The Passion Of The Christ: The Remaining Four Trials — A Reprise


Arrest_and_Trial011The more closely I read the details of the events leading up to Jesus’s crucifixion, the more convinced I am that they unfolded over a period of days, not hours.

The morning after his arrest, Jesus was hauled in front of the Sanhedrin for a final religious kangaroo court. The decision had been predetermined the night before, but to simulate legality, the elders, chief priests, and scribes gathered together to make it official.

Having declared Jesus a blasphemer, they dragged Him off to Pilate. Not wanting to defile themselves by entering into a Gentile home, which would make them unclean and unable to eat the Feast of Unleavened Bread, they remained outside while Pilate came to them.

I don’t know what they expected. A rubber stamp on their guilty verdict? They didn’t seem prepared. Pilate asked them what Jesus was guilty of and they said, in essence, Trust us, he’s no good. In other words, they made no accusation at first, apart from calling him an evildoer—a fact, they told Pilate, he could believe because they would not have brought him otherwise. A rather circular argument, and one Pilate wasn’t buying.

His first ruling was, You take him and punish him if he’s broken your law.

The Jews cut to the chase, then: “We are not permitted to put anyone to death.” But they still had the problem that their accusation of blasphemy was not a crime against Rome.

That’s when they changed tactics and started accusing Jesus of things that would be an affront to the Roman government: “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, and saying that He Himself is Christ, a King.” (Luke 23:2-3)

The last point got Pilate’s attention. Leaving the Jewish leaders outside, he went into the judgment hall and called Jesus to him. In reality, this interview began the first of the three political trials Jesus faced.

Did all these events happen in less than an hour? I have my doubts. In fact, because it was the day after Passover and the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, a special Sabbath according to Old Testament law, I would postulate that the Pharisees delivered Jesus over to Pilate’s soldiers and scurried on home without hanging around the Gentile judgment hall.

I could be wrong about this. Pilate might have concluded this first trial some time that day, but I think it’s just as possible he didn’t rush right out when the Jews came calling, that he dealt with this legal matter in order, after he’d tended to the usual matters of the day. At this point he would certainly not have had reason to think the situation was an emergency.

At any rate, at some point, whether that day or whether several days later, after the Special Sabbath and the regular Sabbath, in his interview with Jesus, the governor tried to nail him down regarding this accusation that He claimed to be a king.

Pilate said to Him, “So You are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.” Pilate *said to Him, “What is truth?” (John 18:37-38)

Pilate went outside to the waiting Jewish leaders or those he’d called to him and rendered his verdict regarding Jesus—not guilty. The Pharisees, perhaps growing somewhat desperate, tried to strengthen their case against Jesus, telling Pilate He was stirring up the people from as far away as Galilee.

At last Pilate saw a way out of this mess. King Herod, ruler of the Galilean district, was in Jerusalem for Passover. He could deal with Jesus.

And so ended the first trial.

Did the second trial start that same day? Scripture doesn’t say one way or the other. But we are told that up to this point Herod and Pilate didn’t get along. Would Herod have rushed to respond to a message from Pilate that he was sending him a prisoner to examine?

Possibly. Scripture says Herod was eager to talk to Jesus. But did he know at once that Jesus was the prisoner?

I don’t know.

And I don’t know what the protocol was for judicial hearings. I do know that John the Baptist had been kept in prison for days and that Paul, when he was to be tried by Festus, also remained locked up for days. I don’t think there was a Roman policy about a speedy trial.

Scripture does say, Herod “questioned Him at some length” (Luke 23:9a). Was that for hours? All day? We don’t know for sure, but I suspect it was longer than the hour the traditional view of these events would allow.

The thing was, Jesus wouldn’t placate Herod’s curiosity. He refused to answer his questions. Even when the chief priests and scribes showed up to accuse Jesus of crimes He hadn’t committed, He made no defense.

Herod didn’t render a finding but that didn’t stop his soldiers from making sport of Jesus. After the official part of the trial, they decked Him out in a robe, mocked him, and treated him with contempt.

