Caiaphas and Jesus stood face to face. The created and the Creator in the same room. A pretend high priest and the heavenly High Priest. The chief priests and elders and all the sanhedrin had gathered in Caiaphas’ palace also, and for one purpose: they wanted to put Jesus to death. In their view, Jesus had been a thorn in their side for some time, but the resurrection of Lazarus was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. From the very day and forward that Jesus raised Lazarus, the sacerdotal tribe purposefully and actively sought an opportunity to “put Him to death” (John 11:54).
Joseph Caiaphas, as Josephus called him, was the son-in-law of Annas. Annas had been High Priest for about eight years, appointed by Quirinius in 7 A. D. but was removed from that office by Valerius Gratus in 15 A. D. Under the law of Moses, the high priesthood was held for life, but under the Romans they placed in power whosoever suited them best. So, though not now high priest, he apparently continued to wield much influence because Jesus was first brought to him (John 18:13). Luke even refers to both men as being high priests when John the baptist came preaching (Luke 3:2). Beside his son-in-law, Caiaphas, Annas also had five sons who held that office after him, further consolidating his power.
The sons of Annas were as corrupt as any of the worst priests before the captivity or the sons of Eli. They were greedy wealthy and apparently gained their wealth, in part at least, through the sale of necessary items for worship in the temple at exorbitant prices. Jesus’ vehement condemnation of making the house of prayer “a den of thieves” struck directly at the heart of Annas and Caiaphas (Matt. 21:13; Luke 19:46). Violence was no stranger to them. Stealing was not below them. Even murder had its place in their arsenal.
That night, Annas was the first to interrogate the Lord. We know not the contents of that interview (though some commentators take John 18:19-23 as the interrogation by Annas. Others view it as Caiaphas’ interrogation, which is the view taken here). When Annas was done with Jesus, he sent Him to Caiaphas (John 18:24). In his interrogation, the high priest sought something whereby he could legally justify putting Jesus to death. He wanted the death sentence carried out by the hands of the Romans to exculpate himself and bring legitimacy to the “trial” (cf. John 18:31; Acts 6:10-12; 7:57,58).
In hopes of finding some incriminating piece of evidence, the high priest first queried Jesus about His disciples and His doctrine (John 18:19). What the exact questions were, we do not know but Jesus’ response emphasized the fact that He had nothing to hide, for He had taught openly to the world, in the temple and synagogues, where the Jews often assembled and those who had heard Him knew what He had taught. The high priest already knew at least one of the disciples for he knew one, possibly John, who was allowed into the Palace “with Jesus” during the “trial” and was known well enough at the palace that the door keeper acceded to his request to allow Peter access (John 18:15,16).
Throughout the long, cold spring night, Caiaphas allowed Jesus to be humiliated by the men who guarded Jesus. They mocked Him and hit Him, blindfolded Him and struck Him more, spit upon Him and blasphemed Him (Luke 22:63,64; Mark 14:65; Matt. 26:67,68). After this, when the morning came (Matt. 27:1; Luke 22:66), when the full sanhedrin assembled, and the chief priests and elders were assembled, as well, witness after witness was produced to incriminate Jesus. It was a crowded palace. There were many, if not all, of the seventy members of the sanhedrin. The chief priests and elders were there along with a host of so-called “witnesses,” who had been assembled in the hopes of trapping Jesus. There were also many onlookers trying to get a glimpse of Jesus.
When witness after witness failed to produce one scintilla of evidence against Jesus, when witness after witness contradicted the other witnesses, Caiaphas was left to salvage his mock trial (Matt. 26:59,60). Frustrated, he lashed out in anger, “Answerest Thou nothing?” But Jesus held His peace (Matt. 26:62,63). “I adjure Thee by the Living God, that Thou tell, us whether Thou be the Christ, the Son of God, the Blessed” (Matt. 26:63; Mark 14:61). Perhaps all that were in the room became silent, waiting for some kind of response. The air must have been thick with the smell of oil burning in the lamps and a fire burning in the court and with anticipation.
Jesus finally spoke. He could have remained silent, but He said, “If I tell you, ye will not believe: And if I ask you, ye will not answer Me, nor let Me go. Hereafter shall the Son of man sit on the right hand of the power of God” (Luke 22:67-69). Then they all joined in, breaking the silence–“Art Thou then the Son of God?” they asked (Luke 22:70). “I am, thou hast said, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven” (Matt. 26:64). Caiaphas must have felt a sense of relief. Thinking he had the charge that he needed to condemn Him before the Romans, he dismissed the rest of the witnesses. “What need we any further witnesses? for we ourselves have heard of His own mouth” (Luke 22:70,71). “Then led they Jesus from Caiaphas unto the hall of judgment” (John 18:28).
The “trial” of Jesus before Annas, Caiaphas, the chief priests and all the sanhedrin was a farce. It was illegal on many levels and unjust at its core. How could those who paid Judas to betray the Lord be trusted to judge Him fairly? How can any man judge God. Caiaphas had said that it was “expedient that one man should die for the people, and that a whole nation perish not” (John 11:49,50). Though he did not realize it, he was speaking prophetically of Christ’s remedial work. In attempting to stop Christ, Caiaphas fulfilling his own prophecy.
Eric L. Padgett