Now Jesus was handcuffed. In this powerless state he was brought face to face with Pontius Pilate, the most powerful man in the whole country. Pilate had the authority to release Jesus or to have him executed. What he couldn’t do is get a straight answer out of him. For some reason Jesus didn’t even want to defend himself. Perhaps he knew that Pilate would never understand his message? Perhaps he wanted to teach Pilate a lesson about the limits of his power?
In the end it turned out that Pilate, the most powerful man in the land, was more scared than Jesus, the prisoner in the dock. Under pressure from the crowd Pilate released a convicted murderer and sentenced Jesus to death.
Mark 15: 1-5, 15
The chief priests with the elders and the scribes, that is, the whole Sanhedrin, held a council. They bound Jesus, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate. Pilate questioned him, “Are you the king of the Jews?” He said to him in reply, “You say so.” The chief priests accused him of many things. Again Pilate questioned him, “Have you no answer? See how many things they accuse you of.” Jesus gave him no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed. …
Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released Barabbas and handed Jesus over to be crucified.
Peter had been with Jesus since the very beginning. If Jesus had a best friend, it was Peter. Now Jesus was in big trouble. He was under arrest and could be facing the death penalty. Did Peter stand by him? No, he pretended he didn’t know him, not once, but again and again.
Peter must have hated himself, especially when he remembered that Jesus had once predicted that he would do just that. Jesus knew him better than he knew himself. He wept bitterly, partly for good the friend he was losing, but also for the bad friend he had become.
Matthew 26: 69-75
Now Peter was sitting out in the courtyard, and a servant girl came to him. “You also were with Jesus of Galilee,” she said. But he denied it before them all. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. Then he went out to the gateway, where another servant girl saw him and said to the people there, “This fellow was with Jesus of Nazareth.” He denied it again, with an oath: “I don’t know the man!” After a little while, those standing there went up to Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them; your accent gives you away.” Then he began to call down curses, and he swore to them, “I don’t know the man!” Immediately a rooster crowed. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken: “Before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times.” And he went outside and wept bitterly.
Jesus was dragged in front of the Sanhedrin – the local Magistrates’ Court. It was their job to work out whether he had a case to answer. If he said that he was the Messiah, God’s promised messenger, he would be guilty of blasphemy. The trouble is, he wouldn’t give them a straight answer. He refused to say that he was the Messiah, but he also refused to deny it. They were confused. It was like Jesus was saying “What do you think? Who do you think I am?”
Sometimes we have to make huge choices that will affect our lives, even though we don’t feel we have enough information. These people were effectively deciding whether the man in front of them would live or die.
Luke 22: 66-71
When day came the council of elders of the people met, both chief priests and scribes, and they brought him before their Sanhedrin. They said, “If you are the Messiah, tell us,” but he replied to them, “If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I question, you will not respond. But from this time on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.” They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?” He replied to them, “You say that I am.” Then they said, “What further need have we for testimony? We have heard it from his own mouth.”
While Jesus was speaking to his friends in the garden a mob arrived, heavily tooled-up with knives and sticks. Behind them were the religious leaders. They wanted Jesus out of the way, but they wanted the mob to do the dirty work. To make sure they got the right man they had bought one of Jesus’ friends and arranged a secret signal. A kiss.
Whenever someone is arrested the tension is high. But Jesus had done nothing to deserve arrest. He was unarmed and had no history of violence. This arrest was totally unjustified. It was purely political – a set-up for the cameras.
Mark 14: 43-46
While Jesus was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived, accompanied by a crowd with swords and clubs, who had come from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. His betrayer had arranged a signal with them, saying, “the man I shall kiss is the one; arrest him and lead him away securely.” He came and immediately went over to him and said, “Rabbi.” And he kissed him. At this they laid hands on him and arrested him.
This is the scene on Thursday – the night before Jesus died. Jesus and his friends had gone to Gethsemane, a small plantation of olive trees just outside Jerusalem.
It’s pretty clear that Jesus knew what the next 24 hours would hold. And he was terrified. He asked his friends to wait with him, but they fell asleep. He was facing the future alone.
Well, not quite alone. He poured his heart out to his Father God, agonising prayers, pleading for a way of escape. But even more than that he asked to do what God wanted.
Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsem′ane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go yonder and pray.” And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zeb′edee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.” And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”