Monthly Archives: April 2012

Truth According to Pilate

Anger is a hiding place for many. People, not all, believe their anger absolves them of all responsibility for their actions. Anger controls and directs and motivates to action. Anger excuses and rationalizes and covers up irresponsible thinking. Anger, as an emotion, brings out the fight in a person and once they have discovered they are able to control they encourage, even manufacture anger. No one can attack another without bringing to the surface an emotion like fear or anger. Those who control their anger or fear, who understand the emotions and why they feel as they do, cannot be controlled by another’s anger toward them.

Pilate is the one, the governor, sitting on the judgment seat holding the life or death decision as he questions Jesus. He thinks he is in control. He realizes the Jews are trying to manipulate him. To a certain extent he allows their manipulation. However, he is not going to be manipulated by the man before him who stands accused of crimes against Rome and Jewish law. Jesus demanded Pilate judge him based upon truth and the evidence of his life, words and works. He had never encouraged rebellion against Rome. Jesus had told no one to refrain from paying their taxes. As for shaking the traditions held by the Jews, Pilate didn’t care. He didn’t think or feel like a Jew and refused to be lumped in with a people he disdained. His response to Jesus is a rebuke. “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done” [John 18:35 ESV]?

Jesus is a Jew and knows the traditions and culture of his people which focuses upon their relationship with God. He actually cares about restoring people’s relationship with God. Jesus is the one who has challenged the Jewish leader’s hypocrisy. He made them angry to the point they wanted to murder him. Pilate didn’t want to involve Rome or himself. He wanted to be left alone by these undignified and barbaric people. They weren’t Romans who conquered them but a people conquered by Rome with no rights and little value other than what can be taxed out of them. He knew he was being used by the Jews and the beaten man before him had done nothing deserving death.

Once again Jesus tried to refocus Pilate’s attention. He is more than he appears. In a blatant statement Jesus gives Pilate the impression he is either a raving madman or someone beyond Pilate’s comprehension. Because Pilate does not care about truth he views Jesus’ claim as unbelievable. “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world” [John 18:36 ESV]. Jesus says it twice. He is a king and his kingdom cannot be touched by the world.

Right here, at this moment, we must be careful attributing to Pilate a more significant reaction than he actually gave. Jesus didn’t answer Pilate’s question because he had done nothing wrong. Jesus does continue talking about his kingdom. Pilate, a typical man who asked a reasonable question realizes something about Jesus, and the Jews who brought him, based upon his pragmatic thinking and decisions based upon the circumstances. He views Jesus as a madman.

I can see Pilate standing and staring at Jesus for a moment. Unable to grasp truth he draws a conclusion. Jesus is mad. Not angry mad, like the Jews who brought him but crazy mad. He has lost complete touch with reality. Pilate will finally crucify the man and Jesus will be dead. Not dead like ineffective or unable to continue leading people astray. Not dead like out of the way and no longer a threat to the Jewish religious leaders. Dead. Rotting in a grave, dead. Torture, suffering, then absolute death. Dead, the ultimate truth, dead.

Once again, I can see Pilate rolling his eyes as he realizes the mental instability of the man before him. If he was sitting down he would have leaned his chin on a hand and yawned his next question. “So you are a king” [John 18:37 ESV]? He asked the air not the man. Being a lunatic is not against the law and does not deserve death.

Jesus finally gives Pilate a glimpse into the reason and purpose of his life, of his being born into the world and why he is standing before this man who will determine whether he lives or dies. In this decision Pilate had no choice. He will condemn Jesus but not because Jesus has done anything worthy of condemnation. “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world–to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice” [John 18:37 ESV].

There is more to this man than any can imagine. Everyone who encounters Jesus struggles with truth. Their struggle is with whether they accept truth or try to turn it into something it is not, something more palatable and convenient to their circumstance. Something which does not demand they confront who they are but excuses their corrupt nature. Truth brings guilt. But it will also bring release from guilt. Truth reveals separation but also reveals a number of other emotions such as anger, fear and guilt. Guilt is a feeling easily covered over with anger, easily hidden. No one can live with guilt. Judas committed suicide because of guilt. Either you deal with guilt, you commit suicide to get away from guilt or you go insane, believing there is no guilt.

