Tag Archives: Annas

Sentencing

Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out,(Psalm 5:10 ESV)

When Jesus entered Jerusalem the last week of His earthly ministry, He went to the Temple, His Father’s house, and cleared away the vendors and moneychangers. He disrupted Annas’ Bazaar, violently driving them from the Temple grounds. In the Gospel of John, at the beginning of His ministry when He did the same, He accused the authorities of turning His Father’s house into a market. “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade”  (John 2:16 ESV). Now, the second time, He accuses them of thievery. They are stealing from the people and from God.“It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers” (Matthew 21:13 ESV; see Mark 11:17, Luke 19:46). Jesus acts angry.

Following this scene, Jesus confronts and is confronted by the spiritual leaders of Israel, who are leading the people away from God, not toward Him. Yet, the people come to Him, especially those who need healing. Children cried out, exclaiming over Him.

And the blind and the lame came to him in the Temple, and he healed them.

But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the Temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” 

And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, “‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?” And leaving them, he went out of the city to Bethany and lodged there. (Matthew 21:14-17 ESV).

The next day, Jesus again entered the Temple. There is no indication Annas’ Bazaar was still there. Immediately, the chief priest challenged and questioned Jesus’ authority. Jesus asked them about John’s baptism.“The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” (Matthew 21:25 ESV). They refused to answer. “And they discussed it among themselves, saying, ‘If we say, “From heaven,” he will say to us, “Why then did you not believe him?” But if we say, “From man,” we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.’” (Matthew 21:25-26 ESV). They were not interested in knowing the truth. All they wanted was political power. “For there is no truth in their mouth” (Psalm 5:9 ESV).

Jesus confronts them and their rebellion using two parables. “When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. And although they were seeking to arrest him, they feared the crowds, because they held him to be a prophet” (Matthew 21:45-46 ESV). Jesus used His stories to convict them of their guilt and wrongdoing.

Jesus’ first parable was of the two sons. A father had two sons. He told them both to work in their vineyard. One son declared he would, but did not. The other son said he would not work, but went and worked. One son claimed obedience but lied. The other son rebelled but then obeyed. The Father is God. The sons are the children of God. 

Which of the two did the will of his father?” 

They said, “The first.” 

Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.   (Matthew 21:31-32 ESV)

Jesus second parable is of the tenants of a master who built a winepress then traveled to a distant country. The tenants mutinied against him, killing the servants of the master sent to gather the profits of the winepress. The master sent his son, whom they also killed. They believed by killing the son they would then be rid of the master and have full control of the winepress. The Master is God. The tenants are the people of God. The servants are the prophets of God and the son is Jesus.

When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?”

They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”  (Matthew 21:40-41 ESV)

Their own words condemn them. “Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits”  (Matthew 21:43 ESV). They will bear their own guilt. They will fall by their own counsel. They rebel and sin against God and He will cast them from His presence.

Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you. (Psalm 5:10 ESV)

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God’s Holiness

For you are not a God who delights in wickedness; evil may not dwell with you.(Psalm 5:4 ESV)

God cannot abide ungodliness. He separates for eternity those who hate Him from those who love and obey Him. Yet, because of sin, none can work their way into eternity with God. Everyone is ungodly but some recognize their sin, realize the consequences and turn toward God in faith. God honors those who strive to come toward Him in obedience.

Wickedness is a word related to the word wicked first seen in Psalm 1. “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked” (Psalm 1:1 ESV). David speaks, and Jesus affirms, that God has no delight, which means to take pleasure, in anything that contradicts His holiness. Evil means disagreeable, malignant, bad and describes the thinking of the heart of those who hate God. To dwell means to abide, stay, live and also means to stir up or quarrel and cause strife. God is not pleased with any who fight against Him, who disobey Him, yet seek to live with Him because of His generous and gracious nature. This statement, in Psalm 5:4, is reminiscent of the previous Psalm. “There are many who say, ‘Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD!’” (Psalm 4:6 ESV).

