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Luke 22:66-23:25 – Jesus on Trial

Summary

Jesus is interrogated by a council of the leading Jewish religious officials. After appearing before the Roman Governor and the Roman-appointed ruler of Galilee, Jesus is handed off to be executed.

Analysis

Luke's account of the prosecution of Jesus unfolds differently from the accounts in other Gospels. By looking at Luke in comparison with Mark and Matthew, several distinctive aspects of Luke's story stand out:

  • Jesus does not appear before the Jewish assembly until day comes (22:66).
  • The Jewish assembly does not issue a condemnation or verdict. The events of 22:66-71 look like a fact-finding hearing.
  • The Jewish leaders who accuse Jesus before Pilate issue specific accusations about how he threatens the Roman Empire (23:2, 4-5).
  • Pilate sends Jesus to Herod Antipas (23:6-16).
  • The narrator states that Pilate desires to release Jesus (23:20).
  • Pilate never clearly condemns Jesus. He capitulates to the crowd (23:23-25).


Taking these differences into account, it becomes clear that the Gospel according to Luke presents a legal process that looks a little less predetermined than what Mark and Matthew describe. Those two Gospels describe justice perverted. By contrast, Luke suggests that Jesus receives a fair trial and that no one is able to find a good reason to declare him guilty. This Gospel, then, describes justice overwhelmed. Luke accentuates Jesus' innocence, the guilt of his most ardent opponents (members of the Jewish leadership), and Pilate's inability to do what is right.

Other historical sources tell that Pilate had a reputation for ruthlessness and that crucifixion at this time was a punishment carried out only by the Roman government, usually for those condemned of crimes against the Empire. It is possible that Luke amplifies the role that certain Jewish leaders play in Jesus' trial in an attempt to make Jesus look less like an enemy of the Empire or an outlaw. This would, of course, be important for Christians' ability to survive in the Roman world. Nevertheless, Luke's trial account still indicates that Jesus' execution is the desire of many; since no one acts to thwart the crucifixion, responsibility is widely shared.

Luke 22:66-23:25

Jesus before the Council

66 When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people, both chief priests and scribes, gathered together, and they brought him to their council. 67They said, ‘If you are the Messiah,* tell us.’ He replied, ‘If I tell you, you will not believe; 68and if I question you, you will not answer. 69But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.’ 70All of them asked, ‘Are you, then, the Son of God?’ He said to them, ‘You say that I am.’ 71Then they said, ‘What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips!’

Jesus before Pilate

23Then the assembly rose as a body and brought Jesus* before Pilate. 2They began to accuse him, saying, ‘We found this man perverting our nation, forbidding us to pay taxes to the emperor, and saying that he himself is the Messiah, a king.’* 3Then Pilate asked him, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ He answered, ‘You say so.’ 4Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, ‘I find no basis for an accusation against this man.’ 5But they were insistent and said, ‘He stirs up the people by teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to this place.’

Jesus before Herod

6 When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. 7And when he learned that he was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him off to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. 8When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had been wanting to see him for a long time, because he had heard about him and was hoping to see him perform some sign. 9He questioned him at some length, but Jesus* gave him no answer. 10The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. 11Even Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him; then he put an elegant robe on him, and sent him back to Pilate. 12That same day Herod and Pilate became friends with each other; before this they had been enemies.

Jesus Sentenced to Death

13 Pilate then called together the chief priests, the leaders, and the people, 14and said to them, ‘You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and here I have examined him in your presence and have not found this man guilty of any of your charges against him. 15Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us. Indeed, he has done nothing to deserve death. 16I will therefore have him flogged and release him.’*

18 Then they all shouted out together, ‘Away with this fellow! Release Barabbas for us!’ 19(This was a man who had been put in prison for an insurrection that had taken place in the city, and for murder.) 20Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again; 21but they kept shouting, ‘Crucify, crucify him!’ 22A third time he said to them, ‘Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no ground for the sentence of death; I will therefore have him flogged and then release him.’ 23But they kept urgently demanding with loud shouts that he should be crucified; and their voices prevailed. 24So Pilate gave his verdict that their demand should be granted. 25He released the man they asked for, the one who had been put in prison for insurrection and murder, and he handed Jesus over as they wished.

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10 February 2011

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