Today’s reading: Matthew 26: 47-75
Today we read about the arrest and trial of Jesus. Many false witnesses are produced but none can produce evidence sufficient to convict Jesus. Despite the many accusations Jesus remains silent. Eventually he is accused of saying he will tear down the temple and rebuild it in three days. Still he remains silent. The Caiaphas, the high priest at the time steps in:
But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
To “adjure” is to “charge under oath” or to “command”. So Caiaphas is commanding Jesus by the power of God to answer truthfully. And this is the one time Jesus answers. In other words under the old covenant the high priest was God’s representative on earth and had authority. Caiaphas has that authority even when he is doing something wrong. The authority did not leave Caiaphas even though he was orchestrating a sham trial to wrongfully convict an innocent man.
But notice the authority wasn’t absolute. The authority didn’t attach to every action that Caiaphas was taking. The trial had been going on for some time and despite repeatedly being presented with “evidence” Jesus has remained silent. It was only when Caiaphas directly invoked his authority that Jesus submitted and complied with it.
Since everything in the Old Covenant has a corresponding perfection in the New Covenant, where has this authority gone? Jesus himself tells us. He gives to Peter and the Apostles the power to bind and loose. He says to them, “those that hear you hear me; those that reject you reject me and the one who sent me.” That authority now resides in the successor of the Apostles, the Bishops and the Pope. It is similar to the authority in the Old Testament as it is retained even if the clergymen are themselves corrupt and it does not cover everything they do but rather must be explicitly invoked.
There is another interesting aspect to this exercise of authority by Caiaphas. The authority he is exercising is God’s authority. Of course, Jesus is God. Thus, it is the authority of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit that Jesus is responding to. Thus, Jesus sacrifice is (1) a perfect act of submission to the will of the Father and (2) a perfectly voluntary act of sacrifice and (3) a perfect response to the love of the Holy Spirit.
Tomorrow: Matthew 27:1-26