The Trials of Christ
Matthew 26:57 – 27:26 
 
The Trials of Jesus before Men. Historically, there were a number of trials or “hearings” of our Lord before various councils and governors. There here were actually six different hearings, three before the Jews, and three before the Gentiles. Only trials 2, 3, 4, and 6 are given in Matthew. 
  1. Before Annas. After Jesus was arrested, the very first hearing was before Annas (John 18:13), the older of the two high priests that year, and the father of Caiaphas. Perhaps Annas had influence over the rulers of the Jews, and the chief priests needed his sanction before they proceeded. Annas then sent Jesus bound unto Caiaphas (John 18:24).
  2. Before Caiaphas. Jesus was then led to the hall of Caiaphas (Matt. 26:57) where He was held all night, questioned, and abused. The whole Sanhedrin was there (religious council). They sought false witnesses against Him, but were unsuccessful. Finally, they found two false witnesses who misquoted the Lord, claiming He had promised to vandalize the temple (destroy it in three days), then rebuild it. He had said nothing of the kind, although His words in John 2:19 and Matt 24:2 were misconstrued. Then Caiaphas asked Him outright if He were the Messiah, the Son of God, to which Jesus answered in the affirmative. They agreed that this was considered blasphemy, which in their eyes made Jesus guilty of death. However, the council could make no official ruling at night time, according to the Jewish traditional law [1]. Actually, the night-time trial was actually illegal too. To satisfy the legal requirement, the council retired until morning.
  3. Before the Sanhedrin. The full Sanhedrin was convened again at daybreak (Matt. 27:1), and they formally agreed to put Jesus to death. However, the Jews did not have sufficient authority to carry out capital punishment, because they were under Roman authority (John 18:31). For this reason, they needed to take Jesus to the civil authorities. Of course, this was all part of the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, because they Jews would normally have stoned their criminals, but Jesus must be crucified in fulfillment of Psa. 22:16, “they pierced my hands and my feet”. That meant Jesus would receive a Roman trial and, if He was convicted, a Roman execution.
  4. Before Pilate. The next hearing was before Pilate, in his praetorium (John 18:28; Luke 23:1-5). The Jews would not go into the hall itself lest they be defiled on the preparation day for Passover. Pilate therefore took Jesus into the praetorium and repeatedly went back and forth to the outer court to dialog with the Jews. Think of the hypocrisy! Once Pilate learned that Jesus was a Galilean, which was Herod Antipas’s jurisdiction, Pilate sent Jesus to Herod.
  5. Before Herod. Herod heard the case and found no fault, and returned the prisoner to Pilate (Luke 23:6-12). However, before sending Jesus back to Pilate, Herod humiliated the Lord before his soldiers, first stripping Him naked (“set at nought”) and mocking Him, then clothing Him with a splendid robe.
  6. Before Pilate Again. The sixth and final hearing was before Pilate again in his praetorium (Luke 23:13-25). Pilate tried a number of things to dissuade the murderous Jews. Three times Pilate declared Jesus’ innocence. He offered to release one prisoner: harmless Jesus or insurrectionist Barabbas, hoping to put some sense into them. He presented Him to them as a king (“Behold your king!”) to appeal to nationalistic sentiments. Finally, Pilate washed his hands to appeal to their consciences. All these efforts being fruitless, Pilate consented to the Lord’s death in order to please the Jews.
In all of these trials, there was nothing found in our Lord that warranted His death.
 
 

The Hall of Caiaphas: Trial Before the Sanhedrin (26:57-68)

False Witnesses (26:57-61)

 57 Now they that had seized Jesus led him away to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders were assembled. v.57 The Lord was led to the hall of the High Priest, who was a cruel and wicked man. In John 11 we read of his unscrupulous and awful advice; that it was better to kill one man in order to preserve the nation from the iron teeth of Rome. Ironically, killing Jesus would not prevent the Romans from coming, but on the contrary, it was the very thing that sealed the Jews’ fate in the government of God (Matt. 22:7). The council was already assembled when the arrest-party arrived. 
 
58 And Peter followed him at a distance, even to the palace of the high priest, and entering in sat with the officers to see the end. v.58 Peter evidently was intent on making good on his boast, in spite of the fact that he had forsaken the Lord and fled. But he follows a long way off, unable to get up the courage to draw near. What was he doing here? It says, “to see the end”. Was this some form of curiosity? John 18 reveals that he was warming himself by a fire built by the men. He was trying to blend in with the enemies of Christ. What an awful place to be. Lot sat in the enemy’s gate, Samson slept in the enemy’s lap, and Peter warmed himself by the enemy’s fire. Fleshly determination will always result in more damage, not less.
 
