Yesterday afternoon, the UST School of Law hosted “The Trial of Jesus.” My friend and collegue Mark Osler (a former federal prosecutor) took the Caiaphus role – the role of the prosecutor arguing that Jesus should be put to death – and Jeanne Bishop, an assistant public defender from Chicago, was defense attorney.
Mark had told me before the event that the preparation period for this had been very challenging for him, as he found his prosecutorial instincts in conflict with his faith.
Listening to Mark’s opening statement, his examination of the witnesses (the prosecution called Peter and the rich young man as witnesses; the defense called the centurion whose servant Jesus healed and Malchus), and his closing statement – I could completely understand what he meant. I found myself drawn in by his arguments, persuaded that (to use the legal standard we were asked to apply) “there [was] a probability that, if not executed, the defendant woudl commit criminal acts that would constitute a continuing serious threat to society.” Mark convincingly argued that Jesus presented a serious continuing threat to society in that he threatened the family structure, the economy, intellectual leadership and the society’s ability to defend itself.
In the publicity for the event, Mark was quoted as saying that he “had always thought about that story from the position of Jesus…I realized that I’m not Jesus. I’m one of the people with a rock in my hand.”
It is so easy for us to be critical of the Pharisees and the Roman authorities and of the crowds who screamed out for Jesus’ crucifixion. We are so convinced we are not them – that we would have acted much more nobly and faithfully in our defense of Jesus.
Events like this one are sobering. They force us to look more honestly at some of our assumptions. After sitting through this trial, I have to wonder whether I can claim with any certainty that I would have been defending Jesus, that I would not have been one of those nodding my head yes to those who argued for his execution.
I know the trial was recorded and at some point soon should be available on the UST website. When it is, I will post a link.
A very interesting exercise which should give one pause to consider the filter through which many viewed Jesus.
Interesting. In this trial, what laws was Jesus charged with violating? Roman law? Jewish religious law? Is there historical evidence (Josephus?) about trial practices in Jesus’ time and what Jesus was charged with? I wonder what would be analogous in state or federal law in the U.S. today?