Back Jesus went to Pilate. The governor, according to Luke, had to call the chief priests and scribes together, again an indication that they weren’t standing in the streets waiting for this decision to be handed down.

I suspect by this time they realized they needed more leverage against Pilate. And if these trials were spread over several days, they would have had a reasonable amount of time to stir up some opposition to Jesus.

I don’t see the crowd who welcomed Him into Jerusalem turning against Him in a matter of an hour or so. But given time, word would get out that the Sanhedrin had found Jesus guilty.

On top of that, there were a number of Messiah claimants who preceded Jesus. Were the people once again disillusioned when the Passover came and went and Jesus didn’t lead them against Roman rule? That’s what most of the Jews expected from the Messiah: He would come as the descendant of David to claim his throne.

At any rate, when Jesus returned to Pilate, the Jewish leaders were prepared. They had the charges they could bring and the people primed to do their part.

Pilate again declared Jesus to be innocent and turned to the people, hoping they would side with him. Instead they clamored for the release of a real insurrectionist named Barabbas, and cried for Jesus to be crucified.

The governor had one ally, though. His wife had had a dream—which fits more perfectly into the timeline of events if she had heard about Jesus appearing before her husband, then had a dream in the night. Whenever this dream occurred, it unsettled her for some time, (“last night I suffered greatly in a dream because of Him” Matt. 27:19b) to the point that she had to warn Pilate not to have anything to do with “that righteous man.”

Pilate settled on a different punishment from crucifixion—scourging. His soldiers beat Jesus, mocked Him, feigned obeisance to the “King of the Jews”—the people they hated. None of this satisfied the Jewish leaders.

Again they threw the original charge at Jesus: “He made Himself out to be the Son of God.” Now Pilate was terrified. But he was more terrified of Rome. When it looked like he’d have a riot on his hands, when the Jewish leaders accused him of being no friend of Caesar’s because he was allowing this rival king to live, he relented.

And so, after all his findings of not guilty, Pilate washed his hands of the matter, literally, and told the Jewish leaders to do what they wanted to do.

Three political trials and one religious trial, all in the space of three hours? It doesn’t seem likely. But if these events were spread out over days, not hours, it’s easy to see them unfold logically—particularly the crowd growing more and more hostile and Pilate’s resistance wearing down.

A non-traditional view of the timeline of the Passion events

This post is an edited version of one that appeared here in April 2014.

Published in: on March 29, 2018 at 5:12 pm  Comments Off on The Passion Of The Christ: The Remaining Four Trials — A Reprise  
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The Passion Of The Christ: Arrest And First Trials – A Reprise


The events leading up to Jesus’s crucifixion were kicked off by what we’ve traditionally called “the last supper.” Jesus instructed some of His followers to get things ready for the Passover meal, the first of the eight days of celebration:

Then came the first day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. And Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, so that we may eat it.” (Luke 22:7-8)

Much happened at that meal: Jesus instituted a remembrance ceremony:

And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood. (Luke 22:19-20)

He also outed Judas—or at least made it known that one of the twelve would betray Him. At some point in the evening, Satan entered Judas.

Another important event during this meal was Jesus confronting Peter with the truth that despite his protestations of loyalty, he would deny Jesus that very night.

Amazingly, in the face of doubts and denials and betrayal, Jesus spent a good deal of time talking with His followers about what was about to happen. He also washed their feet, prayed for them, sang a hymn with them, then headed out to a quiet garden where He could pray.

After a time of fervent communion with His Father and a period of ministry by angels, during which His disciples slept, a group of Roman soldiers and a mob from the chief priests, scribes, and elders, led by Judas, came looking for Jesus. His arrest was nearly without incident.

Peter tried to back up his bold words earlier and took a sword to one of the Roman servants. I used to be bothered by the Biblical record that Peter lopped off this guys ear. It seemed so odd. I couldn’t picture how or why Peter would go after the guy’s ear.

