March 4, 2009

"I Was There : Caiaphas" - Mar 4, 2009

Greetings, from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The part of God’s message which we meditate on tonight comes from:

John 11:49-53 (NIV)

49Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! 50You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”
51He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 52and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. 53So from that day on they plotted to take his life.

Sermon:

To the children in the pews today: We’re going to do a little acting and imagining. I’m going to imagine that I’m Caiaphas, one of the evil men who helped to murder Jesus.

Through the details it records, the Bible tells us about what kind of man Caiaphas was. The things I’ll be saying are things that Caiaphas might have said. Remember, He didn’t believe the Bible and he didn’t trust in Jesus.

May the Holy Spirit help us to imagine the man Caiaphas, and may our great God bless us even by his words.

Caiaphas:

Shalom. I can see that you’re not from around Jerusalem, so you probably don’t recognize me. My name is Caiaphas. I’m the ruling High Priest in the Temple of the LORD, at least for now.

It seems that my time as High Priest is almost over, so I guess I don’t mind expressing some of my memories to you.

I suppose, being followers of Jesus, that what you really want to hear about is my experiences with him. Well, we’ll get to that soon enough. But lets get one thing straight right now, that so called prophet from Nazareth was a fool, all of you are fools for following him. Life is too short to hang on every word of some backwater son of a carpenter. You’d all be much better off joining up with someone who actually has a place of his own, and a plan. That’s what I did.

You don’t think it was just dumb luck that I happened to marry the daughter of the great High Priest Annas do you? Now there’s a man you could learn a few things from. I know I did. He was a big part of the reason I was chosen to be High Priest back in 18 AD. And truth be told, Annas never really stopped being the High Priest, even when Rome appointed me. Throughout my term he was always there, working with me and beside me.

We were like peas in a pod. Since we both treasured money and power, we put our hearts into getting it together. The richer Annas got, the richer I got.

But you don’t live near Jerusalem, do you? So let me clarify. If you come to Jerusalem to worship at the Temple, you’re probably going to bring an offering and some animal for a sacrifice. No worries, our associates in the court of the Gentiles can convert your money into Temple shekels and help you pick out the right animals for whatever type of offering you wish to give. Best of all, we provide all this needed service to God’s people for a very reasonable fee.

But where was I? Oh, yes, you want to hear about Jesus. Well, it was our sales in the Temple that first brought us into contact with him, or more accurately – conflict with him.

We’d have been somewhat content to let the man go about with his little band of followers doing his good deeds and teaching his na├»ve teachings. But he wasn’t content to remain in Galilee.

He actually came to the Temple one day, and made a mess of OUR money changers tables. He dumped them over, spilling all the money, and then he chased all the animal sellers away, saying that this was God’s house, and not a place to make a profit.

I guess in a way I admired his boldness, but when a man messes with your income, you don’t just look the other way.

He was wise enough to stay away from Judea for a time. But he kept on teaching, and his following grew. The common, uneducated masses gobbled up his every word. They were impressed by his so called miracles and his quaint teachings about loving God and loving people. They liked it when he called the religious leaders hypocrites and said that God wanted real worshipers, people who worshipped God from the heart, and not just with mindless motions and hollow worship.

For a while he taught and we watched. Carefully. Patiently. But then came the raising of Lazarus. Supposedly he raised the man after he had been dead for a number of days. The Pharisees might believe some nonsense like that, but every sensible Sadducee like myself knows that there is no such thing as a resurrection from the dead. This life is it.

All the same, that “resurrection” was what really got all the Chief Priests and the rest of the leaders in a tizzy. This was too much. Jesus was convincing everyone that he was the Messiah sent from God, and that he had come to save the world from their “sins”.

The Chief Priests were all worries that he continued to teach, more and more people would believe that he was the King sent from God. And if the Romans heard about it, as they no doubt would, they would come down on us hard. “We’ll lose our jobs!”, the Chief priests worried, “and the Romans might even take our nation away.”

What a bunch of mindless fools. That’s when I had to speak up. Someone had to inject some common sense into the discussion. So I stood up in a meeting of the leaders and presented the solution that should have been obvious to everyone.

Jesus is the problem, so let’s just take care of the problem. The Elders should have remembered the old saying, “It is better one man should die, than the community perish.” But sometimes it take a bold man to make men see the obvious.

If there were any that didn’t agree with me then, they did soon.

When the week of the Passover came, Jesus went into the Temple and did it all again. It still makes my blood boil to think of it. He overturned the money-changers tables AGAIN and chased our merchants out once more!

We had no choice. Something had to be done. So, Annas and I gathered everyone for a meeting at my place. At the palace we discussed how we could trick, capture and kill Jesus.

We didn’t really think it was a good idea to try this during the Passover. It wouldn’t have taken many words from Jesus to make the mob turn on us, instead of on him.

But I for one, wasn’t really all that afraid of that happening. You see, that just wasn’t Jesus. He wasn’t a rabble rouser. He didn’t yell out in the street and stir the crowds of people into a frenzy.