Jesus delights in entering the House of His Father. Many who lived in the vicinity of the Temple would take advantage of the obedient sacrifices of the people for gain and profit. At the beginning of His earthly ministry, Jesus entered the Temple in Jerusalem during Passover week and drove out the vendors who had set up their wares in the courtyard of the Gentiles. The place was called Annas’ Bazaar. Annas was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the High Priest.

In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.”(John 2:14-16 ESV)

In this marketplace were vendors selling animals for the requisite sacrifices and money-changers who would exchange foreign currency for that used locally. Before a person could offer a sacrifice to God to fulfill their obligations under the law, the animal being sacrificed had to meet the requirements of the law. The animal had to be perfect, with no blemishes. Many people, traveling from great distances, could not bring an animal with them, so after they arrived they bought an animal to sacrifice. The prices for the animals were higher in the temple than anywhere else. Or, if they did bring an animal to sacrifice from their own possessions, a priest had to inspect the animal to ensure it was perfect and suitable for sacrifice. The inspecting priest would find something wrong with the animal and send the pilgrim to the vendor for an exchange and upgrade. Those pilgrims coming from other countries would have to exchange their currency for the local shekel, also at an exorbitant rate. Then they would have to buy an animal with the money left. In all of the exchanges many of the priest would receive a kickback. 

Jesus often visited the Temple often. It was customary for the Jewish people to come to Jerusalem once a year, during Passover, to celebrate God. Annas’ Bazaar was a daily event, for someone was always offering a sacrifice according to the law. Jesus was familiar with the marketplace within the Temple walls. His anger toward the desecration of the Temple had built over time.  At this Passover he took action against those buying and selling in the Temple courts.

He made a whip out of cords and began driving people from the Temple, attacking the vendors selling their wares. It was not that being a seller was wrong. It was that they were selling in the temple and overcharging people to the profit of the priests. He flipped over their tables. He dumped their money on the ground. Jesus violently disrupted the workings of the temple because of the evil dwelling in the house of God. God does not delight in wickedness and evil may not dwell with Him.

Notice what Jesus said when He drove them away. “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade” (John 2:16 ESV). Since His childhood Jesus identified the temple as the house of God and that God was His Father. “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Luke 2:49 ESV). He was His Father’s Son.“You are my Son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel” (Psalm 2:7-9 ESV). Jesus was doing that which God had given Him to do.

During the first Passover week, at the beginning of His earthly ministry, Jesus shouted the message He was Messiah. He wrote the Laws of the sacrifices. The Temple was His house and that He was in control. He threw down the gauntlet and formally challenged the authority of the religious leaders of His people. His was not a true challenge but a statement of fact that He was their authority.

Stricken

Meditations on the Psalms

For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked.(Psalm 3:7 ESV)

God develops a number of motifs in the Psalms. One of the patterns He gives in the first three Psalms is judgment of the wicked. Those who actively rebel against Him will experience the fury of His righteous decision.

Psalm 1 tells us the wicked fail in their rebellion. None of their works or words last “but are like chaff that the wind drives away” (Psalm 1:4 ESV). They will not stand before God when He sentences them but will be separated from the righteous (see Psalm 1:5) and will ultimately perish(Psalm 1:6). They will not disappear into nothingness but will continue to exist for eternity outside of God’s presence, never receiving that which sustains spiritual life.

Psalm 2 gives the evidence of the rebellion of the people and those who teach, train and lead the rebellion. When God gives Jesus, the Son (Psalm 2:7) ownership of creation, He will “break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel” (Psalm 2:9 ESV). People are to serve Jesus with fear and trembling. If they do not they will perish (Psalm 2:12). This word perishis the same word in both Psalm 1 and here. God speaks twice because He has firmly decided what will occur.