Except, the word for sword, machaira means “a small sword, as distinguished from a large sword,” or “large knife,” the kind a person would most likely use to cleave downward. A possible explanation, then, is that Peter intended to cleave this man’s skull in two, but either he wore a helmet which deflected the blow or he moved to evade it. At any rate, his ear took the brunt of Peter’s action.

After Jesus restored Malchus’s ear, his disciples ran off. I imagine the appearance of a sword riled up the soldiers and they wanted a little payback. At any rate, Jesus was alone with the crowd of Jews and Romans who led him off to his first trial.

He actually had three religious trials of a sort and three political trials. That night after his arrest, He faced the first two religious trials.

First He was led to the house of Annas whose son-in-law was the current High Priest. Here’s what Strong’s Lexicon says about Annas:

high priest of the Jews, elevated to the priesthood by Quirinius the governor of Syria c. 6 or 7 A.D., but afterwards deposed by Valerius Gratus, the procurator of Judaea, who put in his place, first Ismael, son of Phabi, and shortly after Eleazar, son of Annas. From the latter, the office passed to Simon; from Simon c. 18 A.D. to Caiaphas; but Annas even after he had been put out of office, continued to have great influence.

I should say he had influence—over his son, then his son-in-law, if not with the other high priests and elders.

How long did this phase of Jesus’s trial last? We don’t know. But at some point Annas sent Him to Caiaphas, the sitting high priest. He was the one who had counseled the other leaders that they needed to kill Jesus (John 18:14).

No surprise then, that Jesus faced a series of trumped up charges brought by false witnesses. And yet, they couldn’t get the required number of two to agree.

Caiaphas resorted to another illegal tactic—he directly questioned Jesus. The accused was not to give testimony against himself. However, when Jesus answered, Caiaphas declared Him guilty based on the “blasphemy” they’d just heard.

But there were a couple problems. Among the illegal aspects of this trial was the fact that only the Sanhedrin, the group of seventy elders, could determine guilt and only during the day. In addition, Jews, living under the authority of Rome, couldn’t carry out the death sentence. On top of that, blasphemy was not an offense Romans cared about.

Hence, trial number two was not sufficient to accomplish what Caiaphas wanted. There had to be a third religious trial, and then they had to deal with the Romans.

This post is an edited version of one that appeared here in April, 2014.

Published in: on March 28, 2018 at 5:30 pm  Comments Off on The Passion Of The Christ: Arrest And First Trials – A Reprise  
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The Passion Of The Christ: Arrest And First Trials


Arrest_and_Trial032In the introduction to this series of Easter posts, I mentioned that I’ve been troubled when reading the various gospel accounts of the events involved with Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection.

One of those troubling aspects for me was what appears to be the sudden dramatic reversal of the crowd reaction to Jesus. Especially now as a writer, I like to see that events are properly motivated, and quite honestly, the Big Reversal seemed too abrupt to be explained. Remember, in the traditional way of looking at things, the Pharisees had perhaps an hour or an hour and a half to convince the crowd that the man they’d wanted to crown as the promised Messiah actually should be crucified.

Putting in more time for these events to happen answers a lot of questions, at least for me. With that said, here’s a look at one possible timetable.

Passion Events Calendar

Let me reiterate, I’m not a Hebrew scholar. In addition, I haven’t studied ancient calendars. All I’m doing is postulating a way all the events mentioned in the gospels could have happened which would allow Christ’s body to have been in the tomb three days and three nights.

The traditional understanding of what we’ve called “the last supper” seems fairly straightforward. Jesus instructed some of His followers to get things ready for the Passover meal, the first of the eight days of celebration:

Then came the first day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. And Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and prepare the Passover for us, so that we may eat it.” (Luke 22:7-8)

Much happened at that meal: Jesus instituted a remembrance ceremony:

And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood. (Luke 22:19-20)

He also outted Judas—or at least made it known that one of the twelve would betray Him. At some point in the evening, Satan entered Judas.

