Faith Chapel

The Trial Of Jesus

Three Angels Broadcasting Network

Program transcript

Participants: L. Richard Walton


Series Code: FC

Program Code: FC000018

00:29 It was Thursday evening in Jerusalem and the city
00:32 was a wonderland of lights.
00:35 From all over the world Jews
00:36 had come home for Passover
00:39 and so the city was filled with visitors.
00:43 And there was lamp lighten,
00:45 torch lighten, and on the slopes of Mount Zion
00:48 imposing palace rose into the night sky.
00:51 Two giant colonnaded marble arms
00:54 and in sides of which were brass fountains
00:57 and sculptured gardens.
00:58 The floors were made of semi precious wooden gemstones.
01:02 It was the very best the money could buy
01:05 because this was the visible manifestation of empire
01:09 and it all belonged to an ambitious
01:11 young Spaniard from Seville,
01:14 who had married into the royal family
01:16 and gotten this prestigious job as a result.
01:21 His name was Pontius Pilatus, but he would enter history
01:26 in the anglicized form
01:27 of his name as Pontius Pilate.
01:33 Not far away there was another palace
01:36 belonging to a man by the name of Caiaphas.
01:40 He was Jewish high priest.
01:42 And here servants were busy sweeping out
01:44 a large assembly hall, a large reception room
01:48 and placing 71 large pillows on the floor in a semi-circle
01:53 as though there will be some public meeting
01:56 held here later tonight.
01:59 Also close by, at the very edge
02:01 of the temple grounds is the Roman garrison.
02:04 Stationed there because freedom loving Jews
02:06 often congregated at the temple,
02:09 if were the foremen rebellion.
02:11 And so inside the Roman stockade,
02:14 a few legionnaires were busy assembling
02:16 three executions scaffolds,
02:18 nailing the vertical stripes beam
02:21 to the horizontal patibulum beam of a cross
02:24 because there was three executions planned soon.
02:28 Two small-time thieves whose names we have lost in history
02:33 and one small time false messiah whose name revealed
02:37 what he claimed to be.
02:39 Bar-abbas, in Hebrew "Bar" means son of and Abbas
02:43 can be translated as the heavenly father.
02:46 So Barabbas, son of the heavenly father,
02:48 a small time false messiah
02:50 is about to be executed
02:52 with two thieves.
02:57 Somewhere else in a wealthy section of the city
03:00 there was a large home, probably
03:02 belonging to a Jewish lady by the name of Mary.
03:06 she had a young son by the name of John Mark,
03:08 who would go on to write the gospel called Mark.
03:13 And her home was very large.
03:16 The loft of the home could hold,
03:18 we know at least 120 people because it would a few weeks
03:22 later for an event called Pentecost.
03:25 And at one little corner of that large upper room,
03:30 a little group of 13 men had gathered for a supper
03:35 that would change the history of the world.
03:39 One of those guests was the Son of God.
03:43 Well, about a 11 P.M., they left their home,
03:47 were on the way through the narrow streets of Jerusalem
03:50 towards the Eastern Wall.
03:52 They went out through the eastern gate
03:54 down the Kidron Gorge and up the other side
03:57 into a little garden named, Gethsemane,
04:00 the place of the olive press.
04:03 And suddenly the strange, mysterious,
04:06 cosmic visitor is clawing the area in grief
04:10 as though divinity itself can no longer handled,
04:13 the weight it is carrying.
04:16 His four closest friends on earth can't understand pain
04:19 he is in and so they retreat into the anesthesia of sleep.
04:25 When suddenly there is the babble of voices reflected
04:28 of the sounding board of the Eastern Wall
04:31 and a sparkle of torchlight spills out
04:33 through that same eastern gate down the Kidron Gorge
04:36 and up into Gethsemane as though they're being led
04:39 by someone who knows the way very well.
04:45 When Jesus arms are wrenched behind his back
04:48 and he is led back to the home of Kayafas
04:51 into a legal system he had designed.
04:56 My name is Richard Wallton.
04:57 I'm a second year law student
04:59 at Georgetown University Law Center
05:01 and I've made an extensive study.
05:03 I've been privileged to make an extensive study
05:06 of the Jewish system
05:08 of Jurisprudence at the time of Christ.
05:10 In fact, I was fortunate enough to be able to write
05:13 a memo for Professor Sam Dash of Watergate fame on a book
05:17 that he has currently working on,
05:19 on the effect of Jewish law and Jewish culture
05:25 on American society.
05:29 I had not done exhaustive historical research
05:32 in comparative law, but so far as by research
05:34 goes there never has been in the history of the world,
05:39 anything like the Hebrew legal system at the time of Christ.
