Third Stage of the Jewish Trial
"As soon as it was day, the elders of the people, both chief priests and scribes, came together and led Him into their council" (Luke 22:66). Although the events described in this section seem very similar to activities already discussed, this is a separate part of Jesus' trial. Jesus, in the early morning hours of Friday (by our method of reckoning time), had already been before Annas and Caiaphas. Now, since an acceptable morning hour has arrived, they will proceed to conduct the "formal portion" of Jesus' trial before the Jews. The only real difference is that the Sanhedrin council would now be fully assembled. They would proceed to "legally" confirm what had already been determined.

Matthew 27:1 records that those assembled "plotted against Jesus to put Him to death." The Jews are consulting together and still trying to create a charge against Jesus that the Romans would take notice of. Earlier they had charged Jesus with blasphemy, but such was not a criminal offense among the Romans (thus, they know they need something more incriminating). In this portion of the trial, being unable to come up with any new grounds of accusation against Him, they will decide to take Him before the Roman authorities and make use of His Messianic claim--after perverting it. They will twist His words and attempt to make Him look like a rebellious threat to the authority of Rome (i.e., Caesar).

"'If You are the Christ, tell us.' But He said to them, 'If I tell you, you will by no means believe. And if I also ask you, you will be no means answer Me or let Me go. Hereafter the Son of Man will sit on the right hand of the power of God'" (Luke 22:67-69).

They desired that Jesus plainly tell them that He was the Messiah (so they could use it against Him), but He knows, based on His past experiences with them, that such an acknowledgement would be futile (e.g., John 8:59; 10:31).

"And if I also ask you, you will by no means answer Me or let Me go" - This is about the strongest protest that Jesus communicates as to the injustice of His trial. These men who were judging Him were asking Him whether He was the Christ, but they had no intention of investigating the truthfulness of His answer. They asked the question for only one purpose: to get Him to affirm His identity. They would then condemn Him by assuming His claim could not be true (although a rational examination of the evidence would prove otherwise). Consequently, they would not let Him go. Jesus had the right to ask them questions and prove from the Scriptures that He was the Messiah. Of course, had He attempted to do such, they would not have really listened (cf. Matt. 13:15) or answered, as He states here.

"Then they all said, 'Are You then the Son of God?'" (Luke 22:70). Jesus responded affirmatively.

"What further testimony do we need? For we have heard it ourselves from His own mouth" (Luke 22:71). Their statement here shows their lack of evidence against Him. To be fair, they needed to examine Jesus' statement and the available evidence to determine if His assertion was true. They do not do this. They merely assume He isn't the Messiah (because they don't want Him to be) and thereby condemn Him for claiming such.

"Then the whole multitude of them arose and led Him to Pilate" - Pilate, a Roman governor, was the authority in that region. The Jews take Jesus before him because they need his permission to execute Jesus (cf. John 18:31).

Pilate, several years prior to this event, had been appointed "procurator" of Judea by the Roman emperor Tiberius. Pilate resided in Caesarea but came to Jerusalem on certain occasions (such as significant Jewish feast days). Herod Agrippa, a man who knew Pilate well, described him as naturally inflexible and obstinately self-willed. Pilate frequently defied the Jewish people until the clamor against him was so great that the emperor Caligula banished him.

We will continue studying this narrative in our next lesson.