“That’s not how we do things around here.”
With that expression, I was introduced to the religion of the status quo. It was made clear to me that the changes I wanted to implement were not welcome simply because they were not what was done in the past.
We’ve all experienced this religion of the status quo. We’ve probably been on both sides of it! But what if Jesus is trying to do something new instead of doing the same thing we expect Him to?
After the raising of Lazarus from the dead, some of the people who witnessed it told the Pharisees and they were afraid. They were concerned about losing their power and Rome coming in to destroy what they’d built.
After the worrisome rabble dies down, the leader of the Sanhedrin speaks in John 11:49-52
Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”
He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one.John 11:49-52
New International Version
Caiaphas was a political genius in his day. As a Sadducee, he didn’t agree theologically with the Pharisees, but Caiaphas did have the backing of the Romans. He only served as High Priest because he was able to keep the fringe elements of Judaism in check. His job for his people was maintaining peace while shivering in the shadow of the Roman crown. And Caiaphas set the pace for the Sanhedrin.
If you’ve seen the old movie Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, you’ve seen the scene at the end when Spock gives his life to save everyone on the Enterprise. His reasoning for doing so was simple: “The needs of the many outweigh…” and Captain Kirk finishes the sentence, “the needs of the many.” “Or the one,” Spock adds.
“The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one” is a shortened version of a Greek expression and was common in the first century. Caiaphas is using this same logic in a pragmatic sense: the needs of the entire nation outweigh any one person. In this case, the “one person” is Jesus.
Scripture makes it clear that Caiaphas was speaking more truth than he knew (verses 51 and 52). His prophecy was actually what Jesus would do for the world.
Let’s be honest: it’s easy to get mad at Caiaphas. It’s easy to throw stones at him. However, before we do let’s think through this. Caiaphas was doing what he thought was right: he was protecting the only religion he had ever known. He was, to put in our terms, protecting the only “church” he had ever known.
He had solid political and religious reasons for wanting to see Jesus dead: he was afraid the upheaval Jesus was causing would end in the death of the nation AND he was offended by what he heard as blasphemy from Jesus.
Jesus was turning the Jewish religion upside down and He didn’t keep the Law the way they thought it should be kept. More and more people were following Jesus and not the Sanhedrin. And everything Jesus did just seemed to be made to draw their ire.
Caiaphas missed the point of Jesus’ ministry, but Caiaphas had reasonable—maybe even noble—intentions in his passion. But good intentions and honorable mentions don’t cut it. It really does seem to be a true expression, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Caiaphas’ intentions were the best, but they were wrong. They were misguided. The protection he was offering to his people was protection from the very One Who could truly set them free.
Instead of rejoicing in the arrival of the Messiah, Caiaphas acted to protect his religion, his power, and his position. Thanks to Jesus, Caiaphas’ religion was becoming something he didn’t recognize anymore. And it was his job as High Priest to act and protect it. But Caiaphas pinned the problem on the wrong guy.
What if we are “Caiaphas”?
What if what we’re doing in our Christian life and in our churches is only to protect the status quo?
What if our intentions of protecting the “traditions of the church” are actually the very same obstructions Caiaphas was guilty of doing?
What if we’re part of the problem and not part of the solution?
What if, like Caiaphas, we have a “Jesus problem”?