Light of the World

Booklet 22

The Trial and Condemnation of Jesus

"Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews, 'Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.' When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, 'Here is the man!' " (John 19:4, 5).

In this booklet we will follow Jesus through the final scenes of His earthly life—from the hour of fateful decision when the Sanhedrin "plotted to take his life" (John 11:53), to that dramatic moment when the governor, Pontius Pilate, sought to deliver Him from the envious priests who bitterly complained that He was an enemy of the state and the church and should be crucified.

Never in the life of any man did so much of importance to the whole world occur as in the moving events that befell Christ in the last few weeks of His life on earth. As you read this Scripture account, pray that you will clearly understand the relationship between these experiences of our Lord and your own spiritual life.

Jesus left Bethany, where he had raised Lazarus from the dead, and "withdrew to a region near the desert, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples" (John 11:54).

The Sanhedrin, following the lead of the willful Caiaphas, had already decided that Jesus must die. The Savior knew this, so He avoided the priests for the time being and quietly disappeared from the scene. But He did not stop His work. At Jericho, we see the Master speaking words of hope to an honest-hearted publican named Zacchaeus (see Luke 19:1-10) and restoring sight to two blind men (see Matthew 20:29-34). And standing as it were in the very shadow of the cross, He graciously deals with the selfish ambitions of His own disciples (see Matthew 20:20-28). But the Savior's thoughts are centered on the final crisis so soon to come. With prayer and boldness He plans to face the leaders of the nation that He had come to save.

As the Passover feast drew near, Jesus and His disciples made their way for the last time to Jerusalem. He knew that there He would be lifted upon the cross as a criminal, but the knowledge of the dreadful suffering that awaited Him did not in the least break His purpose or His spirit. Turning His face bravely into the gathering storm, He went to Jerusalem. To prepare His disciples for the ordeal that awaited Him there, He said:

" 'We are going up to Jerusalem,' he said, 'and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise' " (Mark 10:33, 34).

Six days before the last Passover of Christ's life, He was entertained in the home of Simon, the leper. Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from the dead, was with Him (see John 12:1, 2), and Martha served at the feast. Mary came also, bringing a token of gratitude to her Master—an alabaster box full of costly ointment of spikenard which she poured over His head and feet. Knowing that soon He would die, Jesus remarked:

"When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial" (Matthew 26:12).

Already, the shadows of the cross fell upon the Savior's head, but here was a disciple who loved Him enough to pay her tribute to Him while He was still alive.

After Simon's feast at Bethany, Jesus and the disciples continued their journey to Jerusalem. They came to a town called Bethphage at the Mount of Olives, and Jesus sent two of His disciples into the town. He said they would "find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me" (Matthew 21:2).

When the colt was brought, garments were placed on its back, and Jesus "sat on it" (Mark 11:7. Then, with the disciples leading on and following behind, the miniature procession started off for Jerusalem. Thinking that Christ was now about to proclaim Himself King of Israel, hundreds of people joined the triumphal procession. Had the time come at last for the Son of David to take the throne? Five hundred years before the birth of Christ, the prophet Zechariah had foretold the coming of the King of Israel:

"Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey" (Zechariah 9:9).

The shouts and cheers of the multitude filled the air. Shedding their outer garments and cutting branches from the trees, they spread the earth with a carpet, and cried:

" 'Hosanna!' 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!' 'Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!' 'Hosanna in the highest!' " (Mark 11:9, 10).

Christ had a perfect right to be hailed as the Son of David, but the time for His coronation had not yet come. Before the crown must come the cross. He permitted this public demonstration in order to call the attention of Israel to what was so soon to happen on Calvary. The shouts of praise that ascended to heaven at this triumphal entry into Jerusalem were symbolic of the glorious hosannas and hallelujahs that will break forth from the lips of God's people when Christ comes the second time to take them from this earth to the New Jerusalem in heaven. There the real coronation of Christ as King will take place (see Isaiah 26:2' Revelation 21:27; Philippians 2:9-11).

The night following the triumphal entry, Christ spent in Bethany (see Matthew 21:17). The next morning He returned to Jerusalem, where He told some of His last parables and preached His last sermon. Here, also, near the city, He pronounced a curse upon the pretentious fig tree and thus by an enacted parable showed how the nation which was about to destroy Him would itself suffer divine wrath (see Mark 11:12-20). All of this took place early in the Passion Week. So also did the second cleansing of the temple.

On the evening before His crucifixion, Christ instituted the Lord's Supper as an ordinance of the Christian church. Gathering His disciples together in the upper room, He ate the Passover supper with them (see Matthew 26:17-19).

"While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, 'Take and eat; this is my body.' Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, 'Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father's kingdom' " (Matthew 26:26-29; see also 1 Corinthians 11:23-30).

