the priest | John 11.49-50
But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” John 11:49-50 | ESV
But among them stood one man with a clearer head: Caiaphas (“hollow beauty”) who happened to be sitting in the big chair that year, head of the priestly hierarchy. He piped up: “You’re all idiots – you don’t get it at all! The answer is staring you in the face and you can’t do the math! The sum of the nation’s welfare is greater by far than the life of one man – better for him to die than the whole people to perish!” MAV (Mike’s Amplified Version)
The high priest.
The one who bore the sins the people before God once a year, risking his life as he risked exposure to the holy; the one who bore the names of the people over his heart; the one who stood in the gap for them, holding the line between life and death, blessing and judgment.
Perhaps Caiaphas thought that’s all he was doing when he suggested the death of one man to save the people from destruction at the hands of the Romans. He was just standing in the gap for the people. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one. Just doing his job protecting the many.
But the fact is, the people knew better.
By the time of Jesus, the high priestly office had become such a chess piece on the board of Judean politics that few who heard a sentiment like that in Hebrews that the high priest is “able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and going astray, since he himself is subject to weakness” could manage much more than loud guffaw. “Gentle” and “high priest” did not exactly go together.
More politician than priest.
More systems manager than minister, keeping his eye on the ball rather than God.
And rather than leaving the ninety-nine to go and seek the one sheep that was lost, he worked from a different equation: the one is always sacrificed for the many.
There’s a bit of debate over the meaning of the name “Caiaphas.” Some insist we don’t know; others say it means “beauty” while others posit a crater or depression, something hollowed out. So I combined the meetings. The high priest wore vestments “for beauty and for glory.” How fitting to call such a pragmatic, calculating one wearing garments for beauty and for glory “Caiaphas” – “hollow beauty.”
Definitely smaller on the inside.
And how wondrous that in Christ we do have a High Priest who does sympathize with us in our weaknesses, one who has been tempted in all points like we are, one who is approachable, one who not only bears our sins, but who bears us – and leaves the ninety-nine to do it.
Has your experience of church and God been more an experience of “Caiaphas” or of “Christ”? Why?
Lord, deliver me from the hollow beauty of empty religion. Let me see afresh the real beauty of your face, and let that be what flows through me this day. Let me do for the one what you would do for the many. Through Jesus.