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CAIAPHAS – THE MAN WHO
This occurred at the end of Christ’s ministry. After Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead He withdrew into the countryside. He did not come back to Jerusalem until the last week before His crucifixion. One would think that raising Lazarus from the dead would have convinced the religious leaders, but it did not. Jesus had previously said,
“If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead”
People are often not convinced by seeing miracles. The miracle they need is the convicting work of the Spirit of God in their souls, which are “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). If a man is not miraculously convicted of sin, he is not going to be converted. He will not be converted even “though one rose from the dead” (Luke 16:31). The awakening conviction of God’s Spirit, making men feel their sin, is the miracle they must receive to experience real conversion.
Miracles can even cause people to further harden their hearts against God. Now, when the chief priests and Pharisees saw that Jesus was doing “many miracles,” they called together “a council,” a committee of the Sanhedrin (John 11:47). In that council, a strange thing happened. The High Priest Caiaphas gave an accurate prophecy concerning Christ. The New Testament Commentary describes the scene: Caiaphas was a “manipulator, an opportunist, who did not know the meaning of fairness or justice…He did not shrink from shedding innocent blood. [He made what he did] look as if it were the one thing needful for the welfare of the people. Caiaphas envied Jesus. Caiaphas wanted Jesus to be put to death to suit his own selfish needs. In order to effect the condemnation of Jesus, he was going to use devices which were the product of clever calculation…He was a hypocrite, for in the final trial…when he was filled with inner glee because he had found what he considered a ground for Christ’s condemnation, he tore his priestly robe as if overcome by profound sorrow! Such was Caiaphas. See also Josephus, Antiquities, XVIII, 4:3” (William Hendriksen, Th.D., New Testament Commentary, Baker Book House, 1981 edition, volume I, p. 163; note on John 11:49-50). Now notice again that this evil High Priest gave a prophecy. Like Balaam in the Old Testament, this wicked man actually gave a true prophecy,
“And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad” (John 11:49-52).
But then the Bible says,
“Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death” (John 11:53).
A week later, Caiaphas sent some of the Temple guards to arrest Jesus while He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. Those guards took him to Caiaphas, who said to Him, “Tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God” (Matthew 26:63). When Jesus answered in the affirmative,
“Then the high priest rent his clothes, saying, He hath spoken blasphemy; what further need have we of witnesses? behold, now ye have heard his blasphemy. What think ye? They answered and said, He is guilty of death. Then did they spit in his face, and buffeted him; and others smote him with the palms of their hands, Saying, Prophesy unto us, thou Christ, Who is he that smote thee?” (Matthew 26:65-68).
The High Priest did not have the authority to execute people. Therefore Caiaphas dragged Jesus to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor – and called for the Romans to crucify Him.
It is difficult to produce a biographical sermon like this, but it is fair to draw two general conclusions from the words and actions of this man, Joseph Caiaphas, the High Priest who planned the crucifixion of Christ.
I. First, Caiaphas was very religious, and even spoke a profound truth about Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice.
Caiaphas was the son in law of the old High Priest Annas. He retained the position of High Priest for 18 years, longer than anyone else in that period.
Unfortunately, we can know what kind of man he was. For example, several times, when Dr. Hymers was young, he was told, “You can’t preach that,” or “You can’t preach like that.” As the years have gone by it has become apparent that this advice was wrong. The men who told him that were concerned more about their positions than about the truth, as it is given in the Bible. A preacher cannot please men who are only concerned with keeping their jobs, and not upsetting anyone. Caiaphas was that kind of man. He knew that Jesus did “many miracles” (John 11:47), but he was only interested in stopping Jesus out of political expediency. He thought, “If we leave him alone we will lose something.”
Jesus said and did what He said and did out of love and obedience to God. Caiaphas said and did what he said and did without any thought of God. There are many like him today in our churches. He was very religious. Without realizing it, he even spoke the truth about Christ’s vicarious atonement when he said,
“It is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people” (John 11:50).
Thus, he spoke the profound truth of Christ’s death as a substitute for sinners, echoing the words of Isaiah,
“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).
But be careful! You can know those words without receiving any benefit from them! That was the case of Caiaphas. He knew the right words, but they had absolutely no effect on his life.
