Luke 22:66-23:25 – Jesus on Trial
SummaryJesus 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.
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.