In our “5 Days in 4 Gospels” series we have talked about why Pastor Eastwood is wrong and discussed why Peter went Jackie Chan on a mobster. Now let’s talk about the drama queen high priest. Why does Jesus react the way he does to the priest? Why doesn’t he call down angels from heaven? Answer: To fulfill prophecy.
After a mob nabs Jesus, they take him to Caiaphus the high priest. Peter follows at a distance, because he is a bit hesitant about admitting his connection to Jesus (Matt 26:58). (He will say he doesn’t know Jesus shortly.) The chief priests, some elders, some experts in the law of Moses, and the entire Sanhedrin (an upper-class, religiously-authoritative group), begin to prompt people to testify falsely against Jesus. When? The middle of the night. Their deeds will be done in darkness, because their deeds are dark. Why? Power. They want to kill Jesus because they are afraid of losing their position of authority. But they couldn’t prove that he had said anything false, even though lots of people testified against him (Matt 26:59–60).
But it doesn’t end there. Two men come forward with something true, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days’ ” (Matt 26:60). Jesus had said that. But, according to John, he was referring to the temple of his own body—he was God’s temple, his presence on earth (John 2:20). They then prompt Jesus to respond, but Jesus is silent. But why is he silent?
Isaiah 53, the topic of my forthcoming book, is probably the reason why Jesus chose to be silent:
“All we have gone astray; each has turned our own way; and Yahweh has interposed upon [the servant] the iniquity of us all. [The servant] was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; like a sheep to slaughter, and like an ewe before its shearers is silent, so [the servant] did not open his mouth” (Isaiah 53:6–7, my translation).
But the high priest is too dense and power hungry to get that. He should know this passage. He should see the parallels. But he doesn’t, because he is on the opposite side of all that is good. He stands up and says, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if are the Christ, the Son of God” (Matt 26:63). Translation into modern terms: “Tell us if you are anointed by God to be king—the next David.”
Jesus finally speaks: “You have said so (or ‘so you say’). 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” (Matt 26:64).
And with those words, the high priest goes into drama queen mode. (I don’t know about you, but the high priest kind of reminds me of the Queen of Hearts [aka the Red Queen] from Alice in Wonderland in this moment. You just want to yell, “Big Head, Big Head, Big Head. You fool, you are so full of yourself that you don’t see the truth at all.” He tears his robes and begins yelling, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your judgment?” (Matt 26:65–66).
Really, blasphemy? What if he is telling the truth and you are about to kill the real-deal Son of God? But the Queen of Hearts doesn’t care about that: He cares about his power.
The priests answer, “He deserves death.” (When people ask you, “Who killed Jesus?” Here’s the first answer: the Jerusalem priesthood. There are other people too who we will discuss later.) People begin to spit in Jesus’ face, strike him and slap him, and say, “Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?” He appears to be blindfolded.
What can we learn from Jesus’ approach to being persecuted?
Sometimes silence is the answer.
Sometimes we need to speak.
Sometimes we will be persecuted when we don’t deserve it.
Sometimes we will be misunderstood.
Sometimes being blindfolded doesn’t mean we are blind.