THE TRIALS AND DEATH OF CHRIST
CHRISTIAN RELIGIOUS STUDIES

THE TRIALS AND DEATH OF CHRIST

THE TRIALS OF CHRIST

There are two different trials of Jesus Christ – the Jewish trial and the Roman trial. Jesus was arrested after he was betrayed by Judas. He was then taken to Caiaphas, the high priest where the Sanhedrin – the highest Jewish council were gathered. Jesus was tried and declared guilty of blasphemy for claiming to be the Son of God. The penalty for this sin was death according to the Jewish law. Since Jesus was a Roman citizen, they had no power to pass death sentence on Him. Jesus was therefore taken to Pontius Pilate who was a Roman representative in Jerusalem. There, he was tried the second time and found guilty even though he was innocent. This was a fulfilment of the scripture which stated that he would die for the remission of the sin committed by man. Ultimately, his death marked the end of his earthly ministry.

 

Christ Before The High Priest -Matthew 26:36-75

Jesus sensing that the end was now in sight, took three of his disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray and to commune with God if it were possible to avert his death or possibly, change the style of death. He went to the garden with Peter, James and John where he confided in them that indeed he was sorrowful even unto death. He left them and went a little further where he prayed to God to let the cup pass over him:

“My father; if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless, not as l will, but as thou wilt:” (Matthew 26:39)

He prayed three consecutive times on the same subject, apparently, with sorrow as he was then in human flesh. Coming out after the third prayer session, Judas Iscariot appeared with a crowd and kissed Jesus, thus identifying him to those who came to arrest him. The first high priest who tried Jesus was a man named Caiaphas in the company of elders and scribes. They arranged for two false witnesses who came forth and alleged that once, they heard Jesus say he would destroy the Temple of God and rebuild it in three days, which was taken as blasphemous.

The high priest stood up and asked Jesus to give an answer to the testimony against him but Jes is kept quiet. Again, the high priest asked Jesus if he was then the Christ and Son of God, to which Jesus answered -“You have said so” meaning that he was indeed the Christ and Son of God. This was all the high priest needed to nail Jesus as this was a blasphemy punishable by death under Jewish law. The people answered that Jesus deserved death. They spat on his face and struck him and slapped him.

Peter who was identified by a maid as one of the disciples of Jesus denied before them saying “I do not know what you mean”.

Peter, getting out of the porch was met by another maid and she said “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth”. Peter denied again and even with an oath. Peter was accused the third time by a bystander who said “certainly, you are also one of them for your accent betrays you”. Peter began to invoke a curse on himself and swear: “I do not know the man”. Immediately, the cock crowed and Peter remembered that Jesus had said that before the cock crew, he, that is, Peter would deny him three times. He immediately went out and wept bitterly.

The following morning, Jesus was arraigned before the Sanhedrin, a much more constituted Council of Elders, the Chief Priests and the Scribes. At this Supreme Court or Council, the charges of blasphemy were formally levelled against Jesus and he was subsequently condemned to death.

As the Jewish nation was then under the authority of the Roman empire, and Jesus himself being a Roman citizen, the Sanhedrin had no authority to carry out capital punishment, hence, they referred Jesus to the Roman governor for approval.

 

Christ Before Pilate and Other Roman Authorities

Matthew 27:11-31

Instead of the former religious charge of blasphemy for which the highest Jewish court – the Sanhedrin had condemned him, they now brought three new political charges against him, knowing fully that Pilate was more interested in political than religious charges.

The new charges were as follows:

  • That Jesus was a seditious agitator perverting the nation.
  • That Jesus was inciting people not to pay tax.
  • That he claims to be a king, thereby overthrowing Caesar.

Pilate first asked Jesus if he was the king of the Jews, apparently trying to find out if he (Pilate) was due for an overthrow. Jesus’ answer was “You have said so”. Again, the chief priests announced the other two accusations, to which Jesus refused to answer, to the astonishment of Pilate.

Apparently knowing that Jesus was accused out of envy, Pilate tried to set him free. Moreover, the wife of Pilate sent a message to him, saying, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man for I have suffered much over him today in a dream” but the Jews demanded the release of Barabbas and the condemnation of Jesus. Pilate saw that the people might revolt if he did not deliver Jesus to them, and he did not want a rebellion by the people since the whole event took place during Feast of Passover -a holy period.

Pilate washed his hand with water publicly and declared, “I am innocent of this man’s blood; see to it yourselves”. All the people then answered- “His blood be on us and on our children”. He released for them Barabbas and having flogged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.

 

Christ Before Herod -Luke 23:6-12

Matthew did not give the account of Jesus’ trial before Herod. According to Luke, hearing that Jesus came from Galilee, Pilate decided to send him to King Herod under whose area of jurisdiction Galilee fell, who by coincidence, was in Jerusalem then. It is clear from the utterances of Pilate that his decision to send Jesus to Herod was only a way of washing his hands off his death. This is because he had long discovered that the Jews wanted Jesus dead because they hated him.

King Herod had heard so much about Jesus in terms of the miracles he performed, hence; he was glad to see him. But Jesus not only refused to perform any miracle, but snubbed Herod outright by not answering any of his questions. Therefore, Herod and his soldiers decided to make a mockery of Jesus by dressing him in a very fantastic royal robe since he claimed to be the king of the Jews. Thus, Herod sent him back to Pilate.

Summoning the Jews again, Pilate told them that neither he nor Herod had found Jesus guilty of the allegations, hence, he could not see grounds to condemn him. He said he would therefore cane him only and release him. However, it was customary to release a prisoner at the Passover Feast every year. Therefore, Pilate offered to release Jesus but the people insisted on having him dead, hence, Pilate condemned him.

