The Berean Expositor
Volume 30 - Page 123 of 179
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authority and power, and they were not to be fully trusted by the Sanhedrin at this critical
hour.  There was a momentary exhibition of the Lord's majesty in the garden of
Gethsemane, when the guard were sent backward to the ground, but after this evidence
that He was a voluntary prisoner--a fact which is important in connection with the
doctrinal aspect of the Lord's death, and one which is too often forgotten--He yielded
Himself to the custody of the cohort and the officers, who bound Him and led Him away
to Annas. This procedure was in accordance with the law. The accused had to be
brought at once before a magistrate, and provided with safe lodging until the opportunity
for trial presented itself. Meanwhile he had to be examined, and if there were not
sufficient grounds for his detention, he was discharged. If, on the other hand, there
seemed to be adequate evidence against him, he was committed for trial.
Much of the Jewish side of the Lord's trial was illegal according to their own laws.
According to the Mishna, the examination of witnesses by night was illegal, and capital
trials could only be conducted during the day. If the accused was acquitted, sentence had
to be pronounced on the same day, but if he was condemned, the sentence had to be
postponed to a second day. Hence capital trials could not take place on the day before a
Sabbath or a Feast Day. The action of the judges in seeking witnesses was also wrong,
and no witness for the defence was brought forward, as there should have been. Finally,
it was illegal to condemn an accused person upon his own confession.
"A process begun, continued, and apparently finished in the course of one night,
commencing with witnesses against the accused who were sought by the judges, but
whose evidences was not sustained even by them; continuing by interrogations which
Hebrew law does not sanction; and ending with a demand for confession which its
doctrines expressly forbid . . . . . such a process had neither the form nor the fairness of a
judicial trial" (A. T. Innes. "The trial of Jesus Christ").
As JudŠa was at this time a Roman Province, the Sanhedrin had lost the right to pass
sentence of death. Such a sentence was ultra vires--
"It is not lawful for us to put any man to death" (John 18: 31).
In general, the Roman rulers were wise, and, provided that a people were quiet, and
paid tribute, and remained loyal, a large margin of liberty and self-government was
allowed. JudŠa, however, by reason of the stubborn adherence of the Jews to the
worship of God and their opposition to all forms of idolatry, had to be governed with a
tight rein, and the Sanhedrin's power was therefore considerably reduced.
Seeing, then, that the council of the Jews were powerless to carry out their wishes, it
was necessary that they should obtain the Roman Governor's approval. There were two
courses open to him. He could either give his approval without enquiry, which was what
the Jews wanted; or he could open the case again, and hold a re-cognito. At first Pilate
seemed quite willing to endorse without enquiry, saying:
"Take Him yourselves, and judge Him according to your law" (John 18: 31).