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Tried by the Sanhedrin, Then On to Pilate

Tried by the Sanhedrin, Then On to Pilate

MATTHEW 27:1-11 MARK 15:1 LUKE 22:66–23:3 JOHN 18:28-35




The night is drawing to a close when Peter denies Jesus for the third time. The members of the Sanhedrin have finished with their mock trial and have dispersed. Come dawn Friday morning, they reconvene, likely to give some cloak of legality to the illegal night trial. Jesus is brought before them.

Again the court demands: “If you are the Christ, tell us.” Jesus answers: “Even if I told you, you would not believe it at all. Moreover, if I questioned you, you would not answer.” However, Jesus courageously indicates to them his identity as the one foretold at Daniel 7:13. He says: “From now on the Son of man will be seated at the powerful right hand of God.”​—Luke 22:67-69; Matthew 26:63.

They persist: “Are you, therefore, the Son of God?” Jesus replies: “You yourselves are saying that I am.” This seems to justify killing Jesus on the charge of blasphemy. “Why do we need further testimony?” they ask. (Luke 22:70, 71; Mark 14:64) So they bind Jesus and lead him away to Roman Governor Pontius Pilate.

Judas Iscariot may see Jesus being taken to Pilate. When Judas realizes that Jesus has been condemned, he feels a certain remorse and despair. However, rather than turning to God in true repentance, he goes to give back the 30 pieces of silver. Judas tells the chief priests: “I sinned when I betrayed innocent blood.” But he gets the heartless reply: “What is that to us? You must see to it!”​—Matthew 27:4.

Judas throws the 30 silver pieces into the temple and then adds to his wrongs by attempting self-murder. As Judas tries to hang himself, apparently the branch to which he ties the rope breaks. His body drops to the rocks below, where it bursts apart.​—Acts 1:17, 18.

It is still early in the morning when Jesus is taken to the palace of Pontius Pilate. But the Jews taking him there refuse to enter. They think that such contact with Gentiles will defile them. That would disqualify them from eating the meal on Nisan 15, the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, which is viewed as part of the Passover period.

Pilate comes out and asks them: “What accusation do you bring against this man?” They respond: “If this man were not a wrongdoer, we would not have handed him over to you.” Pilate may feel that they are trying to pressure him, so he says: “Take him yourselves and judge him according to your law.” The Jews reveal their murderous intent, replying: “It is not lawful for us to kill anyone.”​—John 18:29-31.

Actually, if they kill Jesus during the Passover festival, it will likely cause a public uproar. Yet if they can get the Romans to execute Jesus on a political charge, which the Romans are authorized to do, it will tend to absolve these Jews of responsibility before the people.

The religious leaders do not tell Pilate that they had condemned Jesus for blasphemy. Now they trump up different charges: “We found this man [1] subverting our nation, [2] forbidding the paying of taxes to Caesar, and [3] saying he himself is Christ a king.”​—Luke 23:2.

As a representative of Rome, Pilate has reason for concern about the charge that Jesus is claiming to be a king. So Pilate reenters the palace, calls Jesus to him, and asks: “Are you the King of the Jews?” In other words, ‘Have you broken the law of the empire by declaring yourself to be a king in opposition to Caesar?’ Perhaps to find out how much Pilate already has heard about him, Jesus says: “Are you asking this of your own originality, or did others tell you about me?”​—John 18:33, 34.

Professing ignorance of the facts about Jesus but desiring to learn them, Pilate replies: “I am not a Jew, am I?” He adds: “Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me. What did you do?”​—John 18:35.

Jesus does not attempt to dodge the central issue​—kingship. He answers in a way that no doubt greatly surprises Governor Pilate.