Trial of Jesus: Jesus’ Ministry a Concern for Sanhedrin

In the early stages of Jesus’ ministry, the temple authorities had evidently shown little interest in the figure of Jesus or in the movement that formed around him. It all seemed a rather provincial affair – one among the many movements that arose in Galilee from time to time and did not warrant much attention. The situation changed on “Palm Sunday.” The messianic homage paid to Jesus on his entrance into Jerusalem; the cleansing of the temple with the interpretation Jesus gave to it, which seemed to indicate the end of the temple altogether and a radical change in the cult, contrary to the ordinances established by Moses. Jesus’ teaching in the temple, from which there emerged a claim to authority that seemed to channel messianic hopes in a new direction, threatening Israel’s monotheism. The miracles Jesus worked publicly and the growing multitude that gathered around him. All this added up to a situation that could no longer be ignored.

In the days surrounding the Passover feast, when the city was overflowing with pilgrims and messianic hope could easily turn into political upheaval. The temple authorities had to acknowledge their responsibility and establish clearly in the first instances how to interpret all this and then how to respond to it. Only John’s gospel explicitly recounts a session of the Sanhedrin, which served to form opinion and to shape an eventual decision on the case of Jesus (Jn 11: 47-53). John dates it, incidentally, before “Palm Sunday” and sees as its immediate occasion the popular movement generated by the rising of Lazarus. Without such a deliberate process, the arrest of Jesus during the night of Gethsemane would have been inconceivable. Evidently John is preserving a historical memory here, to which the Synoptic also refer briefly (cf. Mk 14: 1; Mt 26: 3-4; Lk 22: 1-2).

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