Pilate now dismisses Jesus. He makes two more statements. First to Jesus then to those who accused Jesus of capital crimes. “Pilate said to him, ‘What is truth?’ After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, ‘I find no guilt in him'” [John 18:38, see also Luke 23:4 ESV}. He probably asked this question as he is walking away from Jesus. A lunatic cannot know the truth. But then, neither can those who’s minds and hearts are corrupted by sin and are in rebellion toward God. He was not asking Jesus a question he expected Jesus to answer. His question was dismissive and rhetorical and probably with a wave of the hand and a turning of the back. He no longer cares what Jesus says. Returning to Jesus’ accusers he states flatly Jesus is guilty of nothing. In fact, Pilate is probably chuckling at the Jews who have had to deal with this mad man. It is now a game to him. Jesus has made the Jews angry and Pilate laughs at their anger and conniptions. Let them deal with his lunacy.

Anger is no reason to condemn a person to death. Nor is anger a reason to dismiss him. Pilate did not examine Jesus’ words and works, while the Jews had seen and heard him teach and do miracles. Even seeing the evidence of Jesus’ life will not convince some of who he is. Pilate will eventually have Jesus crucified and he will die.

Then Jesus will rise from the dead. What do we do with this truth?

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Pilate Questions Jesus

Pilate was not an astute politician. He was in Judea because he had been appointed governor by Caesar. Judea was a remote outpost of the Roman Empire. Its only value to the Romans was its access to the Kings Highway and to the Mediterranean Sea as a shipping lane. Merchants moved by land and sea from Africa to Europe and Asia and all who to or from Africa by land had to go through this little spit of dirt between the Sea and the desert. Still, Pilate wanted to keep the peace so he worked with the local authorities. These were the religious leaders who hated the Romans but lived under their control and authority. Pilate heard some of the cases brought before him.

I can see Pilate rolling his eyes and sighing deeply at being disturbed by the people who brought Jesus. His disdain for them was equal to theirs for him. Deferring to their customs this time he went out to them so they would not be “defiled” just before one of their annual celebrations. Pilate cared nothing for them but simply wanted to do as little as necessary to keep the peace. When he came out to the portico of the praetorium, or the common judgment hall, he asked “what accusation do you bring against this man” [John 18:29 ESV]? I think they came to him rarely. His own guards were adequate for keeping the peace and arresting criminals. He was probably puzzled by the beaten and bruised man standing before him.

We have already seen the false accusations they brought against Jesus. None of the “crimes” they accused Jesus of committing even remotely concerned the Romans. They, the religious leaders, tried to make it seem like the Romans had to be concerned about this one man. Their answer assumes Pilate will believe anything they say though they should know he would not. Coupled with false statements their answer to Pilate is overly arrogant. “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you” [John 18:30 ESV]. Their presence before Pilate reveals their motives. Even though they hate Pilate and the Romans as much as the Romans hate them each group uses the other to their own benefit.

Pilate sees through their duplicity immediately. He doesn’t want to get involved with anything having to do with these people, their customs or traditions. All he cares about is keeping the peace, squashing minor rebellions and keeping the shipping lines open and the taxes pouring into the Roman coffers. Roman demands this from him. Nothing else. His response shows his lack of concern for anything Jesus could have done. “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law” [John 18:31 ESV]. Pilate knew they had no authority to murder anyone. He turned his back on those occasions when they did murder someone. As long as there were no riots, no disturbances, no threats of losing taxes and goods, he did not care.

Pilate knew Jesus was different. Should the Jews murder Jesus both Pilate and the Jews thought the people who followed him would riot. Neither Pilate nor the Jews wanted this type of outbreak of violence. Only the Romans could get away with murdering someone and almost guarantee no riots. So, the Jews who wanted Jesus dead told him what they wanted. “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death” [John 18:31 ESV]. When the Romans put someone to death there was no possibility of the condemned ever escaping. There was no escape. They were going to die. Even this, Jesus being turned over to professional executioners, was a fulfillment of a prediction Jesus had made about how he would die. Matthew 20:19 records Jesus predicting how he would die. “This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die” [John 18:32 ESV].

What follows is a short discussion between Pilate and Jesus about truth. Pilate made up truth to suit his immediate need and the circumstances in which he found himself. His truth was founded upon the dictates of Rome and the pleasure of Caesar, whom he served. He placed no value on people, especially the Jews of the country he governed. If the circumstance demanded a response which would make his job easier then that was the principle he applied. Unlike the Jewish leaders who had been told truth by God, Pilate massaged it as he went along and changed it at a whim. This is why he asked the question, after taking Jesus away from those who hated him, “are you the King of the Jews” [John 18:33 ESV]?

