John 18:12-36, Deuteronomy 17:6, Deuteronomy 19:15, Mark 14:65
Summary: John 18:12-36 continues the story of Jesus’ journey toward the cross as He faced His enemies and an illegal trial based on false charges. What they didn’t know was that Jesus was in control and that this was part of the redemptive plan (1 Corinthians 2:7-8).
The Lord Jesus had been arrested while in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:47-56; Mark 14:43-52; Luke 22:47-53; John 18:1-11). He was being hauled off to an illegal trial on false charges. This is the beginning of an obvious plot using any means possible by the Pharisees and the other enemies of Jesus to have Him killed and eventually forgotten. What happened at this moment and afterward was nothing more than blatant injustice on display with the objective of killing God Incarnate for the sake of religious apostasy.
I can guarantee that this same contempt for the Lord Jesus is still within the hearts of unregenerate people. They are still determined to have the name of Jesus eradicated from every part of society and will use the law to attempt and achieve that objective. What the world system did not know was that their illegal and malevolent actions were under His Sovereign control so that our redemption would take place (Psalm 2:1-12; 1 Corinthians 2:7-8; Ephesians 1:4). Jesus had no reason to resist or retaliate when all of this was taking place. As God in the flesh, none of this was unexpected nor caught Him off guard. These enemies of His were, in reality, playing into His hands (Romans 5:6-11).
Jesus had been arraigned and brought before the corrupt High Priest Caiaphas, then shuffled off to the Roman governor Pontius Pilate, and then over to Herod Antipas. All of these maneuvers were examples of injustice and the raw abuse of authority (18:19-24, 28-36). What Jesus went through was blatantly illegal according to Scripture (Deuteronomy 17:6, 19:15). These religious hypocrites were not about to let God’s Word stand in the way of their objective. This was a vendetta disguised as a trial. Here are reasons why this entire set-up was illegal:
- Arrests could NOT be made at night.
- The time and date of the trial were illegal because it took place at night and on the eve of the Sabbath. This time precluded any chance for the required adjournment to the next day in case of a conviction.
- A guilty sentence could only be handed down on the day following the trial.
- The Sanhedrin was without authority to instigate charges. It was only supposed to investigate charges brought before it. In Jesus’ trial, the court itself formulated the charges.
- The charges against Jesus were changed during the trial. He was initially charged with blasphemy based on His statement that He would be able to destroy the Temple of God within three days, as well as His claim to be the Son of God. When He was brought before Pilate, the charge was that Jesus was a king and did not advocate paying taxes to the Romans. Jesus had settled that very issue within the Temple earlier in the week. Ironically, it was the Pharisees who had instigated it in the first place (Matthew 22:15-22; Mark 12:13-17; Luke 20:20-26). This is nothing more than hypocrisy on the part of His accusers.
- The requirement of two witnesses in agreement to merit the death penalty was not met according to the Law of Moses, which the Pharisees themselves claimed to obey.
- The court did not meet in the regular meeting place of the Sanhedrin as required by Jewish law. This was done to keep friendly witnesses such as Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea out of the process.
- Jesus was not permitted a defense. Under Jewish law, an exhaustive search into the facts presented by the witnesses should have occurred. The Sanhedrin pronounced a death sentence upon Jesus, which was a violation of Roman law (John 18:31).
In listing these violations of basic legal procedures, it reminds me of the courtroom scene in the classic film “To Kill a Mockingbird” in which the defendant, Tom Robinson, who is black, had been accused of molesting a white girl who happens to be the mentally deficient daughter of the town’s biggest racist, Mr. Jordan.
Tom was brought up on false accusations that had no sustaining evidence, plus the fact that his right arm was useless due to an accident; therefore, he could not have done the things for which he had been accused. His defense attorney, Atticus Finch, took the case because this incident took place in the 1930s South, which was rampant with racism and blatant hatred against the black community, and Atticus knew that Tom would not get a fair trial. Yet, Finch took the case and delivered a closing argument that proved beyond a reasonable doubt that Tom was innocent of the charges. The jury still found Tom guilty, and eventually he was killed while trying to run from the officials who were to “escort” him to prison but were going to have him lynched in reality.
Tom would have never received a fair trial no matter who assisted him legally. The scene ends where Atticus packs his briefcase and leaves the empty courtroom. The black citizens of the town, led by the local preacher, sat silently in the balcony after the verdict had been reached. As Atticus left, all of them stood quietly in a show of respect for the white lawyer who did his best to prevent an obvious case of injustice. Atticus’ children, Jim and Jean Louise, had been sitting with them. Jim stands while Jean Louise is still in her seat. The preacher tells her, “Miss Jean Louise, stand up… your father is walking by.” It is one of the most moving scenes in film and a great demonstration of standing for what is right even in the face of what seems to be hopelessness.
There was no Atticus Finch to stand by our Lord during this dark time in history and what appeared to be a case based on a hopeless outcome for Him. There was no plea before a jury to decide the verdict fairly or objectively. The court had made up its mind that they were going to have Jesus murdered and forgotten. Yet, after all of the drama of the cross had been achieved, it would be Jesus Himself who would enter the gates of heaven, triumphant and victorious, and the hosts of glory who stood and said, “Our Redeemer is walking by.”
One great day, we who have come to the Redeemer for salvation and mercy will join them in saying the exact same cry of joy, praise, and thanksgiving. Make sure you are there to join us.
Donald was born and reared in the authentic “Cajun Country” of southern Louisiana. He is a graduate of Louisiana College (B.A. in History Education/ Biblical Studies, 1984), New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (M.Div. In Christian Education, 1994), and Andersonville Baptist Seminary (Doctor of Ministry, Biblical Exposition, 2000). He has been in the Gospel ministry since 1986, serving as an evangelist, interim and supply pastor, hospital and rescue mission chaplain, high school and college teacher, and pastor in churches in Louisiana and Oklahoma.
In 2018 he began to devote his time to the rich field of internet and social media evangelism and outreach. In 2021 he became a member of the Oklahoma Conference of Southern Baptist Evangelists, using his skills as a writer to contribute articles and sermons to websites such as Rapture Ready, Sermon Central, and Inspirational Christian Blogs. He also writes Bible studies and curricula for churches in southeast and central Asia and Africa, the locations of which are anonymous. He can be contacted at: email@example.com for inquiries, information, and speaking/preaching engagements. A copy of his resume is also available upon request.