The Chief Priests Plotted
I am posting about the various people involved in the last day before the crucifixion of our Lord. I covered Judas Betrayed.
The chief priests plotted to have Jesus killed.
First we must understand who the chief priests were. Rome took over Judea in 63 B.C. They were more concerned about controlling the area near their rival world power Persia than they were about the Jewish people and what they thought was a strange religion. They permitted, at first, at least until Jesus' time, the continuation of the Jewish religion. But the Romans very much controlled who was in charge of the temple and the Jewish people. They appointed the high priest and chief priests. While the priests were Jewish, they were under the control of the Romans and if they didn't tow the line with Rome, they were replaced. The chief priests were very much the puppets of Rome.
The chief priests were politically minded and were from the aristocracy of the Jewish community. They aren't the ones the Jewish people would have chosen to be in charge of their most sacred occasions. While they were the religious leaders, their hearts weren't in the right place. They were more about having power, control and prestige than they were about serving God and the Jewish people.
The high priest and chief priests were called the Sanhedrin, also referred to as the Council in Scripture. They were composed of seventy chief priests and the high priest.
They had long before decided they needed to get rid of Jesus.
Therefore the chief priests and the Pharisees convened a council, and were saying, "What are we doing? For this man is performing many signs. If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation."
So from that day on they planned together to kill Him.
Judas goes to the chief priests and betrays Jesus in return for thirty pieces of silver from them. Cloaked in secrecy in the middle of the night Judas arrives with the soldiers and kisses Jesus and calls Him "Rabbi." Jesus is arrested and taken before the Council/ Sanhedrin and Caiaphas who was the high priest that year. They questioned Jesus and tried to obtain false testimony against Him. They did not find any. Jewish law required that the testimony of two people had to agree to convict someone. They could not get the agreement.
Caiaphas asks Jesus directly, "I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God." (Matthew 26:63) When Jesus answers, Caiaphas says, "He has blasphemed!" They all agree "He deserves death!"
Then they spat in His face and beat Him with their fists; and others slapped Him,
Did the chief priests really care about the charge of blasphemy or were they more concerned about losing their power and control over the Jewish people? Jesus opposed the Sanhedrin at every encounter with them. I believe they saw Jesus as a threat to their very way of life. They loved power and feared losing it.
The chief priests didn't have the authority to try Jesus. Only the Roman government had the right to do that. They bound Him and delivered Him to the Roman governor, Pilate. The chief priests knew the Romans didn't care about a charge of blasphemy against their religion. The Romans wouldn't see that as a reason for them to have Jesus killed. So what is the charge? It is that Jesus claims to be the King of the Jews. The Romans would take this charge seriously. They would have no use for anyone who might insight rebellion against them.
And they began to accuse Him, saying, "We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding to pay taxes to Caesar, and saying the He Himself is Christ, a King."
Pilate finds no guilt in Jesus. But the chief priests kept on insisting that "He stirs up the people, teaching all over Judea, starting from Galilee even as far as this place." (Luke 23:4,5) Pilate says to the chief priests and the rulers of the people, "You brought this man to me as one who incites the people to rebellion, and behold, having examined Him before you, I have found no guilt in this man regarding the charges which you make against Him." (Luke 23:13,14)
They then incited the Jewish crowds and Pilate gives in to them. The Jewish religious leaders - the chief priests - plotted to have Jesus killed. They sought a death sentence for Jesus because nothing less than death would be sufficient for them.
The actions of these religious leaders saddens us, but we keep our focus on the empty tomb. It is there we see Jesus is the Victor over death.