I’ve always heard about the trial in Mark 14:53-65 as being an illegal trial, but I never understood why that was? I mean, were they not the judging authority of the Jewish population? Didn’t they have that right? So I looked into it. But before I go into my findings, let’s look at the text:
Jesus was taken to the high priest, and all the chief priests, the elders and the teachers of the law came together. Mark 14:53-65 tells us about how Peter followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. There he sat with the guards and warmed himself at the fire. The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any. Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree. Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with human hands and in three days will build another, not made with hands.’” Yet even then their testimony did not agree. Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”
“I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked. “You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?” They all condemned him as worthy of death. Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, “Prophesy!” And the guards took him and beat him.
Did you notice anything odd about Jesus’ trial in the text? Well, for one, it was at night, which is even odd for today. But this was actually illegal according to the Mosaic Law. Another odd thing was that it didn’t take place at the Temple or any courthouse, but in the house of the High Priest’s. Other gospels say that it was held at the High Priest’s dad’s house, but when you look at the fact that with Jewish customs, a married couple would move in with the groom’s family, saying such would also be true. But isn’t that odd? I mean, doesn’t that sound more like a lynching than an official trial?
Another reason why this was an illegal trial was because of the false testimonies given. The Mosaic Law requires that a testimony of 2 or more witnesses are needed in order to put somebody to death (Deut. 17:6). However in Jesus’ trial, nobody was able to match their testimonies.
The Sanhedrin was the Jews’ high court, a total of 71 members, and the High Priest was the presiding officer. Under Roman rule, the Sanhedrin was given great power, just not the authority to impose capital punishment. This was why they couldn’t kill Jesus themselves, but had to take Him to Pilate. So the verdict that they all agreed on was “blasphemy”. Basically, this fit for any claim to God’s majesty or authority (Leviticus 24:16). But why did they spit, blindfolded, and beat Jesus yelling, “Prophesy”? I mean, of all things they could have said to him, “prophesy”? Well, a rabbinic interpretation of Isaiah 11:2-4 held that the Messiah could judge by smell without the aid of sight (that’s why they blindfolded Him). Also, this fulfilled what God prophesied about His Messiah in Isaiah 50:6, “I offered my back to those who beat me, my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard; I did not hide my face from mocking and spitting.” (The Roman soldiers also did this to Jesus when He was sentenced to be crucified).
I know what it’s like to be on the chopping block and surrounded by people who claim to be God’s people, yet want me out of the picture. Such people are willing to do whatever it takes for such to occur, even if it means breaking some rules, restricting anything or anybody that could thwart their agenda, and mistreating you because they feel they can, or that it will give them the upper hand. Unfortunately for me, as was also with Jesus, my situations were among religious/church leaders, committees and people who actually thought they were doing God’s will. But also in both cases, God knew it would happen long before it did.
During Jesus’ life, His ministry entailed turning hearts (back?) to God. But those who were in power didn’t want to be corrected, they didn’t welcome change, and they battled Jesus’ authority until finally (thinking), they got rid of Him.
Every church I’ve served in, I was sent to turn hearts to Jesus (some back to Jesus, some to Jesus for the first time), and to change or “fix” the ministries currently in place. Like with the Jewish leaders though, those to whom I was sent were also very stuck in their traditions, didn’t want to be corrected, didn’t want to be led, didn’t welcome change (even though spiritual leadership and change were why they had hired me), and didn’t want to be challenged, so they battled me until they finally got rid of me.
In both (Jesus’ and my) cases, people thought that they were in the right and fought against the spiritual leader who was sent to them…who tried to bring them deeper in their faith. They were like people floating in the water with pool noodles. Then we came by trying to teach them to swim, tread water, etc…to go deeper in their spiritual walks (or swims) with the Lord who they thought they knew (but most often just knew some about), as one is a fan for a sports figure or celebrity. People who are comfortable don’t like to be told they have to stand up or move, or allow God to change them into what He intends them to be, so they’ll fight however dirty that’s needed in order to get us out of their faces. And that’s what they did here with Jesus, also.
The sad thing though is that these people today still put Jesus on trial:
- Jesus tells us to tell others about Him, but people instead ask Him what about those who die before hearing about Him. Jesus asks, ‘What’s it to you if they all go to hell because people like you didn’t tell them about me in time? You go out and tell people about me so we don’t have to have this conversation again.’ People then retreat, judging God as unfair.
- Jesus demonstrated and insisted on the importance of gathering in worship with others who are centered around Him, as well as the importance of tithing. People say, “God is not in a box and Church is not 4 walls and a roof, so I don’t need to go to church” (or) “I don’t believe in worship. God and I have an agreement. I’ll pray every so often…” So they’ve judged the first commandment and Jesus’ command to gather in His Name with their arguments about their understanding and complaints about today’s Church and Christians.
- Jesus tells us to deny ourselves and follow Him. People either know what that means and decide for themselves that they’re doing well enough, or they come up with their own interpretations of it and follow as they deem “good enough”.
- Jesus says that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and that the only way to God the Father (and Heaven) is through Him. People look at religions and figure that there are other ways to Heaven, Truth is relative, and life is based on how you feel and what you’re doing with it to make you happy.
Notice in the passage, nobody had anything on Jesus…no verdicts could be made until He quoted Scripture and identified Himself honestly. And at that moment, they decided on the verdict that He was lying, and that they had believed differently.
In the end, though:
- Jesus was raised 3 days later (as He said He’d be)
- He was raised up into the clouds (as He said they would see Him)
- He sits at God’s right side (as He said He would)
- Jesus really is the Messiah (and God), (as He said He was).
Those who rejected Him:
- Were put on a proper trial (in front of God) and found guilty
- Will live in all eternity without God/Jesus
Jesus doesn’t lie, nor is He a pushover. What He says is true and He’s set ground rules for how we’re to live as His people, and what we have to do to become such. Jesus revealed who He is, in His life, Words and resurrection. You may believe Him and obey Him fully, or you could always (continue to?) take the side of those who put Him on trial illegally.