Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Caiaphas Asked the Critical Question of Faith

Mark 14:61

Most of the commentaries assume that Caiaphas was out to get Jesus that night.  There is no doubt that Caiaphas thought Jesus was wrong, but he was not a long-standing enemy.  Caiaphas was a Sadduccee, a theological liberal, who didn't take the next life seriously at all, but wanted peace and order in the present.  If only Jesus hadn't mentioned the Kingdom of God.  Passover was at hand, and political talk that might rock the boat with all those pilgrims in town was just too dangerous.

The hierarchy had found a way to arrest Jesus at night.  The people were asleep, and the Twelve were scattered.  Pharisees and Sadduccees came together to make common cause against One who was an embarrassment to the establishment, and a preacher of repentance.  The two parties might have given each other dirty looks as they entered the room, but they knew they had common business to conduct.

The Procurator was in town for the Passover.  Most of the year Pontius Pilate spent at the seaside resort of Caesarea, but he knew he had to be very careful at this time of year, so he reinforced the Jerusalem garrison, and came in person to live in the dark discomfort of the Fortress of Antonia.  Caiaphas knew that he had to observe all of the formalities in this matter.  He couldn't ask Pilate for an execution with undotted i's.  He needed witnesses, proper trial procedure, and a legal conviction.  The Pharisees were hungry for Jesus' blood; the Sadduccees were resigned to sacrificing Him to avoid trouble.  Jesus had the right to remain silent.  If He maintained silence, He could be acquitted for insufficient evidence.  All sorts of accusations were made, but finally two witnesses reported what Jesus had said about destroying the Temple and rebuilding it.  They were telling the truth, even if they didn't understand the meaning, but Caiaphas had a case then, and would press Jesus for an answer.

He decided to convict Jesus out of His own mouth.  The question for tonight came when Caiaphas abjured Jesus, made Him swear to tell the truth, then asked Him, Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?  Jesus couldn't say No, but silence now would not be clear enough.  Jesus answered truthfully, knowing His answer would bring death.  He said, I am, and you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.  The "I Am" was enough, because that was the name God revealed to Moses from the burning bush.  The reference to Daniel 7 was clearly a claim to be the Messiah.  Caiaphas reacted with horror, tearing his robe to lament the spoken blasphemy. The Council passed the death sentence.

Jesus did not fall into a trap.  He knew the Law.  He knew that by holding His peace He could have been acquitted, but He knew it was His father's desire to save the world by sacrificing Him.  He had become incarnate for this purpose.  Terrible things would happen to Him now, but He could not turn back.  The question had more importance than Caiaphas could have imagined. He certainly did not ask it in faith, though it is the critical question of faith: Who is Jesus? Or as He put it earlier in the week, What do you think of the Christ? That very question was being put to Him.  Are you the Word made flesh, the Seed of Abraham, the Savior of the Nations?  Jesus answered, "I am."  Once they tried to stone Him for saying that.   This time there would be no stones, not with Pilate in the city.  Nothing so disorderly as a stoning would be permitted.  During Passover it would have to be a Roman execution.  They would raise up the dry tree.

Once at the close of a church service, an intelligent-looking man came up to the pastor and said, "I don't see any reason to believe that Jesus was the Son of God.  I can be saved not by believing in some barbaric sacrifice, but by following His example.  That is enough for any man."

The pastor answered, "I suppose it is, Do you intend to do that in this life?"

"I do," the man replied.

"I'm sure you want to," said the pastor, "but the Word of God tells us that Jesus knew no sin, neither was any deceit found in His mouth.  Could you say that about youself?"

The man became embarrassed and admitted that he had sinned, so the pastor replied, "Then you don't need an example. You need a Savior who can cover your sins with His blood." During this Lenten season, we have been moved by those who have seen the love of God in Jesus Christ. However, no words can express that love nearly as well as Jesus" own statement, "I am."  The love that urged Him to give Himself into death is greater than we could ever grasp.  His testimony was to Himself, that He had come from heaven to save us for all eternity.  Now our testimony must be to Him.  Every facet of our lives must proclaim, Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Blessed!  Is He the Savior?  He is, He is, He is. AMEN.

~Rev. Lloyd E. Gross

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