THREE YEARS OF MINISTRY LEADING TO THE ARREST OF JESUS:
In the Christian gospels, the ministry of Jesus begins with his baptism in the countryside of Roman Judea and Transjordan near the river Jordan by John The Baptist, and ends in Jerusalem, following the Last Supper with his disciples. The Gospel of Luke (Luke 3:23) states that Jesus was “about 30 years of age” at the start of his ministry. A chronology of Jesus typically has the date of the start of his ministry estimated at around AD 27–29 and the end in the range AD 30–36.
Jesus’ early Galilean ministry begins when, after his baptism, he goes back to Galilee from his time in the Judean desert. In this early period he preaches around Galilee and recruits his first disciples who begin to travel with him and eventually form the core of the early Church as it is believed that the Apostles dispersed from Jerusalem to found the Apostolic Sees. The major Galilean ministry which begins in Matthew 8 includes the commissioning of the Twelve Apostles, and covers most of the ministry of Jesus in Galilee. The final Galilean ministry begins after the death of John the Baptist as Jesus prepares to go to Jerusalem.
In the later Judean ministry, Jesus starts his final journey to Jerusalem through Judea.
As Jesus travels towards Jerusalem, in the later Petrean ministry, about one third the way down from the Sea of Galilee (actually a freshwater lake) along the River Jordan, he returns to the area where he was baptized.
The final ministry in Jerusalem is sometimes called the Passion Week and begins with Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The gospels provide more details about the final ministry than the other periods, devoting about one third of their text to the last week of the life of Jesus in Jerusalem.
A TORNADO EXPLODES:
Jesus, the Christ of God, turned religious life in the Jewish world upside down. This was because of both His miraculous signs and the large public gatherings that followed Him everywhere he appeared.
The crowds were awed by the healings, the miracles with the loaves and baskets of fish on two occasions, and a presentation of Scripture in a way that the people had never previously been exposed to. Particularly, as it was not a mere recitation of Scripture, hand-in-hand with ritual and alleged piety, but was told as God had always meant it.
Truly, the Word of God came back to life!
Comment: (Jesus was re-teaching the people both the nature of God and how He should be worshiped.
God is identified as righteous and just. He is always to be reverently feared. And that, in order to do so, He was to be approached humbly and always, prayerfully.
Jesus brings to us a God who expects the laws He established to be obeyed. They are made for the benefit of man, not his detriment. They are designed to move man closer to God and establish true and humble worship.
Then he goes further, teaching the message of the reconciliation of man (not just the Jews) back to God, through the medium of Himself as Savior. This part of His teachings immediately took the attention of distractors from Orthodoxy. It was anathema to them to associate with Gentiles, let alone suggest they too might be saved.
How many of us within the bosom of long-established ‘Churchianity’ are humbled in the face of the magnificence of the buildings, the sense of majesty, the rich robes of the clergy and the wonderful stained-glass windows of biblical scenes? We are in ‘love’ with the ritual and panoply of grandeur. Drawing from it all the conclusion that, obviously, God must be in there, ‘somewhere.’
This is not the church of Jesus, the Christ of God. Yes, Jesus taught in synagogues, and He attended the great Temple in Jerusalem, but He placed no store in them any more than He did the temptations offered Him by Satan.
JESUS AS A THREAT TO ORGANIZED RELIGIOUS LIFE:
Immediately, His ministry was assessed by the Sanhedrin (as the reports came in) as a direct assault on their perks of indulgences and the existing status quo.
Equally, it posed a threat to the huge number of ever-climbing religious regulations now attached to the Torah. Since the return from Babylon, these additions to Scripture, through the oral Law of the Mishnah and the extrapolations of Talmud (allegedly creating greater clarification), had only served to oppress the people, and they also granted usurious rights and privilege to the Sanhedrin. Jesus spoke out against them. He obviously despised them.
When laws are simple, their intent is, in general, laid out in a manner as to be easily understood and obeyed. However, when you keep adding codicils to a law, it becomes not just unwieldy, but open to many interpretations (lawyers love to wallow in the bed of exception) and, of course, but difficult to understand by laymen, or common folk. Religious law is no exception.
The usual result is that people walk away from it, seeing it for the nonsense it is. In the end, even those who make the exception (Talmud, Catholic/Orthodox doctrine) don’t appear wise but ridiculous.
