Rev. Dick is pastor of Grace Protestant Reformed Church in Standale, Michigan.
Jesus is seized. Mob hands take Him in the dead of the night to Annas, father-in-law to Caiaphas the high priest. Before Annas there is a preliminary hearing of sorts. Later, toward the dawn of that Friday, an official meeting of the Jewish ruling body, the Sanhedrin, is convened. Under oath Jesus affirms that He is the Christ the Son of God.
This affirmation is considered blasphemy by the Jewish jury. And Jesus is judged worthy of death. He is passed on to the Roman authorities for their prosecution. Pilate, then Herod, find the Man guilty of no crime. The Jews however—religious leaders and also frenzied crowd—demand the extreme penalty, crucifixion.
And the sinless, pure Son of God is taken to the ignoble, accursed death….
Did you ever wonder why?
Why did the Jews think to bring Jesus to trial? Why not kill Him quietly? Then dump Him in Gehenna’s fire, and be done with Him. Surely that would have been easier! Why did the Jews see the need of a trial and of a form of legality in their seeking to exterminate this their supreme opponent?
Fear of men, to be sure. The Jewish leaders certainly feared the multitude of people which had gone after Jesus and who thought that Jesus was everything they ever wanted in a king. Certainly this multitude would not take kindly their Hope being so abruptly removed from the scene by some jealous Pharisees. No doubt also the Jews feared what the Romans might say if they caught the Jews murdering a man.
Hatred of Jesus. That is another reason the Jewish leaders sought the trial. For a trial and conviction would be, they thought, for the public humiliation and shame of Jesus.
Zeal of God. Paul later would bear the Jews record that they had a zeal of God, yet not according to knowledge (Rom. 10:2). So it was that in the putting of Jesus on trial the Jews thought they were in accord with the will of God, and that they would surely find that Jesus was a godless law-breaker and blasphemer. And that God would be pleased with their proceedings.
But other reasons for the trial of Jesus. God reasons. Over and over we read that Jesus is tried, and then taken to be crucified, in order that the Scriptures and counsel of God might be fulfilled (cf. Mark 14:49; John 18:32; Acts 2:23). God will have Jesus tried. It would not do according to God that Jesus be pushed off a cliff early in His ministry, or die now without a trial. God will have Jesus arraigned formally, publicly before the Jewish and world courts.
The answer: for Truth’s sake.
For the sake of the truth, first of all, of sin. To reveal sin for all that it is—that is why Messiah is tried. In the world’s finding Messiah guilty, and in its executing Him, will be lightning revelation of sin such as never before or since has flashed.
Want to know what sin is? Behold the trial of Jesus of Nazareth leading to the crucifixion of Jesus by men!
Here is the revelation of the truth of sin: men proudly and religiously seeking to establish their own righteousness, all the while proudly and religiously condemning the Lord our righteousness.
Here is sin: deniers of God condemning God’s Son for godlessness.
Here is sin: desperate men seeking to do away with the Christ—by any means! Here a false witness. There a false witness. Abuse of authority. Bribery. Violence. You name it. The hooks and the crooks came out.
Here is sin: men rejecting all of God, aiming at nothing less than the death of God.
Here is sin: men of the entire world shouting “Away with Him!” the Savior of the world! For at the trial of Jesus behold the secular and sacred, the high and the hoi polloi gathered together to do what sin does. Indeed here is what even the best of the world will do: the cream of the religious and political crop, the Jacks of Jurisprudence, the Regnant Religionists say: Away with Jesus!
Here, in sacred halls of men. Here when Truth walks in. Here when Truth swears to Truth, and the whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth, for He can swear by no higher. Here when men accuse Truth of blasphemy. Here when men say, What is Truth? Here when Truth is slapped and spit upon and whipped and mocked and delivered to be crucified. Here. Then. Let it be known. Sin.
Another reason for the trial. It is for the sake of the truth of the Son. Here is my Son, God says. At the trial. Let it be known.
This, this Jesus, is God’s pure Son. Sinless, sublime, silent One. Holy One of God!
Here Truth! All must see, though not one could look Him in the eye! Here the Redeemer! Here the Savior-Adam. Here the One of which every sacrifice and prophet, priest and king were but types and shadows. Here the Preeminent One in the counsel of God. Here He by whom and for whom all things were created. Here Truth of God!
Here Love of God! Willing to be accused of men, tried of men, abused by men, condemned by men. Here willing to take such sin of His own on His own—willing to be made that sin (II Cor. 5:21) that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him. Here willing to be accused of God, tried of God, condemned of God to go to the cross of God. They will say, “Away!” to the cross. But God will be saying, “Away now. And go to hell!” “Go now in the place of and to save My Own fallen liars, and adulterers-sinners all.” “Go now to save those whose party, whose culture, whose wealth, whose will, whose work, whose theology will never save.”
Here, I say, Love of God! And Jesus says: “I go.”
So that is the trial. Not the one that just hopped by. Not the one upon which sages recently meditated during a certain interview. The trial of the Truth, Jesus Christ is the trial of the ages.
