The palace of the high priest

January 4, 2013

Dear brothers and sisters,

Today I am taking the good news from Matthew 26:1-5.

When Jesus finished all these words, he said to his disciples, “You know that in two days’ time it will be Passover, and the Son of Man will be handed over to be crucified.” Then the chief priests and the elders of the people assembled in the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas, and they consulted together to arrest Jesus by treachery and put him to death. But they said, “Not during the festival, that there may not be a riot among the people.”

It’s striking that in chapter 24 Jesus said that not even the Son of Man knew the hour of his coming again; only God the Father knows. Now, Jesus knows that he will be crucified in two days. Why does Jesus have foreknowledge of some events and not others? It makes me think that his second coming must be contingent upon something or that it hasn’t been determined yet by God. At any rate it is not for us to know and we are not to speculate, it seems.

Jesus knew of his impending death. He had tremendous insight into the hearts and minds of men. He knew that he had pushed the authorities past their limit of toleration. Their status and power were threatened and they would do anything to protect both. Matthew notes that the high priest resided in a palace, just as Herod did. Power and privilege are inseparable and nearly always irresistible. It matters not whether it is based in politics, religion, or commerce. The chief priests and elders, the privileged and powerful, were not about to let common people topple them from their perch. It happens over and over and over again in history. We’re witnessing it in Syria right now among other places.

Because the powerful don’t have numbers on their side, they have to resort to treachery and duplicity and murder. Jesus anticipated their reaction and expected his own murder. Yet he didn’t waver; he didn’t hide; he didn’t soften his message; he didn’t abandon his mission. He knew that he was sent, that he was commissioned for a specific purpose. It was the love of his Father that gave him courage and conviction and determination to stay the course. He couldn’t overcome the malice and self-interest of the powerful and privileged unless their hearts and minds desired the kingdom of God. They couldn’t give up what they had, what they enjoyed, what they reveled in because they couldn’t understand that the kingdom of God offered something more.

So, the time for heaven and earth to pass away had not yet arrived. Jesus knew that and resigned himself to coming again at some unknown future time. It hasn’t happened when common people overthrow the powerful and privileged. The second coming has nothing to do with political change. It has to do with a change of heart toward and a change of perception about our neighbors. Jesus showed us what that change was all about — forgiveness, acceptance, unconditional love. He calls us to resist the lure of power and privilege because it leads to death, perhaps even the death of our soul.



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