The ultra-religious, however, venerate not God but the Law they have rebuilt. That veneration extends particularly to ‘the allegedly’ wise sages who established the exception in their ‘holy’ deliberations. The Orthodox Jews placed such veneration in the sages of the rabbinate. They took on almost mystical overtones, attracted many students; and once their efforts were added to the Talmud, their names were linked to posterity forever.
When you interfere with the Law that God gave us, you are saying that God ‘wasn’t clear enough’ and ‘you can do better.’ This is self-adoration and establishes your own godhead.
The Sanhedrin controlled the practice of worship in the Temple at Jerusalem. In short, Jesus was teaching how to really approach God. And He taught how the people should actually interpret the Word of God. Clearly, that was not what was being taught under the auspices of the Sanhedrin.
The established religious order was both seriously alarmed and furious.
The High Priests, especially Caiaphas, represented a faction whose one desire was to be able to continue to hold Jewish religious observance within their grasp (as a sinecure of power) whilst maintaining the ‘special’ relationship several powerful family and factions had made with their Roman overlords.
Rome had little love for the Judeans. Too many years of rebellion against the empire had occurred. The Romans had learned you could not reason with the Jews because of their implacable hatred of outside rule and the control exercised by their religion.
Very quickly the Jewish sects that comprised the ruling cadre (the Sanhedrin) realized the threat to their security that Jesus had begun to pose.
I think it becomes apparent that the inner circle of the Sanhedrin decided very early on that Jesus ‘had to go and go quickly.’
There would also have been apprehension that the Procurator, Pilate, would also have heard about this ‘rabble-rouser.’ And that could have quickly escalated into him taking action against the whole religious establishment.
The Sanhedrin had good reason to understand that Pilate bore them neither love or respect. They had ‘dobbed him in’ to the Senate on several occasions for alleged religious infraction against Judaism.
Rebellion was a chief concern of the Procurators appointed to rule this rebellious province.
Follow this link to learn about the role and function of the Sanhedrin:
Follow this link to learn about the three main religious groups that impacted so unfavourably upon the ministry of Jesus:
Jesus was followed everywhere.
He was extensively questioned.
The questions were baited in such a way as to get Him to criminate Himself so the establishment could have Him labeled as a heretic and dealt with under religious law.
Infractions of the religious law, particularly matters in relation to anyone even remotely claiming a special relationship with God or interpreting Scripture differently to the form of worship proscribed by the religious class, was a serious crime. It was punishable by stoning (quoting the law of Moses in the Torah for the penalty for such offences).
We see this penalty strikingly enacted in the trial and vindictive stoning of Stephen.
Jesus did not incur this penalty. He could not have because God, the Father, had long ago decided how the sacrifice of the Paschal lamb was to take place.
Here are some references. Some biblical scholars claim there are many more.
Luke 24:44 says, “Then he said, ‘When I was with you before, I told you that everything written about me by Moses and the prophets and in the Psalms must all come true.'”
Consider these Old Testament prophecies and the New Testament fulfilment by Christ:
Born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:1; Luke 2:4-7)
Born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:21-23), as a descendant of Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3, 22:18; Matthew 1:1; Galatians 3:16), of the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10; Luke 3:23, 33; Hebrews 7:14), and of the house of David (2 Samuel 7:12-16; Matthew 1:1)
Herod killing the infants (Jeremiah 31:15; Matthew 2:16-18)
Taken to Egypt (Hosea 11:1; Matthew 2:14-15)
Heralded by the messenger of the Lord, John the Baptist (Isaiah 40:3-5; Malachi 3:1; Matthew 3:1-3)
Anointed by the Holy Spirit (Isaiah 11:2; Matthew 3:16-17)
Preached good news (Isaiah 61:1; Luke 4:14-21)
Performed miracles (Isaiah 35:5-6; Matthew 9:35)
Cleansed the Temple (Malachi 3:1; Matthew 21:12-13)
Ministered in Galilee (Isaiah 9:1; Matthew 4:12-16)
Entered Jerusalem as a king on a donkey (Zechariah 9:9; Matthew 21:4-9)
First presented Himself as King 173,880 days from the decree to rebuild Jerusalem (Daniel 9:25; Matthew 21:4-11)
Rejected by Jews (Psalm 118:22; 1 Peter 2:7)
Died a humiliating death (Psalm 22; Isaiah 53) involving:
rejection (Isaiah 53:3; John 1:10-11; 7:5,48),
betrayal by a friend (Psalm 41:9; Luke 22:3-4; John 13:18),
sold for 30 pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12; Matthew 26:14-15),
silence before His accusers (Isaiah 53:7; Matthew 27:12-14),
being mocked (Psalm 22: 7-8; Matthew 27:31),
beaten (Isaiah 52:14; Matthew 27:26),
spit upon (Isaiah 50:6; Matthew 27:30),
piercing His hands and feet (Psalm 22:16; Matthew 27:31),
being crucified with thieves (Isaiah 53:12; Matthew 27:38),
praying for His persecutors (Isaiah 53:12; Luke 23:34),
piercing His side (Zechariah 12:10; John 19:34),
given gall and vinegar to drink (Psalm 69:21, Matthew 27:34, Luke 23:36),
no broken bones (Psalm 34:20; John 19:32-36),
buried in a rich man’s tomb (Isaiah 53:9; Matthew 27:57-60),
casting lots for His garments (Psalm 22:18; John 19:23-24).