Jesus had already been asked by the High Priest if he claimed divinity. “Are (you) the Christ, the Son of God” [Matthew 26:63 ESV]? Jesus’ answer gave the High Priest an excuse to charge him with blasphemy and condemn him to death. Pilate doesn’t recognize anyone’s divinity, except Caesar’s and only when expedient. Pilate would bow before Caesar and worship him as a god to stay alive. He knew enough about the political climate of Judea to know Jesus was not claiming anything as simple as royalty. He also knew Jesus was not leading a rebellion against Rome. If Jesus were claiming to be a god he would have simply waved the religious leaders away in disgust. He couldn’t ignore the accusation of royalty, of anyone who might threaten the stranglehold Rome had on its territories.

Jesus challenges Pilate’s thinking. He does not rebuke Pilate, call him a hypocrite or a white-washed tomb. These are epitaphs reserved for the religious leaders who claim to teach truth while ignoring truth. Jesus demanded Pilate draw his own conclusion based upon the evidence of his life not the false accusations of those who want him dead. “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me” [John 18:34 ESV]? Pilate doesn’t know Jesus and is hearing only circumstantial evidence against the man. He at least has the decency to question the accused if even in a cursory manner. Jesus does not hedge the truth. Read his words as recorded in the four documents available. He does not give anyone the luxury of manipulating truth to fit their circumstance.

Even when his life is threatened and his execution assured Jesus does not sway from his intent and motivation. He is standing before Pilate and He knows the reason he is there. Though he is executed by professional executioners he will not compromise truth and will demand those before whom he stands, or who stands before him, to acknowledge truth. No one gets to make truth up as they go or change it at whim or because they do not want to hear and accept truth.

Before Pilate

Everyone who saw Jesus that night betrayed him in some way. Judas sold Jesus for 30 silver coins, it does not matter how much they are worth in any current economy, then tried to give the money back. He would not keep it. Then he killed himself.

Peter bragged he would never abandon Jesus, as did all those who heard his bragging. All fled when Jesus was arrested by the mob. Within hours of his bragging Peter denied knowing Jesus three times. All who were close to him, who had walked with him, been taught by him, watched him work and do the impossible, forgot everything, forgot their relationship with him and ran away leaving him to die.

Jesus was at the beginning of his murder as the Sanhedrin falsely arrested him and began accusing him of things untrue in order to manufacture an excuse to have him killed by the Romans. They were the ones responsible for leading the people in righteousness before God. Their responsibility included teaching truth and leading a life based upon truth. Yet, they were unwilling to accept truth and tried to cover up their actions with outrageous lies. Their lies were based upon the rituals and traditions of men. As representatives of God nothing they did was godly. Is it any wonder Jesus criticized the religious leaders, calling them hypocrites and worse almost every time they spoke?

“Then the whole company of them arose and brought him before Pilate.” [Luke 23:1-2 ESV]

It is now morning, the day before Passover. It is called Preparation day. Passover is a celebration of remembrance, when God freed the Jews from the slavery of Egypt, bringing them out with power, then destroying the Egyptian army. God commanded all those who are His to take the blood of a lamb and smear it on their doors, the frame and posts. God passed over every house which had the blood of a lamb painted on its doors, visiting only those places who refused to obey his command. It was those places and those people who did not recognize God who felt His wrath. Every first born son, from the lowest in the stable to the palace of Pharaoh died that night. Every house was touched. Every family grieved. Except those of the Hebrews who had sprinkled the blood on their doors. God commanded this celebration of remembrance so His people would not forget and rebel against Him, to remember how He redeemed them from slavery.

They, those seeking to have Jesus murdered, wanted to eat and celebrate the Passover according to God’s will, so when they brought Jesus to Pilate, the Roman governor, they refused to enter his residence. To do so would make them unclean and keep them from being part of the celebration. Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor’s headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover” [John 18:28 ESV]. Perhaps they had forgotten two of the Ten Commandments, or felt they did not apply, or they were somehow exempt. “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor” and “you will not murder” [Exodus 20:16 and 20:13 ESV]. Perhaps the excuse they used was to manipulate Pilate into committing the murder. As long as they didn’t actually commit the crime they felt immune from the consequences of involvement. How little they knew God.

Once before Pilate, the governor, the false accusations continued. In the middle of the night, in the courtyard of the High Priest, many people tried to accuse Jesus of doing anything deserving death. There was nothing. So the High Priest concluded Jesus should die because of blasphemy, a capital offense in Jewish law. But Pilate could care less about Jewish law. He was bound by Roman law. So the mob of the High Priest tried to charge Jesus with violations of Roman law and deserved death. “And they began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king” [Luke 23:2 ESV].

