Luke Bible Study (Journey with Jesus)

Luke 22:63-23:25, The Trials of Jesus


The interrogation in the house of the high priest is complete. Peter has denied Jesus three times in the middle of the night while Jesus was being interrogated by the high priest. Jesus is now being held over night in the house of the high priest until the morning when the official verdict by the Sanhedrin can occur.

The Mockery (22:63-65)

While Jesus is held over for trial, there are soldiers who are standing guard over him. But it is not an easy time for Jesus. The men who are holding Jesus are mocking him as they beat him. The temple guards are punching him and making fun of him while they do so, with great cruelty. They would cover his eyes, punch him again, and then ask Jesus to prophesy and tell them who was the one who punched him that time. Who hit you that time! “And they said many other things against him, blaspheming him.” The other gospel accounts tell us that they are spitting on him while they are abusing him and mocking him. This is what is happening to Jesus as the Sanhedrin waits for the daylight to come so they can pass their verdict.

Jesus predicted these events. Earlier in Luke’s gospel we read these words from the mouth of Jesus: 31 And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. 32 For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. 33 And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” (Luke 18:31–33 ESV)

The Jewish Trial (22:63-71)

As the sun begins to rise, the Jewish leaders must quickly find charges against Jesus that will be of concern for Pilate. The charge of blasphemy against God is not enough to move Pilate to put Jesus to death. So the circumstances of the interrogation are to get Jesus to say something or admit to something worthy of the death penalty by the Roman government. So the questions go right after Jesus. “If you are the Christ, tell us.”

Jesus’ response is very simple. “If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I ask you, you will not answer.” Jesus says that he can make the claim to being the prophesied Christ, the Anointed King of God, but they will not believe it. Further, when Jesus has tried to get the Jewish leaders to answer his questions about who he is, they have repeatedly failed to give an answer. When the leaders asked by what authority Jesus was doing these things, Jesus responded with a question if John’s baptism was from heaven or from men (Luke 20:3-8). Jesus would answer them if they would answer his question. They refused to answer his question. A little later in the very same chapter Jesus asked the question how the Christ could be David’s son when in speaking about the Christ, David called him “Lord” (Luke 20:41-44). They had no answer for this question either. So Jesus makes the point to the Jewish leadership. You won’t believe me if I tell you and when I try to explain myself to you, you refuse to answer my questions. Essentially, this is a pointless trial.

But Jesus does not end it there, like he could have. He does tell the Sanhedrin who he is. Listen to what he says in verse 69, “But from now on the Son of Man shall be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” Jesus makes an enormous statement. We need to understand that only God sits in heaven according to Jewish thinking. So for Jesus to claim to be the Son of Man seated at the right hand of God means only one thing: Jesus is God.

Jesus uses two prophetic texts in his answer to the Sanhedrin. The first text comes from Daniel 7:14 and the second text comes from Psalm 110. Daniel 7 pictures the Son of Man coming to the Ancient of Days and receiving power, glory, dominion, and a kingdom. This is what it means to sit down at the right hand of God. It is a figure for rule. We see this in the imagery of Psalm 110.

1 The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.” 2 The LORD sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter. Rule in the midst of your enemies! (Psalm 110:1–2 ESV)

The Sanhedrin asks if Jesus is the Anointed One. Jesus answers that there is no point telling you the answer to your question. But he tells them that he will be seated at God’s side shortly, ruling from his side. He is the Messiah, the only God. And this is how the Sanhedrin understands Jesus’ words.

“Are you the Son of God, then?” That is exactly what Jesus said, but they want Jesus to say the words precisely so as to condemn him to Pilate. They recognize Jesus’ claim of divine power. So Jesus gives them a mild affirmation. The NASB reading, “Yes, I am” is too strong and is not the force of Jesus’ words. The NKJV inserts the word “rightly” which should not be there. Jesus is not making it easy for the Sanhedrin. Jesus does not deny the charge. And if Jesus is not God this is the very moment to deny the charge and get out of this situation. Jesus does not deny the charge. Rather, he gives a mild affirmation, “You say that I am.” Jesus is not going to give the Sanhedrin what they want to hear to make it easy for them to dismiss him and hand him over to Pilate. So the scene is something like this:

Sanhedrin: “Are you the Christ?”

Jesus: “There is no point in answering you. If I tell you, you won’t believe and I’ve tried to explain it before but you would not answer my questions. However, you will see me ruling at the right hand of God as the Messiah King.”

Sanhedrin: “So you are God, then?”

Jesus: “You said it.”

So this is all they want to hear. They have heard blasphemy from his lips and the claim to be the Messiah King. They will try to have Jesus killed based on his own words.

