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  • Staci Sweet

Is Police Brutality in the Bible?

In October 2017, the headlines read of yet another incident of police brutality. By that time there had been several accounts of police brutality in addition to several incidents of police-involved shootings. Because I’d had enough of the online comments and intense protests, I decided to get serious and really seek the Lord about it. I needed some concrete biblical guidance as to why this was happening. I needed to know if such incidents could be found in the Bible and if so, I needed to study them so that I could know how to intercede. But let me preface this by saying - prayer is not the only thing that needs to be done. But prayer is where it all should start. That said, when I searched the scriptures, much to my surprise, there were several incidents of police brutality. One of which happened to Jesus.

Jesus’ Run In With Law Enforcement

In John 18, we find the legal authorities of the day making plans to indict Jesus. Though several members of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish court system, were unable to secure a warrant, they were successful in convincing the Jewish Police Department to send, ‘…a detachment of troops, and the captain and the officers of the Jewswith weapons’ to take the Lord into custody. And though His arrest appeared to have been done in an official capacity, it wasn’t; because again, Jesus hadn’t been formally indicted of a crime. Yes, there was a high-ranking officer present, but His arrest was still illegal. But it gets worse.

Instead of taking the Lord to the precinct to be officially booked, they transported Him to an undisclosed location, the home of ‘Annas…the father-in-law of Caiaphas’, the high priest. It was at this point that Jesus became a victim of police brutality. After several unsuccessful attempts to find witnesses that would corroborate their false allegations, the high priest decided to personally interrogate the Lord. During the interrogation he, ‘…asked Jesus about His [staff] and His [teachings]. Jesus [then] answered him, “I [taught publicly]…and in secret I…said nothing. Why do you ask Me? Ask those who…heard Me…they know what I said.” And when He had said these things, one of the officers who stood by struck Jesus…’ When Jesus told the interrogator to actually locate witnesses, notice what happened. He was physically assaulted by an officer. Mind you, this was during an illegal interrogation which by the way was another problem. According to the U.S. Courts Government website, if the government is attempting to charge someone then:

‘…the burden of proof is on the government. Defendants do not have to prove their innocence. Instead, the government must provide evidence to convince the jury of the defendant’s guilt. The standard of proof in a criminal trial gives the prosecutor a much greater burden than the plaintiff in a civil trial. The defendant must be found guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt,” which means the evidence must be so strong that there is no reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime.’1

Therefore, the government, or in Jesus’ case, the Sanhedrin, experienced the same problem. They lacked credible witnesses and had no strong evidence. But Jesus’ ordeal didn’t stop there because shortly thereafter He was transported to another undisclosed location; that of ‘Caiaphas the high priest.’ (John 18:19-24). After being taken into illegal custody, transported to two unlawful locations, and physically assaulted by an officer, Jesus was finally formally indicted, and it was at this point that He was taken to the precinct, or in Jesus’ case, the Praetorium.

The Praetorium was a courthouse of sorts. It was the place where the Romans tried criminal and civil cases. Before we go on, it’s important that you understand the difference between criminal and civil cases. Civil is defined as, ‘relating to…the private rights and duties of a citizen. 2 Therefore, the chief priests and Pharisees were bringing a civil case against Jesus because they didn’t believe, that as a private citizen, He had the right to teach publicly, and thus explains why they asked Him, “…by what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?’ (Mt. 21:23) Today, He would have been asked, “What seminary did You attend?”, “Who licensed You?”, and “Where did You get Your ordination papers?” Therefore, these officials were trying to determine who sanctioned the Lord. Which governing body gave Him the right and/or license to preach the gospel publicly? But why was this so important?