Rose from the dead! (Psalm 16:10; Mark 16:6; Acts 2:31)
Ascended into Heaven (Psalm 68:18; Acts 1:9)
Sat down at the right hand of God (Psalm 110:1; Hebrews 1:3)
Though the Sanhedrin wished to take action against Jesus, Pesach (Passover) was approaching. No member of the Sanhedrin would want to contaminate himself with the taking of a life during Passover. Hence also, a very practical reason why they wished Rome (under Procurator Pilate) to do this murderous deed on their behalf.
THE LACK OF REAL EVIDENCE OF BLASPHEMY:
They could not find anything. And all the time, because of the miracles and potency of His teaching, Jesus became more popular with the awestruck masses.
Even following his arrest after the treachery of Judas Iscariot, they were hard-put to find anyone to successfully bear witness against Him.
Finally, following the uproar Jesus occasioned when he turned the money changers and the associated con-men out of the Temple, the Sanhedrin were beside themselves with rage. However, it was specifically the report that Jesus had raised His beloved friend Lazarus from death that enraged them the most. This could have caused the Jews to rise against the Romans and proclaim Jesus as King.
It was at this time that Judas, following him absenting himself from the Commemorative Supper, (the forerunner of Holy Communion), decided to literally ‘turn Jesus in.’ Judas negotiated his treachery for 30 silver pieces.
The dye was cast; Jesus was, as He had foretold his apostles, arrested and would be tried and executed.
FOLLOWING HIS ILLEGAL ARREST, JESUS IS TAKEN BEFORE THE FORMER HIGH PRIEST ANNAS TO BE SECRETLY & ILLEGALLY INTERROGATED BEFORE BEING ILLEGALLY TRIED BY THE SANHEDRIN:
Once Jesus is arrested, He is bound like a common criminal and is led before Annas. He was the high priest when 12-year-old Jesus amazed the teachers at the temple with his knowledge of Torah (Luke 2:42, 47). His son-in-law Caiaphas now holds the position. The office of High Priest had remained within the grasp of Annas and his family for many years. Really, a ‘family’ business.
While Jesus is at the home of Annas, Caiaphas has time to assemble the Sanhedrin. That court of 71 members includes the high priest and others of the sons of Annas who had previously held that office.
Annas questions Jesus “about his disciples and about his teaching.” Jesus replies simply: “I have spoken to the world publicly. I always taught in a synagogue and in the temple, where all the Jews come together, and I said nothing in secret. Why do you question me? Question those who have heard what I told them” (John 18:19-21).
An officer standing there slaps Jesus in the face and says reprovingly: “Is that the way you answer the chief priest?” But Jesus, knowing that he has done no wrong, responds: “If I said something wrong, bear witness about the wrong; but if what I said was right, why do you hit me?” (John 18:22- 23). Annas then has Jesus taken away to his son-in-law Caiaphas.
By now, those composing the whole Sanhedrin—the current high priest, the elders of the people, and the scribes—have assembled. They meet at the home of Caiaphas. It is illegal to hold such a trial on the night of Passover, particularly wherein a death sentence might be brought down, but this does not deter them.
After Jesus resurrected Lazarus, the Sanhedrin decided that Jesus should die (John 11:47-53). And just days ago, the religious authorities conspired to seize Jesus and kill him (Matthew 26: 3-4). Even before his trial begins, Jesus is as good as condemned to death!