How had Jesus misled the nation? By telling the people the truth about the hypocrisy of their leaders and teachers? Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, ‘The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so practice and observe whatever they tell you–but not what they do. For they preach, but do not practice'” [Matthew 23:1-3 ESV]. This doesn’t sound like he is misleading anyone. Its reads like it is the leaders who are misleading the people and Jesus wants them to know the truth. He pegs them when he says they say one thing but do another. This fake trial is a perfect example.

Had Jesus ever told the people to not give “tribute” to Caesar? Quite the opposite.

Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”

But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar’s.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” When they heard it, they marveled. And they left him and went away. [Matthew 22:15-22 ESV]

These are not the words of a man telling people to rebel against Rome. They are the words of a man who recognizes the authority of those over him even when he disagrees with them. He never spoke against Rome. He continually spoke against the religious leaders who were misleading the people.

Finally, had Jesus ever claimed to be a king? He spoke often about the kingdom of heaven or the kingdom of God. His words were with authority and his works were the evidence of who he is. This is the only accusation which might raise Pilate’s suspicions. Pilate knew no one could keep the Roman’s from collecting taxes. Pilate thought the entire people he governed were reprehensible and valueless, except for the money he could get out of them. He had heard of Jesus, at least in passing. Had there ever been a hint of rebellion by Jesus and those who followed the man he would have squashed it without a thought. Jesus was not a threat to him or to Rome.

Pilate did begin questioning Jesus. “Are you the King of the Jews?” [Luke 2:3 ESV]. Jesus’ answer gives Pilate no reason to condemn him. In fact, Jesus answer vexes Pilate. “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me” [John 18:34 ESV]? Jesus recognizes how the Jews had influenced the way Pilate thought. They had accused him of being a king. He never acted like a king. How many kings do you know who tell people to not talk about the things he just did? How many kings walk around the countryside openly speaking to prostitutes, tax collectors, lepers, the lame and blind and sick? How many seeking a place of authority would walk away from a crowd of people who wanted to make him king? How many kings give away their wealth? If anyone who wants to be recognized as a king does these things it is for political expediency, for people to look up to them, place them on a pedestal. Jesus was not political. Nothing he did was as the world wanted. He will finally be placed on a cross, executed like a common criminal.

Jesus is extraordinary in his worldview. He is facing death and does not defend his actions, plead for his life, belittle or contradict those accusing him. His life is open, his words spoken in public, his actions seen by many who will witness and testify to their genuineness. There is nothing in this exchange with Pilate, the exchange which follows after Pilate sends Jesus to Herod and receives him back again, which suggests we are reading fiction.

Judas and the Jewish Leaders

When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death. And they bound him and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate the governor.[Matthew 27:1-2 ESV]

There was no Jewish court existing at that time which had the power to sentence anyone to death. This does not mean people were not condemned and stoned or killed in other ways. They, the Sanhedrin, the highest level Jewish religious and legal counsel, were used to taking the law into their own hands and delivering Jewish justice to those who violated their law. In the Law of Moses there were a number of reasons God allowed capital punishment. Blasphemy was one of those reasons.

Leviticus tells the story of a young man, the son of a Jewish woman and an Egyptian father, who cursed the Name of God. He was brought before Moses who talked with God and was told by God to stone the young man. “Whoever blasphemes the name of the LORD shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall stone him. The sojourner as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death” [Leviticus 24:16; see Leviticus 24:10-23 ESV]. God then tells the people “whoever takes a human life shall surely be put to death” [Leviticus 24:17 ESV]. For the High Priest and others to accuse Jesus falsely of blasphemy in order to have him murdered brings sentence upon themselves. God is no respecter of persons.

They, the Sanhedrin and the high priest, were afraid of the people. If they killed Jesus the Romans would probably not care. But if the people revolted because they killed him then the Romans would have to act. Jesus was loved by many. People loved to hear him talk and often his words were in direct opposition to those of the teachers of the law. Should they kill him they would find the people rioting. It was Passover and there were many people in Jerusalem who knew about Jesus. Any revolt, or even the hint of an uprising, would give the Romans an excuse to come down hard on the people and the Sanhedrin would lose control. Their intent was to keep control and be rid of Jesus. The best way to do this would be to have the Romans execute Jesus. So, after their hidden by the night court session they took Jesus to Pilate.