05:44 It appears to have been designed
05:46 with one purpose in mind,
05:49 to ensure that an innocent man
05:52 could never be convicted.
05:53 It made it difficult,
05:55 in fact even to convict the guilty.
06:02 In Israel, any capital offense
06:05 was tried before the entire Sanhedrin.
06:07 The great Sanhedrin, 71 of the brightest Jewish lawyers
06:12 in Israel, every member
06:15 was an experienced sitting trial judge from the low court
06:18 in Israel, many of them with decades
06:19 of experience on the bench.
06:22 Many were accomplished scholars in areas
06:25 other than the law, all were distinguished linguists.
06:29 You see the Supreme Court unlike our current system
06:31 of jurisprudence did not use an interpreter.
06:36 They would not trust one man to get right
06:39 what the witness was saying and so at least two members
06:42 of the court had to understand
06:44 whatever a witness might tell them.
06:48 In the time of Christ there was no defense council
06:51 for the accused, which have simply didn't exist
06:54 because the court itself, in something unmatched
06:57 in the history of human law,
07:00 functioned as the defense counci
07:03 for the accused.
07:08 Not only that there was no prosecutor
07:11 in the Jewish system.
07:12 The prosecution was handled by the person
07:14 bringing the complaint.
07:17 And so often times that would be a layman
07:21 and he would have to standup
07:22 in front of 71 very aggressive,
07:24 very bright Jewish lawyers and try to make the case
07:28 against the accused.
07:30 But that is not the--even then that is not the extent
07:35 of the protections offered by the Jewish legal system.
07:37 They were dedicated to saving life.
07:40 Now there was a saying that a Sanhedrin
07:42 that convicted one person in every ten years
07:44 was a butcher shop.
07:45 And that was perhaps most clearly
07:47 seen in a rather obscured tradition of Talmudic Law.
07:52 If a young disciple of the court
07:54 what we would today call a law clerk,
07:56 was able to come up with a theory
07:59 which could save a life of an accused,
08:02 which the court have not been able to think of,
08:05 that young disciple was instantly elevated
08:07 to life membership
08:09 on the high court of Israel.
08:14 And so Jesus is brought
08:15 into the system of justice at night.
08:19 And most Christians will tell you
08:21 that it was illegal to conduct the trial of Jesus at night.
08:24 But most do not understand why?
08:27 It was the principle of Talmudic Law
08:29 that because a trial in front of the Sanhedrin
08:31 was considered to be a religious proceeding,
08:36 the--the process was required to be conducted
08:42 during the day time
08:43 between the morning and evening sacrifices.
08:46 So the trial of Jesus begins at night,
08:48 it's first illegality and it starts
08:51 in the large room in which 71 large pillows
08:54 are arranged in a neat semicircle on the stone floor.
08:59 Jesus is marched
09:01 into the very center of that semicircle.
09:05 The reason for that is simple.
09:07 In Jewish times, unlike today
09:10 were we're used to having the witness sit
09:12 on the right hand side of the judge,
09:15 the Jewish system did not want any member of the court
09:20 to have a poor view than any other.
09:22 And so the witness had to stand in a very center
09:24 of that semicircle, so each justice could see the witness,
09:28 could see the defendant and make a more accurate
09:30 determination of guilt or innocence
09:34 of their trustworthiness.
09:36 And so into this room Jesus
09:38 has marched and then an awesome precession begins.
09:42 The seventy judges march in, resplendent
09:45 in white nylon robes with turbans on their head
09:48 and their feet bare because this was a religious
09:51 proceeding and they were standing on holy ground.
09:55 They walk and they sit down cross legged
09:57 on those large pillows
09:58 and then the high priest himself walks in, Caiaphas,
10:01 resplendent in a turban of blue, the symbol of law.
10:05 Now without going into too much detail,
10:07 suffice it to say, his outfit, his robes symbolized
10:11 the plan of salvation, a beautiful turban of blue,
10:14 the color law with a gold plate on the front of it,
10:17 the symbol of mercy, and which was in writing,
10:21 Hebrew Kodoish l'Adonai, holiness to the Lord.
10:26 So he walks in with his brass plate
10:29 of judgment on his bosom.
10:31 Resplendent against the flowing robe of blue,
10:34 gathered above the waist
10:35 by a purple sash with scarlet blue embroidery.
10:39 He walks in and he takes his sit right
10:41 in the center of that semicircle
10:42 making the 71 members of the great Sanhedrin.
10:47 Three more men walk in with him.
10:49 They're scribes and they sit directly in front of him.
10:53 In courts today, you will find only one court reporter.
