Jesus: Why Do We Hate Him? [Part 3 of 4]

It is here, at this trial, that Jesus is condemned and ultimately rejected by the Pharisees. The account that most scholars like to base their study off of seems to be in Mark 14:53-65, the earliest text on it, and so this study will also look at the details of it.

First of all, an ironic set of happenings characterize this event, because neither are the Hebrew Scriptures, nor the Mishnah (being still in unwritten form) followed, while they accuse Him of distorting Scripture. It can be seen, as Darrell Bock puts forth, that this “capital trial” went against the direct teachings of the Mishnah (190; Neusner, The Mishnah: A New Translation 589-90). When dealing with a crime deserving death, the trials were: to take more than one day, to not let the defendant be charged on that day, to not be on a Sabbath or a Feast day, to not take place in the house of the High Priest but at a public council (607-8), and lastly to let the defendant speak at the introduction to the trial. None of these happened during the trial that condemned Jesus by the standards of Jewish Law, as the Sanhedrin interpreted it. Also, in this specific case, the accusation was blasphemy, so the defendant could only be accused if he used the divine name as blasphemy (597-98).

The simple and profound reading of Mark 14 shows that none of these things were done by the rulers of Israel as they condemned Jesus. He was accused, charged, and condemned in the same morning, before sunrise, while it all happened on a Feast day, being the Passover (John 18:28). John also tells us that the events happened in the house of the High Priest, Caiaphas (John 18:15), and no Gospel records show Jesus having the opportunity to give a defense before the Sanhedrin (Paul, in contrast, was always given this opportunity).

The question then must come: why would the Jewish leaders choose here to overstep the rules for a just trial to condemn Jesus on such short notice? First of all, the Jewish leaders were clearly fearful of the hordes of people who saw Jesus as the Messiah (e.g. Matthew 21:7-10). Luke 22:2 also attests to this, showing the anxiety of the Jewish leaders before Jesus’ arrest: “[t]he chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put [Jesus] to death, for they feared the people.” They feared the people, because the mob was fickle and seemed to love Jesus. This Galilean was growing in popularity, and it was becoming a burden on them, because they could not oppose Him with words, as shown before. But to their minds He was deceiving the people to believe Him, for they proclaimed Him as the Messiah, and they saw Him as even more dangerous because He proclaimed Himself as God incarnate (e.g. Mark 2:1-11). The Jewish leaders also feared losing the limited authority that Rome had given them because of the unrest that Jesus was creating (John 11:47-53), for people were starting to believe in Him as the Messiah, that is, the political ruler who would come and take away the oppression of the Romans (Klinghoffer 84).

Putting these parts together, the trial of Mark seems to make more sense, for scholars disagree greatly as to why Jesus was condemned at this trial. It can be argued, from a standpoint of context, that it was not one answer by Jesus that had Him condemned and later crucified through the Romans. Jesus had been doggedly pursued across Judea by many rabbis and many had ample opportunity to listen to Him and hear His ‘blasphemous’ sayings. This must be made clear, because there is such discussion over the following passage:

Now the chief priests and the whole Council were seeking testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but they found none. For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree. And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying, “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’” Yet even about this their testimony did not agree. And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need? You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death. (Mark 14:55-64)

The basis of the debate, as to why Jesus was rejected by the Jewish leaders, rides for many on Jesus’ only recorded answer. While it will be shown that this answer was indeed blasphemy, as the Sanhedrin (called “Council” by Mark) understood it, notice must also be given to the context of Jesus’ ministry prior to this, as shown previously in this work.

Darrell Bock, a key source on this specific passage, says that this trial did not fit the legal requirements of Jewish capital trials because it was a preliminary hearing, as Rome would have to make the decision to have Jesus killed (191). This fits the evidence much better, because, as shown before, the Sanhedrin did not meet according to their laws for capital trials, although this does not mean they were right in doing it secretly and biasedly (194-97). Suddenly the passage starts to come together logically, because if the Jews could condemn Jesus to death in this trial, why would they look for witness about His claim to destroy the temple (Mark 14:58)? John 18:31 tells us that the Jews could not execute capital punishment on anyone, having lost the ability to Rome. Therefore it was important for the Sanhedrin to find crimes by Jesus that Pilate would accept as deserving death. A destruction of Herod’s temple, a massive undertaking, would perhaps in part entitle such a sentence (193). The second accusation would be to show Jesus as rebel, wanting to raise a Jewish revolt against Rome (194).

This proves true when Christ is handed over to Pilate. The Sanhedrin, seemingly, take time to convince him of crimes Jesus was committing against Rome; after this John tells us that:

…Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” (John 18:33-35)

A very perplexed Roman authority is now portrayed in the Gospels, as he knows better than to trust the schemes of the Sanhedrin, but cannot trust the dirty criminal before him. This frustration is described by the writers, as Pilate struggles to make the decision on this Friday morning. Finally he gives up, letting the Jewish leaders have their way over the crimes of this seemingly petty criminal (Matthew 27:24).

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