Caiaphas continued to pose in silence, glaring at Jesus, and Jesus remained impassive. Minutes ticked by, as tension mounted.
John marveled at the rabbi’s quiet authority. He had been there when Jesus had taught on the temple, and so, in fact, had many of the teachers and scribes now sitting upon the dais, in judgment. It was the day Jesus had driven the moneylenders and merchants from the Court of the Gentiles. “Take these away, do not make my Father’s house a trading center!” Jesus had cried out, again and again, as he pushed venders and their animals out into Solomon’s colonnade, swung his whip above his head, and overturned table after table so the money clattered like sleet across the marbled pavement.
From the inner courts had come running priests, the temple guard, members of the Sanhedrin, teaching rabbis, scribes, and instructors of the law, the Bible experts, the religious ruling body, and in front of them a few of the temple elite, robes whipping as they strode to the sweating rabbi, panting from his exertions.
Those who had been appointed to keep the gates had, by now, all come close enough to investigate Jesus. They had quite understandably questioned him about what he had just done. Was there a sign he could show them to explain it?
And it was then Jesus had said the words that were now being used as evidence against him. Jesus had answered with a mashal, a veiled remark in the form of a riddle, a very classical Jewish way of teaching, and a method rabbis used all the time.
“You all destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.”
John remembered it vividly. Jesus had used both his hands to move from his shoulders to his toes, indicating his own body, and then had brought both his hands up into the sky, even raising his face to look up at the heavens as emphasis. And John recalled what the rabbi had explained to them, later, when they had asked. It had not made sense to them, then. But now! Now it all made sense.
For the Master had meant, You leaders, through your unbelief, and your rebellion and wickedness, you are in the process of destroying the Messiah, the true sanctuary of God, and in that process you will also bring about the destruction of this actual temple and your entire religious system. In fact, it is God’s intent you do this. I command you.
However, in three days, I will raise up my body, and as a result I will establish a new temple, made of living people, and my church will worship me in Spirit and in truth, and not in this complicated religious system you have devised.
The religious leaders now chose to take this mashal literally in order to avoid allowing Jesus’ true meaning to come out. For the indictment Jesus had called down upon them from the Almighty, they wished instead to call down upon him, the Lamb of God, that they might kill him.
Finally, it was the high priest who broke away, sweeping his magnificent robe with a deft tug, and turning his back on Jesus. After exchanging a meaningful look with Annas, who gave a slight nod of his head, Caiaphas turned once more, enunciating his words carefully.
“Are you the Messiah the Son of Blessed One?”
A surge of angry voices rose and fell, as religious rulers half rose from their chairs, some pulling the collars of their garments in a symbolic gesture of rage and anguish, while others hit the air in front of them, as though to slap the face that spoke such blasphemous words. Servants and guards, already restive, now began to mill about the room, eyes wild, hands waving as they repeated the Shema, “The LORD our God is ONE, the LORD alone!”
But Jesus had begun to speak again, and all quieted to hear what more this blasphemer would say.
“And you all will see the Son of Humanity sitting at the right side of the Almighty, then coming with the clouds of heaven.”
Jesus was referring to two scriptures, both of them famous and sacred, for they arose from within the heart of the Messiah prophecies.
The Lord says to my lord,Psalm 110:1 (NRSV)
“Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies your footstool.”
Jesus had already taught on the temple steps that the Son of David was also David’s Lord, the heir to the throne of heaven, the only Son of God.
The other came from the prophet Daniel,
As I watched in the night visions,
I saw one like a human beingDaniel 7:13-14 (NRSV)
coming with the clouds of heaven.
And he came to the Ancient One
and was presented before him.
To him was given dominion
and glory and kingship,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him.
His dominion is an everlasting dominion
that shall not pass away,
and his kingship is one
that shall never be destroyed.
Yes, Jesus was saying, I am Messiah, God the Son, and the next time you see me I will be resurrected, and sitting upon the throne of judgement, when you will stand before me and have to give an account before me, your judge, of what you did to me.
All were stunned.
Jaws dropped, some gasped, including John. For now it seemed the wall sconces had merged so that fire ringed the room and licked up the great marble walls of the Sanhedrin’s courtroom. Black soot seemed to darken the massive ceiling, making it as though the night sky had reached through the vaulted stone, and opened their judgement hall to the vast cosmos. And around Messiah there seemed to be white plumes of smoke billowing, wafting from the braziers, as an unseen wind wrapped around and around the Lord.
Then Caiaphas remembered himself, his face first ashen then mottled red in rage. Clutching the neck of his tunic with both hands, he tore it along with the rest of his outer garments in direct violation of the law he had sworn to God to uphold,
And Moses said to Aaron and to his sons Eleazar and Ithamar, “Do not dishevel your hair, and do not tear your vestments, or you will die and wrath will strike all the congregation.
The priest who is exalted above his fellows, on whose head the anointing oil has been poured and who has been consecrated to wear the vestments, shall not dishevel his hair, nor tear his vestments.Leviticus 10:6, 21:10 (NRSV)
For though later Rabbinical writings had stated that judges in a blasphemy trial must rend all their garments and never repair them, Caiaphas was a Sadducee, beholden to the Books of Moses, and to the office of high priest, holy unto God.
John was aghast, but before he could regain composure, the entire room had burst into bedlam, with Caiaphas shouting above the din,
“Why do we yet have need of witnesses?! You all heard the blasphemy! How does it appear to you?”
It was a rhetorical question, for there was only one answer, and John dreaded to hear it. In a frenzy of rage, the elders flew from their seats of authority, and hurled their judgments at the Master. Every one of them had found him to be bound over to death.
One who blasphemes the name of the Lord shall be put to death; the whole congregation shall stone the blasphemer. Aliens as well as citizens, when they blaspheme the Name, shall be put to death.Leviticus 24:16 (NRSV)
John leaned against the cool of the stone wall behind him, grateful he was among the servants, and hidden by the dark shadows in the room. He felt disoriented, nauseous, his head disconnected from the rest of his body, which seemed leaden, almost paralyzed. All he could hear inside his mind was the sound of a gale wind, blowing so hard, so loud, the scene before him seemed to recede, to move in slowed motion, with no sound at all.
[Taken from Mark 14:61-64 with John 2:12-21]
[James Tissot | Jesus rising in the clouds]