Jesus (and His Followers) on Trial

by Dr. John W. Oberdeck

The Eighth Commandment plays a significant role at the trial of Jesus. Luther’s Small Catechism explains that bearing false witness involves telling lies, betraying, slandering, and hurting a neighbor’s reputation. These do more than damage Jesus’ reputation at His trial, however. They lead to sin against the Fifth Commandment—Jesus’ death by crucifixion.

Much takes place before Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss. What do we learn from Matt. 26:3–5 and 14–16?

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Even though the arrest of Jesus happens according to plan, not everything is ready for the trial before the Sanhedrin. What is lacking? (Matt. 26:59–61)

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In the Old Testament, God’s law is very clear about the evil brought into the community by a false witness. What precautions are taken to prevent the innocent from unjust accusation, and what is to be done with a perjurer? See Deut. 19:15–19.

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This explains the necessity of finding two witnesses who say the same thing, as the witnesses do in Matt. 26:61. Of what do they accuse Jesus?

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What additional information about their testimony is provided in Mark 14:59?

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These witnesses quote Jesus’ words from John 2:19–21 with some accuracy. Nevertheless it is false witness. Why?

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How does Jesus respond to the false testimony? (Matt. 26:63)

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On what charge does the Sanhedrin convict Jesus? (Matt. 26:65-66)

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Note the irony—the charge on which Jesus is convicted is true; He is the Christ, the Son of God.

Jesus never hides the fact that those who follow Him will also be the objects of slander, lies, and false witness. What does Jesus tell the Twelve when He sends them out to preach the good news of the kingdom of heaven? See Matt. 10:24–25.

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When Jesus’ followers find themselves objects of scorn, derision, and lies, to whom are they compared in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount? (Matt. 5:11–12)

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In saying these things, Jesus shows that He is a prophet. What He predicts comes to pass. Believers have found themselves the objects of lies and rumors throughout the history of the Church. In Roman times, Christians were called unpatriotic because they refused to burn a pinch of incense in worship of the emperor. They were accused of cannibalism because of the Lord’s Supper. They were charged with infanticide because of the practice of infant baptism. Most famously perhaps, they were led to their deaths in the Coliseum and elsewhere when Nero made the Christians of Rome the scapegoats for the burning of Rome.

Our own century also proves Jesus to be a true prophet. We find ourselves labeled ignorant and unlearned because we believe there must be a designer for something as complex as human life. We are called unloving, or even hateful, because we believe God has set limits to sexual behavior and that society is not free to redefine marriage. Sometimes these sins against the Eighth Commandment have led, as they did for Jesus, to sins against the Fifth Commandment, and new martyrs are made.

How should we respond to these trials? St. Peter, no stranger to martyrdom himself, looked to Jesus as the example. What does he write in 1 Peter 2:23?

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So we also entrust ourselves to “Him who judges justly” (NIV).

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