Jesus was led first to the house of Annas, father in law to Caiaphas the high priest for that year. Annas sent Him on, still bound, to Caiaphas where the court had convened and was waiting in his palace. Caiaphas was the one who had pronounced some while previously that it would be a good thing if someone, whether innocent or guilty, should be put to death, rather than spark a riot amongst the people which would bring Roman wrath down on the whole Jewish nation.
Peter followed and was smuggled in by another disciple of Jesus who had the right of entry. The girl at the door recognised him.
“You’re one of the men with that criminal fellow,” she declared.
“No I’m not,” Peter denied quickly.
There was a fire in the courtyard as the night was cold and several people stood by it to keep warm. Peter joined them. One of them was related to Malchus, the servant Peter had attacked.
“I know you. You’re one of them,” he said, scrutinising Peter.
“I am not,” Peter said vehemently, adding a swear word or two for good measure. The group relaxed and began to talk about the current crisis. Peter joined in. Suddenly one of thegroup turned to him.
“You jolly well are one of that Galilean lot with the fellow,” he said firmly. “I can tell by your accent.”
Peter swore profusely at him as he hotly denied any such connection. He had barely drawn breath again when the cock crowed for the second time as dawn approached. And Jesus turned and looked at His friend. Their eyes met. And Peter remembered what Jesus had said to him and how he had replied at the time.
He stumbled away from the fire and found a quiet spot where he sank down, weeping bitterly as if his heart would break.
Trial after Trial
In front of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Council, in the palace of Caiaphas, Jesus was questioned closely. Many accusations were brought against Him but, as they were all false, not one could be found to agree with the other.
“Tell us of your doctrine and teachings,” demanded Caiaphas.
“There’s no secret about it,” Jesus replied quietly. “I have spoken openly in the Temple every day and there are many here who heard me. Ask one of them what they heard.”
A nearby official slapped him round the mouth. “Don’t speak like that to the high priest!”
“If I have spoken evil tell me what it is,” Jesus replied. “If not, why have you struck me?”
The questioning and false accusations went on and on. Jesus made no further reply to any of them. At last two came up who had the same story.
“This fellow said that he could destroy the Temple and build it again in three days,” they claimed triumphantly.
Jesus continued to say nothing in response. Caiaphas was getting desperate.
“I adjure you,” he began majestically, “to state whether or not you are the Christ.”
By the law, this required an answer, so Jesus gave it.
“It is as you say,” He confirmed. “And one day you will see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of God.”
At last! Caiaphas tore his robe. “He has committed blasphemy. What is your verdict?” he boomed to the Council.
“Guilty. And worthy of death,” they yelled back.
They began to attack Jesus, spitting in His face, blindfolding Him and slapping Him and then demanding that He prophesy and say who it was that had struck Him. Jesus submitted to all this quietly.
Morning came and the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate entered the judgement hall. The Jews took Jesus to him for the death sentence they were not allowed to carry out. Many of the priests remained outside in case they were defiled so that they could not eat the Passover.
Pilate was most unwilling to pass the death sentence on Jesus however. The accusations flew fast and furious, Jesus stood there in complete silence while they all yelled and Pilate tried to get them to take Him away and deal with Him according to their own law.
“He’s stirred everyone up from Galilee to here! Insurrection! Riots!”
Pilate pricked up his ears. “Galilee? Is He a Galilean?”
Apparently He was. Pilate sent them all off to Herod, tetrarch of Galilee, to make their accusations there.
Herod was most intrigued. He had heard about Jesus and spoke to Him at length, hoping to see some miracle done by Him. But Jesus stood there patiently and silent until Herod gave up. He allowed his soldiers to put a royal robe on Him and press a crown of vicious thorns onto His head. They struck Him and mocked Him and then Herod sent Him back to Pilate, still clad in the purple robe, the two leaders in agreement with each other for the first time in a long while.
Pilate had been having warnings from his wife about Jesus. She told him not to have anything to with that just man as she had been suffering all day with dreams about him.
But the Jews insisted that Pilate pass the death sentence of crucifixion. When he asked them if he should release Jesus at the Passover Feast, in accordance with the custom of pardoning one criminal at this particular feast, they screamed for the release of a convicted murderer, Barabbas, instead.
