Most of you are familiar with the story of Peter’s denying Jesus, and most of you are familiar with the overall story of the arrest and trial of Jesus; but until the weekend, I had missed one connection.
I was reading a sampler of The Gospel of Mark published to promote the study Bible edition of The Common English Bible, when I came upon this passage:
CEB Mark 14:66 Meanwhile, Peter was below in the courtyard. A woman, one of the high priest’s servants, approached 67 and saw Peter warming himself by the fire. She stared at him and said, “You were also with the Nazarene, Jesus.”
68 But he denied it, saying, “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t understand what you’re saying.” And he went outside into the outer courtyard. A rooster crowed.
69 The female servant saw him and began a second time to say to those standing around, “This man is one of them.” 70 But he denied it again.
Okay, but I still didn’t get it until I looked down to the study notes:
Caiaphas’ household is involved at every turn in the plot against Jesus.
Wow! I never thought of that before. And it was the high priest’s servant whose ear Peter cut off.
CEB John 18:10 Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)
It’s amazing how one family can make a difference. When it came to church hierarchy, this family had a lock on the job that counted. It would be like having a father and son both being President of the United States. (Oh wait; that happened…!)
NIV John 18:12 Then the detachment of soldiers with its commander and the Jewish officials arrested Jesus. They bound him 13 and brought him first to Annas, who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, the high priest that year. 14 Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jewish leaders that it would be good if one man died for the people.
Luke, who you would expect to be a stickler for accuracy, refers to their dynasty as a single reign:
NIV Luke 3:2 during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness.
This passage often confuses. The Reformation Study Bible is helpful here:
The Jews had only one high priest at a time. Annas had been deposed by the Romans who appointed instead Caiaphas, his son-in-law. The Romans saw to it that Caiaphas exercised the official functions, but many Jews still considered Annas the true high priest.
Family ties can reflect positively or negatively. Some of you have grown up in Christian denominations where certain family names were a running theme. If you see the surname, and have a bit of context, apart from any clues related to ethnicity, you already know if the person referred to is Pentecostal or Methodist or Salvation Army. But for others, a family name can be tainted; it’s hard to hear that particular surname without negative associations.
For me, the tie in between the Caiaphas and Annas dynasty also adds to the complexity of the Passion Week story. Here the actions of one particular family overlay on the many prophecies fulfilled during Jesus arrest and crucifixion. Time and again, I am responded of the Walter Wink quotation, “If Jesus had never lived, we would never have been able to invent him.” Or in more modern language, “You just can’t make stuff like this up.”
So what does the high priest and his servants represent here? Certainly all those who are opposed to the Kingdom of God; but in this case God used their actions as part of the orchestration of His higher, divine plan.