Whose Side Are You On? – Those Who Witnessed the Passion
– by Carlos Mantica
II. The High Priest
The first character we meet is the High Priest. It is Thursday, April 18. The night has come, and the full moon announces the imminent celebration of the Passover. That night Jesus was arrested at Gethsemane and taken to the house of Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was the High Priest that year (John 18:12-24). John, who was following Jesus at a distance, managed to enter the house because he was acquainted with Caiaphas, and he is the one who best narrates what took place there that night. Peter stays outside, but then John speaks to the maid who kept the door, who lets him in to stay in the courtyard with the servants and guards. Peter was brave, for shortly before he had cut Malchus’ ear at Gethsemane, and he now enters the place where the wounded man is sure to be staying.
The suffering of Jesus now begins. They start interrogating and torturing him. Caiaphas questions Jesus concerning his disciples and his teaching. Concerning those who followed him, Jesus replies thus:
“I have spoken openly to the world; I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together; I have said nothing secretly. Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me, what I said to them; they know what I said.”
It is striking that these are almost the same words he had said in Gethsemane to those who came to arrest him:
Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. (Matthew 26:55)
This amounts to saying, I have always walked in the light; you walk in darkness. I have nothing to hide, nor do I act underground.
When he had said this, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?”
It’s always the same: the flatterer takes advantage of the defenseless in order to please the boss. And the Lord is stricken because he answers Caiaphas, and then he is tortured because he does not answer Pilate. If the prisoner does not respond… Speak out, you…! And then comes the slap and the kicking. But if he does respond, then… That’s not a way to answer the boss! And then the slap and the kicking come just the same.
Who is this Caiaphas who is questioning the Lord? He is one of those who first condemns and gives the sentence, and then starts to find out. John points this out (18:14):
It was Caiaphas who had given counsel to the Jews that it was expedient that one man should die for the people.
So from that day on they took counsel how to put him to death. (John 11:53)
The law said, “Thou shalt not kill.” The scribes say, “Someone has to die.”
But the most moving thing is that there are other persons who also seem to agree with Caiaphas: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is expedient that Jesus should die so that his people can be saved.
There is only one difference – Christ is willing to die for us and instead of us so that we can live forever. The others are willing to kill… for the good of the people. And that’s not the same thing.
And it continues not being the same thing. There are some who are willing to die, but only if they can take with them as many people as possible. But even more numerous are the astute ones who do not hesitate to send others to their death… for the sake of the people.
All wars, invasions, political assassinations, acts of terrorism, kidnappings, ransacking, election frauds, dictatorships, and armies have always been justified for the sake of the people. The people should be very happy, that there are so many persons thinking about their good.
But I don’t want to continue pointing others with my finger, the “bad guys” on this side or on the other side. Those who want to be Jesus’ disciples and to follow him, he has called to bear his cross too and to offer their lives for the sake of others. The Lord says no one has greater love than he who gives his life for others. And he also says that unless the seed fall on the ground and die, it will be fruitless. Being Christians involves dying to ourselves so Christ can live in us.
But we always want the others to be the ones who die. It is she that’s got to change. It is he who has to yield. It is the rich who has to be screwed. It is the poor who has to pay. It is my dad who has to understand me. It is my son who has to open his mind. It is the government that has to do this. It is the people who have to protest. It is she that has to ask my forgiveness. It is so-and-so… it is always the other who has to die so I can be well. And the torture continues.
Brothers and sisters, there is one who has already died once for all, for the salvation of his people. And it is he who asks us to die to ourselves and take up our cross and follow him, placing the others ahead of us.
Carlos Mantica is a founder of The City of God community (La Cuidad de Dios) in Managua, Nicaragua, and a founding leader of the Sword of the Spirit. He served as president of the Sword of the Spirit between 1991 and 1995. Adapted from the book, From Egghead to Birdhood (hatch or rot as a Christian), © copyright 2001 Carlos Mantica.