Jesus’ Life and Ministry
Before the Sanhedrin, Then to Pilate
THE night is drawing to a close. Peter has denied Jesus for the third time, and the members of the Sanhedrin have finished with their mock trial and have dispersed. However, they meet again Friday morning as soon as it becomes dawn, this time at their Sanhedrin Hall. Their purpose likely is to give some appearance of legality to the night trial. When Jesus is brought before them, they say, as they did during the night: “If you are the Christ, tell us.”
“Even if I told you, you would not believe it,” Jesus answers. “Moreover, if I questioned you, you would not answer.” However, Jesus courageously points to his identity, saying: “From now on the Son of man will be sitting at the powerful right hand of God.”
“Are you, therefore, the Son of God?” they all want to know.
“You yourselves are saying that I am,” Jesus replies.
For these men intent on murder, this answer is sufficient. They consider it blasphemy. “Why do we need further witness?” they ask. “For we ourselves have heard it out of his own mouth.” So they bind Jesus, lead him away, and hand him over to the Roman governor Pontius Pilate.
Judas, Jesus’ betrayer, has been observing the proceedings. When he sees that Jesus has been condemned, he feels remorse. So he goes to the chief priests and older men to return the 30 pieces of silver, explaining: “I sinned when I betrayed righteous blood.”
“What is that to us? You must see to that!” they heartlessly reply. So Judas throws the silver pieces into the temple and goes off and tries to hang himself. However, the branch to which Judas ties the rope apparently breaks, and his body plunges to the rocks below, where it bursts apart.
The chief priests are not sure what to do with the silver pieces. “It is not lawful to drop them into the sacred treasury,” they conclude, “because they are the price of blood.” So, after consulting together, they purchase with the money the potter’s field to bury strangers. The field thus comes to be called “Field of Blood.”
It is still early in the morning when Jesus is taken to the governor’s palace. But the Jews who have accompanied him refuse to enter because they believe that such intimacy with Gentiles will defile them. So to accommodate them, Pilate comes out. “What accusation do you bring against this man?” he asks.
“If this man were not a wrongdoer, we would not have delivered him up to you,” they answer.
Desiring to avoid involvement, Pilate responds: “Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law.”
Revealing their murderous intent, the Jews claim: “It is not lawful for us to kill anyone.” Indeed, if they killed Jesus during the Passover Festival, it would likely cause a public uproar, since many hold Jesus in high regard. But if they can get the Romans to execute him on a political charge, this will tend to absolve them of responsibility before the people.
So the religious leaders, not mentioning their earlier trial during which they condemned Jesus for blasphemy, now trump up different charges. They make the three-part accusation: “This man we found  subverting our nation and  forbidding the paying of taxes to Caesar and  saying he himself is Christ a king.”
It is the charge that Jesus claims to be a king that concerns Pilate. He, therefore, enters the palace again, calls Jesus to him, and asks: “Are you the king of the Jews?” In other words, have you broken the law by declaring yourself to be a king in opposition to Caesar?
Jesus wants to know how much Pilate already has heard about him, so he asks: “Is it of your own originality that you say this, or did others tell you about me?”
Pilate professes ignorance about him and a desire to learn the facts. “I am not a Jew, am I?” he responds. “Your own nation and the chief priests delivered you up to me. What did you do?”
Jesus in no way attempts to dodge the issue, which is that of kingship. The answer that Jesus now gives no doubt surprises Pilate. Luke 22:66–23:3; Matthew 27:1-11; Mark 15:1; John 18:28-35; Acts 1:16-20.
◆ For what purpose does the Sanhedrin meet again in the morning?
◆ How does Judas die, and what is done with the 30 pieces of silver?
◆ Why do the Jews want the Romans to kill Jesus, rather than kill him themselves as they had tried to do on earlier occasions?
◆ What charges do the Jews make against Jesus?