10:56 We figure that one person taking notes is enough
10:59 to keep an accurate record of the trial.
11:02 Not so in Jewish prudence.
11:04 The Jewish insisted on three scribes to make sure
11:07 there were no errors.
11:09 Now let's dig just a little bit
11:11 into something that Jesus often said.
11:13 You recall that Jesus often mentioned
11:15 "going to the right hand of power,
11:17 coming at the right hand of God."
11:19 Why did He make that reference?
11:21 Well, a little bit of research in the Talmudic law
11:24 gives you the answer.
11:25 You see each of those three scribes
11:27 had a very special purpose.
11:30 The one on the left recorded the votes
11:34 for condemnation of the accused.
11:36 The one on the right recorded the votes for acquittal.
11:39 And the one in the center recorded
11:41 both votes to make sure there were no errors in the process.
11:47 And so when Jesus says,
11:48 "I go to the right hand of power."
11:50 What He saying to the Jewish
11:51 mind is I go to cast my vote
11:56 for your salvation.
11:58 How much there is in Jesus sermons,
12:00 we would understand if we trusted
12:02 a little bit of careful Bible study.
12:05 And so the Sanhedrin is a symbol,
12:07 all 71 of them and three scribes sitting in the front.
12:10 Jesus is brought in and the trial begins.
12:14 The first witness is called,
12:16 makes his accusation and departs.
12:20 The second witness
12:21 is called, makes his accusation and departs.
12:24 But something is going terribly,
12:27 terribly wrong with the trial.
12:30 Let's open the word, the Mark 14 verse 55.
12:33 And before we begin to read this very sacred,
12:37 very special account, let's pause for a moment of prayer.
12:42 Dear Lord, we thank You for the opportunity
12:43 to explore Your word today,
12:45 open our hearts and our minds in Jesus' name, amen.
12:50 Mark 14 verse 55, "Now the chief priest
12:56 and all the council sought testimony against Jesus
12:59 to put Him to death, but they found none."
13:04 What's happened here?
13:07 In the Jewish system, witnesses
13:09 were not allowed to be in court at the same time
13:11 unlike our current system of Jewish prudence
13:13 and thus they could not be quote
13:16 by each other's testimony.
13:19 At the same time, for there to be a conviction,
13:22 the testimony of the witnesses had to agree in every detail,
13:27 every element had to fit perfectly
13:29 with the testimony of the other witnesses.
13:32 And the minute witnesses began to disagree, it was the duty,
13:37 even on minor facts, it was the duty the Sanhedrin to set
13:42 the prisoner free.
13:46 It's called the rule of strict agreement
13:48 and it is totally different from our modern law.
13:51 Today, we have what's called the chain of evidence.
13:54 For instance, A sees D into a car,
14:00 B sees D drive off in the car, C sees D arrive at his house
14:04 and get out of the car.
14:05 Bingo, you have a conviction for grand theft auto
14:09 because the chain of evidence, each of those witnesses
14:12 can tell a portion of the story of the crime
14:15 and you can convict a man for grand theft auto.
14:19 Not so in the Jewish system.
14:21 In the Jewish system, every witness
14:23 had to see D get in the car, drive off in the car,
14:27 arrive at his house and get out of the car.
14:30 And they had to be able to repeat
14:32 that story in court agreeing to the last detail
14:36 as to what happened?
14:37 They had to be able to tell it
14:39 without the slightest variation.
14:40 So when Mark tells us that the Sanhedrin
14:43 could find no witnesses to agree,
14:47 that they found none.
14:48 He simply saying no two witnesses
14:50 could agree on what Jesus had done that was worthy
14:55 of the death penalty.
14:57 Continuing on in Mark, Mark 10:56,
15:01 "For many bore false witness against Him,
15:04 but their testimonies did not agree.
15:07 Then some rose up and bore false witness against Him,
15:10 saying, 'We heard Him say, 'I will destroy this temple
15:14 made that is with hands, and within three days
15:17 I will build another made without hands.'"
15:20 That's a pretty simply speech to memorize, isn't that?
15:24 I mean, if you gave me a few pieces of silver,
15:26 I think I could handle the job.
15:31 What goes wrong?
15:33 Why couldn't witnesses
15:34 deliver that simple piece of oratory
15:37 without contradicting each other.
15:41 Verse 59, "But not even then
15:43 did their testimony agree."
15:47 Why? Now we could say that well the Lord
15:49 confounded their thinking, so we would know for a certainty
15:52 that Jesus was innocent
15:54 and there could be a lot of truth in that.
15:57 But don't forget that you are dealing
16:00 with the Jewish legal system.
