The Search for Jesus – Program 6
By: Dr. Gabriel Barkay, Dr. Craig Blomberg, Dr. Darrell L. Bock, Dr. Magen Broshi, Dr. William Lane Craig, Dr. Craig Evans, Dr. Hillel Geva, Dr. Gary Habermas, Mrs. Claire Pfann, Dr. Stephen Pfann, Dr. Ben Witherington, Dr. N.T. Wright; ©2001
How many trials did Jesus undergo?
The Trials and Death of Jesus
- Announcer: When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Whom do people say the Son of Man is?” [Matt. 16:13]
- Dr. Craig Evans: If I were a secular historian and looking at what Jesus is saying, I’d say this guy clearly thinks that he’s some kind of emissary from Heaven.
- Announcer: They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” [Matt. 16:14]
- Dr. Edwin Yamauchi: There are also many implicit indications that Jesus was more than an ordinary human being.
- Announcer: “What about you?” He asked, “Whom do you say that I am?” [Matt. 16:15]
- Dr. Darrell Bock: I think that the voice addressed Jesus: “You are my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” [Luke 3:22]
- Announcer: Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” [Matt. 16:16]
- Today, Jesus’ question continues to challenge historians and theologians, believers and unbelievers, alike. Some still acclaim him as the Messiah, the Son of God, as did his followers in the first century. Others declare that Jesus never said or did most of what is recorded about him in the Gospels. Still, the search for Jesus continues.
- Dr. John Ankerberg: The Gospel accounts say that just before Passover Jesus entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey. The Gospels say that he was greeted by crowds waving palm branches and hailing him as the Messiah. [Mark 11:1-10] But what about those who assert that Jewish travelers always erupt in celebration when they arrive in Jerusalem for Passover; they were just singing and shouting as usual, they weren’t singing about Jesus?
- Dr. Craig Evans: There may have been some people who greeted any pilgrim entering the city with those kinds of shouts, but they don’t throw their garments down on the road; they don’t take palm branches and wave them. And, they don’t greet someone riding on a donkey this way. All of these things smack…anyone, anyone who knows Israel’s history, they realize this guy’s doing what Zechariah 9:9, the king who comes to the city humble, that’s what he’s doing. And the palm branches and the garments that are placed on the road, this is how they celebrated the entry into the city of other kings from Israel’s past. So, they knew what they were doing. This was a messianic greeting on the part of many of these pilgrims.
- Dr. John Ankerberg: How many people were following Jesus when he came to Passover in Jerusalem? Some scholars featured in the ABC Special said Jesus only had 10 or 20 followers.
- Dr. Craig Evans: I was astonished by that statement because one of the things that we read in the Gospel account is that the ruling priests wanted to make a move against Jesus but did not do so on account of the crowds, on account of Jesus’ popularity. If Jesus had a following of 10, 15, or 20, then Jesus could have been seized easily right at the beginning of that final week, and they would not have had to conspire and plot and try to take Jesus at night by stealth, because he would have had no following. And so the fact that they had to move against Jesus in a stealthy fashion shows that there were large number of supporters, both from Galilee, who accompanied him south, and also recent converts, you might say, from Judea and Jerusalem themselves.
- Dr. John Ankerberg: Besides questioning the number of followers Jesus had, some scholars wondered why Jesus wanted to go up to Jerusalem at all. Wasn’t he aware that he might be killed?
- Dr. Ben Witherington: Oh, I don’t think it would have taken a clairvoyant person to know that in a politically volatile environment, that if you go around doing the kind of things Jesus did, and saying the kind of things Jesus did about the coming of the kingdom of God, that you could anticipate a violent end to your life. There’s no doubt about that.
- Dr. Craig Evans: I think he understood that he was going to have to die, and no prophet dies outside of Jerusalem. [Luke 13:33] And so, Jesus has this sense of prophetic destiny to complete and fulfill his mission. It was time to go to Jerusalem, and what better time than to go at Passover time, the time that celebrates God’s deliverance of his people.
- Dr. Darrell Bock: And that meant that he had to make certain declarations in the capital as the heartbeat center of the nation. And he also had to make claims of authority, which forced the choice. If you will go through the passages in the last week of Jesus’ life, virtually every one of them is about some issue tied to the authority of Jesus, and/or God using him as an agent, or some aspect of who his person is.
- Dr. John Ankerberg: When Jesus walked into the temple and turned over the tables of the moneychangers, was he a marked man from that point?
- Dr. Darrell Bock: Yes. I mean, absolutely. He’s in the most sacred spot of Israel.
- Dr. Ben Witherington: What he’s done is he’s interrupted the process, not only of tribute money that supports the institution and allows it to exist, the temple as an institution, but he’s interrupted the process that leads to the sacrifices.
- Dr. Craig Evans: There’s not a chance in the world that Caiaphas would not learn of that and be very angry about it. But to size him up, Jesus has taken action in the temple precincts and shortly thereafter, perhaps the next day or however we are to interpret the time line in Mark, a delegation of ruling priests comes to Jesus and says, “By what authority are you doing these things?” [Mark 11:28] I mean, they’re still standing there and he turns around and says to his own disciples: “A man had a vineyard…” [Mark 12:1] and he goes on alluding to Isaiah 5, tells this parable. But he introduces new characters into this parable. Isaiah doesn’t say anything about farmers tending the vineyard (Isaiah 5), but Jesus does. And, of course, he’s introduced the ruling priests into his parable, and they recognize that he’s told a parable against them. He has answered the question, “By what authority does he do these things?” From God. In fact, more than that; he’s God’s Son who has come into the vineyard. And these guys, the ruling priests, are about to murder him. And they go away saying, “We’ve got to destroy this guy. He is serious trouble because he has just indirectly threatened us with being removed and replaced. So that’s it. It has escalated to the point now, we have…it’s either him or us. This town is not big enough for both of us. We’ve got to get rid of him.”
