The Trial of Jesus

8_Trial of JesusScripture Reference: Mark 14:53-15:20; Luke 22:54-23:25; John 18:12-19:16

Story Overview: After being arrested Jesus was taken before a number of different religious and civil courts. It was during these trials that even one of Jesus’ closest friends, Peter, became afraid and told people that he didn’t even know Jesus. Judas saw the consequences of what he had done and hung himself. The accusations against Jesus were false but the Jewish leaders persisted because they wanted him dead. Finally Pilate (the Roman Governor) gave into the people’s demands and sentenced Jesus to die by crucifixion.

Suggested Emphasis: Being blamed for something you did not do.

Background Study
Way to Introduce the Story
The Story
Review Questions
Craft and Activity Ideas
Other Online Resources

Background Study:

The four gospel writers approach the trial of Jesus from different angles and stress different events. Sometimes a writer places things in order of importance rather than chronologically. This can make the accounts difficult to put together. Read all four gospels to get the full picture. Include Matthew 26:57-27:26.

It was during Jesus’ various court appearances that Peter denied him (Matthew 26:69-75; Mark 14:66-72; Luke 22:54-62; John 18:15-18, 25-27).

Judas, saw the consequences of what he did and hung himself (Matthew 27:1-10). Acts 1:15-20 more graphically describes his end.

The Sanhedrin- The Jewish leadership. It consisted of three main groups. The “Chief Priests” included the ruling high priest (Caiaphas) and the former high priest (Annas, father-in-law to Caiaphas). The “elders” were lay members of the Sanhedrin. The “teachers of the law” were Jewish scholars of the day. Roman law limited the power of the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin was not allowed to carry out capital punishment.

Roman Government- Officials were appointed over regions to keep order among the many conquered nations living under Roman rule. Pontius Pilate was the Roman Governor of Judea (A.D. 26-36). His residence was in Caesarea on the Mediterranean coast but he was in Jerusalem during Passover to prevent trouble from the large number of Jews assembled for the occasion. While there he stayed in the magnificent palace built by Herod the Great near the temple. Mark refers to this palace as the “Praetorium” (Mark 15:16). Herod Antipas was another governor. His main headquarters was in Tiberius on the Sea of Galilee but, like Pilate, he had come to Jerusalem because of the Passover crowds

  1. Jewish Trial:
    Preliminary hearing before Annas, the former high Priest (John 18:12-14, 19-23). Annas tried to get Jesus to admit to false teaching. Ended up having Jesus struck and then sent him to Caiaphas.
  2. Trial before Caiaphas, the High Priest, and the Sanhedrin (Mark 14:53-65):
    They could not find any strong evidence against Jesus. Caiaphas finally asked him point blank if he was the Christ. Jesus said, “I am.” This was considered blasphemy and worthy of death. He was blindfolded, struck with fists and beaten.
    (Final Action of the Council ending all-night session (Mark 15:1). Jesus pronounced guilty, tied up again and sent to Pilate.)
  3. Roman Trial:
    Trial before Pilate (Mark 15:2-5). Pilate considered Jesus a Jewish religious problem and not a civil one. He was amazed that Jesus did not defend himself. When Pilate heard Jesus was from Galilee he was happy to send him off to Herod Antipas who governed that region.  Although the Mark passage does not record the time with Herod Antipas (next paragraph) it seems as if Pilate sent Jesus away only to have him sent back again by Herod Antipas.
  4. Trial before Herod Antipas (this is only recorded by Luke in Luke 23:6-12):
    Herod had heard about Jesus and wanted to see a miracle. He and his soldiers mocked Jesus and put a robe on him. Sent him back to Pilate.
  5. Trial before Pilate continued and concluded (Mark 15:6-15; Luke 23:13-25):
    Pilate had no reason to give death sentence that Jews wanted but the crowd demanded crucifixion. Pilate gave the frenzied crowd the choice and they chose a murderer to be released instead of Jesus. Pilate’s wife sent word to him that she was having dreams and Jesus was innocent. Finally, when Pilate saw that the crowd was turning ugly he ceremoniously washed his hands of the situation. He had Jesus flogged and handed him over to be crucified.

The name “King Herod” appears a few times in the New Testament.  Here are descriptions of three of them:

  1. Herod the Great- (37-4BC) King at the time of Jesus’ birth.  Visited by the wise men.  In an attempt to kill baby Jesus he ordered Jewish boys under the age of two to be killed. Matthew 2:1-15
  2. Herod Antipas- (4BC-AD39) He put John the Baptist to death (Matthew 14:1-12).  Pilate sent Jesus to him before his crucifixion (Luke 23:7-12).
  3. Herod Agrippa I- (AD 37-44)  He killed James and had Peter thrown in prison.  Struck down by an angel and eaten by worms (Acts 12:1-24).


Way to Introduce the Story:

Ask the children to share with the class times when they have been blamed for something they did not do. If you have a story in your own life to relate it would really add to the lesson. Talk about how that felt. “In today’s story we are going to learn about a time when Jesus was blamed for something he did not do.”

