It is nighttime. Judas leads a group of Jewish leaders, along with many soldiers, into the Garden of Gethsemane where they find Jesus with his disciples. The soldiers seize Jesus, bind him, and escort him to the house of Annas, a top Jewish leader, and father-in-law of the high priest, Caiaphas (John 18:13). The preliminary investigation begins with an instance of physical abuse. Then, several false witnesses testify, but, their testimonies do not agree. It’s not enough to condemn the prisoner (Mark 14:55-56).
While it is still night, Jesus is taken to Caiaphas’ palace for interrogation (John 18:24). Caiaphas presides before the assembly of Jewish priests, elders, and scribes known as the Great Sanhedrin. They are recognized—by both the community and Roman authorities—as the religious and legal Jewish Supreme Court.
This painting depicts the moment when Caiaphas, is demanding that Jesus answer the question, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of God?” Jesus’ calmly replies, “It is as you have said: I am. Hereafter you will see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of power and coming upon the clouds of heaven.” (Matt. 26: 63-64) This response so infuriates Caiaphas he tears his priestly robes, and in so doing, he breaks a Levitical Law (Lev. 21:10). Judged as a blasphemous comment, they all consider this evidence enough to pronounce a sentence of death (Matt. 26:66, Luke 23:1-2, John 19:7).
The New Scofield Bible summarizes the illegalities and injustices perpetrated during these trials:
The judge was not impartial and did not protect the accused. There is no evidence that the quorum of twenty-three judges in the Jewish legal system took part in the arrest; and they were hostile.
The arrest was unlawful because it was carried out under no formal accusation.
In criminal trials, all sessions had to be started and carried on only during the day. Night sessions were illegal.
Jurisprudence required that a guilty verdict could not be rendered on the same day as the conclusion of the trial. It had to be given on the next day.
The search for hostile testimony was illegal.
No accused could be convicted on his own evidence, yet the accusers sought replies and admissions from Jesus to condemn him.
At these trials no valid legal evidence was ever presented against Jesus.