59 And the chief priests and the elders and the whole sanhedrim sought false witness against Jesus, so that they might put him to death. 60 And they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. But at the last two false witnesses came forward 61 and said, “He” said, I am able to destroy the temple of God, and in three days build it. vv.59-61 The Sanhedrin was really running a pre-trial hearing. They could make no official ruling at night time, according to the Jewish traditional law [1], but they needed to get their arguments and witnesses in order ahead of time. Since the Lord was perfect, there was no evidence to bring against Him. The truth does not really matter to political cases like this. They turn instead to manufacture false witnesses. However, they could not get any two false witnesses to agree together (Mark 14:56), and they needed at least two to get a death penalty conviction (Deut. 17:6). Finally, they found two false witnesses who misquoted the Lord, claiming He had promised to vandalize the temple (destroy it in three days), then rebuild it. He had said nothing of the kind, although His words in John 2:19 and Matt 24:2 were misconstrued. 

The Lord’s Silence, Confession, and Conviction for Blasphemy (26:62-66)

62 And the high priest standing up said to him, Answerest thou nothing? What do these witness against thee? 63 But Jesus was silent. And the high priest answering said to him, I adjure thee by the living God that thou tell us if “thou” art the Christ the Son of God. 64 Jesus says to him, “Thou” hast said. Moreover, I say to you, From henceforth ye shall see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming on the clouds of heaven. vv.62-64 When the false accusations were made against His record, Jesus did not answer. That shows His perfect lowliness. He who was perfectly righteous would never speak in His own defense! But when the High Priest adjured Him, then the Lord spoke. That was according to scripture, “And if any one sin, and hear the voice of adjuration, and he is a witness whether he hath seen or known it, if he do not give information, then he shall bear his iniquity” (Lev. 5:1). When asked if He was Messiah, the Son of God, Jesus answered in the affirmative. This destroys every claim made by Muslims that Jesus never claimed to be divine. Our Lord was rejected both as Messiah and as Son of God. Therefore He takes the title “Son of man” both as rejected by all mankind, and in future glory. Man would no longer see the lowly, suffering man on earth, but would see Him in two ways; (1) in His present position in heaven, “sitting at the right hand of power”, and (2) in His future appearing, “coming on the clouds of heaven”.
 
65 Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He has blasphemed: what need have we any more of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard the blasphemy. 66 What think ye? And they answering said, He is liable to the penalty of death. vv.65-66 God saw fit that their attempts to convict the Lord by false witness were unsuccessful, and ultimately He was convicted because of His own words… it was a plain rejection of the truth of the Person of Christ. If the Lord had been a mere man, His confession would have been blasphemy, and the Jews would have been right to stone Him. But Jesus had demonstrated through the scriptures, through signs, and by Divine announcement that He was the Christ, the Son of God. Therefore, the conclusion of the Sanhedrin amounts to the worst injustice ever committed by man… they gave the death penalty to the Son of God come in flesh!

Abuse by the Jews (26:67-68)

67 Then they spit in his face, and buffeted him, and some struck him with the palms of their hand, 68 saying, Prophesy to us, Christ, Who is it who struck thee? vv.67-68 Man is not content with political outcomes. He must sink to the level of inhuman brutality. There is hardly a more humiliating experience than having one’s face spat upon. It is interesting that both the servants of the high priest and the Roman soldiers resorted to spitting (Matt. 27:30). There was a time when His spittle was used to heal the eyes of a blind man (John 9:6). They also “buffeted Him”, which means ‘to strike with a fist’. Some struck Him with an open hand. A closed fist causes internal damage to the body, while the open hand causes a sharper pain. In Luke 22:64 we find that they first blindfolded Him, then slapped His face. They were playing a game with Him, mocking the Lord’s confession. There are three Messianic offices that pertain to Christ; He is prophet, priest, and king. The Lord is mocked in each of these capacities by His enemies in Matt. 26-27.
  1. Matt. 26:67-68, He is mocked as Prophet
  2. Matt. 27:27-31, He is mocked as King
  3. Matt. 27:42, He is mocked as Priest (“save thyself”)
It is amazing to think that Jesus knew every one of them. He prophetic accuracy is demonstrated in the very next verses, when Peter, who was trying with all his might, failed so miserably, and fulfilled the Lord’s prophecy that before the rooster crowed, Peter would deny the Lord three times.
 