16:03 This is the great Sanhedrin in the capital case,
16:06 and they are supposed to go through the motions
16:08 at least of cross examination.
16:12 Now if you've never been cross examined,
16:14 I am a member of the--
16:15 Georgetown Gourley Mock Trial Team.
16:17 Let me assure you,
16:18 there is no antiperspirant adequate to the test.
16:21 It is a very growing experience.
16:24 And even a simple cross examination
16:26 could have picked those stories apart.
16:29 Where you were standing
16:30 when you heard Jesus say these things?
16:32 How loudly did He say them?
16:33 Was there a crowd? Were you alone?
16:35 And as the details began to contradict
16:38 each other, as the witnesses couldn't agree that case
16:42 is coming apart at the scenes and Caiaphas is watching
16:46 the trial of the ages go through his hands
16:48 like so much sand,
16:50 and so he reaches into his bag of legal tricks
16:54 and he tries to prove his case out
16:58 of the mouth of the accused.
17:01 It's probably one of the reasons
17:03 why there are so many bad jokes
17:04 about lawyers these days.
17:05 Verse 60, "And the high priest stood up in the midst
17:09 and asked Jesus, saying, 'Do you answer nothing?
17:15 What is it these men testify against You.'"
17:19 You see Caiaphas is trying to get Jesus
17:22 to incriminate Himself.
17:24 He is hoping that Jesus
17:25 will say something which will agree
17:28 with what other witnesses have said.
17:32 And in the process he can at least meet
17:34 the rule of having two witnesses
17:36 agree on every particular.
17:39 He is trying to prove his case out of Jesus'
17:42 own mouth and what is Jesus' response.
17:44 Verse 61, "But He kept silent
17:48 and answered nothing..."
17:53 Jesus is standing back and letting Caiaphas drop
17:57 the ball from forty feet in the air.
18:00 And once again Caiaphas trial is coming apart.
18:03 He is not getting the conviction
18:05 he wants and so he reaches a little further
18:08 into that bag of legal tricks,
18:12 and he does a little lawyering.
18:15 You see if you can't a get a conviction on one count,
18:20 you can always try another.
18:22 It's called changing the theory
18:23 of the case in the middle of trial.
18:26 And it's exactly what Caiaphas tries to do.
18:29 Jesus had been brought before the Sanhedrin on criminal
18:33 charges of sedation.
18:35 That hadn't worked and so now Caiaphas tries another trick.
18:41 He tries to convict Jesus for blasphemy.
18:46 Verse 61, "And again the high priest asked Him,
18:51 saying to Him, 'Are You the Christ,
18:53 the Son of the Blessed?'"
18:55 Now turn over to Matthew 26:63.
18:58 Keep your finger in Mark.
18:59 We will be going back there, but take a look at Matthew 26
19:02 because you will get a little more complete reporters
19:04 transcript of what happened?
19:08 "And the high priest answered and said to him,
19:10 I adjure thee by the living God,
19:12 that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ,
19:15 the Son of God."
19:18 Now folks if you address deity in that way,
19:20 if you challenge God in the name of God,
19:23 you will get a response.
19:27 And what a response Caiaphas got.
19:29 Verse 62,
19:30 "And Jesus said, "I am."
19:35 I am self-existent life the only being in the cosmos,
19:40 who can make that claim.
19:43 I was, I always will be, I am.
19:47 John 1 in the New English Bible puts it so beautifully.
19:50 "All that came to be
19:53 was alive with His life."
20:00 And here the great "I am" from Israel's earliest
20:03 moments of existence has identified Himself
20:08 to the nations religious leader,
20:10 the man that went into the presence of God almighty
20:12 every year to offer sacrifice on behalf of the nation.
20:17 The man who should have seen God clear than anybody else.
20:22 And Caiaphas doesn't get the point.
20:28 But you see when you demand and answer from God,
20:31 when you challenge deity in the name of deity,
20:33 you may get a lot more than you bargain for.
20:36 So it was for Caiaphas that evening. Jesus said,
20:40 "I am and you will see the Son of Man
20:44 coming on the right hand of power,
20:48 and coming with the clouds of Heaven."
20:52 And the next sound in that cavernous hall
20:55 has reached fabric being torn.
20:59 The plan of salvation being torn up
21:03 by Israel's religious leader.
21:06 Verse 63, "Then the high priest tore
21:08 his clothes and said,
21:09 'What further need do we have of witnesses?
21:13 You have heard the blasphemy!
21:14 What do you think?'"
21:19 Oh, it's wrong here.
21:23 The chief justice of the supreme court of Israel,
21:25 the man charge with the defense of the accused
21:28 is sounding strangely like a modern prosecutor
21:32 on closing argument.