In Psalm 3 Jesus prays to His Father about His passion and the agony of being subject to the wrath and hatred of a people He created in His image for relationship with Him. He loves these people. They hate Him and want Him dead, so they murder Him. They justify their murderous intent by providing false evidence against Him while ignoring the truth of His life, words and works.

During the inquisition of Jesus before the High Priest, He faced questioning about His disciples and His teaching. Note that the position of High Priest at that time was shared by Caiaphas and his father-in-law, Annas (see John 18:13). Traditionally, there was only one High Priest. Caiaphas was the designated High Priest while Annas was the acting head of the religion, having been High Priest and most probably refusing to relinquish control to his son-in-law. Annas touted tradition and law while ignoring tradition and law. It was Annas who first questioned Jesus and responded to His answers.

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?” (John 18:20-23 ESV)

Jesus answered truthfully and was struck on the face. Annas, and the guards he controlled, mocked Jesus. They had no intention of looking critically or objectively at the evidence. They wanted Him dead and were willing to sacrifice their integrity and their relationship with God to murder Him.

Those who struck Jesus on the cheek, mocking Him and refusing to examine the evidence, speaking against Him and training others to do the same, will themselves be struck on the cheek. To strike is to hit, beat, slay and kill. Those who condemned Jesus are His enemies, both individual and personal opponents and corporate or national adversaries. They stand resolute against Him in every way conceivable. But God does not speak of His rendered judgment only once. This is a parallel statement because He will surely make it happen. He will break the teeth of those who speak against His Son. To break means to crush, to violently destroy, maim, cripple and rupture. Their words and actions, the thinking of their hearts, will condemn them, used as evidence and testimony against them when they stand before God’s judgment.

Yes, they murdered Jesus. But He rose from the dead and is now the prosecutions expert and only witness against all who rebel against God.

Simon of Cyrene

Pilate made a decision, one he did not want to make and argued against in a simple and foolish manner, but made anyway. He was the legal decision maker and the Jews could do nothing about his legal decision once made. Yet, he listened to the arguments, the accusations against Jesus, heard the charges against him change and change again, determined Jesus was not guilty, then agreed to have him executed. “So Pilate decided that their demand should be granted” [Luke 234 ESV]. But his giving in was not limited to murdering and innocent man. He exchanged Jesus’ life for that of a known murderer, one who justly deserved execution. He released the man who had been thrown into prison for insurrection and murder, for whom they asked, but he delivered Jesus over to their will” [Luke 23:25 ESV]. Those men who represented God’s law, a law which they concluded made them righteous before their Creator, asked someone they hated to release a man who would have been condemned under God’s law, who stood condemned under Roman law, so Jesus would be murdered. Caiaphas, the High Priest, and his fellow Jews, the religious leaders of God’s people, wanted Jesus murdered and argued for his execution.

Without belaboring the spectacle, Jesus was already half dead. He had been arrested in the middle of the night by a group of Temple guards who took him first to Annas, the father-in-law of the High Priest, Caiaphas his son-in-law. While in their custody Jesus was abused physically, emotionally and verbally. He was then delivered to Pilate who sent him to Herod, whose guards continued the physical and verbal abuse. Jesus was beaten and slapped and hit and spit upon. Herod sent Jesus back to Pilate who had him scourged by trained sadists, men who knew how to inflict the maximum amount of pain without causing immediate death. By the time Jesus is led away from this mob he is bleeding from wounds covering most of his body, is quivering from exhaustion, sliding into shock and had he been abandoned, left alone from then on, would probably have died anyway. But he is not dead. It is Roman custom the condemned, those facing crucifixion, carry their cross, or the cross-beam upon which they will be nailed with spikes, to the place of their execution. Jesus is forced to pick up a heavy beam and lug it through the streets of Jerusalem from Pilate’s judgment hall to the hill upon which he will ultimately die.

Jesus hasn’t the strength for this final act.