Here Matthew tells us something the other documents do not. We discover what happened to Judas, the one who betrayed Jesus. John tells us Judas was the group treasurer. He was part of a small, intimate group of men who followed Jesus and was taught by him. None could hide anything from another. It was known Judas “was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it” [John 12:6 ESV]. Money had no hold on Jesus. Money did have a hold on Judas. He conspired to betray Jesus for money, was paid for his act before it was accomplished then fulfilled his obligation by leading the mob to Jesus in the middle of the night. It is not hard to imagine someone selling another for personal gain. We have seen it ourselves or know those who have seen it from others.

Perhaps Judas, having seen Jesus escape the clutches of those who wanted him dead in the past thought Jesus would again walk away unscathed. Judas would be richer, the religious leaders who hated Jesus would be poorer, and Jesus would not be hurt. He was not thinking about the ultimate consequences of his actions when he betrayed Jesus. He had not been listening to Jesus and all of the predictions of his death and how he would die. He was self absorbed which was not uncommon among the followers of Jesus. None of them were examples of the perfect follower.

Matthew gives us the evidence for this thought, that Judas thought Jesus would simply walk away from those who arrested him. “Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind” [Matthew27:3 ESV]. He “changed his mind.” This is not the word for “repent” which means to think differently or reconsider but the word for “remorse” which means to regret, or to care about after the fact. Judas was caught in his deception. Had Jesus done what Judas thought he would do, walking away unhurt, Judas would never have blinked. Judas confronted by the unthinkable was forced to face his complicity in the condemnation of Jesus. He tried to play the murderous hearts of the religious leaders who hated Jesus against Jesus’ power to escape those murderous intentions. His greed, and the actions which translated greed into treason, overwhelmed him. He was simply greedy. He was not a murderer. With Jesus’ condemnation he became a murderer and it was too much for him.

Judas goes to the elders, who had given him the money to betray Jesus, and tries to give the money back. Did he actually think if he gave the money back they would let Jesus go? Probably not. He did need to take care of his guilt. Listen to his anguished confession. “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood” [Matthew 27:4 ESV]. He knows the difference between right and wrong. He knows his actions were wrong, deadly and murderous. Even those elders knew the difference between right and wrong also.

They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.”

And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself. [Matthew 27:3-5 ESV]

Judas committed suicide. He could not go to Jesus and beg forgiveness. Jesus himself stood condemned. He could not bear to see the results of his treason knowing he was the one who ultimately forced an innocent man’s death. He did not know who Jesus was even after spending three years of intimacy with him. He was not a false witness. He was no witness. He just wanted some money. His hope was in the money. Now his hope completely disappeared. He could no longer fool himself, lie to himself about who he was or find value in anything. He was hopeless and faced with insanity, going mad by clinging to a counterfeit, false and empty existence. Refusing to accept the truth of his depravity he committed suicide and was then forced to accept the truth of his depravity. No one is created to cease to exist.

Judas was his own Judge and Jury and Executioner.

Even the priests operated under a standard which they knew could not be violated. They simply picked and chose which part of the standard they would keep and when, under which circumstances. Acknowledging their complicity in the sure death of Jesus they condemned themselves again by their own words knowing they could not put the money they had taken out of the treasury back into the treasury when Judas threw it at their feet. “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, since it is blood money” [Matthew 27:6 ESV].

Here is a prediction from almost 600 years before this time. We will eventually look at these predictions found throughout the Hebrew Scriptures. This one points directly to the incident of Judas betraying Jesus and the money he received, to the exact amount, and what they did with it when they received it back from the traitor.

So they took counsel and bought with them the potter’s field as a burial place for strangers. Therefore that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken by the prophet Jeremiah, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the price of him on whom a price had been set by some of the sons of Israel, and they gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me.” [Matthew 27:7-10 ESV]

There is nothing about this incident which suggests fantasy. These are the actions of a people, leaders of a people, who conspired to have an innocent man murdered. Every word, action, fulfilled prediction, happened. Judas followed the hopeless actions of countless people throughout history who have committed suicide. There is no reason or rationale to suggest anything presented here did not happen as recorded in the historical documents we have.

Honesty Ignored

Finally Caiaphas asks a straight forward question. “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God” [Matthew 26:63 ESV]. Up until this point Jesus has not answered any of their accusations. None of them were true. I do not know if he refused to dignify the accusations with a response, because they were not true, or he knew no defense would change their minds. Perhaps both. Caiaphas resorted to his last, best and final question. He demanded Jesus answer his question under oath to God. He saw only two possible answers from Jesus. Either he says “yes” in which case he accuses him of blasphemy, or he says “no” and he demeans Jesus as an imposter. In Caiaphas’ mind Jesus is either one or the other but he cannot be who he says he is.

