The Roman Trial Part One

John 18:28-32

The only common elements between the Jewish trial and Roman trial are the accusers and the accused. The reason for the two trials is that the Jewish court had lost the power to administer the death penalty by the first Christian century. Because the Jewish leaders sought the death penalty, they had to turn Jesus over to the Roman government in order to full this desire. Jesus had two verdicts against Him.

This brings to light the unique and fascinating situation. In this one instance Jesus was tried, on the one hand by a court of heaven. This trial sought to apply the revealed law of God. On the other hand, by a court of man is seeking to apply what is generally thought to be the most highly developed form of law we know.

It is probable that the most humane system of law was the Jewish trial. Jewish respect for human life was high. It was practically impossible to execute a person under the jurisdiction of a Hebrew court. Roman law was excellent. It was comprehensive in coverage, and its systemization of formal statues, elaboration of court procedures, and the adding of penalties.

Once again, Walter Chandler summarizes the issue concerning Jesus in the following manner: “Jesus was arraigned in one day, in one city, before the sovereign courts of the universe; before the Sanhedrin, the supreme tribunal of a divinely commissioned race; before the court of the Roman Empire that determined the legal and political rights of men throughout the known world. The Nazarene stood charged with blasphemy and with treason against the enthroned monarchs represented by these courts; blasphemy against Jehovah who, from the lightning-lit summit of Sinai, proclaimed his laws to mankind; treason against Caesar, enthroned and uttering his will to the world amidst the pomp and splendor of Rome.” This is a mouthful to say the least! History records no other trials like these. [Chandler, Trial of Jesus, vol. 2, 6-7]

It would seem that the trial before Pilate would be simpler than the Jewish trial. This is not the case at all. The Hebrew trial has its own puzzling elements. The question that arises from this trial is one of rejection by His people. They had in their possession the scriptures concerning the prophecies about Jesus. The rejection is understandable. He was hated because He revealed the leaders’ sin. Pilate did not hate Jesus. Pilate respected Jesus. He was acquitted by Pilate. Pilate pronounced Jesus as innocent. Nevertheless, he eventually turned Jesus over to be crucified.

Frank Morison has rightly said, “We do not get rid of the mystery of Christ when we bring Him to the Roman bar; we increase it tenfold.” [Morison, Who Moved the Stone?, 43]

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