The Story:

Have you ever seen a picture of Jesus on the cross? Have you ever wondered how it happened? Jesus was a good man. Who decided that he would die on a cross?

It seemed like everything was going wrong! Why was everyone so mad at Jesus? Jesus had never done anything wrong. Why were so many people trying to hurt him?

Only a few hours before Jesus and his friends had been eating the Last Supper together. Jesus said at the supper that he would die soon but his friends did not want to think it would really happen.

Jesus had told them that they would all run away when he got in trouble. Peter told him that there was no way he would ever leave Jesus. Jesus told Peter that Peter would deny him three times before the rooster crowed.

Later, just after Jesus was praying in a garden, he was arrested by an angry mob of people. They tied him up took him to the religious leaders and made him answer questions. The first person they took him to was Annas. Annas used to be the High Priest of the Jews but now he was very old. He was not a good man. He said mean things about Jesus and made it sound like Jesus had done bad things. Then he got someone to hit Jesus.

Next Jesus was taken to the new High Priest. His name was Caiaphas. Caiaphas gathered all the religious leaders together. Some people told lies about Jesus. Caiaphas asked Jesus if he was the Christ. Jesus said “yes” and that made Caiaphas very angry. They did not believe that Jesus was the Christ. They did not even like him. They put a blindfold on Jesus and hit him and beat him up.

The next morning the Jewish leaders took Jesus to Pontius Pilate. Pontius Pilate was the Roman governor.

“We demand that Jesus be crucified!” the Jewish leaders said.

Pontius Pilate knew this was very serious. Only really bad people were put on a cross to die. He asked Jesus questions but he did not think Jesus should be put to death. He kept asking Jesus questions about the bad things people said about him but Jesus didn’t even try to defend himself.

Pilate sent Jesus to another governor. His name was Herod Antipas. Herod Antipas made fun of Jesus. He and his soldiers put a robe on him and teased him about being the King of the Jews.

While all this was happening, where do you think Jesus’ friends were? Do you think they were trying to help Jesus? No, they all ran away because they were afraid. Some people saw Peter and asked him if he knew Jesus. He was afraid they might hurt him so he told them he did not know Jesus. Three times people asked him if he knew Jesus and he said no three times. After the third time Peter heard a rooster crow.

Peter was sad. He remembered how Jesus told him that he would deny Jesus three times before the rooster crowed. Jesus had been right. Peter did not help Jesus.

The Jewish leaders kept asking that Jesus be crucified. Finally, Pilate had had enough. He did not think Jesus should die. Even Pilate’s wife did not think Jesus should die. She had dreams that said Jesus was innocent.

He wanted to let Jesus go home but people kept shouting, “No, crucify him, crucify him!”

Pilate had an idea. He brought out a very bad prisoner. He had killed people. The prisoner’s name was Barabbas. Pilate thought the crowd would want to crucify Barabbas and let Jesus go free. But guess what happened. The crowd said to let Barabbas go free. They still wanted Jesus to be crucified.

Finally, Pilate began to worry that all the people might try to hurt him. He said he would let Barabbas go. Then he told the soldiers to beat Jesus and then crucify him.

What a sad day. Jesus had done nothing wrong but bad people wanted him to die. That is how it was decided that Jesus would die on a cross.

Ways to Tell the Story:

This story can be told using a variety of methods.  Always remain true to the facts found in the Bible but help children connect to its meaning by using drama, visual aids, voice inflection, student interaction and/or emotion.
Click here for visual aids and story-telling methods.

Review Questions:

  1. Which disciple denied knowing Jesus three times? Peter
  2. Did Jesus receive a fair trial? No
  3. Which Roman governor sentenced Jesus to die? Pontius Pilate


Craft and Activity Ideas:

(How to choose the best learning activities for my teaching situation)

  • Appoint a judge. Judge should ask the class to list all the things Jesus did right, and then ask them to list what he did wrong. Discuss the fact that he did not do any wrong but he suffered for us anyway (1 Peter 2:21-22).
  • Sing “I’ll Be a Friend to Jesus” or have someone come to class and teach the children.
  • List situations where we might deny Christ (not tell friends we are Christians, etc.) Discuss how Peter must have felt. We will hear more about him later.
  • Use large paper to draw scenes from today’s story. Assign each child a different scene. Use for review.
  • Many activities overlap with other stories so please have a look at:
  • This story is part of a bigger story about the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.  A simple way to tell the story is to open plastic Easter Eggs one at a time.  Each egg reveals something about the story.  If you are telling the stories about the death, burial and resurrection over a few weeks why not try repeating this method every week.  The children will really know the story after this!
    Click here to learn how to do it.
  • Life of Christ_Late Try the resources on the Pinterest Board: Life of Christ (late ministry)
  • Check the Teaching Ideas page on this website for ideas that are adaptable to any lesson.


Other Online Resources:


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