Summary: Caiaphas wasn’t necessarily a bad guy, he was just misguided.
Backing the Wrong Horse
A Jewish father was concerned about his son. He had not truly raised him to be grounded in the faith of Judaism… So, hoping to remedy this he sent his son to Israel so the boy could experience his heritage. A year later the young man returned home.
He said, "Father, thank you for sending me to the land of our Fathers. It was wonderful and enlightening. However, I must confess that while in Israel I converted to Christianity."
"Oh (groan) what have I done?" the father thought. So in the tradition of the patriarchs he went to his best friend and sought his advice and solace.
"It is amazing that you should come to me," stated his friend, "I too sent my son to Israel and he returned a Christian."
So in the traditions of the Patriarchs they went to the Rabbi. "It is amazing that you should come to me," stated the Rabbi, "I too sent my son to Israel and he returned a Christian. What is happening to our sons?
“Brothers, we must take this to the Lord," said the Rabbi. They fell to their knees and began to wail and pour out their hearts to the Almighty.
As they prayed, the clouds above opened and a mighty voice stated, "Amazing that you should come to Me. I, too, sent My Son to Israel..."
The event that split time in two took place when God sent His Son to Israel. Gentiles and Jews, all were transformed by His presence, His power and His words. It seemed that whoever came into contact with Him became His follower… People loved Him.
Well……not everyone. Some didn’t like Him. Some turned away from Him. AND some even reacted violently to Jesus.
In John 8:58, Jesus declared, "…before Abraham was born, I am!" In the very next verse we’re told, "At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds."
In John 10:30, Jesus proclaimed, “I and the Father are one." Next verse, "again the Jews picked up stones to stone him."
And now, here in Matthew, Caiaphas and his court erupt with the same kind of anger and tendency to violence we read about in those other passages. They yell at Him. They spit on Him. They slap Him & beat Him.
I don’t know about you, but there are times when Wendy and I might be watching a movie or TV show together and I’ll miss an important line. And I’ll ask her, “What did he say?”
It’s not that I am hard of hearing, well, okay, maybe I am. I just wasn’t paying attention right then, or thinking about something else. But I missed it.
Have you ever had that happen to you? I can imagine someone reading this text for the first time might ask that very same question – “What happened?” “What did Jesus say?” What made them so angry? What set them off?
It was the question, “Are you … the Son of God?” I’ve never read where Jesus ever referred to Himself by that phrase. He always calls Himself "the Son of Man." Never the Son of God. However, others use this term – Son of God. And when they do it’s usually pretty significant.
The angel that announced Jesus’ birth said to Mary, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God." Luke 1:35
When Satan tried to tempt Jesus in the desert, he said, "If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread."
There’s something about this phrase – Son of God – that really gets people worked up. When Caiaphas hears Jesus accept the claim…he literally shouts "BLASPHEMY!" AND it would have been blasphemy - if Jesus HADN’T Been God. BUT… He was.
Because they realized that “I am” was the answer God gave Moses when asked what his name was. “Tell them ‘I am” sent you”, God said. So, when Jesus said, “Before Abraham was, I am…” they knew exactly what He was saying.
Now, almost every film that you see has a villain of some sort, a bad character to offset the guy in the white hat. In the movie “The Passion of the Christ”, you could have your choice of villains, Pilate, Judas, the lurking figure representing Satan, the Roman soldiers, or the high priest Caiaphas. Lots of choices.
The movie chooses Caiaphas as the "hand-fits-the-glove" villain. That is probably where much of the “anti-Semitic” criticism comes from, the simplistic linking of evil to the Jewish high priest. Regardless of the fact that the Romans, Jews and yes, WE, are ALL to blame for what transpired.