Another important event during this meal was Jesus confronting Peter with the truth that despite his protestations of loyalty, he would deny Jesus that very night.

Amazingly, in the face of doubts and denials and betrayal, Jesus spent a good deal of time talking with His followers about what was about to happen. He also washed their feet, prayed for them, sang a hymn with them, then headed out for a quiet garden where He could pray.

After a time of fervent communion with His Father and a period of ministry by angels, during which His disciples slept, a group of Roman soldiers and a mob from the chief priests, scribes, and elders, led by Judas, came looking for Jesus. His arrest was nearly without incident.

Peter tried to back up his bold words earlier and took a sword to one of the Roman servants. I used to be bothered by the Biblical record that Peter lopped off this guys ear. It seemed so odd. I couldn’t picture how or why Peter would go after the guy’s ear.

Except, the word for sword, machaira means “a small sword, as distinguished from a large sword,” or “large knife,” the kind a person would most likely use to cleave downward. A possible explanation, then, is that Peter intended to cleave this man’s skull in two, but either he wore a helmet which deflected the blow or he moved to evade it. At any rate, his ear took the brunt of Peter’s action.

After Jesus restored Malchus’s ear, his disciples ran off. I imagine the appearance of a sword riled up the soldiers and they wanted a little payback. At any rate, Jesus was alone with the crowd of Jews and Romans who led him off to his first trial.

He actually had three religious trials of a sort and three political trials. That night after his arrest, He faced the first two religious trials.

First He was led to the house of Annas whose son-in-law was the current High Priest. Here’s what Strong’s Lexicon says about Annas:

high priest of the Jews, elevated to the priesthood by Quirinius the governor of Syria c. 6 or 7 A.D., but afterwards deposed by Valerius Gratus, the procurator of Judaea, who put in his place, first Ismael, son of Phabi, and shortly after Eleazar, son of Annas. From the latter, the office passed to Simon; from Simon c. 18 A.D. to Caiaphas; but Annas even after he had been put out of office, continued to have great influence.

I should say he had influence—over his son, then his son-in-law, if not with the other Pharisees.

How long did this phase of Jesus’s trial last? We don’t know. But at some point Annas sent Him to Caiaphas, the sitting high priest. He was the one who had counseled the other leaders that they needed to kill Jesus (John 18:14).

No surprise then, that Jesus faced a series of trumped up charges brought by false witnesses. And yet, they couldn’t get the required number of two to agree.

Caiaphas resorted to another illegal tactic—he directly questioned Jesus. When He answered, Caiaphas declared Him guilty based on the “blasphemy” they’d just heard.

But there were a couple problems. Among the illegal aspects of this trial was the fact that only the Sanhedrin, the group of seventy elders, could determine guilt and only during the day. In addition, Jews, living under the authority of Rome, couldn’t carry out the death sentence. On top of that, blasphemy was not an offense Romans cared about.

Hence, trial number two was not sufficient to accomplish what Caiaphas wanted. There had to be a third religious trial, and then they had to deal with the Romans.

Published in: on April 14, 2014 at 6:57 pm  Comments (2)  
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Jews And Jesus


Jewish_Pictures_Of_EthnicitySome months before the release of Mel Gibson’s The Passion Of The Christ, I began to hear that the Jewish community had serious concerns about the film. It seems they feared it would spark a new era of anti-Semitism.

I was astounded. I had no idea that “Christians” had been credited with instigating hate against Jews. After all, I grew up in a Judeo-Christian culture. I only knew of shared values and a determined stand against the Holocaust.

I learned that some “Christians” justified hating Jews because they had killed Jesus. It’s such an ignorant idea, I thought it had to be someone’s sick joke. But no, apparently this idea has a basis in history: some people waving the banner of Christianity turned against Jews because of the crucifixion.

