A Family Matter

John 18:12 So the soldiers, their officer, and the Jewish police arrested Jesus and bound him. 13First they took him to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. 14Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was better to have one person die for the people.

19 Then the high priest questioned Jesus about his disciples and about his teaching. 20Jesus answered, ‘I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. 21Why do you ask me? Ask those who heard what I said to them; they know what I said.’ 22When he had said this, one of the police standing nearby struck Jesus on the face, saying, ‘Is that how you answer the high priest?’ 23Jesus answered, ‘If I have spoken wrongly, testify to the wrong. But if I have spoken rightly, why do you strike me?’ 24Then Annas sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

On Holy Week, we usually focus on Jesus; what He said, what He did, what it means. But we can learn important things about ourselves and our own spiritual journeys from looking at the people who interact with Jesus.

The High Priest had both a religious and a political role. He ran the Temple and its various business enterprises. He spoke with authority for the whole people of Israel under Roman rule. But this was not a lifetime appointment. Theoretically, any Levite could be designated. We don’t know how long Caiphas had been acting as High Priest, but it is likely that his marriage to Annas’ daughter might have put him in position.

Caiaphas was willing to sacrifice the Galilean preacher to keep peace with the Romans, but he clearly wants his father-in-law’s input before he makes the decision. Later, these religious leaders will need to negotiate again with the Romans. Delicate political strategy is at play here. The High Priest knows that a wrong move could endanger his position with the Romans and with his own people.

Yet again, Jesus is calm. He seems to encounter Caiaphas as one human being to another, rather than engaging with the High Priest. Jesus treats these powerful men with the same respect with which he treated tax collectors, prostitutes and little children. I find this is often true of deeply spiritual people; they are courteous to all and deferential to no one.

Today, examine your place in the world. Are you the leader out front or the strategist in the background? Are you seeking counsel, or do others ask your advice? Are you balancing pressure from opposite sides? What can you learn from Jesus’ relationship to powerful people?

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