But there is another one. At the end of the ages. The first, the primary trial in history and in Jerusalem, was a trial of Jesus. This last, at the end of history, will be a trial by Jesus! It is the final judgment trial. It is the trial to come to which Jesus alluded at His trial before Caiaphas when He said: “Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven” (Matt. 26:64).
Then … what a trial! Then the standard will be no constitution, no poll, no party, no traditions of men, but the law of God. And this law will also be the prosecutor, the accuser, and the witness together. Then all in Adam will be found guilty before God. And no one, not any one, will then be able to deny, distort, mislead, or lie about it. All will have to admit to the sin of man and the just judgment of God. But this trial, this final trial, is our hope as believers in the Christ. It is our hope as those by grace in Christ. For at this last day, during this last glorious flash of Truth and Justice, the Son will wreak righteous vengeance upon all His accusers who not once during eight years of their term or ninety years of their life stopped their lying mouths. In this trial, at this time, every knee will bow and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.
And something else, even more marvelous, will happen. Awesome!
Our judgment. Here Law which might and could have justly sought to condemn will be silenced. For Truth Himself will rise, as it were, to our defense, as our Advocate. And He will speak but one Word, present but one exhibit for our vindication. And that will be the cross. Hold those hellish atoning agonies forth, He will, to twelve jurors ever so carefully chosen — to Electing Love, to Covenant Grace, to Mercy, Wisdom, Righteousness, Holiness, Longsuffering, Kindness, Pity, Mindful of our human frailty, Desirous of Salvation, and Glory of God.
These all, all One, in no time deliberating, will rise up declaring: No condemnation! And enter thou church into the joy of your Lord!
Open the Book, friends. Behold by faith this trial of the Truth. Believe it is for your justification now. Know it to be for your acquittal in the end.
Go now from newspaper to God’s book. Listen to the interviews Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John had long ago with the Christ and the Spirit of God.
Read. Listen. Have Truth, and the whole of Him, ever before your minds. Ever your light. Ever for your holiness. Ever your joy. Ever your hope.
These are perilous times. The trials of them try our souls. But the Truth is, and is coming. Be in the Truth. Know the Truth. Rejoice in the truth! Love … Truth!
For Study, Meditation, & Discussion
The trial of Jesus is recorded in John 18,19 and also Matthew 26, 27, Mark 14,15, and Luke 22, 23. Study the passages so that you are able to tell others what happened during this trial.
2. The reason for the trial of Jesus
We have seen above several reasons why God ordained this trial of His Son. But why did the Jews themselves seek a trial? Why did they not just stab Jesus in the night, or dump him, unceremoniously, off a cliff?
3. The sin of the Jews
List five ways the trial of Jesus by the Jews was illegal. Why was the sin of the Jews worse than that of Pilate and friends? In Matthew 26:25 we read the chilling statement of the Jewish people: “His blood be on us, and on our children.” In other words, the Jews called a curse down upon themselves! In what ways has this curse and judgment of God been executed upon the Jews throughout history?
4. Union of sinners
What were different ways that people joined together against Jesus at His trial (e.g., Jews and Romans)? How is this seen today—people, world, churches, etc. joining together against Jesus and the cause of the Truth?
5. Pilate’s sin
What was Pontius Pilate’s main sin in delivering Jesus over to be crucified? Pilate tried to wash his hands of the matter, and to blame the Jews for the condemnation of the innocent One. List several examples in the trial which, however, show Pilate’s guilt?
6. What is truth?
When Pilate asked, “What is truth?” (John 18:38), just what was he asking Jesus? Does this question condemn Pilate or excuse him? Is this question asked today? Or is it rather that sin and unbelief and the lie have so developed today that people do not even care about the question?
7. Pilate’s wife’s dream
Pilate’s wife warned Pilate to have nothing to do with Jesus because she had that day suffered many things in a dream because of this Jesus (cf. Matt. 27: 19). Was this dream from God? What is the significance of this dream?
8. The choice of Barabbas
What was the sin of the Jews requesting to have Barabbas set free rather than Jesus?
9. Judas’ repentance
When Judas saw that Jesus was condemned he repented and went out and hanged himself (cf. Matt. 27: 3ff.). What proof is there that this repentance was not real?
If Jesus were on earth in body today would people crucify Him, or tolerate Him? Though Jesus is not here in body, how do sinners crucify Him still (cf. Acts 9:4; Gal. 6:14; Phil. 3:10; Heb. 6:6)?
How is it seen today that people think they do God service by their rejection of the Christ and His truth and the persecution of His body (Is. 66:5; John 16:12)?
11.The Trial in perspective (John 20:31)
What are the divine virtues of Jesus which shine forth in His behavior in the trial?
List several things which contributed to Jesus’ suffering in this whole debacle. The Romans use the trial of Jesus to mock His alleged kingship. They make and crown Him with a crown of thorns, they give Him a reed for a scepter, and put a purple robe upon Him, all the while saying, “Hail, King of the Jews,” and beating Him with their hands (cf. John 19:1ff.). But what is truly revealed here of Jesus the King?
Truth was on trial in the trial of Jesus. How do we show in our lives now, by our focus of faith, by our walk, and by our hope, that Truth was found then to be True and Pure, and that the lie and liars were condemned, that the Truth at the same time saved us, and that the Truth shall come again “to judge the living and the dead”?