In addition to meeting illegally, the chief priests and others of the Sanhedrin are attempting to find witnesses who will give false evidence to build the case against Jesus. They find many, but these cannot agree as to their testimony. Finally, two come forward and claim: “We heard him say, ‘I will throw down this temple that was made with hands, and in three days I will build another not made with hands’” (Mark 14:58). Yet even these men do not fully agree.
Caiaphas asks Jesus: “Do you say nothing in reply? What is it these men are testifying against you?” Mark 14:60). Jesus remains silent in the face of this false charge made by witnesses whose stories disagree.
Caiaphas knows that the Jews are sensitive about anyone claiming to be the Son of God. Earlier, when Jesus had called God his Father, the Jews wanted to kill him because they claimed that he was “making himself equal to God” (John 5:17-18, 10:31-39). Aware of such sentiments, Caiaphas now craftily demands of Jesus: “I put you under oath by the living God to tell us whether you are the Christ, the Son of God!” (Matthew 26:63). Of course, Jesus has acknowledged being the Son of God. (John 3:18, 5:25, 11:4). If he does not do so now, that could be construed as denying that he is God’s Son and the Christ. So Jesus says: “I am; and you will see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of power and coming with the clouds of heaven” (Mark 14:62).
At this, Caiaphas rips his garments and exclaims: “He has blasphemed! What further need do we have of witnesses? See! Now you have heard the blasphemy. What is your opinion?” The Sanhedrin hand down the unjust judgment: “He deserves to die” (Matthew 26: 65-66).
Then they begin to mock Jesus and hit him with their fists. Others slap his face and spit into it. After they cover his whole face and slap him, they say sarcastically: “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?” (Luke 22:64). Here is the Son of God being treated abusively at an illegal nighttime trial!
Midnight goes by and it is the wee hours of the morning when, finally, they believe they have the evidence to condemn Him following the question put to Him about His Godhead by Caiaphas, which Jesus has answered affirmatively.
How do we know what time of day it was?
We know this because the Word tells us that it was very early in the morning when, eventually, they have Jesus literally dragged down to the Praetorium where Pontius Pilate is temporarily residing with his wife.
We know also because the cock had crowed, and three times Peter has denied his association with Jesus. We know this because Roosters invariably begin to crow as Dawn breaks the night.
This was not Procurator Pilate’s normal residence. He resided in more sumptuous accommodations on the coast at Caesarea. However, he needed to actually be in Jerusalem in case he had to call out one of the Cohorts. Some of these militarily designated groups were believed to be attached to the Antonia Fortress or encamped within easy access to Jerusalem. This was specifically because of the threats of riot by extremists during Passover.
There were Legions station in adjoining Syria but Pilate, even as Procurator, was not entitled to command a Legion because he was only of Equestrian rank.
Only Senators were of sufficient rank to command a Legion. The most likely rise in the number of Cohorts in the Fortress may have had something to do with the arrest and condemnation of Barabbas who was a known zealot rebel. A Roman military Cohort of the time contained about 88 men (down from the original hundred) under the command of a Centurion.
The Praetorium is wherever the Roman emperor, or governor who represents the emperor, is staying or headquartered, whether it be his official residence or his battlefield tent.
The Antonia Fortress then is where Pilate’s temporary Praetorium is located. It is believed to have been located adjacent to the northwest corner of the temple area, though inside the confines of Fortress Antonia.
It would appear that it was the practice of the Procurators, particularly Pilate, to be in Jerusalem during religious feasts and special commemorative dates so they could keep a judicious ‘eye’ on the ‘rebellious Jews.’
Although Judaea was ruled by the Romans, the governors there had practiced the same kind of religious tolerance as was shown to Jews in Rome. However, Roman tactlessness and inefficiency, along with famine and internal squabbles, led to a rise in Jewish discontent.
See bibleversestudy.com: John 18 “Praetorium”
The Sanhedrin literally have Pilate dragged from his bed.
Pilate did not like the Jews. I think it is very clear that he loathed them.
They had caused him much trouble with Caesar and the Senate; and, later, for additional reasons, he was recalled from his post to Rome by Tiberius Caesar, arriving back in Rome to find Tiberius himself had died in the interim.
You can well imagine his reaction to this gross and uncouth disturbance of the peace and affront to Rome’s ‘dignitas.’ As it was he who represented Rome, it was, of course, his own dignity that was insulted by this offensive behavior.
Pilate was forced to go outside to deal with them because the Jews claimed they were forbidden to enter the house of a Gentile. Also, from the accounts, it was freezing cold.
