Saturday in the Thirtieth Week of Ordinary Time

Matthew 26:57-68; Mark 14:53-65; Luke 22:54, 63-65; John 18:24

I Am

Annas, having found nothing to condemn Jesus, sends him to Caiaphas and the ruling Council (Sanhedrin), or the chief priests.  The Romans allowed their subject peoples to manage their own affairs to a degree, especially as that pertained to “indigenous” religious matters.  Of course, the case is settled before it even begins, but there must be some semblance of legality.  So witnesses are brought in, but there testimonies do not agree, as required by Jewish law (Deuteronomy 17:6, 19:15).  Some take his saying about destroying the temple out of context (John 2:18-22), but even they couldn’t agree.  Meanwhile, Jesus remains silent, for “like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7).  This obviously exasperates Caiaphas who is sitting as judge over a trial in which no testimony can yet be regarded as legitimate.  I suspect they all thought Jesus would come in frothing at the mouth and thus give them all the ammunition they would need to condemn him, and when he didn’t they had to resort to compelling false witnesses, for the witnesses were obviously unprepared to give the Sanhedrin the testimony they needed.  So Caiaphas takes matters into his own hands.  Caiaphas doesn’t care about what Jesus said about the temple, or what he did here or said there, EXCEPT those times he said something that indicated, well … divinity, which his miracles seemed to prove.  Remember, people at the top hate Messiahs, especially the “first shall be last and the last first” kind of Messiahs.  Those are the worst!  So Caiaphas gets down to brass tacks: “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.”  And I like Mark’s version in which Jesus says, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven” (see Daniel 7:13-14).

Jesus gave Caiaphas exactly what he wanted.  Now they had all the evidence they needed to send him to the Romans to crucify for sedition.  But honestly, just as details didn’t matter to Caiaphas, Caiaphas’ schemes didn’t matter to Jesus.  If Jesus were lying, then he did deserve to die for blasphemy (Leviticus 24:10-16); it didn’t occur to them he might be telling the truth.  That was unthinkable.  Jesus said at his arrest that the Scriptures had to be fulfilled, the plan of redemption accomplished, the Son given as a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).  And so he boldly says, “I am,” that the plan may be put in motion.  But in that “I am” is more than just an admission of “guilt”; it’s an admission of divinity, of being the Mediator and High Priest, of being the way, truth, and life, of being the Savior.

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