In a way, Jesus affirms Caiaphas’ question. He does not come right out and say “Yes, I am Messiah.” Instead, he says “You have said so” [Matthew 26:64 ESV]. Luke gives a more elaborate response. “If I tell you, you will not believe, and if I ask you, you will not answer” [Luke 22:67-68 ESV]. Again, it does not matter what Jesus says or doesn’t say. They will not let him go. He will not allow them, or anyone, to put words in his mouth, to make him say something he did not say, or never would say. This is still true.

Jesus makes another prediction. We are deep in a study of his prediction of his death, burial and resurrection. All of the evidence says he was raised from the dead, just as he said he would. That prediction is true. He has predicted Peter will deny him three times before the first rooster crows in the wee hours of the morning. Jesus’ prediction of Peter’s denial was true. So is this prediction. Caiaphas has tried to put blasphemous words into Jesus mouth, forcing a confession which would give him an excuse to have Jesus condemned and executed. Jesus puts the words back into Caiaphas’ mouth. But he doesn’t stop there. He continues with an astounding prediction. “But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven” [Matthew 26:64 ESV].

This prediction has yet to happen. Jesus is sitting at the right hand of God but those in the world have not seen Him coming. Saying it is not true because it has yet to occur is illogical thinking. Too much time has passed for it to be immediately fulfilled. Like God saying to Adam the consequences of eating the forbidden fruit, dying you will die (“mûthdie “mûth” die, see Genesis 2:17), so Jesus states the ultimate occurrence, not the immediate. When Adam ate he began to die until he finally died. So, Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection means he has retaken his eternal place, set aside for a moment to accomplish something which shakes all creation. Caiaphas will see Jesus again, at death, and then death. Jesus predicts, because he knows, he will regain his place next to God, “at the right hand of Power” which is to say he is God. He predicts, or affirms, his control over all creation. He will come “on the clouds of heaven.”

Jesus tells Caiaphas he is God, he owns every created thing, and killing him will not stop him from being God or claiming all which is his. I am not going to try to justify the statements Jesus makes. His life, the evidence of his words, his teachings and predictions and works, the truth of his resurrection, are enough. Those who do not believe will not believe. All are told by God to examine the evidence honestly. But we can know there are many like Annas and Caiaphas who have made up their minds regardless of the evidence.

Caiaphas’ reaction is in keeping with his already made up mind. I have wondered if he practiced his indignation (kind of like athletes who practice their celebrations to get them right whenever they score). After tearing his robe (I wonder if he wore old clothing knowing he was going to rend his garment that night, or maybe he wore his best so the impact would be greater) he said “he has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy” [Matthew 26:65 ESV]. His words were spoken loudly, boastfully, forcefully, meant to show his utter contempt and hatred for Jesus. Blasphemy is the most serious charge which any may accuse another. It means the accused is attributing to himself or an idol that which belongs only to God. Jesus has been called a blasphemer before. From the beginning of his public appearances people had wanted to kill him because of his “blasphemy.” For them his “blasphemy” was His words and works which showed He is God in the flesh. In other words, they blasphemed when they refused to acknowledge him as who he is, attributing to something other than God the words and works of God.

If what he says is a lie then he is a blasphemer. If what he says is true then he is not. If what he says is a lie then the best anyone can do is to ignore him completely and seek truth. If what he says is true then we best not call his words a lie. Ignoring him because he is inconvenient only states he is a liar. Believing him demands the whole person, whom he has created for relationship with him, seek to know him both intellectually and intimately.

Once Caiaphas has given his judgment he affirms it with those standing near, all thinking and feeling like he that Jesus deserves death. “‘What is your judgment?’ They answered, ‘He deserves death'” [Matthew 26:66 ESV]. Jesus is now a convicted criminal, judged so by an illegal court held in the middle of the night by a judge and jury who had tried, judged, convicted and sentenced him long before he was brought before them.

What follows is exactly what is expected from an illegal court. Man’s desperate wickedness comes out in the abuse of Jesus. “Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him, saying, ‘Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?'” [Matthew 26:67-68 ESV]. Once the prisoner is condemned to death he ceases to be human and worth only ridicule and torture. It is impossible to ignore the way someone made in the image of God, and even the Image of God, is treated once people are given permission to abuse. There are no fancy insults, no elaborate speeches. There is only abuse.