4. The sentencing
The main aim of the Hebrew judicial system was to make it impossible to convict an innocent person. Jesus was sentenced to death, although he was innocent of the charges against him.
4.1 What was unlawful about the sentencing?
4.1.a The sentence was based on His own confession
No one could bring an accusation against himself. Any confession of guilt had to be properly attested by two witnesses. No one was allowed to lead a man on to incriminate himself.
Maimonides, the Jewish medieval scholar said, “The law does not permit the death penalty as a sentence for a sinner by his own confession.”
Mark 14:56, 60-62. 56 For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree….
Matthew 26: 63-64. 63 But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” 64 Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
Daniel 7:13-14. 13I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. 14And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.
When the witnesses did not agree, instead of releasing Jesus, the judges tried to get Jesus to speak but he would not answer them. By remaining silent. he was invoking the right against self-incrimination. Yet, by calling on the living God, Caiaphas insisted that Jesus incriminate Himself. So Jesus quoted from Daniel’s well-known Messianic prophecy.
4.1.b Sentence was pronounced in a forbidden place
The trial took place at the high priest’s house. According to the law, a death sentence could only be pronounced in the court’s appointed place.
The court building could not legally be opened until after sunrise.
Luke 22:54. Then, having arrested Him, they led Him and brought Him into the high priest’s house.
Maimonides said, “A sentence of death can be pronounced only so long as the Sanhedrin holds its sessions in the appointed place.”
4.1.c The judges were not impartial
The members of the Sanhedrin were prejudiced against Jesus.
Deuteronomy 16:19b. … you shall not be partial, ….
Matthew 26:3,4. Then the chief priests and the elders of the people were gathered together in the court of the high priest, named Caiaphas; and they plotted together to seize Jesus by stealth and kill him. But they were saying, “Not during the festival, otherwise a riot might occur among the people”.
They had the sentence; they just needed a crime to justify it.
4.1.d There was no defence
Jesus should have been allowed to have witnesses in his defence.
Despite Deuteronomy 13:14, the high priest did not “inquire, and make search, and ask diligently” to see whether Jesus’ statement was blasphemous. The law in the Mishna says: “The judges shall weigh the matter in the sincerity of their conscience.” Instead, the court pronounced sentence instantly and unanimously!
Jesus’ opponents had made sure that only those who hated Him would be there. Joseph of Arimathea was a member of the court, yet he was not there (Luke 23:50-51).