Thursday, July 2, 2015

He Must Die—the Authorities Agree (John 18:12-14, 19-24)

“So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound him. First they led him to Annas, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. It was Caiaphas who had advised the Jews that it would be expedient that one man should die for the people.” (John 18:12–14, ESV)

“The high priest then questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me what I said to them; they know what I said.” When he had said these things, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” Jesus answered him, “If what I said is wrong, bear witness about the wrong; but if what I said is right, why do you strike me?” Annas then sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.” (John 18:19–24, ESV)

It must have been an interesting dynamic between the high priest (Caiaphas) and his father-in-law (Annas). One might even wonder who really was in charge based upon some of what is written. But then again, the position of high priest was generally of short duration, and several years before, Annas himself had been the high priest. Annas was appointed by Quirinius who we read was governor of Syria at the time Joseph and Mary traveled to Bethlehem to be registered for the census ordered by Caesar Agustus (Luke 2:1-7). Annas served as high priest from 6 to 16 a.d. when he was replaced by order of Quirinius successor, Valerius Gratus, who himself was replaced by another governor and then Pontius Pilate who was in the position at the time of Jesus’ arrest. Between Annas’ term and that of Caiaphas there were three other high priests who each served for about one year including one who was a son of Annas, and after Caiaphas’ term three more of Anna’ sons served in the position. Clearly Annas was influential whether he held the title of high priest or not, and on the night Jesus was arrested it was to Annas that Jesus was first brought.

John records for us that Annas, having held the title of high priest and still very influential and likely still considered high priest by many, began to question Jesus. He questioned Him about His disciples and His teaching. Jesus in response told Annas that everything He had said was said in public where all of the Jews could come to hear Him and speak to what He had said. He had no secrets. He pushed Annas as to why He had asked him that, and He told Annas to go ask all of the witnesses who had heard Him speak. At this response one of the soldiers struck Jesus and scolded Him for speaking to the high priest in such a way. But Jesus did not let this accusation stand. He responded to the officer telling Him that if He had said something wrong tell Him what it was. And if He did not have a valid reason, Jesus asked Him why he had struck Him in the first place. This is what we know of this first encounter after His arrest. 

Annas appeared to make no satisfactory progress in questioning Jesus, and John records for us that he then sent Jesus on to his son-in-law Caiaphas who was the recognized current high priest. Verse 14 records, “It was Caiaphas who had advised the Jews that it would be expedient that one man should die for the people.” Where Annas had asked about Jesus’ disciples, Caiaphas had stated that the way to end all of the turmoil was to kill the one person at the center of it. It was for this reason that Jesus alone was arrested and it was Him who was going to be the focus of Caiaphas’ attack.

The interesting thing about Caiaphas’ words is that they were true in a way that he never could imagine. While he was thinking that if Jesus were put to death the crowd would disperse and the situation would melt away. Without Jesus, he probably thought, there would be no followers, and without followers there would be no headache or challenge to the religious leadership. The truth, though, is quite the opposite. 

Jesus needed to die. It was the reason He was sent. He came to be the perfect sacrifice for the sins of man and through His sacrifice bring forgiveness to all who believe. But He didn’t just come to die and not be seen again having done a good thing for man. He came also to take His life back up again and give life to those same believers. Rather than going away, Jesus followers would be emboldened by His resurrection and they would also be empowered by His Spirit. While Caiaphas and the Father agreed that Jesus must die, what Caiaphas thought would squelch the issue God intended to bring its fulfillment. 

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