Pilate’s Trial (23:1-5)

The Sanhedrin now escorts Jesus to Pilate. Notice the three charges that the Jewish leaders lay against Jesus. The charge is not blasphemy because that is not relevant to Rome. So here are the charges they have come up with to get Jesus killed by Pilate.

  1. Jesus is misleading our nation. They are suggesting with this accusation that Jesus is disturbing the peace as a religious agitator.
  2. Jesus forbids us to give tribute to Caesar. In our study of Luke we saw that this charge is completely false (Luke 20:25). Jesus actually endorsed paying taxes. But they suggest that Jesus is bringing a financial risk to Rome.
  3. Jesus claims to be anointed, a king. They are suggesting that Jesus is a political threat.

So listen to how they have woven these three charges together. Jesus is a religious threat, a financial threat, and a political threat. Jesus is diverting finances and claiming kingship. Pilate asks Jesus is he is the King of the Jews. Notice that Pilate does not perceive Jesus to be some sort of threat to the Roman Empire. He says, “So you are the King of the Jews?” Jesus’ response is once again a mild affirmation and not a denial. “You said it.” He is King but he is not out to overthrow Rome in the way that the Jewish leaders are trying to paint Jesus.

So Pilate simply rejects their efforts. He declares to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no guilt in this man.” There is nothing that warrants their charges. Jesus is not a threat. He is harmless. The verdict is simply: no guilt in this man. But the Jewish leaders reject this answer. “He stirs up the people, teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee even to this place.” They leaders become insistent and try to paint him as a political threat. They picture him as a revolutionary, an insurrectionist. “He’s dangerous! He’s stirring up the nation!” But Pilate hears the words “from Galilee” and asks if he was a Galilean. Jesus is a Galilean and it turns out that Herod, who rules over Galilee, is in town. So Pilate decides to make Jesus Herod’s problem.

Herod’s Trial (23:6-12)

It is about a 10 minute walk from the Fortress of Antonia to Herod’s palace. Herod is happy to see Jesus because he was wanting to be entertained by Jesus. He has heard about his signs and miracles and he is hoping to see some sign done by Jesus. Jesus is simply a curiosity to Herod. So Herod questions Jesus at length, but Jesus does not give Herod any answer. The chief priest and scribes begin vehemently accusing him, trying to invoke a reaction out of Jesus. Jesus shows great restraint though be treated like a criminal. Isaiah predicted that this would be the way it would go for God’s servant who had come to save the world.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. (Isaiah 53:7 ESV)

So the mockery continues. The soldiers treat Jesus with contempt, dress him up like he is a king, and sends him back to Pilate. Pilate apparently appreciated this humor because they became friends from that day forward. So Jesus is back in Pilate’s hands and Pilate must do something with this Jesus.

Crucify Him! (23:13-25)

Pilate calls the chief priests and rulers of the Jews. Notice the repeated declared innocence of Jesus. I did not find him guilty and neither did Herod. He has done nothing deserving of death. Therefore, I will punish him and release him. This should be the end of the matter. However, they cry out for Jesus to be sent away to death and for Barabbas to be released. Now here is the irony. Barabbas was actually convicted of being an insurrectionist. The Jewish leaders tried to charge Jesus with being the same, but the verdict was not guilty for Jesus. So they wanted the murderer released to them rather than the Savior. Verse 20 reveals that Pilate is trying to release Jesus, but they keep shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!” Once again Pilate declares the innocence of Jesus and will release him. But the mob of people are insistent, demanding with loud cries for his crucifixion. And their voices prevailed. Barabbas the murderer is released. Jesus the Savior is sent away for crucifixion. The condemned is set free.

Luke identified four titles for Jesus is this text: the Christ (22:67), the Son of Man (22:69), the Son of God (22:70), and the King (23:3). The Christ, the Son of God, the King of Israel and of all creation is sent to his death. The condemned is set free. The just for the unjust (1 Peter 3:18).

Who Is Jesus To You?

Is Jesus a mere curiosity like he was for Herod? Do you approach Jesus wanting him to entertain you? Do you approach him because you want him to do something for you, rather than you do something for him? Will you stop seeking what Jesus can do for you and ask what you can do for the one who died for you? He died for you so that you would see Jesus as the Son of God that you must obey and follow.

Is Jesus a threat to your way of living, like he was for the Jewish leaders? Do you reject Jesus because you do not want to accept that believing Jesus means that you must change your life? You do not follow because it means you can’t live the way you have been living. Will you change your life for the one who died for you? He died for you so that you would see Jesus as the Son of God that you must obey and follow.

Is Jesus not worthy of your time like he was for Pilate? Pilate was dismissive of Jesus, believed he was innocent, but simply was not worthy of doing anything about. Will you be more than indifferent toward the one who died for you? He died for you so that you would see Jesus as the Son of God that you must obey and follow.

Most of us don’t want changed lives, just changed circumstances. Jesus wants to change your life.

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