After Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane he was tied up and taken to Annas. Caiaphas was the legal, Roman-appointed high priest that year. Annas was his father-in-law and had been the high priest. Both are referred to as “high priest.”
“The high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching. Jesus replied, ‘I have spoken publicly to the world. I always taught in the synagogues and in the temple courts, where all the Jewish people assemble together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said. They know what I said.’ When Jesus had said this, one of the high priest’s officers who stood nearby struck him on the face and said, ‘Is that the way you answer the high priest?’ Jesus replied, ‘If I have said something wrong, confirm what is wrong. But if I spoke correctly, why strike me?’ Then Annas sent him, still tied up, to Caiaphas the high priest.” (John 18:19-24 NET)
As we proceed through this chapter, keep in mind that these are the Jewish leaders. These are the ones that the people looked to as the highest legal authority of the Jews.
Annas asked Jesus about two things: his disciples and his teaching. It would seem they were looking to stamp out anything to do with Jesus once and for all. But notice that Jesus only commented on his teaching. And his answer was correct – his teaching was a matter of public record. Everyone had heard him because he taught nothing in secret. For his reply, the high priest’s officers struck him on the face, an unjust action.
“Then they brought Jesus from Caiaphas to the Roman governor’s residence. (Now it was very early morning.) They did not go into the governor’s residence so they would not be ceremonially defiled, but could eat the Passover meal. So Pilate came outside to them and said, ‘What accusation do you bring against this man?’ They replied, ‘If this man were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.’ Pilate told them, ‘Take him yourselves and pass judgment on him according to your own law!’ The Jewish leaders replied, ‘We cannot legally put anyone to death.’ (This happened to fulfill the word Jesus had spoken when he indicated what kind of death he was going to die.)” (John 18:28-32)
The Jewish leaders had paid money, blood money, to get Judas to betray Jesus to them (the other gospel writers record this). Such a great act of injustice and especially for the leaders of God’s people! But what is of concern to them is that they look the part. They made sure they didn’t go into Pilate’s residence so they would not become ceremonially defiled! Wouldn’t betraying an innocent man have made them even more defiled by sin?
Their accusation against Jesus is worth noting, because they didn’t have one. “He’s a criminal” really did not hold any water and Pilate was quick to point this out. In their reply we quickly see that they only wanted one thing: the death of Jesus. They could not legally sentence someone to death. They needed Pilate to do this.
There is a lesson in this for us, especially when we are more concerned about being ‘seen’ to be a Christian than living as a Christian. Are we engaged in sinful actions when people can’t see us? But do we then want to be sure we are seen to be ‘doing’ what a Christian should be doing in public? If this describes Christians we know that the spirit of the Pharisees is still alive and well!
May all that we do, both public and private, show that we are a child of God.
Photo by Jon Galloway: part of a first century Roman pavement near Gabbatha in Jerusalem
Readings for next week:
22 April – John 16
23 April – John 17
24 April – John 18
25 April – John 19
26 April – John 20