In some ways, of course, the Jewish religious leaders responsible for convicting Jesus brought the accusation on their people when they told Pilate, who literally washed his hands of Jesus, that His blood would be on their heads and on their children’s heads (Matthew 27:25). But I always assumed that was either verbiage or calling down God’s judgment. I never imagined it to be an acknowledgment that would justify throughout history, profound racial persecution.

The idea of holding the entire Jewish race responsible for Christ’s crucifixion is ludicrous, and anyone following Him in truth would know this. First, Jesus Himself is Jewish. Not only was His mother a Jew, but He Himself said He was the fulfillment of the Law. That would be the Jewish law, given to Jews by God who chose the Jews to be His people–“the apple of His eye.”

Second, all the first Christians were Jews! Peter was a Jew, and so was Mary Magdalene, Salome, Stephen, Martha, Paul, Barnabas, Euodia, James, Jude, Synteca, Matthew, and countless others. A corollary to this point is that the vast majority of people in the Old Testament are also Jews.

Third, Jesus Himself called on God to forgive those who crucified Him. Did He mean only the Roman soldiers? There’s nothing to indicate Jesus intended such a limited understanding.

The greatest reason might be that the Christian understands he has been forgiven because of Jesus’s death on the cross. Without that sacrifice, we’d still be in our sins. If anything, we could see those responsible for His crucifixion as doing us a favor.

But the fact is, Jesus rose from the dead! He is alive today. So what’s the point of carrying a grudge against people, even if we did think they were responsible, when the act has been “undone”?

Besides, Jesus Himself said that no one was taking His life. He was laying it down. How can a people group be held accountable for that?

Finally, Scripture clearly indicates that Christ bridges racial divides. For example, Paul said in Colossians “there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all” (3:11). His Church–His family–consists of people from every tribe and tongue, including Jews.

The idea that Christians are against Jews as a people group is laughable. That some people want to lay that charge at the feet of Christians shows two things.

First, there are people calling themselves Christians who are lying. They aren’t following Christ, don’t believe in Him, and aren’t part of His Church. They are the proverbial wolves in sheep’s clothing. They are the weeds Jesus talked about in one of His parables, allowed to grow up alongside the wheat, that will be sorted out and burned up at the harvest.

In conjunction with these pretenders are those outside the Church who accuse Christians of hating Jews. They are speaking in ignorance of the facts, perhaps because they’ve listened to the pretenders instead of the historical record.

Have there been Christian bigots?

Sadly, yes. Like any other sin, Christians are susceptible to disobedience of God’s law and we are subject to our own lack of understanding. Hence, as hard as it is for me to understand, a Christian might wrongly accuse the entire Jewish race of killing Jesus, and he might even disobey God’s command to love enemies. But it’s a leap to say that Christians as a people hate Jews. In fact, such a leap is just as heinous as the one a pretender makes in arriving at the idea that Jews are responsible for Christ’s death.

The real problem is the generalization. Did some Jews falsely accuse Jesus and condemn Him? Yes. Does that mean that all Jews are guilty of a heinous crime and deserving of punishment? Not at all. Do some Christians act out of prejudice? I wish it weren’t true, but yes. Does that mean all Christians endorse such and share the responsibility for those acts? Not at all.

How is it that we have come to paint people groups as if they believe and act in concert, or as if they ought to? One of the beautiful things about the Church is God’s clear instruction that we are not all the same and yet that we are all important. My role, my gift given for the building up of the Church, is different from someone else’s. Scripture makes the analogy with the body. I may not be a foot, but that’s OK. What would the body be like if we were all feet?

Sin, of course, is a different matter. If a person in the church is a bigot, he ought to receive Church discipline–something that has been seriously watered down over the years. But that’s another whole blog post.

Published in: on April 12, 2013 at 6:49 pm  Comments Off on Jews And Jesus  
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Redemptive Violence


I have to paint the scene. Actor Jim Caviezel is starring in a TV program called Person of Interest. It’s the first thing I’ve seen him in, which means I did not see The Passion of the Christ.