Roman soldiers have an authority throughout their territory, given them by the Emperor, which allows them to grab anyone they see, any of the local residents, and compel them to carry their load for a mile. This is something which was done daily in Rome’s Middle Eastern territories. Jesus is physically unable to carry his own cross-beam so the Roman guards snatch a by-stander, someone completely unawares, and force him to carry the burden. “As they went out, they found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name. They compelled this man to carry his cross” [Matthew 27:32 ESV].

Jerusalem is filled with pilgrims this time of year, all coming to celebrate Passover in their “city of God.” Simon, probably one of these pilgrims, a Jew from Cyrene, is in the city, probably with his family because he is devote and wants to be there to worship his God. Cyrene is in Northern Africa, in Libya and is modern day Tripoli. He has come a long way, either on foot or by boat. I can only assume his mental and emotional state of mind and heart. It is the day before Passover, the reason he has come to Jerusalem. Called Preparation day, it is a day when devote Jews prepare their homes according to the teaching of Scripture to celebrate a historical fact in a way which helps them remember who they are before God. Not only are they to prepare their homes they are to prepare their hearts to worship God. Simon is doing this. He is in the streets of Jerusalem, not as a tourist but as one who will experience the moment of a lifetime before returning to his home. He may never come back. But then, he may have moved to Judea with his family so he and his would become more closely identified with their heritage. We do not know the circumstance if his being in Jerusalem. We can assume he was not there to witness, let alone participate in, a crucifixion.

As he moves through the streets of Jerusalem a crowd forms and he hears the shouts of a mob coming toward him. Curious and cautious he moves to one side. It is never a good idea to get in the way of a Roman procession, especially if the Roman troops have their swords drawn. Coming by him, he hears the weeping of women, the groaning of men condemned and the exhausted steps of one carrying a heavy load. If he is normal he will see Jesus, beaten and bleeding, bowed under the weight of a cross-beam and know the man is going to die horribly soon. Looking at him, shocked by what he sees, for no one deserves the treatment Jesus has endured, he watches as the man stumbles and falls. New to the city he may not know who Jesus is and certainly would not immediately recognize him if he did know. Turning toward the crowd a Roman soldier grabs Simon, points to the cross, and tells him to pick it up. If Simon resisted he would have been beaten or killed immediately. He picks up the piece of wood and shoulders it while the Romans drag Jesus to his feet and force him to move toward certain death. Simon will carry Jesus cross the rest of the way, its weight pressing into his shoulder, its rough splinters poking his hands and arms and cheek, its stink assaulting his nose, bringing tears to his eyes. Carrying this cross-beam, probably having been used before to execute others condemned by the Romans, made Simon unclean. He came to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover. Now, he could not.

If Simon did not know who Jesus was before he soon discovered who he was now. I cannot imagine anyone being thrown into his circumstance not wanting to discover all he can about the man driven behind him up a hill to his death. We know little about this man, but the document written by Mark, an eye-witness to the events, alludes to knowing him and at least two of his sons. “And they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross” [Mark 15:21 ESV]. Is there any reason to disbelieve what is described in these documents? Is there a reason to suggest someone named Simon, who was from Cyrene, was not compelled to carry the cross-beam by the Romans as they drove Jesus to his death? Only those who do not want to believe the historical facts disregard the records and eye-witness testimony. Simon was a real man, carrying a real cross-beam so a real man named Jesus would be nailed to it with real spikes and dies a real death. This is all we know of Simon’s story but it is enough.

Third Time Before Pilate

This is the third time Pilate has seen Jesus during his “trial.” Before Pilate became involved the first time Jesus had been arrested by Caiaphas, the Chief Priest, and the temple guards. He had been taken to Annas’ house first then to Caiaphas house where he was condemned to death and beaten by the guards. This was at night. After sunrise he was taken to Pilate, who examined him and found him not guilty of doing anything wrong. Pilate proposed to have Jesus punished and released. Caiaphas’ mob demanded he be murdered. Pilate discovered Jesus was a Galilean and sent him to Herod who ridiculed Jesus and allowed his guards to beat him. Herod returned him to Pilate who told the mob even Herod had found Jesus not guilty. Jesus is standing before Pilate and the mob beaten and bruised, an innocent man condemned by a jealous, envious, group of religious leaders. This mob of religious leaders asks Pilate to release a notorious criminal, condemned to death, and have Jesus, who is innocent, crucified in his place.

