Sermon title:

When Courts Break the Law

Immanuel Baptist Church – Sunday, June 21, 2020

Before he finally went to the cross,

our Lord Jesus was subjected to

a whole series of criminal hearings & trials—

6 altogether, within hours of each other,

3 hearings or trials in Jewish courts,

followed by 3 more in Roman courts.

They all amounted to a travesty of justice

and a mockery of what a fair trial ought to have been.

We, today, should be keenly aware of

how courts can pervert justice,

when we look at recent decisions

by the United States Supreme Court.

Instead of upholding the law,

which is what they are supposed to do,

the judges of our Supreme Court

have been re-writing laws,

re-interpreting laws,

and actually creating new laws—

by judicial decree.

They are doing things

which the United States Constitution

does not allow them to do.

According to the Constitution,

only the legislative branch

is supposed to create or change laws.

No one else has a legal right to do that.

It is illegal for the Supreme Court to do that.

So, when the Supreme Court creates or changes laws,

that Court becomes a criminal lawbreaker—

a renegade, outlaw Court.

Our high court justices have actually been

violating the law.

They violated the Constitution a few years ago,

when the Supreme Court created

a supposed “right”

for a man to marry another man

and for a woman to marry another woman.

And the Court broke the law again this past week,

when it declared that a working man

has a legal right to show up at work in a dress,

and claim he is now a woman.

The justices ruled 6 to 3 that the employer

can’t do anything about it,

even if the man who wears the dress

deals with the public

and represents the company.

They imposed penalties on an employer

who fired a man

for doing such a perverted thing on the job.

Justice Samuel Alito disagreed with

the Court’s majority decision,

and pointed out in his dissent

that some elected politicians had been trying for years

to pass laws to create a “right”

for transgender behavior like that,

but that Congress never succeeded

in passing such a perverted law.

Congress could not pass such a law

because the American people did not want

any new laws enabling a man

to claim to be a woman.

Many Americans knew the Bible condemns

such transgender behavior.

God’s Word the Bible says at Deuteronomy 22:5,

A woman must not wear men's clothing,

nor a man wear women's clothing,

for the LORD your God detests

anyone who does this.”

And most other Americans

who didn’t know the Bible said this,

still knew instinctively that it was wrong.

That’s why Congress could never pass such a law.

So, the Supreme Court

illegally took over Congress’s job

and twisted the meaning of a 1964 law

to make a new law

granting that supposed “right.”

Well, it’s not the first time justice has been perverted.

The courts that sentenced Christ Jesus to death

2000 years ago

perverted justice as well.

The Jewish Sanhedrin Supreme Court

and the Roman Court of Pontius Pilate

broke the law in condemning to death

our innocent Lord and Savior

who was not guilty of any of the charges

brought against him.

Like our Supreme Court today,

those courts in ancient Jerusalem

were influenced by political pressure

and the outcry of mobs in the streets.

The 4 Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John

all give us different insights into those trials.

When we assemble all of them together,

it appears that our Lord was first put through

3 trials by the Jews:

first, an illegal nighttime trial before Annas,

then another illegal nighttime trial before Caiaphas,

and finally a quick show trial at daybreak

to legitimize what they had already done at night.

After that, they took Jesus to the Romans,

where Pontius Pilate found the Lord ‘not guilty,’

but delivered him in custody to Herod,

the Roman ruler of a nearby province,

for Herod’s ruling on the case.

Then in a third Roman trial,

Pilate again found Jesus ‘not guilty’

but gave in to pressure

to have him executed anyway.

Originally writing in Hebrew,

Matthew focuses more than the others

on the Jewish tribunals.

Writing for a cosmopolitan Greek-speaking audience,

Luke pays more attention to

how the Roman courts handled the matter.

And, writing some years after the others,

John gives more insight into

Pontius Pilate’s handling of the trial.

The 4 Gospels all contribute to this narrative.

I’d like to share these important events with you

in their entirety.

So, we’ll be looking at a lot of Scripture,

with relatively little comment from me.

The Scriptures really speak for themselves on this.

All in all, it’s a powerful account

one that we all need to be familiar with,

because Jesus went through all of this for us.

We already considered Christ’s hearings and trials

before the Jewish courts in Jerusalem

in our sermons in recent weeks.

