ASSOCIATE RECTOR'S LETTER for April
They laid hands on Jesus and arrested him...
they took Jesus to the high priests; and all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes were gathered.
At the time of writing, we’re over half way through Lent and our thoughts are turning towards Jerusalem in order to accompany Jesus, as it were, through the last traumatic days of his ministry.
I have found my thoughts turning particularly to the arrest and trial of Jesus. First of all there’s some kind of initial hearing in front of the religious leaders to try and determine his guilt. I say that but they had already decided he was guilty; they just needed a few people to back them up as witnesses to his alleged wrongdoing.
Why am I thinking about this particular part of Jesus’ story so much? Well, last week and this, I have been on jury service. I have sat in a court of law and seen close up how the British judicial system works and whatever else could be said, I think we can be very grateful that a) we have a justice system in the first place and b) that checks and balances are in place to make sure it functions as effectively as possible for everyone concerned. (And perhaps c) we should pray for people we know who work in it).
At the beginning of a trial, the judge explains to the jury that his job is to make sure everything takes place by the (very large) book; our job is to piece the evidence together, decide on the facts and come up with a verdict.
Now the chief priests and the whole council were looking for testimony against Jesus to put him to death; but they found none.
Hours are spent in court producing evidence in the shape of photos; CCTV footage; interview transcripts etc. There’s evidence that the defence and prosecution agree on. Then there’s the contradictory evidence that needs to be sifted through and pieced together carefully.
Some stood up and gave false testimony against him, saying, “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’” But even on this point, their testimony did not agree.
The defendant him/herself then has the opportunity to speak and give their version of events.
Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?” But again he was silent and did not answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One? Jesus said, “I am; and ‘you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power,’ and ‘coming with the clouds of heaven.’” Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “Why do we still need witnesses? You have heard his blasphemy!”
The jury then retires to discuss the case and decide on a verdict, examining evidence and trying to fit everything together into a narrative that tells the story of what really happened and whether the defendant is guilty or not.
“What is your decision?”
All of them condemned Jesus as deserving death.
(Mark 14. 63)
Sometimes a miscarriage of justice does take place: a guilty person is acquitted; an innocent person is condemned.
He was arrested and sentenced and led off to die, and no one cared about his fate.
He was put to death for the sins of our people.
But after the sentence is carried out, there is always the chance of a fresh start - not just for the defendant, but for everybody...
May God bless you all as you ponder these things!