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Newswatch Newsletter for February 2012

By David J. Smith
February 14, 2012

The events leading to the trial and crucifixion of Jesus were power-packed. Not all is recorded in the Bible that took place that day. The Roman soldiers ultimately crucified Jesus on the Hill of Golgotha, a place reserved for the meanest of criminals. The Sadducean leaders of the Jewish Sanhedrin and the Roman Procurator of the Province of Palestine hoped to rid themselves of the great disturbing religious influence that surrounded Jesus which challenged their authority.

Jesus’ ultimate death in 31 A.D. on Passover day was the crowning jewel in His sacrifice for the sins of the world. However, there was a man, mentioned but fleetingly in Scripture that history bears out became the most important character in the rescue of the “saints” in Jerusalem from the horrible persecution that was to follow Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Ancient documents that were carefully preserved, and others recently recovered from the dusty, long-forgotten archives that refer to the year of Jesus’ crucifixion and the next few years, record this silent figure as having been cast upon the seas with a faithful few companions by their enemies. They were in an open boat without sails or oars, on an ebbing tide which they drifted far from the shores of their Judean homeland – never to return (J.W. Taylor, The Coming of the Saints, pp.126-127, pub. in England).

In order to grasp the significant and historical importance of this silent, behind the scenes person, we must retrace the footsteps of history and examine more closely the soul-stirring events that began with the accursed kiss of Judas in the Garden of Gethsemane, then the aftermath of the Crucifixion. In retracing our steps we cannot help but find a revolting series of extra legal actions that allowed the arrest of Christ and His death.

On that dark night in the torch-lit garden, it didn’t need the pointing finger of Judas, or his betraying kiss, to identify Christ. Jesus pre-emptied the traitor by calmly walking to meet the guards and asking them if He was the one they were seeking. Undoubtedly, the soldiers knew Jesus by sight, but the law required a civilian to make the identity for the arrest to be made. For this historic act of betrayal, Judas was paid thirty pieces of silver by the Sanhedrin.

Contrary to popular belief, the Roman guards did not make the arrest. It was executed by the priest’s guard upon the authority of the Sanhedrin. The arrest was illegal. The Sanhedrin did not have the authority to arrest a citizen. The power of arrest belonged exclusively to the Roman court which then ruled over Judea. Any arrest of a private citizen could only be carried out by the Roman guard on orders issued by Roman authority upon recognition of a legitimate complaint.

Some have thought that the Jews were a powerful people whom the Roman authorities feared. This was far from the truth. The Jews were subjects of the Roman State and looked upon with the contempt and scorn that a dictatorship reserves for its subjects.

The extra legal practices of Caiaphas revealed the desperate position in which the Sanhedrin found itself. They could not have succeeded without one of two circumstances. One, the Sanhedrin viewed their own situation with great insecurity because of Christ’s popularity with the people, who loved His teachings. They were desperate to maintain their position as rulers in the religious circles and risked all to that end. Second, these extra legal activities could only have been used successfully if Caiaphas had some damaging secret political information to hold over the Roman governor that guaranteed he would not retaliate against them.

The tall, stately Christ was led into the crowded assembly of the Sanhedrin to face His arch-enemies, Caiaphas and his father-in-law Annas who was reigning High Priest of Judaism. Never before or since has a court trial been charged with such conflicting emotion. Hate, in all its seething virulence, spewed its evil venom upon the tension filled assembly room. It would be sure agony for anyone who challenged the predetermined decision of the Sadducees. The hatred was so intense that, surely, anyone could see that, if they stood in defense of Jesus called the Christ, they were DOOMED.

It was always believed that Jesus was only surrounded by enemies at that strange midnight trial, but recent findings prove that He was not alone in that assembly. Jesus was surrounded by a vengeful, hostile group who sought His total extinction is true, but the brilliant battle by the defense against these demands for extinction have never been properly reported. Because of recently found documents, we know the trial for Jesus’ life was fought on the floor of the Sanhedrin with all the stormy violence of a prejudiced fury on the one side AND the granite uncompromising courage of the defense by men who knew that by the very act of their challenge they had signed and sealed their own death warrant (Gospel of Nicodemus; George F. Jowett, The Drama of the Lost Disciples, pp. 11-13).

The prosecution of Jesus was led by men of great intelligence and also employed “false witnesses” to guarantee the “politically and religiously correct” outcome of the trial. One of the zealous Sanhedrin members trying to stamp out Jesus’ name was Saul of Tarsus. He later became the Apostle to the Gentiles – Paul.

Throughout the proceedings, Jesus remained unperturbed, serene in His righteousness. He offered no defense to save Himself. He affirmed His calm status before friend and foe alike, knowing beforehand that He was destined to die. The vote was cast and the defense was triumphant. Out of the seventy-one legislative members of the Sanhedrin, FORTY voted for dismissal of the case and the freedom of Jesus. Joseph of Arimathea led the defense. Caiaphas played a trump card by accusing Jesus of treason. He demanded that Jesus be tried before Pontius Pilate, the Roman Procurator of the Roman Province of Palestine. Jesus had to die for our sins.

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