So, let’s look now at what happened next,

beginning with John 18:28.

28Then the Jewish leaders took Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness they did not enter the palace, because they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. 29So Pilate came out to them and asked, “What charges are you bringing against this man?”

30“If he were not a criminal,” they replied, “we would not have handed him over to you.”

31Pilate said, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.”

But we have no right to execute anyone,” they objected. 32This took place to fulfill what Jesus had said about the kind of death he was going to die.

Pilate quickly grasped that the Jewish leaders

had religious objections to Jesus,

and wanted the Romans to execute him

over religious issues.

Pilate wasn’t going to do that.

In their own illegal and prejudiced hearings and trials

the Jewish Supreme Court had found Jesus

guilty of “blasphemy.”

But such “blasphemy” under Jewish law

was not a criminal offense under Roman law,

and governor Pontius Pilate

was bound to enforce Roman law.

So, the Jewish leaders changed the charges

that they were bringing against Christ—

which it is illegal to do in any court of law.

They changed the charges from “blasphemy”

to something else

that would be a crime under Roman law.

Luke 23:2 tells us,

2And they began to accuse him, saying, “We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Messiah, a king.”

Now those were charges Pilate could deal with:

subversion, tax evasion, and trying to overthrow

the government by claiming to be a king.

So, Pilate agreed to try the case in his court.

John 18:33 tells us,

33Pilate then went back inside the palace, summoned Jesus and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?”

34“Is that your own idea,” Jesus asked, “or did others talk to you about me?”

35“Am I a Jew?” Pilate replied. “Your own people and chief priests handed you over to me. What is it you have done?”

36Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.”

37“You are a king, then!” said Pilate.

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. In fact, the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.”

38“What is truth?” retorted Pilate. With this he went out again to the Jews gathered there and said, “I find no basis for a charge against him.

Like many politicians,

Pontius Pilate did not hold “truth” in high regard.

What is truth?” he asked, rhetorically,

not wanting an answer.

But he was an astute judge, and he recognized

that the charges against Jesus were false.

He was not fooled by the attempt

on the part of the Jewish religious leaders

to turn their religious “blasphemy” charge

into something that would be an offense

under Roman law.

His conversation with Jesus convinced Pilate

that it was still a religious issue that was at stake—

an issue involving “truth” in religious matters.

So, he announced to the crowd,

I find no basis for a charge against him.”

That should have been the end of it,

according to Roman law.

But Luke’s Gospel tells us that Roman politics took over,

and Pontius Pilate did a political favor for Herod,

the ruler of the nearby province of Galilee.

We read what happened,

beginning with Luke 23:4.

4Then Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, “I find no basis for a charge against this man.”

5But they insisted, “He stirs up the people all over Judea by his teaching. He started in Galilee and has come all the way here.”

6On hearing this, Pilate asked if the man was a Galilean. 7When he learned that Jesus was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time.

8When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform a sign of some sort. 9He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10The chief priests and the teachers of the law were standing there, vehemently accusing him. 11Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate. 12That day Herod and Pilate became friends—before this they had been enemies.

So, again, these judges—Pilate and Herod—

were breaking the law, rather than enforcing it.

They used a prisoner in their custody,

as a pawn for political reasons.

Luke continues,

13Pilate called together the chief priests, the rulers and the people, 14and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was inciting the people to rebellion. I have examined him in your presence and have found no basis for your charges against him. 15Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us; as you can see, he has done nothing to deserve death. 16Therefore, I will punish him and then release him.”

After misusing Jesus

to cement his political friendship with Herod,

Pilate still wanted to follow Roman law

in deciding the case.

He ruled that the charges against Jesus were false.

And he confirmed that Herod also found Jesus ‘not guilty.’

To appease the religious leaders,

Pilate was going to punish Jesus—

have him publicly whipped—

but he was not going to sentence him to death.

Like most politicians, Pilate tried

to reach a compromise—

something that would make all factions happy.

Matthew’s Gospel tells us the compromise solution

that Pilate proposed in Matthew 27,

beginning with Verse 15.

15Now it was the governor’s custom at the festival to release a prisoner chosen by the crowd. 16At that time they had a well-known prisoner whose name was Jesus Barabbas. 17So when the crowd had gathered, Pilate asked them, “Which one do you want me to release to you: Jesus Barabbas, or Jesus who is called the Messiah?” 18For he knew it was out of self-interest that they had handed Jesus over to him.