Remember, we have the biblical account of how Peter and others had gathered by fires in the yards of both houses of the priests in order to keep warm.
Pilate would have come to this meeting with those he considered a contemptable rabble, hastily robed, no breakfast and cold. He would have been very angry indeed. And no doubt his Praetorium accommodation at the garrison was nowhere near as luxurious as his seaside villa at Caesarea.
Those of you who wish to get a further insight into this should follow this link:
When Jesus was arrested, according to Luke 23, Pilate, the Roman procurator of Judaea, having taken Jesus inside the Praetorium, questioned Him privately. Pilate then sent Him to Herod Antipas, Tetrarch of Galilee (Luke 23:6-12) who was spending Passover in the capital. The reason behind this move was because Jesus came from Antipas’ realm. (Luke alone records that Jesus was sent to Herod Antipas. John does not).
Pilate appears to have been attempting to palm the matter off from his own jurisdiction if he could to avoid involvement.
Herod questioned Jesus, hoping that He would perform some sort of miracle in his presence. Jesus, knowing the soul of this man, would not. The Tetrarch soon returned him to Pilate, unwilling to pass judgment. It was obviously a religious matter, and Herod Antipas was not a Jew.
Follow this link to learn about Herold Antipater (called Antipas):
Every time there was a major confrontation with the Jews, particularly in Jerusalem, it seems to have ended with the Jews making charges against Pilate, and him coming off bested during the conduct of the subsequent Inquiry in Rome.
Pontius Pilate would have wanted involvement in the matter of Jesus like the proverbial ‘hole in your head.’
Taken back to Pilate, we become aware that Pilate’s wife had had a bad dream about Jesus, and she reportedly begs Pilate not to condemn this ‘righteous’ man (John 18:28-38, 19:1-16).
What comes through to me is that the longer the inquisition before Pilate goes on, the more troubled the Procurator becomes. He has had a discussion with Jesus in which He clearly admits that He is a King.
ROMAN RELIGIOUS BELIEFS:
Romans may have been a cosmopolitan and cynical lot, but like everyone else, they were religious, and the State maintained an official plethora of gods. I get the impression that Pilate (particularly after hearing of his Wife’s dream about not condemning Jesus because He was a righteous man) was now clearly perturbed. (‘Maybe the gods were involved?)
From his own interrogation and listening to the Jews, he knew this to be a matter of religion that (in his mind) they should have settled amongst themselves. Yet now he had reason to believe that civil strife was at hand. One could imagine the apprehension of the Romans that matters could swiftly escalate beyond control into yet another spontaneous rebellion.
Now, gathered outside his Praetorium is an obviously growing crowd of enraged fanatics plus the irate priesthood who have taken up position, standing directly outside. They are becoming increasingly disturbed as time goes on. They need to quickly coerce Pilate into sentencing Jesus to death and having sentence carried out before Pesach begins.
However, I do imagine that some of those who had followed Jesus were also present.
Pilate goes outside again to tell them he has found no fault in Jesus and asks them if they want him to release ‘the King of the Jews’ into their custody.
They scream out, ‘release Barabbas!’
Pilate, no doubt, senses that the mood of the crowd is now clearly dangerous. That the Sanhedrin had agitators haranguing the crowd is validated by what the shouts are demanding.
An out of control mob never gets there on their own volition. Hence the term ‘rabble rousers.’ Agitators are those who get the ‘pot’ boiling and keep it going until it overflows with violence. Today, we call them anarchists.
Pilate has Jesus taken back inside his Praetorium. On that basis, it seems more correct to assume the scourging sentence is to be carried out in the Fortress itself. Certainly, I would consider it unlikely that this bloody affair would be carried out in Pilate’s private quarters.
(The scourging will be discussed separately in Part IV).
After that awful scourging has been carried out, the soldiers twist a crown of thorns and force it down on Jesus’ head (a sign of contempt for His claim of kingship). They follow it up by throwing a purple robe on Him and then begin to taunt Him:
‘Ave, rex Iudaeorum’ (Hail, King of the Jews).
So, the formal beginning of sentencing has begun with the process called ‘Scourging’ about to be carried out. When the ordeal is, by order, finished, Jesus is again dragged outside. Sentence by crucifixion is pronounced, and He is led away.
EMERGENT CHURCHIANITY: PART IV (Sentence Is Exacted)