Let’s continue our journey toward Easter. Jesus, after being arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane due to Judas’ betrayal, was shackled and roughed up by those guarding him. A whirlwind of events took place in a matter of hours over night, and it all culminated in Jesus’ appearance before the highest court in the Jewish system at that time – the Sanhedrin.
Luke 22:66-71 (NLT)
At daybreak all the elders of the people assembled, including the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. Jesus was led before this high council, and they said, “Tell us, are you the Messiah?”
But he replied, “If I tell you, you won’t believe me. And if I ask you a question, you won’t answer. But from now on the Son of Man will be seated in the place of power at God’s right hand.”
They all shouted, “So, are you claiming to be the Son of God?”
And he replied, “You say that I am.”
“Why do we need other witnesses?” they said. “We ourselves heard him say it.”
Station 3: Jesus is Condemned by the Sanhedrin
The Sanhedrin was comprised of 71 individuals coming from the leading religious groups:
- The Sadducees held the majority of the seats in the Sanhedrin, usually including the Chief Priests and the High Priest. They were the wealthiest of the Jews and were more political in nature than most Jews. They would do what it took to keep the peace with their Roman overseers. Because of their wealth and political alliances, they were not held in high regard among the common Jewish people. In religious matters, they held strictly to the written scriptures, not allowing for religious dictates that came for an oral tradition. They denied any afterlife, resurrection, or a spirit world. They found themselves angry with Jesus because of the political ramifications of his teachings, especially the talk among the people that Jesus may be the Messiah. The Sadducees were aware than any strong Messianic movement among the Jewish people could lead to revolution, and that would upset the Roman government greatly.
- The Pharisees were mostly middle-class Jews, businessman and some priests. Because of their popular support among the people, the Pharisees, though a minority party, often controlled the decisions of the Sanhedrin. They followed not only the law as written in Hebrew scripture, but also man-made traditions passed down over the centuries, not distinguishing the word of God as being preeminent. Doctrinally, they believed in an afterlife, the resurrection of the dead, and in the existence of angels and demons. They were never happy with the teachings of Jesus because of the religious ramifications, and they were often subjects of his rebukes during his ministry.
These two groups who often clashed found one thing they did agree on – Jesus of Nazareth. To both parties in the Sanhedrin, Jesus was a troublemaker and one that angered them both so much they were willing to turn him over to the Roman authorities to face the death penalty.
And so Jesus was presented before the entire Sanhedrin. They questioned him.
Are you the Messiah?
The Sanhedrin would have waited for the answer with baited breath. Would this man known as Jesus be bold enough to answer yes? He would be guilty of sedition against the Roman government. He would be stating he was the rightful political ruler of Israel.
See, the religious leaders of that day had lost sight of what the Law and the Prophets said about the coming Messiah. They saw the Messiah as a political savior, the one person who would upend the governmental order of things. Their politics and religion had mixed to a point that all they saw was the political.
Jesus would not outright answer their question. He knew they had completely misunderstood what the Messiah would be about. He was not going to claim to be their version of a messiah, that is for sure.
Instead, as he often did, he answered their question in more of a riddle. And then he tried to elevate the discussion from a mere political discussion to one of a high spiritual nature.
He responded by saying he would be seated at the right hand of God, in essence claiming his divinity.
This answer had the Sanhedrin shouting in heated discussion I’m sure. To claim divinity, to claim to be equal with God was blasphemy in the eyes of this court.
Incredulous, they questioned that claim Jesus had just made. And again, he answered their question without making a claim, making them instead think about what he had said and the ramifications of it all.
Because the ramifications of his claim to be seated at the right hand of God meant this little court of theirs was powerless against him. While he was on trial, he was basically letting them know that as the Son of God he was the ultimate judge and the ultimate authority.
At that point, the Sanhedrin dismissed their usual requirement for character witnesses. They would not usually convict without others providing testimony. But at this point, their anger and fear got the best of them. As a group, they declared Jesus guilty (although historic accounts show it was far from a unanimous decision) and determined he would be turned over to the Roman authorities for punishment.
One day, Jesus will sit at God’s right hand and judge us all. One day God’s perfect justice will be handed out.
But here, at the most pivotal trial of all time, in a little courtroom at the temple in Jerusalem, justice was far from being fair and perfect. Jesus certainly did not get a fair trial. A group of men, full of pride and arrogance, looking for a Messiah that would solve their political problems – instead of resolving their spiritual condition – condemned a man to die.
To learn more about the Stations of the Cross bring your family and journey to the cross with a 30 minute interactive experience called Embrace the Cross on Good Friday. It is an interactive worship experience. This event is free and open to the public. KIDS ARE WELCOME and there will be activities geared specifically toward them. Sponsored by Ashley Ridge Church and Trinity Church Summerville. Find out more details at this Facebook Event Page.