Monday, September 5, 2011

The Capital Trial of Jesus


Around 2000 years ago in the Roman province of Judea, a death penalty trial took place that entirely changed the world.  During the Passover celebration, Jews gathered by the thousands in the ancient city of Jerusalem.  During this festival, Jesus of Nazareth and his disciples journeyed to the city for what would be the last days of his life.

The Jewish religious leaders became aware and fearful of Jesus’s presence in the city.  They had heard that he was claiming he was the Messiah spoken of by the prophet Elijah and was the King of the Jews.  Acting on a tip from one of the disciples, Judas Iscariot, the religious leaders went to the Garden of Gethsemane in the middle of the night and arrested Jesus.  A warrant for his arrest was not needed.

The religious leaders, with their abundant laws and regulations, brought Jesus back into the city where he was questioned by some of the members of the high council and accused by numerous false witnesses.  This questioning and “trial” was done under the cover of darkness which was against Jewish law.  Jesus was beaten, ridiculed, and interrogated until the Jewish leader, Caiphas, finally asked him if he was the Son of God.  Jesus replied, “Yes, it is as you say”.       .  This response was enough for the Jewish council to issue a verdict of guilty for the crime of blasphemy.  The sentence for such a “crime” was death.

However, the religious leaders could not carry out a death sentence in their occupied territory.  A death sentence could only be ordered by the Roman provincial governor.  So, the religious leaders brought Jesus before Governor Pontius Pilate the next morning.  To the governor’s amazement, Jesus did not reply to the charges made by his accusers.  Additionally, Governor Pilate did not find that Jesus had committed a crime and was reluctant to punish an innocent man.  However, Pilate was tired of political uprisings in his outlying province and would make sure that the violent crowd did not get out of hand.  In order to pacify the people chanting “crucify him”, Pontius Pilate released a murderer named Barrabas and ordered the execution of Jesus Christ.

Before he was executed, Jesus was severely beaten by Roman soldiers.  He was then lead to his execution site just outside the walls of Jerusalem.  He was hung on a cross and left to die an excruciating death.  As he suffered on the cross, the Romans continued to ridicule, taunt, and insult the Son of God.

Alongside Jesus were two criminal defendants hanging on crosses.  One of them realized that Jesus was being unjustly executed.  He asked Jesus to remember him.  Jesus promised this violent criminal that he would join him in paradise.

Jesus finally died and was buried.  He was arrested without probable cause, tried on false and lacking evidence, and executed by an angry mob with the blessing of a weak politician.  There was no appeal, plea for clemency, or stay of execution.

However, unlike in most death penalty trials, the story of Jesus was not complete.  He rose from the grave on the third day and reunited with his scattered and afraid disciples.  After the disciples saw Jesus, they began their own ministries to spread the word that Jesus died for all of our sins.  As a result, human beings were saved from their own egregious inhumanity.  The world was saved after the death penalty trial of Jesus Christ. 

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