Before I was a pastor, I was a lawyer.  The story of Jesus arrest and trial remind me of the summer I spent working with prosecutors in the county attorneys’ office.  It was a jarring and eye-opening experience.  Each morning began with the arrest reports on your desk; the list was longest on Monday because it included everything that happened over the weekend.  My role related to the first court appearance where the charges were read, and a bail amount set by the judge.  For those who didn’t have a lawyer, a public defender was assigned to their case. I learned how many steps there are in our criminal justice system and how a person is innocent until proven guilty. 

None of these principles seem to apply to Jesus’ trial in Jerusalem.  He was first brough before Caiphas, the high priest.  Then in yesterday’s reading (John 18:28-40), he is being tried before Pilate.  There is no prosecutor or defense attorney.  There are no constitutional rights for the defendant.  It is not even real clear why Jesus is on trial.  Pilate himself is puzzled about what to do with Jesus.  But the crowd is not.  They want Jesus to be crucified and the bandit Barabbas to be released.

None of this feels like good news.  None of this looks or feels like justice.  An innocent man is on trial and being condemned to die.

If this were the end of the story, it would be a tragedy.  And it would be the end.  But it is not the end.  We are dwelling in the last days of Jesus’ life to better understand what it is that God did sending his son to earth.  What it is that Jesus experienced as both human and God.  How Jesus died at human hands. 

The words of the Apostles’ Creed help us to understand the bigger story of God’s love:

I believe in God, the Father almighty,
creator of heaven and earth.

I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord,
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and was buried;
he descended to the dead.*
On the third day he rose again;
he ascended into heaven,
he is seated at the right hand of the Father,
and he will come to judge the living and the dead.

I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.