This is the same High Priest who threatened Peter when he preached on Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. But because he was afraid of the people, he threatened Peter and let him go (Acts 4:21). Again, Caiaphas is the same High Priest who threw the Apostles into jail (Acts 5:17-18). But God sent an angel to open the door of the prison and set them free. Then Caiaphas sent officers to bring Peter before the Sanhedrin “without violence…lest they should have been stoned” (Acts 5:26). So many people were listening to the Apostles that Caiaphas was afraid they would stone him to death if he harmed them! One of the men in the Sanhedrin, named Gamaliel, told Caiaphas and the others to
“let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought: But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply [ye may] ye be found even to fight against God” (Acts 5:38-39).
Caiaphas and the others agreed with Gamaliel. But what did they do? Did they become concerned about God? No! They beat the Apostles and “commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go” (Acts 5:40).
“And daily in the temple, and in every house, they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ”
Thus, we leave Caiaphas – weakened, unable to stop the preaching of the Gospel and the spread of Christianity. It never entered his mind to think about God and repent of his sin. He went right on playing politics – full of religion, without any fear of God – until he was driven out of the priesthood by Pilate’s successor Vitellus a couple of years later, in A.D. 36 according to Josephus (Antiquities, XVIII:4, 2). It is not known what happened to him after he was dethroned. A limestone chest (ossuary) containing bones of the dead was discovered in Jerusalem in 1991 inscribed with the name Caiaphas – which is believed by archaeologists to be his actual coffin (Archaeological Study Bible, Zondervan, 2005, p. 1609; note on Matthew 26:3). He is only remembered for being “deeply responsible for the judicial murder of [Jesus] the innocent prisoner” (John D. Davis, D.D., Davis Dictionary of the Bible, Baker Book House,1978 edition, p. 114).
II. Second, Caiaphas, like Cain, never repented – and was never saved.
There is a real parallel between Caiaphas and Cain. Cain knew that he needed to bring a blood sacrifice, as Abel did. But Cain did not repent. Instead,
“Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him” (Genesis 4:8).
There is a New Testament connection between Cain and men like Caiaphas. The Apostle John said,
“Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous. Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you”
(I John 3:12-13).
Caiaphas, like Cain, was influenced by Satan, “that wicked one.” Like Cain, Caiaphas was of “the world.” He never stopped listening to Satan. He never left the “world” to serve God. The Essenes of the Jewish Qumran community, which produced the Dead Sea Scrolls, were very critical of Caiaphas, whom they called the “wicked priest” (Archaeological Study Bible, ibid.).
Cain and Caiaphas give an awful warning to those who remain religious but lost. Both Cain and Caiaphas knew about blood sacrifice. Both Cain and Caiaphas were spoken to directly by God. God the Son spoke directly to Caiaphas – as He did to Cain (Genesis 4:6-7). Both Cain and Caiaphas shrugged off the voice of God, speaking to their consciences, and plunged ahead into self-centered lives. Both Cain and Caiaphas will stand before Christ at the Last Judgment, and He will say to them,
“I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matthew 7:23).
Then they will “be cast out into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 8:12).
I caution you this morning – make sure you think about God! Make sure you think about your sin! Make sure you don’t just say the “right words.” Make sure you acknowledge your sins!
“Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness”
Make sure you experience a real conversion – that you really come face to face with Jesus Christ and are washed from your “sins in his own blood” (Revelation 1:5). Do not wait! Do not refuse to come to Jesus! Do not linger until God gives up on you, and turns you over to a reprobate mind!
Too long I neglected the Saviour.
Too long as I held to my sin.
Too long I excused my rejecting,
And now I am lost without Him.
It is late, Oh, so late! Yet He knocks at the door,
And Jesus, sweet Saviour, is calling once more.
(“Too Long I Neglected” by Dr. John R. Rice, 1895-1980).
Dr. Hymers, please come and close this service.
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(END OF SERMON)
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Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Too Long I Neglected” (by Dr. John R. Rice, 1895-1980).
THE OUTLINE OF
CAIAPHAS – THE MAN WHO
A sermon written by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.
“And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad. Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death” (John 11:49-53).
(Luke 16:31; Ephesians 2:1; John 11:47-48, 49-52, 53;
I. First, Caiaphas was very religious, and even spoke a profound
II. Second, Caiaphas, like Cain, never repented – and was never saved,