21:33 What Caiaphas has just tried to do is to convict Jesus
21:39 on his own uncorroborated confession,
21:42 a huge violation of foundational Jewish law.
21:47 Maimonides put it this way.
21:50 "We have it as a fundamental principle
21:52 of our jurisprudence that no one can bring an accusation
21:55 against himself.
21:57 Confession is not to be used against him unless properly
22:00 tested by two other witnesses."
22:04 And that wasn't the only
22:05 principle of Jewish law Caiaphas
22:07 broke with that little speech.
22:09 You see just like our current United States Supreme Court,
22:13 there was an old tradition in the Sanhedrin
22:15 that the most junior member of the court always spoke first.
22:19 The theory was that if an older,
22:21 more senior member were to speak,
22:23 his years of experience might unduly influence the opinion
22:27 of the more junior member of the court.
22:29 And so it was required Talmudic law
22:31 that the junior members speak first and yet here is Caiaphas
22:36 the most senior member of the court speaking first,
22:40 and then we hear a rumble of voices.
22:46 Verse 64, "And they all condemned
22:49 him to be worthy of death."
22:53 But once again the Jewish legal system
22:57 tries to prevent the death of an innocent man.
23:00 Today if a prosecutor can get a quick unanimous conviction,
23:04 we say more power too.
23:06 The man was obviously as guilt as sin.
23:09 Not so in the Jewish legal system.
23:13 There it was required
23:16 that if there was a unanimous immediate verdict of guilty,
23:21 the Sanhedrin had to set the prisoner free
23:24 because it smack too much of mob justice.
23:28 Once again the Jewish system trying to save innocent life.
23:32 Mendelssohn put it this way,
23:33 "A simultaneous and unanimous verdict of guilt
23:36 rendered on the day of the trial
23:39 has the effect of an acquittal."
23:44 And so when that unanimous quick verdict came in,
23:48 yet it was the duty of the high priest
23:51 to set the prisoner free.
23:54 But instead of using his hands to free Jesus,
23:59 Caiaphas instead took them and tore up
24:01 the very plan of salvation
24:02 that was happening in front of his own eyes.
24:07 And he was so blinded, he couldn't even see.
24:15 The Jewish death march is without parallel
24:18 in the history of the world.
24:21 As the culprit is led to his dome,
24:24 there was a man with the flag stationed
24:27 at the door of Sanhedrin hall.
24:30 You see the great Sanhedrin was still in session agonizing
24:33 with himself to the very moment of execution
24:36 trying to find the way to save human life.
24:39 And at this point if any young disciple
24:42 came up of the theory that might work,
24:43 a runner was dispatched to the door, a flag would drop.
24:49 And writing with the crucifixion party,
24:52 there was mounted officer who followed behind and his horse
24:55 was led because he was looking backwards,
24:57 back towards Temple Mounts Sanhedrin Hall.
25:02 And if the flag dropped he would gallop
25:04 forward to the head of the precession
25:06 and say turn around, turn around,
25:07 the court is going to rehear the case.
25:11 In front of the precession,
25:15 there was a herald.
25:18 A man was about to be executed
25:19 and so he marched in front of the death march and said,
25:24 the following, "If any man those anything favorable
25:27 to the accused in the name of God,
25:31 let him come forth
25:34 and speak."
25:37 And if anyone did,
25:40 the precession halted,
25:44 and went back to the hall of judgment.
25:50 But this awful morning and the crowd
25:54 where people could see the Lord laboring
25:58 under that heavy cross until he physically
26:00 couldn't carry the weight anymore.
26:06 People could hear his foot falls on the way
26:08 they all got, because he had given their eyesight
26:12 and their hearing.
26:15 And the crowd of walking miracles,
26:21 nobody said a word.
26:28 What should have been that day?
26:32 Flags in the air
26:34 and voices in the crowd,
26:39 galloping messengers
26:40 and acts of mercy,
26:45 instead our savior tried
26:50 the one Cross for love.
26:55 And a tribunal, blast with the system of justice
27:01 that made it impossible to convict an innocent man,
27:07 had sent the Lord of creation to his death
27:10 by bending every known principle
27:13 of Jewish procedural law.
27:18 But even then the Lord one more,
27:20 one more victory for us.
27:24 Hanging on the cross, convicted by a system
27:30 which had been butchered, and every possible way,
27:35 he seems to be telling the world something.
27:40 You can nail me here,
27:42 you can take my dignity,
27:46 you can even take my life,
27:49 but there is one thing you can't make me do,
27:52 you can't make me stop loving you.


Revised 2014-12-17