An Analysis of The Ordeal, Trial and Death of Our Lord Jesus Christ
The interplay of the high priests, Jesus and Pilate in the drama of Christa passion.
How did Christ come to be in the hands of Pontius Pilate the Roman Governor of Palestine? Jesus has been an inspired and seminal teacher but referred to Himself as the son of man i.e. His parents were Joseph and Mary. His father Joseph died some time before his crucifixion. In his lifetime he did not claim to be true God and true man as the Christian Church defined later after His death. Essentially he had created such a following during his public life Jewish powers that be regarded Him as a threat to the stability of their Jewish religion. He was no fanatic or the rabble rouser but he was deeply incisive and direct as the High Priests in the Sanhedrin knew (Caiaphas and Annas). They were related (Annas was his father in law). The Jewish religion was the sacred religion of the 12 tribes of Israel and Moses and Abraham and the Ten Commandments. The High Priests could not let the Jewish religion be rewritten by Jesus in what he called the new Law. The High Priests were worth their salt and fought hard for what mattered - not orthodox Jewish practice but the Jewish religion in its original shape as it had been observed during the centuries and handed down since Abraham our father in faith.
Jesus was Jewish but he was saying he would “be raised up” and people believed that meant he would be above the highly esteemed Sanhedrin the highest Jewish national Court. He simply went too far and did not show sufficient deference to his Jewish Superiors – he was after all a roving preacher. He was without a position in the synagogue but he taught there in the open. He was playing the highly dangerous game of deliberately taking on the religious status quo in His Jewish religion and yet he had no standing to do so. He got his comeuppance and knew perfectly well it was coming to him as did his disciples. If he had been a “flash in the pan” merchant the High Priests would not have bothered with Him but clearly His teaching and miraculous works (as they were called) were catching on. If he was given any more rein He would take the coach and horses through the breach itself. He simply had to be stopped for the sake of the Temple and the Tabernacle, the Covenant, the Veil and the Testament not to mention Abraham, Isaiah, Elijah and Moses – the greats of the most ancient religion ever at that time and in times to come. Jesus had stepped out of line and even worse was too charismatic. The High Priests wanted Him put to death to snuff out his heresy. That was then the accepted punishment for heresy and treason which became synonymous with heresy in later centuries. Only Pilate could put Jesus to death yet Pilate was no Jew but a Roman Governor and Pagan.
2. The Betrayal of Jesus
Jesus was betrayed by Judas Iscariot his disciple who was manipulated by the High Priest of the Jewish Sanhedrin to indentify Jesus to their strong men with clubs. Iscariot was in the pay of the Sanhedrin and pinpointed Christ with a kiss in the garden of Gethsemane where He had been praying alone – His disciples slumbering. He knew what was coming – the scourging at the pillar, the crowning with thorns, the sentence to death, the carrying of the Cross and the crucifixion.
3. Jesus before Pilate
Jesus interested Pilate and Jesus was interested by all men. Pilate included. Pilate could find no crime in Jesus’ actions. Yes the rabble were baying for his blood but Pilate was a Governor in the great Roman Empire of Rome itself. He could not be intimidated – he alone would decide the matter. He had centurions and cohorts – The Roman Army garrisoned Jerusalem not the rabble. Do not mistake the rabble for the mouthpiece of the High Priests they had a direct line to Pilate as the New Testament reveals The Sanhedrin had no time for the rabble. The crowd were the result of fellow travellers and agitators and simple “follow the leader” stuff. The Sanhedrin would not descend to such tactics and behaviour as Pilate and the High Priests knew. Once the disquiet had been created it was very difficult to calm. Pilate however could not understand Jesus who seemed unconcerned he would be put to death. Jesus did not help himself. We are duty bound to engage with the legal process however distasteful to each one of us that process may be. We should not be so haughty as to look down on the legal process. I suspect we do not have the full picture on Jesus before Pilate in the New Testament which is essentially proselytising. Jesus was not a man to be struck dumb and I believe he said more than we are told. The interrogation by Pilate was in private. Pilate was the only surviving witness to the proceedings – no scribe’s record has been found. Pilate would not speak publically in Palestine about the process – Jesus died and rose again but we have no accurate record of him relating His ordeal before Pilate after the Resurrection in the New Testament. He had teaching to do. Pilate sentenced Jesus to death as a usurper and interloper claiming power in his province of Palestine. Jesus truly had told Pilate under pressure He was King of the Jews – a direct challenge to Pilate and thus Rome herself. Jesus conducted Himself with dignity but without an advocate he was bound to fail in engaging with Pilate and securing his release. He was offered and permitted no such Representative.
Everyone comes out well but Iscariot was misguided and prevailed upon by his religious superiors and the rabble were the rabble. You can never expect any better of them. They are untrained and lacking in education simply grazing like sheep. The Crucifixion continued the drama instigated by the High Priests and Pilate’s sentence to death. Unknown to them the main actors the Sanhedrin and Pilate with the small parts (rabble and Judas) achieved the ultimate goal of the Redemption of Man whether we believe in Christ or not. He will not neglect you His sheep as the Centurion agreed at the foot at the Cross.