 

The Significance of the Trials of Christ and Lessons to Learn from it

  1. Throughout his trial, Jesus was not aggressive. He remained calm and showed no fear or anxiety since he knew that these were all God’s plan for him for the salvation of mankind.
  2. Jesus was not supposed to be condemned since the charges were not proved. But at any rate, he was eventually condemned for the scriptures to be fulfilled.
  3. We should learn to pray to God for guidance and protection whenever we are in trouble, like Jesus did.
  4. As we pray, we should be ready to accept the will of God e.g. .”Lord if it is your will, let this cup pass over me”.
  5. We would always stand firm and not allow people push us into doing things we don’t wish to do like Pilate. It was not his will to condemn Jesus.
  6. Jesus knew he did nothing to deserve suffering and death. He however, obeyed God’s will. We should always emulate Jesus in this regard.

 

DEATH OF CHRIST

Crucifixion, Burial of Christ and His Words on the Cross -Matthew 27:32-66; (Crucifixion and burial), Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34; Luke 23:34, 43,46 (Words on the Cross).

 

Crucifixion

Having condemned Jesus, the soldiers led him away, mocking and torturing him towards the place of crucifixion called Golgotha (place of skulls). Owing to the degree of torture and physical exhaustion, Jesus was no longer able to carry his cross, hence, the soldiers compelled a man, Simon of Cyrene to carry it to Golgotha. They offered him (Jesus) wine mixed with gall which he tasted but refused to drink.

At Golgotha, Jesus was crucified alongside two thieves. On the cross, he was mocked, cajoled and despised, but he remained calm and even prayed for the forgiveness of his torturers. They shared his garment among themselves by casting lots. Over his head, they put the charge against him- “This is Jesus, the King of the Jews”. When Jesus was on the cross, the passers-by, the pharisees, the scribes and chief priests mocked him.

At about the sixth hour, darkness covered the land until the ninth hour. About the ninth hour, Jesus cried with a loud voice: “Eloi Eloi lama sabachthani?”, meaning, “My God, my God why has thou forsaken me?” Jesus cried again with a loud voice and gave up the ghost.

From mid-day until about three o’clock, the whole place was covered with darkness. Besides, there was a great earthquake as well as the tearing of the Temple curtain. All these went to show the greatness of the event which affected the Son of God.

Present at the scene of crucifixion were his mother Mary, Mary Magdalene, Mary, mother of James, and Salome. They all accompanied Jesus from Galilee to Jerusalem and also watched him suffer and die.

 

Burial

Inasmuch as Jesus was hated by many, especially Jews, yet, there were so many who were really fond of him and even followed him wherever he went. One of such was his personal friend -Joseph from the town of Arimathea, who approached Pilate to permit him to take the body of Jesus for burial. Pilate obliged and Joseph took the body to his own tomb and buried Jesus. His burial was witnessed by Mary Magdalene, Mary, mother of Jesus and other friends.

 

Jesus’ Words on the Cross

The words of Jesus on the cross are otherwise called the “Seven Words on the Cross”. Only four are found in the synoptic gospels while the other three are found in the gospel of John.

The ones that are found in the synoptic gospel are as follows:

  1. “Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachthani” (Matthew 27:46; Mark 15:34). This means my God, my God, why has thou forsaken me?”
  2. “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). Jesus was praying here for forgiveness for his enemies that is, those who betrayed him, those that mocked him and crucified him. Jesus put into practice here what he taught in our Lord’s Prayer.
  3. “Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). This statement reveals that Jesus offered salvation to the repentant robber.
  4. “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46). Jesus made this statement at the very point of giving up his spirit. He committed his spirit into the hands of the Father who sent him. This spirit came back unto him during the time of his resurrection.

 

The remaining three found in John’s gospel are as follows:

  1. “Woman, behold your son, son behold your mother” (John 19:2627). Jesus showed concern for his mother. He spoke to John. and his mother asking John to take care of his mother.
  2. “I thirst” (John 19:28). Jesus expressed his urge even as a man.
  3. “It is finished” (John 19:30). Jesus was expressing here that he had completed his assignment on earth. That is, the assignment of salvation or redemption for mankind.

 

Significance of Christ’s Death and Lessons to Learn from it

  1. We should forgive those who wrong us even as Jesus forgave his torturers and those who killed him.
  2. Everyone who repents shall be forgiven like the robber who was crucified with Jesus.
  3. Jesus had all powers on earth to save himself, but he bore all these sufferings so as to obey his father’s will to die and save mankind.
  4. The darkness which covered the whole place symbolized the death of Jesus, indicating a period of mourning and grief. Other scholars say it symbolized God’s displeasure over the torture Jesus underwent-But this is doubtful since God sanctioned Jesus’ death so as to save the world. Other great events at Jesus’ death also confirm that he really is the Son of God.
  5. Those who believe in Jesus ought to sacrifice something towards the growth of the gospel, like Joseph of Arimathea who buried Jesus in his own grave.
  6. Jesus’ words on the cross signify that his death was within God’s plan to save mankind.
  7. The tearing of the Temple curtain symbolized that unlike in the past, Jesus’ death guaranteed believers’ straight access to God. No more sacrifices.

 

Summary

  1. The events and circumstances surrounding the trials, crucifixion and burial of Jesus all point to one basic truth: his death was pre-ordained and pre-arranged by God for the purpose of redeeming mankind from sin.
  2. It was quite easy for Jesus to call down angels from heaven to save him; or for God to cancel the entire event, but the scriptures must be fulfilled.
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