Peter’s Three Denials of Jesus  (26:69-75)

 69 But Peter sat without in the palace-court; and a maid came to him, saying, And “thou” wast with Jesus the Galilaean. 70 But he denied before all, saying, I do not know what thou sayest. 71 And when he had gone out into the entrance, another maid saw him, and says to those there, This man also was with Jesus the Nazaraean. 72 And again he denied with an oath: I do not know the man. 73 And after a little, those who stood there, coming to him, said to Peter, Truly “thou” too art of them, for also thy speech makes thee manifest. 74a Then he began to curse and to swear, I know not the man. vv.69-74a 
 
74b And immediately the cock crew. 75 And Peter remembered the word of Jesus, who had said to him, Before the cock crow thou shalt deny me thrice. And he went forth without, and wept bitterly. vv.74b-75 
 
Keep us, Lord, oh, keep us cleaving
To Thyself and still believing,
Till the hour of Thy receiving
Promised joys with Thee.
 

The Sanhedrin Convened, Jesus Led to Pilate (27:1-2)

CHAPTER 27
 And when it was morning all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus so that they might put him to death. 2 And having bound him they led him away, and delivered him up to Pontius Pilate, the governor. 
 

Judas’ Remorse, Suicide, and the Field of Blood (27:3-10)

 3 Then Judas, who delivered him up, seeing that he had been condemned, filled with remorse, returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, 4 saying, I have sinned in having delivered up guiltless blood. But they said, What is that to us? see “thou” to that. 5 And having cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, he left the place, and went away and hanged himself. 6 And the chief priests took the pieces of silver and said, It is not lawful to cast them into the Corban, since it is the price of blood. 7 And having taken counsel, they bought with them the field of the potter for a burying-ground for strangers. 8 Wherefore that field has been called Blood-field unto this day. 9 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken through Jeremias the prophet, saying, And I took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him that was set a price on, whom they who were of the sons of Israel had set a price on, 10 and they gave them for the field of the potter, according as the Lord commanded me. 
 

The Trial Before Pilate (27:11-26)

Initial Interrogation (27:11-14)

 11 But Jesus stood before the governor. And the governor questioned him, saying, Art “thou” the King of the Jews? And Jesus said to him, Thou sayest. 12 And when he was accused of the chief priests and the elders, he answered nothing. 13 Then says Pilate to him, Hearest thou not how many things they witness against thee? 14 And he answered him not so much as one word, so that the governor wondered exceedingly. 

A Choice Between Barabbas and Jesus Offered to the Jews (27:15-18)

15 Now at the feast the governor was accustomed to release one prisoner to the crowd, whom they would. 16 And they had then a notable prisoner, named Barabbas. 17 They therefore being gathered together, Pilate said to them, Whom will ye that I release to you, Barabbas, or Jesus who is called Christ? 18 For he knew that they had delivered him up through envy. 

(Pilate’s Wife’s Dream and Warning) (27:19)

19 But, as he was sitting on the judgment-seat, his wife sent to him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that righteous man; for I have suffered to-day many things in a dream because of him. 

They Choose Freedom for Barabbas and the Cross for Christ (27:20-23)

20 But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds that they should beg for Barabbas, and destroy Jesus. 21 And the governor answering said to them, Which of the two will ye that I release unto you? And they said, Barabbas. 22 Pilate says to them, What then shall I do with Jesus, who is called Christ? They all say, Let him be crucified. 23 And the governor said, What evil then has he done? But they cried more than ever, saying, Let him be crucified. 

Pilate Washes His Hands of the Matter (27:24)

24 And Pilate, seeing that it availed nothing, but that rather a tumult was arising, having taken water, washed his hands before the crowd, saying, I am guiltless of the blood of this righteous one: see “ye” to it. 

The Jews Accept Full Guilt (27:25)

25 And all the people answering said, His blood be on us and on our children. 

Jesus is Scourged and Delivered Up to Be Crucified (27:26)

26Then he released to them Barabbas; but Jesus, having scourgedhim, he delivered up that he might be crucified.
 
On His Father’s Throne is Seated
Hannah Kilham Burlingham (1842-1901)
 
Man, the cross to Him awarded;
Man, the Savior crucified;
This world’s judgment stands recorded.
God’s own justice satisfied!
By the glory,
Christ was claimed on earth who died. 
 

  1. From the Mishnah (first part of the Talmud), in the fourth order called Nezikin (related to ‘Damages’), in the Sanhedrin tractate, it says, “In noncapital cases they hold trial during the daytime and the verdict may be reached during the night; in capital cases they hold the trial during the daytime and the verdict must also be reached during the daytime. In noncapital cases the verdict, whether of acquittal or of conviction, may be reached the same day; in capital cases a verdict of acquittal may be reached on the same day, but a verdict of conviction not until the following day.”

Can you provide comments, suggestions, or corrections?