We can sense the solemnity of this scene, but what is the significance of this service? One writer says:

Christ was standing at the point of transition between two economies and their two great festivals. He, the spotless Lamb of God, was about to present Himself as a sin offering, and He would thus bring to an end the system of types and ceremonies that for four thousand years had pointed to His death. As He ate the Passover with His disciples, He instituted in its place the service that was to be the memorial of His great sacrifice. The national festival of the Jews was to pass away for ever. The service which Christ established was to be observed by His followers in all lands and through all ages (Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, page 652).

The ordinance of feet washing (see John 13:1-17) instituted by Christ in connection with the Lord's Supper had removed from the disciples the spirit of contention and rivalry, for there was strife among them—"Also a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest" (Luke 22:24). Now they were in a frame of mind to appreciate more fully the message of redemption. These services were to be celebrated by Christians to humble their hearts and to keep the reality of salvation fresh in their minds. They were also to remind us that Christ would come again. Here are His words:

"I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father's kingdom" (Matthew 26:29).

And the apostle Paul said:

"For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes" (1 Corinthians 11:26).

At the second coming of Christ, the ultimate hope of the Christian church will be realized. Then, the full salvation made possible by the spilled blood and broken body of our crucified Lord will meet its final, glorious consummation, and Christ "will see the light of life and be satisfied" (Isaiah 53:11).

Before offering Himself as the sacrificial victim, Christ promised to send the disciples a Comforter:

"And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you" (John 14:16-18).

This promise was fulfilled fifty days after Christ's resurrection (see Leviticus 23:15, 16; Acts 2). The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost brought life and power to the lonely disciples. Christ had been their comforter while He was with them. Now another divine Comforter was to take his place.

The Holy Spirit was sent to be Christ's representative in the world and the unseen leader of the church. Only a divine being could adequately represent Jesus and lead the church to final victory. No man could do this—not even Peter with all his talents of leadership.

With the words, "Come now; let us leave" (John 14:31), Christ and His disciples left the upper room and the city of Jerusalem and made their way over the brook Kedron to the Mount of Olives. He now explained to the apostles the secret of power in their ministry:

"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. . . . Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:1, 4, 5).

The Holy Spirit, the Comforter whom Christ had promised, could live in the hearts of these men only by their own choice, only if they would cling to Christ as the branch does to the vine. This would be the secret of their power. And this, Jesus explained, must be a continuing experience. The Christian life is no casual touch, no off-and-on connection. It is a living, abiding, and continuing communion of the soul with the Lifegiver. And the Spirit is the living Presence who makes spiritual life and communion possible. John said that Christ abides in us "by the Spirit he gave us" (1 John 3:24). Jesus had said:

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another" (John 13:34).

Now Christ makes plain to His disciples that if they are filled with His Spirit, they will love as He loves. For them, this love was a "new" experience, for they had been jealous and critical of one another. Love is the true evidence of discipleship (see John 13:35).

After Christ had ended His instruction, He lifted up His eyes to heaven and prayed:

"Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you. For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him. Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent" (John 17:1-3).

Jesus was now to be glorified in His self sacrifice on the cross, and He wanted the Father to be glorified in His Son. The union of Christ with His Father is an illustration of the unity He wanted to enjoy with His disciples. If you want to know the secret of a life of power, pray and live the prayer of John 17.

Christ's heartbreaking cry to God in the Garden of Gethsemane brings us face-to-face with the reality of our Lord's sacrifice. There, He began to shed His precious blood for us, and He prayed that He might have strength to tread the winepress alone (see Isaiah 63:3).

"Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, 'Sit here while I go over there and pray.' He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled" (Matthew 26:36, 37).

The sins of the world began to press upon God's Son. "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death", he declared (Matthew 26:38). His was the deepest mental and spiritual sorrow ever endured by man.

A grief beyond utterance, a struggle beyond endurance, a horror of great darkness, a giddiness and stupefaction of soul overmastered him, as with the sinking swoon of an anticipated death. It was a tumult of emotion, which none must see. "My soul," he said, "is full of anguish, even unto death. Stay here and keep watch." Reluctantly he tore himself away from their sustaining tenderness and devotion, and retired yet further, perhaps out of the moonlight, into the shadow (F. W. Farrar, The Life of Christ, page 445).

Already Jesus was beginning to "taste death for everyone" (Hebrews 2:9. Bidding Peter, James, and John, "Stay here and keep watch with me," he went "a little farther . . . fell with his face to the ground and prayed" (Matthew 26:38, 39). The thought that the sins of the world were separating Him from His Father after a lifetime of unbroken communion seemed more than He could endure. So the Son of God prayed:

"My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will" (Matthew 26:39).

Thinking that He might have the assurance of human sympathy and comfort in His agony, He staggered back to the disciples. Perhaps—yes, perhaps—they might be praying for Him. But He found them asleep! He said to Peter:

"Could you men not keep watch with me for one hour? . . . Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak" (Matthew 26:40, 41).

Then "He went away a second time and prayed, 'My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done' " (Matthew 26:42).

