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Jesus, Trial by Sanhedrin


According to the Jewish law and traditions, the following violations happened in the trial of Jesus.

(1) Trial at night was illegal: The Jewish authorities did the trial of Jesus illegitimately at night in front of the high priests and their favorite members of the Sanhedrin. Caiaphas was the official high priest during the trial of Jesus. Annas, who was the former high priest and father-in-law of Caiaphas, was the president of Sanhedrin. Though Sanhedrin was not supposed to meet at night, the high priests went out of the way to meet the Sanhedrin at night because they were in a hurry to crucify Jesus.

(2) The location of the trail was wrong: The Sanhedrin met for the trial of Jesus at the high priest’s house (Mt 26:58), instead of the chamber in the inner court of the Temple. The Sanhedrin had to pass the death sentence near the altar to assure justice and to confirm its acceptability to God.

(3) The Sanhedrin had prejudice against Jesus, and they had only false witnesses: Most members of the Sanhedrin had in mind capital punishment for Jesus before the trial. They were struggling to get enough proof of their false accusations against Jesus. They were unsuccessful in getting two witnesses that would agree in testimony. When the false witnesses failed, “the high priest asked him and said to him, ‘Are you the Messiah, the son of the Blessed One?’ Then Jesus answered, ‘I am; and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power and coming with the clouds of heaven’” (Mk 14:61-62). Only based on this statement of Jesus, the Sanhedrin accused blasphemy of Jesus. Such questioning of the culprit in the Sanhedrin was illegal.

(4) Crucifixion was not the punishment for blasphemy: The regular punishment for blasphemy was death by stoning (Lev 24:10-16). However, the Sanhedrin wanted the most painful crucifixion for Jesus. This was to fulfill the Old Testament symbol of the bronze serpent raised on a pole for saving sinners’ lives and to fulfill Jesus’ prophecy that he would be exalted (Jn 3:14; 12:32–33). Hence, the judgment of crucifixion was false, even if Jesus was guilty of blasphemy.

(5) The Sanhedrin did not take enough time for the judgment: A death sentence could not be pronounced within one day. The Sanhedrin was supposed to sleep over it one night and reconsider the decision before the sentence was finalized. This did not happen in Jesus’s case.


The time, place, procedure of the trial, and the punishment they opted were illegal. The hatred and prejudice can lead us to unjust decisions and judgment against others in the family or in the community. Like Jesus, who came not to judge but to save, let us be saviors of others who are in trouble. The second coming of Christ will be only for judgment and reward for the righteous.


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