands.' [59] Not even in this respect was their testimony consistent. [60] The high priest stood up {and came} forward and questioned Jesus, saying, 'Do You not answer? What is it that these men are testifying against You?'" In other words, we can't get them to agree so let's see if you can give us some evidence against yourself. This also was a violation of the Mosaic law. [61] "But He kept silent and did not answer. Again the high priest was questioning Him, and saying to Him, 'Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed {One?}'" He is trying to get Jesus to criminalize Himself by this admission. [62] "And Jesus said, 'I am; and you shall see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING WITH THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN.' [63] Tearing his clothes [also a violation of the Mosaic law, Leviticus 21:10], the high priest said, 'What further need do we have of witnesses? [64] You have heard the blasphemy; how does it seem to you?' And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death."

They were presuming His guilt. They had a religious agenda operating on arrogance. They wanted to get rid of Him. So after this trial where there were several members of the Sanhedrin meeting they then come up with the conclusion that he has blasphemed. They quickly convene the Sanhedrin a little while later, Luke 22:66-71, in order to give it the veneer of legality. The result of all of this was that the Jewish religious law found Jesus guilty of blasphemy. It was not blasphemy because He was God, but they rejected His claim to be God, His claim to be the unique Son of God, and that He was the Messiah prophesied from the Old Testament, and so having rejected that they trump up these charges to get Him executed. The charge itself is based on a forced admission from the defendant which is in violation of the law. They tried accuse Him of Sabbath violation but those were mostly based on miracles He performed on the Sabbath, so that was a dangerous ground. Jesus rejected the oral tradition of the Pharisees but they couldn't really condemn Him on that because this was a major theological conflict between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, so that was shaky ground. Furthermore, He had cleansed the temple and that angered and aggravated Annas and Caiaphas because that was their little operation to make a lot of money, but it was looked on with favour by most of the people and many of the rabbis because it was cleaning up all of the corruption. They tried to charge Him with all sorts of evil doctrines and sedition but this was contradicted by His life. They tried to charge Him with heresy but that could not be supported by the facts. No two witnesses agreed so they had to try to force Him to commit some crime. They asked Him who He was and He admitted it, and on that basis they found Him guilty of blasphemy.

What we discover from all of this is that when religion and emotion take over, objectivity is lost and a legal system collapses. They found Him guilty of blasphemy under the religious system, but under Roman law they could not execute Him. They had to go to the Roman authorities in order to get permission to have Him executed. That is where we find ourselves in John chapter eighteen.     

John 18:28, 29 NASB "Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas into the Praetorium, and it was early; and they themselves did not enter into the Praetorium so that they would not be defiled, but might eat the Passover. Therefore Pilate went out to them and said, 'What accusation do you bring against this Man?'" The Jews would not enter the Praetorium so he went out to them. This shows how very sensitive he was to the Jews, and he wants show them how sensitive he is and that he really cares about them and will listen to all of their problems. He doesn't want to anger them at all so he acts like their little errand boy. Instead of holding his ground he caved in to their pressure, so we see that already the Jews are in control of the situation, not Pilate. 

John 18:30 NASB "They answered and said to him, 'If this Man were not an evildoer, we would not have delivered Him to you'." Here we have kakos [kakoj] plus poieo [poiew] which simply means someone who does evil. This is a very broad general term for a law-breaker. They are not accusing Him of anything specific at this point, simply that He is a malefactor, a criminal who has violated the law.  

John 18:31 NASB "So Pilate said to them, 'Take Him yourselves, and judge Him according to your law.' The Jews said to him, 'We are not permitted to put anyone to death'." [32] When the Romans took over a province they left the subjects' law in place. It was only on the basis of certain extreme situations that Roman law would override local laws and customs and one of those was any situation involving capital punishment. Jesus is in a situation here where He is a non-Roman citizen, so Pilate can do whatever he wants to. All of Pilate's actions here are legal under the framework of Roman law. Roman law gave him tremendous latitude in dealing with a non-Roman citizen. But at this point he does not think that there is any issue before Roman law so he just tells them to take Him themselves, and they say they are not permitted to put anyone to death. This is a fulfilment of various prophecies like John 3:14; Matthew 20:19; John 8:28, where Jesus had prophesied the fact that he was going to die. John 18:32 NASB "to fulfill the word of Jesus which He spoke, signifying by what kind of death He was about to die."

Sp Pilate is left between a rock and a hard place here, he is feeling the pressure from the Jews and his career is at stake, so he has to give this a little more attention than he ought to. Instead of just dismissing them he goes back into interview Jesus in v. 33 NASB "Therefore Pilate entered again into the Praetorium, and summoned Jesus and said to Him, 'Are You the King of the Jews?' [34] Jesus answered, 'Are you saying this on your own initiative, or did others tell you about Me?'" In other words, Did you come up with this on your own or is this a charge that the Jews are bringing against me? One of the laws in Rome was that if you claimed to be a king in competition with Caesar then that was an act of treason. So what Jesus is asking for by this question is a point of clarification: Are you charging me with a violation of Roman law that I am elevating myself to king in competition with Caesar?

John 18:35 NASB "Pilate answered, 'I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests delivered You to me; what have You done?'" He is saying this isn't a national issue and I don't understand all of your religious systems. Your own nation, the religious priests, delivered you up to me and I am just trying to find out what you have done. [36] "Jesus answered, 'My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm'." Jesus is pointing out that His kingdom is not of this world and that it is in a different realm, so nobody is out there fighting. So Pilate begins to question Him about His claims to be a king.

John 18:37 NASB "Therefore Pilate said to Him, 'So You are a king?' Jesus answered, 'You say {correctly} that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice'."