Continuing our simple Sunday reflections in the Gospel of Mark, and specifically Jesus’ arrest and trial before the Sanhedrin.
With the witnesses’ evidence inconclusive, Caiaphas takes matters into his own hands and begins to interrogate Jesus directly about their claims. Talk of building a new temple was Messianic in nature since there was the expectation that the temple would be renewed in glory when the Messiah appeared.
Jesus says nothing and, frustrated at his silence, Caiaphas asks Jesus bluntly to reveal his self-understanding of his identity, ‘Are you the Messiah?’. It’s obvious from Mark’s account that this was the crux question. A claim to be the Messiah would give the Sanhedrin the evidence it required to sentence the prisoner to death.
And this it got with Jesus’ unambiguous reply – there are echoes of Ps 110 and Dan 7:13 here. Jesus’ understanding of the Messiah is finally revealed in public: a glorious Son of Man figure, enthroned and exalted, who one day will be seen for who he truly is – the authoritative and anointed Son of God.
But why the extreme reaction? Why a death sentence for claiming to be the Messiah? Is Caiaphas just hamming it up for effect? What do you think?
I think the reaction is genuine. Caiaphas is offended and appalled at the brazenness and temerity of this Galilean nobody, abandoned by his ragtag bunch of followers, powerless and imprisoned, and yet claiming to be God’s chosen one, the hope of Israel. Such delusions of grandeur insulted the very name of God. The only just verdict was death – according to the law of Moses.
There is profound irony here. Jesus is not ‘good enough’ for God. He fails to meet the expected standards so spectacularly that he deserves to die for daring to claim Messianic status. God could not possibly have chosen this man to fulfil his purposes for Israel. Such arrogance deserves punishment, humiliation and ridicule – and this Jesus immediately begins to receive.
It is too easy to read this text and dismiss Caiaphas & co as a closed-minded clique intent on self-preservation. How could they not see the truth!? But would you and I have been much different? I wonder too if today we can have all our theology so neatly worked out that we ‘know’ with a fair degree of certainty through whom and how God is going to do things – and it usually is through people like us.
And if Jesus was fulfilling his mission today, how do you think he would be received by the church that bears his name?
Caiaphas and Jesus
60 Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” 61 But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.
Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”
62 “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
63 The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked. 64 “You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?”
They all condemned him as worthy of death. 65 Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, “Prophesy!” And the guards took him and beat him.