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The Synoptics on The Trials

The Trial by the Sanhedrin

Matt 26: (web)
59  Now the chief priests, the elders,
and the whole council sought false testimony against Jesus,
that they might put him to death;
60  and they found none. Even though many false witnesses came forward,
they found none. But at last two false witnesses came forward,
61  and said, "This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God,
and to build it in three days.’"
62  The high priest stood up, and said to him,
"Have you no answer? What is this that these testify against you?"
63  But Jesus held his peace.
The high priest answered him, "I adjure you by the living God,
that you tell us whether you are the Christ, the Son of God."

64  Jesus said to him, "You have said it. Nevertheless, I tell you,
henceforth you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power,
and coming on the clouds of the sky."
65  Then the high priest tore his clothing, saying,
"He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses?
Behold, now you have heard his blasphemy.
66  What do you think?" They answered, "He is worthy of death!"
67  Then they spit in his face and beat him with their fists, and some slapped him,
68  saying, "Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who hit you?"


The fact that the Sanhedrin sought for evidence only after Jesus was arrested indicated that this was not carefully planned, but done out of the impulses of the flesh. For normally people would first commit a crime and then be arrested. But here Jesus was arrested while having no charges against him. Concerning the two false witnesses claiming that Jesus said, "I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days.", that is not what he said. The only record of what he said is found in John which says,
Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days."  The Jews replied, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?" But the temple he had spoken of was his body.
This was misinterpreted. The phrase should be interpreted as "If you destroy this temple of my body I will raise it again in three days." He does not speak of himself destroying the man-made temple. Nor does he speak of rebuilding it, but of "raising" it, speaking of his resurrection from the dead.

This kind of misinterpretation is quite common in developing slanderous accusations against one's religious enemies.I have seen it happen to others where someone being very dogmatic about their particular theological point of view will demonize the opposing point of view through a strawman argument, and purposely or carelessly misinterpret the writings of the opposition so as to justify condemning them. (For example see The Murder of Servetus)

It is clear that Jesus had done nothing worthy of death. So why was he put on trial? Very simply because he humiliated the institutional religious leaders. And historically it has not been uncommon even in post Biblical Christianity for religious leaders to slanderously accuse those who humilate them and bring trumped up charges against such people in order to punish them, even putting them to death. Notice particularly the zeal with which these religious leaders attempt to humiliate Christ, hitting him and mocking him. They show little respect even for human dignity. The closest equivalent today would be the violent contempt that Islamic leaders show towards Christians who are under their authority, such as the murder of muiltitudes of Christians in Sudan by the Islamic government leadership.

Here we also see Jesus openly reveal himself as the Christ. This fact was no longer to be hidden. The high priest tore his garments as a declaration that a blasphemy had been committed. Later at the crucifixion God sort of tore His own garments at the blasphemy of the murder of His Son by tearing the veil in the temple in two, but which also opened up a direct path to God not blocked by a curtain.

The Trial by Pontius Pilate

Luke 23:
1  The whole company of them rose up and brought him before Pilate.
2  They began to accuse him, saying, "We found this man perverting the nation, forbidding paying taxes to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king."
3  Pilate asked him, "Are you the King of the Jews?" He answered him, "So you say."

Mark 15:
3  The chief priests accused him of many things.
4  Pilate again asked him, "Have you no answer? See how many things they testify against you!"
5  But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate marveled.

Luke 23:
4  Pilate said to the chief priests and the multitudes, "I find no basis for a charge against this man."
5  But they insisted, saying, "He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee even to this place."
6  But when Pilate heard Galilee mentioned, he asked if the man was a Galilean.
7  When he found out that he was in Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem during those days.


Jesus had not actually opposed payment of taxes. This was a misinterpretation on their part. For Jesus merely said, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's." Mark 12:17 However, He was in fact the King of the Jews. Not to say that Caesar was also not a legitimate king. But Jesus is King of kings. What they were trying to do of course was to bring some accusation against him which Pilate would find relevant.

Interestingly enough at this point Pilate did not even find the stand Jesus had taken about being King of the Jews as a basis for charging him. More than likely he simply saw him as a dreamer - a religious man who merely had some theological differences with the religious leaders. Pilate did make  a couple of efforts of washing his hands of the matter. I don't think this was due to his sympathy for Jesus, but rather he was concerned of Jesus' popularity and didn't want the Roman government (namely himself) to unnecessarily take the blame for his death and thus by doing so incite more turmoil in his province. For even these leaders reported to him that, "He stirs up the people all over Judea." Today when confronted with the issue of Christ's death, Jews in fact blame the Romans and wash their own hands of the matter, which I think Pilate saw the religious leaders attempting to do then. So first he reckons him as somebody else's responsibility, namely Herod Antipas.

The Trial by Herod

Luke 23: (web)
8  Now when Herod saw Jesus, he was exceedingly glad, for he had wanted to see him for a long time, because he had heard many things about him. He hoped to see some miracle done by him.
9  He questioned him with many words, but he gave no answers.
10  The chief priests and the scribes stood, vehemently accusing him.
11  Herod with his soldiers humiliated him and mocked him. Dressing him in luxurious clothing, they sent him back to Pilate.
12  Herod and Pilate became friends with each other that very day, for before that they were enemies with each other.