“Do you want me to execute your King?” he asked.
“We have no king but Caesar!” the mob roared back.
Pilate called for a bowl of water and ceremoniously washed his hands in front of them.
“I wash my hands of the whole thing,” he announced.
“Let His blood be on us and on our children,” the Jews cried.
Pilate gave the order and Jesus was led away to be scourged and then taken out for crucifixion.
Dressed in His own robe once more, Jesus had to carry His own cross to the place of execution – Golgotha (or Calvary) outside the city walls. Two other convicted prisoners were taken as well but Jesus was no longer strong enough to bear the weight of the great piece of wood. The soldiers compelled a man standing in the crowd, one Simon, a Cyrenean, to carry it for him.
The women followed, weeping, but Jesus turned to them.
“Don’t weep for me, daughters of Jerusalem, but weep for yourselves and your children. The time is coming when the most blessed women will be the childless ones and there will be no place to hide.”
They arrived at the place of execution where Jesus was nailed to the cross, with one criminal crucified on either side of him. He was offered gall mixed with vinegar but He refused it.
Pilate ordered a sign to be written and erected above Jesus’ head: “The King of the Jews”. The leaders of the Jews objected to this and wanted him to reword it to say: “He said he was King of the Jews” but Pilate refused.
“I’ve written it and it stays there,” he said firmly.
People began to mock Jesus, telling Him to come down from the cross and save Himself as He had saved others if He was really the Son of God. One of the criminals beside Jesus joined in but the other one told him to be quiet.
“We are receiving the just penalty for what we did,” he gasped as he hung there. “But this man has done nothing wrong.” He spoke to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”
“I will,” Jesus told him. “You will be there with me.”
The soldiers at the foot of the cross were waiting for the three on the crosses to die. They shared out the clothing each criminal had worn and would no longer need, as perks. The robe Jesus had worn was exceptionally good as it was woven all in one piece so they threw dice for it to see who would have it in its entirety.
Jesus saw His mother, Mary, standing at the foot of the cross with John, His best friend. He asked John to take Mary into his household and look after her from then on and this is exactly what John did.
At the sixth hour of this day of preparation, a darkness fell over the land. There was an earthquake which shook all the graves open and the Temple veil, a huge and heavy curtain which hung from the roof to the floor, was ripped from the top to the bottom..
The darkness lasted three hours and then Jesus cried out, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabacthani!” (My God, My God, Why have you forsaken Me?” People thought that He called out to Elijah to come and save Him.
He was offered vinegar on a sponge to drink which He accepted. Then, at the ninth hour, He bowed His head and said, “It is finished.” And died.
The Jews were growing anxious that Passover was nearly on them. They asked Pilate to send soldiers to break the legs of those crucified to speed up their dying. When they came to Jesus they found He was already dead, so they stuck a spear into His side to confirm what their eyes told them. There was no blood from the wound, just water, so they knew the heart was no longer pumping.
Pilate could not believe his ears when he heard that the crucified preacher had already died. People took many hours to die on the cross. When the wealthy Joseph of Arimathea turned up to request the body of Jesus, Pilate sent a centurion to find out if He really were dead and it was only after the centurion came back and confirmed it that Pilate gave Joseph leave to take Him.
Helped by Nicodemus, who was no longer skulking in the shadows meeting Jesus by night, Joseph took Jesus away to his own brand new tomb hewn out of the rock in the parcel of land he owned close to the crucifixion site. They bought fine linen cloths anda huge amount of mixed myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds in weight (about 45 to 50 kg), and wrapped the body carefully before laying it to rest on one of the stone shelves. There would have been sufficient spices to make a thick layer on the burial shelf as well as interleaving and impregnating the linen strips they wound around the body. Then they rolled the big circular stone along its groove to settle snugly against the tomb doorway. It would take several strong men to heave it out of the settlement channel and roll it back along the groove to open it again.
And all the while, Mary the mother of Jesus, Salome her sister, Mary the wife of Cleopas, and Mary Magdalene watched from a distance.
Image: Mocking of Jesus.