Yesterday, I finished watching the New Testament episodes of the History Channel miniseries, The Bible. As I watched Caiaphas, the High Priest, manage the menace he saw in Jesus, I wondered about the parallels with our own time.
Caiaphas’ only concern is the Law: following the Law and protecting the Law. However, at this moment, Caiaphas is worried about Jesus, his new ideas about God, his ability to amass large crowds, and his pretention to be the Messiah. Given that Jesus and his friends are in Jerusalem for Passover, and that the situation there is already unstable, Caiaphas takes literally Pilate’s threat to cancel Passover should any disturbance occur. He says, ‘‘Jesus must not interere with Passover. God would bring his wrath down on all of us.’’
Like Caiaphas, we still associate the status quo with God. Why do we assume that God would be angry if things changed? Why would we not assume that He would want our understanding of Him to evolve, rather than remain cemented in the worldview of the past? After all, He gave us intelligence, creativity, ingenuity, and compassion. Besides, he gave us Jesus in example.
Caiaphas decides that Jesus has to die, and asap, as Passover begins the next evening. Otherwise, Caiaphas and the others will be ritually impure. Apparently, planning someone’s death is not a criterion for impurity. How many flagrant contradictions mark our own age and our own lives?
Nicodemus, another member of the Sanhedrin, worries about the legalities of the plan to arrest Jesus during the night. Scouring the Law for enlightenment, he finds that no trial should occur on the eve of the Sabbath or the eve of a Feast Day. Furthermore, trials should only occur during the day, in the light, in public, and never at night. The Law is inconvenient in this particular case, so why not just ignore it? Are laws or principles only relevant when they are convenient? Do laws or principles apply only when we want them to, when their application won’t threaten our lifestyle or our worldview? How does our perceived responsibility to preserve our principles and way of life affect our response to different ways of looking at things?
In the name of Jesus, do we justfiy exclusion, discrimination, autocracy, punishment, manipulation? Do we do this in the name of Jesus, who was all about inclusion, equity, empowerment, compassion, and transparency?
In the name of Jesus, are we Caiaphas?