19While Pilate was sitting on the judge’s seat, his wife sent him this message: “Don’t have anything to do with that innocent man, for I have suffered a great deal today in a dream because of him.”

20But the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and to have Jesus executed.

21“Which of the two do you want me to release to you?” asked the governor.

Barabbas,” they answered.

22“What shall I do, then, with Jesus who is called the Messiah?” Pilate asked.

They all answered, “Crucify him!”

23“Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.

But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”

24When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!”

25All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!”

26Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.

27Then the governor’s soldiers took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole company of soldiers around him. 28They stripped him and put a scarlet robe on him, 29and then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on his head. They put a staff in his right hand. Then they knelt in front of him and mocked him. “Hail, king of the Jews!” they said. 30They spit on him, and took the staff and struck him on the head again and again.

This is what our Lord’s crown of thorns

would have looked like.

Our sister Shirley Cabral provided this replica,

so that we could see what the abusers

actually put on Jesus’ head.

It would have caused him to bleed

from the forehead and around the scalp.

That blood flowing from his head

would have been relatively little,

compared with the blood already flowing

from the wounds inflicted all over his body

by the brutal scourge

he had just been whipped with.

At this point, it appears that Pontius Pilate

made one more attempt

to hold back from inflicting the death penalty

on Christ.

Apparently, he hoped that the whipping and humiliation

would be enough to satisfy

the Jewish religious leaders.

Beginning at John 19:4, we read,

4Once more Pilate came out and said to the Jews gathered there, “Look, I am bringing him out to you to let you know that I find no basis for a charge against him.” 5When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, “Here is the man!”

6As soon as the chief priests and their officials saw him, they shouted, “Crucify! Crucify!”

But Pilate answered, “You take him and crucify him. As for me, I find no basis for a charge against him.”

7The Jewish leaders insisted, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.”

8When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid, 9and he went back inside the palace. “Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10“Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?”

11Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.”

12From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jewish leaders kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.”

13When Pilate heard this, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judge’s seat at a place known as the Stone Pavement (which in Aramaic is Gabbatha). 14It was the day of Preparation of the Passover; it was about noon.

Here is your king,” Pilate said to the Jews.

15But they shouted, “Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!”

Shall I crucify your king?” Pilate asked.

We have no king but Caesar,” the chief priests answered.

16 Finally Pilate handed him over to them to be crucified.

Pilate knew Jesus was innocent,

but rendering a “not guilty” verdict

would have been politically dangerous for him.

The Jerusalem religious leaders

knew how to manipulate Pontius Pilate.

They knew they were putting him in a bind

when they told him,

If you let this man go,

you are no friend of Caesar.

Anyone who claims to be a king

opposes Caesar.”

Pilate gave in to the pressure

and condemned to death

a man he knew to be innocent.


It may have looked like

the Jerusalem Supreme Court—

the Jewish Sanhedrin—

got away with this travesty of justice.

It may have looked like Pontius Pilate

got away with washing his hands

and condemning our innocent Lord to death.

But those men all eventually

came to the end of their own lives.

And, Surprise! Surprise!—guess who

they had to face

as the final judge!

Hebrews 9:27 says,

man is appointed to die once, and after that to face judgment,

And 2 Corinthians 5:10 says,

we must all stand before Christ to be judged

So, they didn’t get away with it.

Jesus has the last word.

And the same will be true

of the United States Supreme Court today.

God’s Word the Bible says at Deuteronomy 22:5,

A woman must not wear men's clothing,

nor a man wear women's clothing,

for the LORD your God detests

anyone who does this.”

The Supreme Court’s rulings to the contrary

are illegal and invalid.

In fact, God made humans

so that every cell in a man’s body

has male chromosomes.

And every cell in a woman’s body

has female chromosomes.

Even if they put on the clothing of the opposite sex,

they can’t really change their gender,

because each cell in their body

testifies to their gender at birth.

Even if they find doctors who will mutilate their bodies

to look like bodies of the opposite sex,

they can’t really change their gender,

because every cell in their body

remains the way God created it.

In the final judgment

the Supreme Being will overrule the Supreme Court.

Yes, in the final judgment

the Supreme Being will overrule the Supreme Court.