Courtroom dramas have always been popular with Americans. From classic movies like To Kill a Mockingbird or Twelve Angry Men, to more contemporary television series like Law & Order, we enjoy observing the dramatized struggle for justice. We watch as the judge and jury evaluate the words of men and women: Who is telling the truth? Who is lying? Who can be trusted? Who has committed a crime? Even then, the suspense does not stop. If someone has committed the crime, if the jury finds him guilty, what penalty will be assessed?
Today in our passage we are swept into the most important trial of all time—the trial of Jesus. Before His crucifixion Jesus faced two trials: one before the Sanhedrin, or religious high court; the other before Pilate, the political governor.
First, Jesus appeared before the high priest. Many began to make false accusations against Jesus. Witness after witness came forward, but Jesus did not say a word in defense. It was not until the high priest challenged Him directly that He replied. The priest asked, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?" "I am" (vv. 61-62). His answer was intentionally evocative of the name of God so as to leave no doubt about His identity (see Ex. 3:14).
That declaration was enough. He was sentenced and beaten, and turned over to Pilate for His second trial. Again, Jesus acknowledged Himself as king of the Jews, then fell silent. Pilate seemed less than satisfied with the charges against Jesus, but he preferred to satisfy the crowd. His job depended on crowd control and avoiding any destabilizing disturbance, so he handed Jesus over to be crucified.
As Jesus was being tried, His own disciple disowned Him. In the midst of beatings, and torture, and mockery, Peter denied Jesus three times, just as was predicted (v. 72). Unlike the response of Judas when confronted with what he had done, though, Peter wept in shame and remorse.