Skip to main content


The Illegal Trials

Briefing: Law enforcement officers usually have some court room experience. I have testified hundreds of times, mostly DUI/DWI cases. No matter how many times I testified, I still felt uncomfortable in a courtroom.

Dispatch (Assignment): Read John 18:19-24.

On the Street: Jesus went through six trials before being sentenced to death. There were three trials that we would categorize as civil trials (the ones held by the Jewish officials) and three trials we would consider criminal trials (the ones officiated by the Roman government). We know the three Jewish trials were all illegal according to Jewish law, but what about the last three? They were actually what the criminal justice call, “fruit of the poisonous apple”. The Roman hearings would not have occurred if the prior three trials had not taken place, or were deemed illegal, therefore they were not legitimate either.

The first of the Jewish trials was before Annas, who we discussed in chapter 54. The second trial was before Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin. This trial is recorded in John, in Matthew 26:57-68, Mark 14:53-65, and in Luke 22:54-65. The third trial takes place when the Jewish council makes its final verdict. This brought an end to the illegal all-night court. The accounts of the third trial/action can be found in Matthew 27:1, Mark 15:1, and Luke 22:66-71.

This section of verses starts out with Annas (who was actually the high priest from the year before and removed by the Roman authority) questioning Jesus about His disciples and His teaching. None of the Gospel accounts say anything about Jesus responding with any information about His disciples. I believe He kept the focus on Him and away from His followers. We see in verses 20-21 how easy it was to distract them. His answer about what He was teaching took all the focus off of the disciples. In fact, they were so upset at His answer that one of the officials punched Jesus.

This is the last we hear from John on the Jewish trials. The two accounts we read in John are the first part and last part of the first trial. John does not go into any detail about the second trial with Caiaphas or the final assembly of the Sanhedrin.

Jesus will continue to be beaten and abused through the night. He will stand before Caiaphas from 3:00 a.m. to 5:00 a.m. then endure the final trial with all the Jewish elders, including the high priest, scribes and whole Sanhedrin. This will take place between 5:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m. Friday morning.

The criminal trials started at daylight. They will be covered in the upcoming chapters.

When I was in college, I served as a juror on a voyeur case. I remember the weight and pressure on me as I contemplated the guilt or innocence of the person on trial. I realized that I had to put those feelings aside and look for the truth, then speak the truth.

One of Jesus’ characteristics is, He is truth. John 14:6 (HCSB), “Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”. These Jewish courts were not interested in the Truth.

Investigational Resources: The other Gospel accounts of Jesus’ trails can be found in Matthew 26:57-27:1, Mark 14:53-15:1, and Luke 22:54-71.

Officer Safety Principle: Be a truth seeker, not only in your law enforcement job but in your spiritual life too. If you seek the truth, you will find Jesus.

from The Gospel of John Through the Eyes of a Cop
©by Charles Gilliland. Used by permission.
Click here to check out the entire Through the Eyes of a Cop series!