You sneaky high priest!
They’ve pulled the trigger. Operation “Destroy Jesus” has begun. Phase I, arrest in the garden, complete. Now, for the trial. But, what were the charges again? What’s He done wrong? Oh, don’t worry about that, we’ll figure out something. Bring in the prisoner!
Rather than read the charges justifying His arrest, the spokesmen for the Sanhedrin, Caiaphas, starts to ask some questions. It’s been the M.O. of the religious leaders since Jesus began His ministry — get Him talking, test Him with His teaching, try and trip Him up with His own words, and hope that He’ll say something that will condemn Himself. If at first (or second or third or fourth) you don’t succeed, try and try and try again.
The high priest then questioned Jesus about His disciples and His teaching.
(John 18:19 ESV)
Don’t know that I’ve ever really paused to noodle much on the fact that, in addition to His teaching, Caiaphas asked Jesus about His disciples.
Who were they? People of influence? How many were they? Enough to run out of town an oppressive foreign government? Where were they now? Planning a coup? What was their purpose? To oppose Rome? If He could get Jesus to say anything that would hint at any of that, it would be a slam-dunk when he sent Him to Pilate requesting His execution. How come, Pilate could ask? For sedition and insurrection, Caiaphas could claim.
So, that sneaky high priest says to Jesus, “Tell me about Your disciples.”
But Jesus doesn’t take the bait (v.20). Though, in a way, I wish He had.
My disciples? They’re a bunch of fisherman, tax collectors, prostitutes, and thieves and such. Not an “influential” soul among them — at least not in the world’s eyes.
They’re poor in spirit, meek in nature, and hunger and thirst for righteousness. They’re pure in heart and peacemakers at their core. And they consider themselves blessed for being on the wrong side of popular opinion and for being persecuted for righteousness sake, because “their’s is the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 5:3-10).
Yeah, the kingdom of heaven. Not all that interested in the kingdoms of men. Let Rome be Rome, they seek first the kingdom of God (Mt. 6:33).
Insurrectionists? Nope. Not really a fighting people. In fact, when Peter pulled His sword in the garden, I told him to put it way (Jn. 18:10-11). My disciples are more likely to turn the other cheek — at least 77 times, maybe as often as 490 times depending on how you translate My words (Mt. 18:22). Don’t get Me wrong, their ready, willing, and equipped for battle, but they know their fight isn’t “against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph. 6:12). If you ask around, they been known to cast out demons a time or two.
But when it comes to you — you brood of insincere, hypocritical vipers — or to the Roman government and all their self-seeking glory, My disciples are more likely to love you, pray for you, and do good to you rather than take up arms against you (Mt. 5:44, Lk, 6:35).
Tell You about My disciples? They’re the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Mt. 5:13-14). And after you’re done with this sham trial, and your conscious-less execution (which, by the way, I will overturn by rising from the dead), they will become a holy temple, a dwelling place for the living God through the Spirit I send to them (Eph. 2:21-22).
No, Jesus didn’t respond to Caiaphas’s question about His disciples. But if He had . . .
He could have spoken of a people transformed by grace. A people who would purpose to live, as much as lies in them, for the glory of God.