Justice turned a blind eye in Jerusalem that day. The tabloids would have torn the story apart but only the Jewish priests and Roman police knew what was happening Friday morning between midnight and 8 a.m.
Plot: From Gethsemane, a garrison of soldiers led Jesus through the empty streets to Annas’ house (midnight), then to Caiaphas (1 a.m.), then to the Sanhedrin (early morning), then to Pilate (before 6 a.m.), then to Herod Antipas (7 a.m.), then to Pilate (8 a.m.) then to the Cross (9 a.m.).
Cast of Characters:
Annas: The master puppeteer. That Jesus is brought first to Annas, the former High Priest, hints at who ordered the lynch mob. Annas hoped to intimidate Jesus but Jesus wouldn’t have it.
Verdict: The guards beat Jesus for showing disrespect. Annas sends Jesus to Caiaphas (his son-in-law.)
Caiaphas: The profiteer. Jesus threatened the highly lucrative temple business Caiaphas ran with the Sanhedrin and threatened the peace he needed to maintain to keep Rome out of his business.
Verdict: Jesus declared guilty of blasphemy.
The Sanhedrin: Religious dinner theatre. The court held to try Jesus had more drama than late night. But Jesus on the stand stayed silent as a lamb until they asked Him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of God?” His answer, “yes,” sealed the verdict.
Verdict: Jesus declared guilty of blasphemy but sent to Roman court for political treason.
Pilate: Professional politician. Pilate had no skin in this game the Jewish leaders wielded against the Galilean prophet. His instinct said the accused was innocent. But he couldn’t afford the consequences if he didn’t play along. Since Herod Antipas, tetrarch over Galilee, was in town for Passover, Pilate sent Jesus to him as an olive branch.
Verdict: Jesus declared innocent but sent to Herod Agrippa to judge.
Herod Antipas: Sly opportunist. Antipas’ father was Herod the Great (the one who killed the babies in the Christmas story). Like father like son, Herod Antipas recently beheaded Jesus’ cousin, John the Baptist. Herod, who Jesus once called “the fox” (slamming Herod’s masculinity), was glad to finally meet the the miracle-worker of Galilee. He commanded his prisoner to do a miracle. You can guess how that turned out.
Verdict: Jesus mistreated and mocked; Herod made no decision but sent Jesus back to Pilate.
Pilate: When Jesus came back, cruelly roughed up, Pilate thought of a new way out: release Jesus as the annual Passover-pardoned prisoner. The Sanhedrin overruled him, “Not Jesus—release Barabbas, the murderer.” Then Pilate tried to get the crowd’s sympathy. He had Jesus stripped naked, tied to a post and scourged—a technique designed to come just short of killing the strongest man. Pilate presents Jesus to the crowd, hoping now for their mercy. Instead they cry, “Crucify Him.” In a thinly veiled threat, the Sanhedrin demand Jesus’ death and Pilate sees it’s either him or Jesus. “Let Him be crucified then,” and Pilate washes his hands of the whole thing.
Verdict: Jesus declared innocent but overruled by a mob.
At first light, the curtain rises on the greatest rescue plan since time began. Jesus, aware of these trials’ scam, kept entrusting Himself to His Father who judges all things justly. A model for us all in a day when miscarried justice and political trickery are frequent headlines.