Washing his hands of the decision Pilate turns Jesus over to his guards who prepare him for crucifixion. He was scourged, his body traumatized. He was mocked and ridiculed, each Roman soldier present in turn hitting him and spitting in his face. A crown of thorns was shoved down onto his head and a purple garment thrown over his torn and lacerated back. Then Pilate brought him back out to stand before the mob. “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him” [John 19:4 ESV]. Once again Pilate tells the mob Jesus is not guilty of any crime, had broken no Roman law and did not deserve death. He had suggested punishing Jesus and letting him go. “So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, ‘Behold the man'” [John 19:5 ESV]! What the crowd witnessed was a man punished by Roman soldiers trained in sadism. He did what he had proposed doing to a man who was innocent. Pilate could have easily at this time released Jesus and told the High Priest he would not be their executioner. Perhaps there was a vain hope in him the mob would see a beaten and broken man, ridiculed and mocked, bleeding from every part of his body and decided Jesus had suffered enough. He wanted them to let the man go.

Once a mob begins chanting a slogan or mantra, a phrase meant to excite the emotions and inhibit the intellect, it is almost impossible to stop them. This mob had been chanting “crucify him, crucify him” [John 19:6 ESV]! and would not be satisfied until the man they wanted murdered was near death hanging on a cross. John identifies the mob demanding Jesus’ murder. They were “the chief priests and the (temple guards) officers” [John 19:6 ESV]. These are the ones, as we have said, who were responsible before God for the spiritual welfare of the people. They taught the people God’s laws, enforced His justice and were the examples of godliness to the world. Now they were inciting a mob of their own people to throw away their responsibility, their leadership positions, their relationship with God to have a man murdered. Not just murdered but tortured to death.

Pilate continues to try to rid himself of this decision. He makes another telling statement, coming close to enforcing his decision but unwilling to impose his will upon those he governs. He knows the Jewish leaders cannot carry out an execution, though they have before and they will again. “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him” [John 19.6 ESV].

According to Jewish law Jesus’ crime of making himself equal to God was a capital crime. “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God” [John 19:7 ESV; see Matthew 26:63-65]. These people knew the Law and were referring to Leviticus. “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 ESV]. God’s judgment on such crimes was stoning not crucifixion. After the person is dead their body may be hung up for display but crucifixion or impaling as a means of execution was a thoroughly barbarian act and never alluded to in the Law of the Jews.

Pilate wants to release Jesus, after having him punished, which he has done, while the Jewish leaders want Jesus executed in a manner which inflicts the most pain effectively erasing the criminal’s humanity. It is ironic that the High Priest and the Jewish leaders refer to the Law in Leviticus 24:16 but ignore the verse following their excuse for the capital sentence. “Whoever takes a human life (unjustly) shall surely be put to death” [Leviticus 24:17 ESV].

Pilate has just heard a new accusation. This accusation has nothing to do with being a king, or inciting rebellion against Rome, or telling people to not pay taxes. Jesus is standing next to him, bleeding profusely, a crown of thorns jammed down onto his head, a purple garment spread over his lacerated shoulders. He is going into shock. Pilate knows he is an innocent man. Jesus has done nothing wrong. Nothing he has done has violated Roman law. Jesus’ supposed violation of Jewish law is of no concern to the Governor. Before him mills a mob of men consumed with hatred. His job is to protect the innocent from such a mob. So far he has not done his job. Now they accuse Jesus of claiming to be a god. “When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid” [John 19:8 ESV]. Pilate is alarmed. He has lost control.