Author and blogger Karen Hancock posted about him today and included a link to an article about how playing Christ in Passion affected Caviezel’s career. Karen mentioned at the end of her post that the comments were eye-opening.

Dutifully I took myself over to the Huffington Post, read the article, and started in on the comments. About ten in I came to the one that sparked the thoughts for this post. An individual identifying as a liberal Christian veered away from the subject of the article to discuss The Passion of the Christ and said in part:

My second objection to this film is I take issue with the doctrine of substitutionary atonement (Jesus dying and shedding blood for our sins). I find it hard to believe that a loving God who me and many others call Father would ever will for the death of an innocent Jesus to serve as a sacrifice for people’s sins. It turns God from the loving Father and savior of all into a bloodthirsty monster who is incapable of forgiving people’s sins or reconciling the creation peacefully. This doctrine teaches that violence is redemptive, and violence inspires faith. This type of thinking was developed in the middle ages to justify hatred against Jews and inspire violence in God and Christ’s names. Finally, I object to this film because it focused on Jesus’s death to the exclusion of his teachings or the events that led to the cross. I vomited during this film and I think it was a snuff film. (emphasis mine)

Well, how about that? Is violence redemptive?

I have to work through this concept from the inception of violence. What brought it about in the first place? The first act of violence recorded in the Bible, by implication, was God killing some animal in order to make skins with which to clothe Adam and Eve.

But before that came God’s clear warning to Adam,

The LORD God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.” (Gen 2:16-17 — emphasis mine)

In fact, the man did not die in the day he ate and yet he did die. Was the blood God shed on his behalf the reason Adam did not die at once?

We know because of what happened with Cain and Abel that sacrifice became a part of life and that apparently blood had to be shed.

But as with Abraham and his son Isaac, as with the people of Israel and the angel of death that passed over their homes, this killing of an animal was a means of saving human life.

God institutionalized animal sacrifices in the Mosaic Law, something the Christians of the first century understood.

And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. (Heb. 9:22)

With all this background, the commenter seems to be right — redemption is violent.

But that’s only the back end of the issue. Violence came into existence through Adam’s disobedience. Sacrifice is the means by which God stays His hand from meting out the deserved punishment.

In other words, from the beginning, sacrifice was an indication of God’s kindness and His desire for reconciliation despite Man’s waywardness.

In some respects one could say that God redeemed violence. Man brought on death by his disobedience, but like He does so often, God used the very thing that was so horrific, that looked like Defeat, and made it the instrument of Life.

Of course His ultimate act of redemption was taking on death Himself.

The commenter seems unaware that Jesus is God. His idea that our loving Father was doling out punishment to innocent Jesus as if He were a separate entity, a perfect man, an example of what we all can become, perhaps, shows the real problem in his understanding.

Here’s the truth about Jesus from Scripture:

For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form. (Col. 2:9)

God didn’t deliver the punishment to someone else. He took it on Himself. God punished God.

Hard to grasp, I know. Right up there with God praying to God and God seated at the right hand of God. Let’s face it. We cannot understand how our transcendent triune Creator “works.” We can’t take Him apart and see how He fits back together. He is beyond our scrutiny.

Which isn’t to say we can’t know Him and what He did for us — that act of stepping in and accepting the violence we deserve, taking it on Himself that we might be free of guilt and sin and death.

Christ’s act was the preeminent act of redemption because by His death He defeated death so that those who believe in Him now have Life. What was intended to be a crushing blow became a means to victory.

There’s so much more I could say about that one comment. How sad that such a person considers himself a Christian, and yet he doesn’t know or understand the One whose Name he’s chosen to identify with.

He’s missed the point that yes, the crucifixion was horrific — undoubtedly more so than the movie showed — but because of the joy set before Him, Jesus endured the pain and the shame.

The joy? Each of us who accepts His substitutionary work and is redeemed, we are His joy. What an amazing God we have!

Published in: on October 13, 2011 at 5:50 pm  Comments (2)  
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