Herod Antipas was the son of Herod the Great who ruled when Jesus was born. Herod Antipas was a man given over to being entertained. He had previously had John the Baptist's head cut off upon the request of a dancing girl who seduced him. Here Herod wanted to be entertained by a miracle. Beware of going from church to church seeking to be entertained. There are those who go from place to place with the hope of seeing a miracle. They don't seek the Lord. They simply seek an experience. Herod was such a person. In the end such people ridicule and mock Christ of the Bible along with the religious leaders who condemned him.

Notice also so far in these two trials how silent Jesus was. For it is written, "Do not speak to a fool, for he will scorn the wisdom of your words." Pr 23:9

Christ (as well as Christians) has the effect of uniting his enemies against him. Notice here that Herod and Pilate were formerly enemies. But now they had a common enemy who was even more so. Many non-Christians have conflicts with each other. But they tend to unite when opposing Christianity. Though we live in an age where the philosophy of tolerance and pluralism grows, yet just as with those who built the tower of Babel, this is not necessarily a healthy thing. As we read in Revelation in the end Christians will be the scapegoat just as Christ was.

The Trial by the Jewish Mob

Luke 23:
13  Pilate called together the chief priests and the rulers and the people,
14  and said to them, "You brought this man to me as one that perverts the people, and see, I have examined him before you, and found no basis for a charge against this man concerning those things of which you accuse him.
15  Neither has Herod, for I sent you to him, and see, nothing worthy of death has been done by him.
16  I will therefore chastise him and release him."
17  Now he had to release one prisoner to them at the feast.

18  But they all cried out together, saying, "Away with this man! Release to us Barabbas!" —
19  one who was thrown into prison for a certain revolt in the city, and for murder.
20  Then Pilate spoke to them again, wanting to release Jesus,
21  but they shouted, saying, "Crucify! Crucify him!"
22  He said to them the third time, "Why? What evil has this man done? I have found no capital crime in him. I will therefore chastise him and release him."
23  But they were urgent with loud voices, asking that he might be crucified. Their voices and the voices of the chief priests prevailed.
24  Pilate decreed that what they asked for should be done.
25  He released him who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, for whom they asked, but he delivered Jesus up to their will.

Additional Material:

Matt 27:
19  While he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent to him, saying, "Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him."

Matt 27:
24  So when Pilate saw that nothing was being gained, but rather that a disturbance was starting, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, "I am innocent of the blood of this righteous person. You see to it."
25  All the people answered, "May his blood be on us, and on our children!"

Mark 15:
7  There was one called Barabbas, bound with those who had made insurrection, men who in the insurrection had committed murder.
8  The multitude, crying aloud, began to ask him to do as he always did for them.


This idea of releasing a prisoner during Passover was something that Pilate traditionally did. In fact Mark records that "The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did." And in Luke (in KJV) it records, "For of necessity he must release one unto them at the feast." So Pilate conveniently washed his hands of the matter by leaving the decision in the hands of the crowd. Although this did not really relinquish his responsibility in the matter. Nonetheless he did at least give the appearance of trying to get Jesus released. And I think that, perhaps just as Judas was surprised at the outcome, so also things didn't turn out as Pilate has expected. For he assumed that Jesus was a popular figure with the crowds and certainly the crowds would chose Him over a murderer. Or even if they reacted as Herod had in mockery, they would simply have reckoned him a fool, but not worthy of death compared to a murderer. And we have also the testimony of Pilate's wife in the matter. If Pilate wanted to be a good terms with his wife he would have to let Jesus go. (Who says women weren't involved in politics back then?)

God had ordained this circumstance perhaps to provide a further allegory as to the purpose of Christ's death. Let's contrast Barabus with Christ. For example the name "Barabus" literally means "a son of the father".

Jesus Christ
"a son of the father" "the Son of the Father"
Committed murder while inciting a riot Falsely accused of inciting a riot
Chosen by the crowds and the religious leaders Rejected by men

There are a couple of ways of viewing Barabus. One way is to view him as simply representative of sinful man, in whose place Christ died. Another way is to view him as a sort of anti-Christ. He represents the kind of person that the world choses over Christ.

 "Let his blood be on us and on our children!" Matt 27:25 This kind of expression was not uncommon among the Jews. After fulfilling his ministry to the Jews and having been rejected, it is written of Paul,  But when the Jews opposed Paul and became abusive, he shook out his clothes in protest and said to them, "Your blood be on your own heads! I am clear of my responsibility. From now on I will go to the Gentiles." Ac 18:6 The phase "on our children" does not mean to incur the responsiblity of his death on their children. For people cannot be held responsible concerning things they have no control over. Rather they are proposing that if they are wrong, that their children would experience the effects of such a wrong decision. Of course many children today would say, "Hey! I didn't sign up for that." But it is inevitable that the effects of sin are experienced for many generations.

The meaning of "Let his blood be on us" of course is to incur responsibility for one's death. But then there is another way of viewing this expression. For "In him we have redemption through his blood" Eph 1:7 "In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness."Heb 9:22 And the redeemed will be spoken of as being those who "have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." Rev 7:14 So as Christians we actually want Jesus' blood to be upon us! And so again just as we have a contrast between Barabus and Christ, so we have a contrast between the Jews then saying, "His blood be upon us", and the Christian who say, "His blood be upon us".

NIV & WEB  used in comments
The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources Jan 29,2022