In fact, the only times he ever seemed angry was when the Pharisees tried to poke holes in his character, which, by the way, didn’t work. I’ve been told that even then he wasn’t really upset with their attacks on him so much as their hypocrisy and their false teaching.

Anyway, let’s get back to the point. We didn’t think it was wise to kill him during the Passover feast, but an opportunity arose that we couldn’t refuse.

Not all of Jesus’ followers were complete morons after all. Judas had a few of his priorities straight. He seemed to understand that Jesus was going nowhere. He certainly wasn’t going to try and overthrow Rome and he had no concern for helping his inner circle fill their bank accounts.

Judas understood the value of a dollar and so he came and offered to sell Jesus to us. Perhaps I give Judas a bit too much credit. He was just a petty thief. In the end, we got Jesus for the mere price of a slave. Thirty silver coins for the teacher who had the leaders of the people quivering in their sandals.

Now, I suppose I look like pretty bad character to you right now. But, when it comes down to it, I’m sure you’re not all that different than me. Come on now. If I’m good enough to take my mask off, the least you can do is take off yours.

Let’s be honest here. Under that thin veneer of religiousness, you’ve got your wants and desires too. You’ve got your own dark sins that you keep hidden from most people, most of the time, just like I do. The problem with you is, you probably actually care about your sins. You probably think that God, wherever he is, cares about what we do here on earth.

I suppose, being Christians, you actually believe all that line that Jesus sold about repenting and confessing and trusting in him as your Savior. You probably believe that sins damn a person to hell don’t you? You probably believe that you can’t do anything to save yourself? And you probably believe that Jesus died to take away your sins.

Yeah, I can see it in your eyes. You’re actually waiting for him to return and retrieve you penitent believers. You actually believe that this world has nothing to offer that can match what’s in store for you when Jesus returns. You probably believe in angels too, don’t you?

Well, believe what you want. As far as I’m concerned, heaven can wait. I’m going to get mine now.

Okay, now for what you’ve been waiting for. My close encounter with Jesus.

Judas made it pretty easy. They collected Jesus without much trouble, and after Annas had a little chat with him, they brought him to me and the rest of the Chief Priests and Elders of the people.

We had arranged a little mock trial in the middle of the night, complete with coached witnesses. You’d think that would be easy, but oh, how frustrating it was. The stupid peasants couldn’t get their stories straight. It really wasn’t that hard. We just needed some witnesses to agree about some of the “horrible” things Jesus had done. But no, nobody could get it right. How come when you want something done you have to do it yourself? I had to stand up and questioned Jesus myself.

Up to this point he hadn’t exactly been helping us out. Usually when lies are being thrown around about a man right in front of his face, he’ll say something. And usually with a little twisting of the truth whatever a man says can be made to incriminate him. But not Jesus. He just stood there, silent like a sheep, looking at all the rest of the sheep sitting behind me.

That’s when I put him under oath by the name of his God. Then, he was legally obligated to answer. I asked him to tell us if he really was the Christ, the Son of God. And when he opened his mouth, I couldn’t have condemned him better. I mean, it was like he was the witness that had been coached. He said,

“…Yes, it is as you say… But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matthew 26:64 NKJV).

Case closed. I ripped my tunic like this was the most blasphemous thing I’d ever heard and the council condemned him without a further witness. A little dramatic, I know, but sometimes you have to help things along.

It was odd though. The tone of his answer. It was authoritative, but not really angry – in any way. It actually seemed like he was trying to make us see that he really was the Son of Man that the Old Testament talks about. Even after all that we had done to him, he still was trying to help us.

Well, he did help us take care of one problem. Or so I thought at the time.

A few days after He was dead and in the ground, his body went missing. (Sigh). We should have asked for more guards. Ever since that time I’ve had to deal with his followers. They actually think that God raise him from the dead. I forgot who my audience is, YOU actually believe that God raise him from the dead, and because you trust in him you’ll be raised from the dead too. Come on people, resurrection is a fairy tale. Do what you want. Get what you can.

Well, that was my experience with Jesus. I wish I could say it was my last dealing with his people too, but I can’t. Ever since that “resurrection Sunday” we’ve had repeated problems in the Temple, and I’m not talking about the little mess that dark Friday earthquake made in the sanctuary. I’m talking about the disciples of Jesus. They’re relentless. Uneducated peasants and fishermen, but relentless.

First it was Peter and John teaching Jesus’ “Good News” in the Temple. Then it was the rest of the Apostles. We threw them in prison. We threatened them. We beat them. We commanded them to stop preaching Jesus’ message. But they didn’t listen. They only left Jerusalem after we stoned Stephen to death. (Sigh). Sometimes it feels like we’re actually fighting against God and not just a bunch of overzealous half-wits.

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed our time together tonight. And I hope that our little talk has an impact on you. I’ve tried not to pull any punches, for your own good of course.

Remember, only believe what you can see. If you want something, take it. Just don’t take it from me. And don’t run after that fool Jesus. If you do, you’ll just spend a lifetime of praising him, and not being praised by others. And if you walk through life always trusting that he’ll provide, you’ll just end up having what he has and going where he did.

And who in their right mind would want that. Good night, and Shalom.

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