Monday, April 02, 2012

The Passionate Antagonists: 1 Caiaphas and the Chief Priests

As we begin the Passion Narrative of St Matthew's Gospel, we meet the people who have had it in for Jesus ever since He started teaching about the Kingdom of God. These are the Scribes and the Pharisees, most heartily embodied in Caiaphas and the Chief Priests of the Temple in Jerusalem.

Let's be very clear, there was nothing wrong with being a scribe or a Pharisee per se. Both St Nathanael and St Paul were Pharisees, and very good Pharisees too, but these two very learned gentlemen did something that many of their colleagues refused to do. They risked their reputations as learned men by submitting their intellect to the teaching of Jesus Christ.

By way of contrast, Caiaphas and his ilk were so full of intellectual pride that they were driven to plot, conspire and, ultimately bear "legal" responsibility for the crucifixion of the Lord. They believed that they were right and they had the power to inflict that vision of their own self-righteousness on others. So great was their fear of losing their power that they refused to believe the evidence of their own eyes when a non-descript itinerant preacher came preaching about the love of God and claiming to be His Son and, further still, backing up that claim with miracles which went in contravention of their laws and understanding.

Jesus does not come to change the substance of the Pharisees' teaching. They have the right words but the wrong tune and they are putting the emphases in all the wrong places. However, rather than be corrected, Caiaphas and the Chief Priests play the legal card and trump up charges of blasphemy. They refuse to consider all the evidence, they limit themselves and the judgement to their terms and by clinging to their learning rather than find its fulfilment in Jesus, they seek His destruction.

Many people today reject Jesus because what he teaches runs contradictory to their understanding of the world. They may accept His, “love thy neighbour” and “do unto others…” but as soon as they hear Him claim to be the Son of God, they stop short. The modern mind hates miracles because they do not fit into the pattern of everyday experience forgetting that if they did fit into the pattern of everyday experience, they wouldn’t be miracles.

Perhaps if we become more willing to look beyond the world we understand, we might glimpse the beauty of the world we don’t. Caiaphas wasn’t so prepared, an, wallowing in his own understanding he ends up rejected by the One Whom He rejected.

No comments: