“No greater scandal could exist than the calculated murder of an innocent human life.” So states the inside cover of John MacArthur’s book, The Murder of Jesus, and so opens an inquiry into the most dastardly, prejudiced, sham of a trial ever perpetrated on a single human—the trial of Jesus Christ.
The sole intent of this article is to show that even a casual first-century observer could determine that the trial of Jesus was illegal, and that the verdict obtained should have been dismissed as a product of such.
First, consider the fact that several of the witnesses brought to the trial were verifiably false. Mark stated that “many bore false witness against Him [Jesus—KB], but their testimonies did not agree” (14:56). In Deuteronomy 19:16-19, God clearly denoted what should be done to any false witness whose testimony proved to be fabricated.
If a false witness rises against any man to testify against him of wrongdoing, then both men in the controversy shall stand before the Lord, before the priests and the judges who serve in those days. And the judges shall make careful inquiry, and indeed, if the witness is a false witness, who has testified falsely against his brother, then you shall do to him as he thought to have done to his brother; so you shall put away the evil from among you.
However, it is evident that no inquiry was made into the false nature of the witnesses’ reports. Neither was any judgment meted out in punishment for their disobedience to the ninth commandment found in Exodus 20:16: “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”
Second, reflect on the fact that Jesus was not even sentenced based on the testimony of any witnesses. Instead, the high priest constrained the accused to testify against Himself (Matthew 26:63). Moses explicitly forbade any such course of action: “Whoever is deserving of death shall be put to death on the testimony of two or three witnesses; he shall not be put to death on the testimony of one witness” (Deuteronomy 17:6).
Following Jesus’ admission that He was the Son of God, the high priest committed another illicit act. Matthew’s account detailed that “the high priest tore his clothes, saying, ‘He has spoken blasphemy! What further need do we have of witnesses?’” (Matthew 26:65). Yet Leviticus 21:10 unambiguously forbade the high priest to tear his clothes: “He who is the high priest among his brethren, on whose head the anointing oil was poured and who is consecrated to wear the garments, shall not uncover his head nor tear his clothes.” The text of Leviticus goes on to say that the high priest could not even tear his clothes in mourning over his father or his mother. Caiaphas should have been censured on the spot, and the illegal trial of Jesus should have been abandoned immediately.
The sad truth of the matter is that no one in the court cared whether the trial was legal or not, and even if some did care, they lacked the courage to stand up for the truth. Jesus was captured by a traitor, sentenced by wicked, immoral judges, and murdered as a result of false charges. His death stands as a constant reminder that “all it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” Let us resolve never to be a part, whether active or passive, in such a miscarriage of justice. And let us further resolve to stand at the side of Jesus defending Him against a wicked and perverse generation until He comes again.