Trial before the High Priest


Trial before the High Priest

Gospel text    14:53-65

Jesus was taken to a trial before the whole Sanhedrin (Jewish council) led by the High Priest.  They were trying to find evidence to put him to death.  People made up lies and could not get their stories to agree.  They told a lie that Jesus had said he would tear down the Temple and build another one in three days but even then they couldn’t get their stories straight.  Jesus kept quiet and the High Priest became frustrated.  Eventually the High Priest asked Jesus if he was the Messiah, the Son of God.  Jesus answered “I am and you will all see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Almighty and coming with the clouds of heaven”.  At this, the High Priest declared ‘blasphemy’ and tore his robes in horror.  They all voted that Jesus should be put to death and began to spit on him and hit him. 

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Trial before the High Priest

The meaning and significance of the trial before the High Priest

·         The Sanhedrin was the highest Jewish court but only had limited powers because the Romans ruled the country.  Only the Romans were permitted to execute people.  This was an illegal trial because it was held at night, at a festival time, the day before the Sabbath and in the High Priest’s house.  Jewish law required trails that might involve the death penalty to take place at night.

·         There were false witnesses and a lack of evidence.  They had decided upon the sentence even before finding evidence! There was no defence speaking on behalf of Jesus.  There was no independent judge or jury.

·         Jewish laws required more than one witness to agree that they had heard the defendant speak blasphemy.  At this trial, the witnesses never agreed.  According to Jewish law, a person is guilty of blasphemy if they actually use God’s name, but Jesus never did.

·         Jesus admitted to being the Messiah – the first time he has openly done so.

·         Jesus kept a dignified silence for most of the trial – he knew that he could not change what was about to happen.

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Trial before the High Priest

How does Jesus’ trial affect Christians’ attitudes to justice? (8 marks)

·         Christians can see that justice was not done – it was an unfair trial from start to finish.  Because Jesus was never given a fair or legal trial, it has led most Christians to be strong supporters of a fair judicial system. 

·         The abuse and torture Jesus suffered has led some Christians to be outspoken about human rights abuse.  Peter Benenson, a Roman Catholic, was not prepared to stand by whilst human rights were infringed; he set up Amnesty International.  Since its early beginnings in the 1960s, Amnesty has grown into a worldwide non-religious organization that works to stop human rights abuse and gain justice for anyone who has suffered.

·         Christians believe that the law must be followed and people cannot be influenced by personal feelings as it was in Jesus’ trial.  Therefore they might campaign to end corruption and bribery in all walks of life.  They might spend time praying for those who are subject to unfair trials at the Prisoner of Conscience Chapel in Salisbury Cathedral

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Trial before the High Priest

·         Christians might dedicate their lives to charities such as CAFOD and Aid to the Church in Need to ensure that they are living the Gospel message of Jesus – too look after those that need our help.  As Jesus tells us in Matthew: But I tell you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who mistreat you and persecute you, Matthew  5:44 “


·         Might SOME Christians think that Jesus is telling us that we shouldn’t stand up for justice? He remained quiet throughout the trial.

·         Similarly, he commanded his disciples not to protect him when he was arrested.

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Trial before the High Priest

Think about….possible opinion questions (b and d)

·         “Jesus should have done more to defend himself at his trials.”  (question d)

·         Agree:

o   Jesus should have spoken out in his own defence at his trials.

o   Jesus should have used his power as the Son of God.

·         Disagree:

o   The death of Jesus was part of God’s plan.

o   The trial was a fix so there would have been no point.

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