My 2009 posts for Wednesday of Holy Week were ‘Spy Wednesday: Judas offers his services’ and ‘What is Tenebrae?‘ If you are unfamiliar with Spy Wednesday, please read last year’s post for background on what it is and what happened that day. The Tenebrae post explains the hearse (candelabrum) used in Holy Week services.
Picking up from my Palm Sunday post, we see that, to many, Jesus was viewed as a potential upset to the established religious and political order of the day. The Jewish hierarchy were more concerned with this than the Romans were. After all, the Romans made no attempt to stop His triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
On Spy Wednesday, the chief priests were still looking for someone to inform on Jesus’s whereabouts so that He could be brought to trial. His raising Lazarus from the dead in Bethany was a step too far and threatened their status quo. Certainly, more people would have believed in Him after that final miracle. What if a considerable number of people became followers of Christ? What about the people throwing palm branches at Jesus’s feet on Palm Sunday? They could have led a religious rebellion against the Jewish Establishment. The chief priests could be replaced, their authority overturned.
Caiaphas was the high priest that year. He had a vested interest in keeping things the way they were. Caiaphas met with his council and explained to them that if Jesus wasn’t brought for trial and condemned to death, the nation would be destroyed. Of course, he meant the religious status quo, but he posited it as a patriotic struggle. To this he added the threat of death to all the chief priests at the hands of the Romans in quashing a rebellion. Naturally, the thought of their own deaths brought the hierarchy on side. Yet, remember that Jesus came in peace not as the focal point for a revolution. Ironically, looking ahead a few decades in history, we see that Rome did quash a rebellion — by the Jewish people themselves in 70 AD. Titus Vespasian put 1.1 million Jews to death. The Romans destroyed the Temple.
And so, Caiaphas prophesies that Jesus must die for the nation. He didn’t consciously intend to use those words, but let’s not forget that God puts people to use for His own plan. Many people find this problematic: why would God have His own Son killed? It seems so cruel. In ‘The Plot to Kill Jesus’, John MacArthur explains:
Historically, the high priest was God’s spokesman, as Caiaphas was in this case, except he was unaware he was prophesying. The very words of evil by which Caiaphas condemned himself were the same ones the Holy Spirit used to convey the truth of God. Using the evils of Satan to His own end, God was able to use Caiaphas’s own words to declare the effect of Christ’s death. God uses human instrumentation–even the hatred of men. Christ’s crucifixion on the cross is an enduring illustration of that. It was the worst thing men could do, yet it accomplished the greatest blessing on their behalf.
Looking at Judas, we see a man who went with the tide. Why did he follow Christ? Did he, like the crowds, expect some great act from Jesus? Were his expectations as a disciple basking in Jesus’ greater glory left unfulfilled? Or was he, like so many of us, just an opportunist, ready to follow — and capitalise on — whatever wave of sentiment was sweeping among the people? The sum of money he received was worth a few months’ salary, possibly less.
As we will see, the crowd will also play their part in the days to come. Some awaited more miracles — more excitement — from Jesus and were disappointed that He was ‘only’ preaching at the Temple after overthrowing the money changers’ tables on Monday.
The Son of man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born. — Matt. 26:24