- Dr. John Ankerberg: Aware of the danger, Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. Some scholars in the ABC Special described Jesus as one who was deeply shocked and appalled at what he faced; a person who, because of fear, was on the edge of a complete mental and physical breakdown. It was further implied Jesus could have easily escaped when he saw the soldiers coming for him, but instead, decided to walk right into their hands.
- Dr. Craig Evans: He’s not committing suicide because he doesn’t take his own life. But, there is some truth to that observation. Had Jesus wanted to flee, he could have fled. Jesus has informants; he knows to some extent what’s going on in the city. He knew it was hot, he knew he had to be careful. There were secret arrangements made for the Upper Room. So, if Jesus simply wanted to save his life, if that was his objective, he would have gotten out of town a day or two before he was arrested. But, no, he wanted to fulfill his ministry. I believe he sincerely believed that his death was necessary to complete his task.
- Dr. John Ankerberg: Then Jesus was taken to trial. In Mark we have two: one at night, one first thing in the morning. We have the same thing in Matthew. In Luke we only have one Jewish trial, just in the morning. In John we have no Jewish trial at all. Do we have contradictory reports?
- Dr. Darrell Bock: No. What we have here is selectivity. I think that Mark and Matthew are giving us kind of the full portrait. I think that Luke’s giving us the Reader’s Digest version and I think John, in connection with his usual style, is giving us trial scenes or interview scenes that we don’t know about otherwise.
- And again, in asking about the trial, this is a Grand Jury investigation; it’s not a formal trial. Had it been a trial, they couldn’t have met on a feast day. But because this is a special situation, an emergency situation, they’ve got Pilate right there in the city. They can finish the job in the weekend if they get on it. They get on it and they get it done. Because the last thing they want to do is to have Jesus imprisoned with his followers gathered in the city, wondering what’s going to happen. They don’t want this drawn out. They want to get it over with as quick as possible.
- Dr. John Ankerberg: Concerning the trial, Mark records: “The high priest arose and came forward and questioned Jesus, saying, ‘Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?’ and Jesus said, ‘I Am, and you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power and coming with the clouds of heavens.’ And tearing his clothes, the high priest said, ‘What further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy. How does it seem to you?’ And they all condemned him to be deserving of death.” [Mark 14:60-64]
- Dr. Gary Habermas: At that point, when the Jewish priest says, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?” Notice what Jesus does. “Are you the Christ [Messiah], the Son of God”? And Jesus says, Ego eimi, “I am.” And then he changes a Son of God question to a Son of Man answer. He says, “I am the Christ, the Son of God, and you will see the Son of Man coming with the clouds of heaven in judgment.” [Mark 14:61-62]
- And the priest makes a formal declaration of blasphemy. He rips his garment. He says, “The rest of you witnesses can go home. We’ve gotcha.” [Mark 14:63-64]
- Dr. Craig Evans: This is one case where Jesus himself affirms explicitly his messianic identity and that, in my opinion, points to the veracity of the Gospels. If the Gospels are fictions, they’re going to have Jesus walking around all the time saying and doing messianic things. The Gospels don’t do that and I think that’s because the Gospels are restrained by what actually happened, what Jesus actually said.
- Dr. Gary Habermas: Now, what set him off? In the passage there in Mark 14, Jesus says, Ego eimi, I am the Son of God.” Then He says, “And you will see the Son of Man coming with the clouds of heaven.” [Mark 14:62] Number one is it’s a virtual quote from Daniel 7:13,14. He claims to be the preexistent One who comes from the Ancient of Days to set up God’s kingdom. And secondly, He uses this enigmatic phrase, “coming with the clouds.” That phrase is used dozens of times in Scriptures as a reference to deity. And Jesus said, “That’s me.”
- Dr. Ben Witherington: But they also knew that throughout the Old Testament the one who was given the right to offer final judgment on the world was God himself. And so somebody who claims to come on the clouds and offer final judgment has got to be some kind of divine figure for sure. And this was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
- Dr. Darrell Bock: They ask him if he’s the Messiah because they need a political charge to take to Pilate. If he says he’s the Messiah, they’ve got their charge, they can go to Pilate, they can say, “He’s claiming to be a king. You’ve got to stop him!” If there’s one thing Rome doesn’t care for, it’s people calling themselves kings and gathering followers around themselves and, “That’s your responsibility to stop.” That’s going to be the case they are going to take to Rome. Jesus says more. Jesus says, “Not only am I that Messiah, it’s not just that, I am the One who is going to be given judgment authority. And I am not on trial here, you are!”
- “One day I’m going to come back on the clouds as the Son of Man and be the eschatological judge. And you’re thinking about putting me to death?” It’s quite a moment. It’s a moment in which what the Jews hear as blasphemy comes up against Jesus’ claim that God is going to exalt him. And it’s the crashing of two ideologies, right there in that trial scene.
- Dr. John Ankerberg: Did the Jewish leaders understand it that way?
- Dr. Craig Evans: Oh, I think they very clearly understood it that way. That’s why the High Priest rips his robes, screams “Blasphemy! We don’t need any other witnesses.” They all agree, they condemn him to death, and he’s handed over to the Roman governor for execution.
- Dr. John Ankerberg: Pilate reluctantly agrees to sentence Jesus to death by crucifixion, and it’s an attested fact of history that Jesus died on the cross. But what happened next? There are certain historical facts that all scholars must examine to come to a conclusion about what happened to Jesus at the end of His life, and we will look at those facts next.