"He again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. So he left them and went away once more and prayed the third time, saying the same thing" (Matthew 26:43, 44). In that final moment of surrender, He firmly decided to go ahead with the ordeal of death. There could be no other way except the cross. And in that moment of triumphant decision, hope for you, hope for the world, and redemption for every sinner who believes in Christ was assured!

"Then he returned to the disciples and said to them, 'Are you still sleeping and resting? Look, the hour is near, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners' " (Matthew 26:45).

When the disciples saw him, his face was lighted up with glory, for "an angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him" (Luke 22:43). But the marks of anguish were there on His face. Luke said:

"And being in anguish . . . his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground" (Luke 22:44).

All the disciples now joined the Savior and stood in awe at the glory of His blood-stained face. Jesus urged them to watch and pray in case they fell into temptation. How He longed to shield them from the disappointment that was so soon to come to them! But now, what was this?

"While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: 'The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.' Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, 'Greetings, Rabbi!' and kissed him. Jesus replied, 'Friend, do what you came for.' Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him" (Matthew 26:47-50).

This was a most trying experience for our Lord, an ordeal of intense suffering.

Certainly if our Lord was to be brought into contact with the most painful form of sin, he must have experience of treachery. He had known the sorrow that death brings to the survivors; he had known the pain and disappointment of being resisted by stupid, obstinate, bad hearted men; but if he was to know the utmost of misery which man can inflict upon man, he must be brought into contact with one who could accept his love, eat his bread, press his hand with assurance of fidelity, and then sell him (Expositor's Bible, vol. 2, page 95).

Peter was infuriated by this assault on his Lord. Drawing his sword, he sliced off the ear of Malchus, the high priest's servant. But Jesus restored the severed ear, and then said to Peter:

"Put your sword back in its place . . . for all who draw the sword will die by the sword" (Matthew 26:52).

What a commentary on the vain glory and ultimate futility of material force and arms! Only the kingdom of God will triumph. Jesus did not need Peter's sword. He said, "Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?" (Matthew 26:53). He added, "But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?" (Matthew 26:54).

Instigated by the priests and officers, the angry mob led Jesus away first to Annas, the high priest emeritus and father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest. Then He was taken—bound—to Caiaphas (see John 18:24) where the scribes and elders had assembled for the trial (see Matthew 26:57). There Jesus was condemned as a blasphemer and judged worthy of death because He claimed to be the Son of God (see Matthew 26:57-68).

From Caiaphas, He was taken in the early morning hours to Pilate, the Roman governor, and there in the judgment hall they testified against him (see Matthew 27:12; Luke 23:1, 2, 4). Pilate sent Him on to Herod, who had jurisdiction over Galilee where Jesus came from (see Luke 23:6-12). Then Herod returned Him to Pilate again. In each phase of the trial, the innocent Savior was treated like a hardened criminal. He was like a helpless sheep torn by angry wolves (see Matthew 26:67, 68; 27:27-31). Long centuries before, Isaiah had written:

"He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. . . . He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken" (Isaiah 53:3, 7, 8).

The priests accused Christ on two principal counts and obtained His condemnation. They condemned Him for blasphemy—that is, claiming kinship with God. On this charge, the Jewish authorities judged Him worthy of death (see John 19:7). To the Romans, the Jewish leaders accused Jesus of sedition—that is, of stirring up a revolt against the empire and Caesar. But Christ was guilty of neither charge. He was no blasphemer, for He was—and is—the Son of God (see Matthew 26:63, 64). Nor was He guilty of sedition against the Roman authorities, for He never meddled in political affairs (see John 18:36). He confined His activities exclusively to the teaching of religion.

"Here is the man!" said Pilate (John 19:5). He saw that Christ was innocent and tried to avoid sentencing Him to death, but he was not man enough to stand alone against the railing mob (see Luke 23:1-25). What a contrast between weak Pilate and the courageous Savior!

The death penalty pronounced upon Christ was the worst miscarriage of justice ever to disgrace a court of law, and His execution must be condemned as the gravest crime ever committed by an earthly power. Caiaphas and the Jewish people assumed responsibility for it, saying "Let his blood be on us and on our children!" (Matthew 27:25). But think—aren't we all to blame? Haven't our sins made Christ's blood flow? Yes, your sins and mine. In the next booklet, as we go on to the final scene at Calvary, we will see that it was for you and me that Jesus suffered and died.


Original manuscript author: Beatrice S. Neall
Editors revised edition: Barbara Shelley, Sue Robinson
Design and Layout: DEC Designs, Morisset, New South Wales Australia.
Used by permission of Discovery Centre, Wahroonga, New South Wales, Australia.
Graphics: Still images taken from Matthew video, copyright © 1997, 2004 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of International Bible Society.
Scripture: Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.
Cover Picture: "The Light of the World" by Nathan Green, ©2004 All Rights Reserved.

Copyright © 2007 revised edition, Voice of Prophecy, California.