AFTER JESUS WAS ARRESTED in the Garden of Gethsemane, he was taken before the Sanhedrin, the supreme religious counsel that consisted of key elders in the Jewish community in Jerusalem. The Sanhedrin, which comprised both Sadducees and Pharisees, called several witnesses to give testimony against Jesus during this first phase of his trials, but Jesus could not be condemned because their statements were not in agreement. Nevertheless, Jesus eventually acknowledged that he was the Christ. This apparent blasphemy enraged the high priest and the council. Whether the trial actually was held before the entire Sanhedrin (since it was held late at night in secret, they may not have had a quorum) is questionable. What is clear, however, is that Jesus’ response is what led to his next trial.
Early on Friday morning, after the priests completed their questioning, they bound Jesus and took him before Pontius Pilate. There they accused Jesus of blasphemy. In the Gospel of Luke, they say he is also guilty of sedition in order to persuade the secular authorities to execute him (the priests lacked the legal jurisdiction to put him to death under roman law). Meanwhile, Pilate’s concern was whether Jesus was a threat to public order.
Evidently, Pilate did not want to get entangled in this religious affair, for after he discovered that Jesus was from Galilee, which was in Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent Jesus to Herod, who had come to Jerusalem. Herod was curious to meet this man who he hoped would perform signs for him. When Jesus did not comply, Herod tired of him and sent him back to Pilate, who had been warned by his wife not to have anything to do with this “innocent” man because of a dream that had troubled her.
After listening to the accusations of Jesus’ detractors and reviewing the case further, Pilate determined that Jesus was not guilty of a crime deserving death. Nevertheless, Jesus’ enemies continued to insist on his execution. Finally, Pilate offered the people a choice: They could pardon and free either Jesus or an insurrectionist and murderer named Barabbas. The loudest members of the crowd before Pilate yelled for Barabbas’s release and for the crucifixion of Jesus. At this point, Pilate literally washed his hands before the crowd, who shouted , “His blood be on us and on our children!” (Matthew 27:25).