Pilate, Caiaphas, and Jesus - Discover the Book Ministries


Textbox Section

Pilate, Caiaphas, and Jesus

/ Our Risen Savior


060409AM Pilate, Caiaphas and Jesus  Palm Sunday.doc

          Pilate, Caiaphas and Jesus

God’s Word explains why some of those closest to Christ’s Cross missed the blessing. The lives of Herod, Pilate, and Caiaphas speak to us this season—“Don’t miss the blessings of the Cross”. Let’s heed that warning today!

Twice each year we celebrate the seasons of Christ’s life on earth–first His birth, then His death. That emphasis opens and closes the record God has given us of Christ’s life.

God inspired for us  260 chapters in the New Testament; 89 of them are the four Gospels. So as far as emphasis made by God—the Gospels are more than 1/3rd of the New Testament.

Within the Gospels, or the record of Christ’s life and ministry we find that the Lord placed 30 chapters[1], or more than 1/3rd of them, that are devoted to the Passion Week of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection! Yet only 4 chapters or 5% is devoted to Christ’s birth.

So we remember Christ’s life and ministry. Christ’s birth and Christ’s death; The cradle and the cross. Christ’s cross signals that the battle is won. His first coming was complete and the countdown began for His second coming in triumph to rule the earth.

Christ’s first coming[2] was to a manger, surrounded by donkeys, sheep, cattle and goats. At the end of this brief life on Earth He chose a donkey to carry Him into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday as He presented Himself as the Lamb of God to die for the sin of the world.

But Christ’s 2nd Coming will be on a horse, a pure white stallion thundering through the clouds of heaven with the armies of God following Him. On His head will be many crowns, for He will come back to earth as King of kings and Lord of lords.

Christ’s first coming concluded as he was arrested by Caiaphas, brought before Pilate; dragged before Herod; tortured, spit upon, and forced to wear a scarlet robe of mockery.

But Christ’s 2nd Coming will see Caiaphas trembling at His feet, Pilate wringing his hands as he is brought before Him; Herod will be dragged before Him, and all three will bow before the King of the Jews and confess that He is Lord to the glory of God the Father.

Christ’s first coming ended alone as the Lamb of God was bound, beaten, and nailed to a bitter rugged cross where He suffered and bled and died alone. He was hurriedly transferred to a borrowed tomb and sealed in.

The next time He comes He will not be alone. Rather He comes leading the countless hosts of Heaven and the saints of all the ages. His unbound feet will touch down upon the Mount of Olives and split it in half. Those crucified and glorified feet will walk through the eastern gate as He sets up His throne up on the Temple mount. From there He shall reign for one thousand years in the Millennium. Following that will be the Great White Throne Judgment, after which human time shall cease and eternity will begin.

How different and yet connected are Christ’s first and second comings. Both have profound lessons to all who will pause and reflect upon the lives God chose to stretch across the canvas of His Word and to mark as warnings and examples to all who will have ears to hear.

What is most amazing about both events is that God chooses to give us deeper insights into the people surrounding those events than about any other events in the Scriptures. In both events there are stirring contrasts between those who saw Jesus with verses of love and faith and those who did not.

There were three notable individuals who were closest to Christ in His final hours and yet who completely missed the benefits of His death, burial and resurrection. These three are well known to us from God’s Word; they are Pilate, Herod and Caiaphas. As we open to Matthew 26 this morning, let me survey three lives that lost everything. God left them as warnings to all of us.

How to Lose Everything!

First, Roman Procurator Pilate missed it all by default—he was neglectful, disinterested, detached, indifferent, and passive. The second, Herod Antipas, murderer of John the Baptist, son of Herod the murderer of babies, a puppet king who was unqualified to rule God’s people was part of a long line of Christ haters and rejecters. Finally, Caiaphas, the man who stood in the very place of God, the High Priest to represent the entire nation at Passover–missed everything because of an active, defiant, aggressive animosity towards Christ.

This morning there is a warning to all of us. From Pilate we see passive unbelief. We don’t have to be opposed to Christ; we can be somewhat interested, strangely fascinated, and even curious—and still fail to experience Him by faith.

From Herod we can see that long term exposure to Christ and His servants can lead to spiritual blindness if that exposure is unmixed with faith. No family ever had more opportunities to know God than Herod’s. No family ever had such an all star cast of God’s servants (among those who ministered the Word of God to the Herod family were the Magi, John the Baptist, Christ Himself, Paul, James, Peter and so on). And no family more fully rejected the truth than this family!

From Caiaphas we see the horrors of the fallen sinful heart that we all were born with. Our hearts are deceitful and wicked and if left untouched by God, become so hard that even the Son of God Himself standing before our eyes, does not move us. Beware of sin’s deadening power. Beware of pride’s intoxicating poison. Beware of over-familiarity with God. Only a heart empowered by the Spirit can see its sinfulness, long for cleansing, and offer obedience.

Sadly these two so close to Christ’s cross were so far from God’s love—not because it was not offered, but because they cared not, sought not, loved not, saw not—and had not.

Don’t let this week pass you by, stop and let the wonder of Christ’s love sweep over you. See His innocence and your guilt; His perfections and your sin; His worthiness and your complete unworthiness. Don’t be passively rejecting Him by indifference like Pilate. Don’t be actively rejecting Him by self righteousness like Caiaphas.

Caiaphas trusted the system; Pilate trusted himself. Caiaphas rejected the One he knew was truth; Pilate sought Him but not with his whole heart.

At some time in the future our lives will be over. Then the record will be complete as to just what we lived for. This morning look with me at all that is left on earth of one of the most vivid characters surrounding Christ’s Death and Burial–Caiaphas.

Please stand with me as I read just one verse this morning.

Matthew 26:63 But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest answered and said to Him, “I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!” NKJV

When Jesus remained silent He was fulfilling Isaiah 53:7

He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth.


The Mute Witness of the Ossuary of Caiaphas

Whether or not the place identified as Caiaphas’ house today in Jerusalem is the actual site, we now have discovered the actual remains of the high priest in his ossuary within his family tomb. The find occurred by accident[3] in November of 1990 when workers were building a water park in Jerusalem’s Peace Forest, which is south of the Temple Mount. The discovery was made when the roof of the burial chamber collapsed and revealed 12 limestone ossuaries. One of the ossuaries was exquisitely ornate and decorated with incised rosettes. Obviously it had belonged to a wealthy or high-ranking patron who could afford such a box. On this box was an inscription. It read in two places[4] Qafa and Yehosef bar Qayafa (“Caiaphas,” “Joseph, son of Caiaphas”).  The New Testament refers to him only as Caiaphas, but Josephus gives his full name as “Joseph who was called Caiaphas of the high priesthood.”  Inside were the bones of six different[5] people, including a 60-year-old man (most likely Caiaphas).

Of all the objects unearthed in the Holy Land – this one strikes a very sobering cord for me. This box found in 1990 still holds the earthly frame of Caiaphas – the man who condemned Jesus to death. Can you imagine what he has been thinking for the past 2000 years? He is right now most likely in Hades, in the fire, burning hot, endlessly dying of thirst, dreading the moment he knows that he will have to face Jesus again.

As we begin listen to the words of poet Jon Mohr, whose poem has become a well know song:

                   FIND US FAITHFUL

 We’re pilgrims on the journey of the narrow road,

And those who’ve gone before us light the way,

Cheering on the faithful,

Encouraging the weary,

Their lives a stirring testament to God’s sustaining grace.

 Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,

Let us run the race not only for the prize.

But as those who’ve gone before us,

Let us leave to those behind us

A heritage of faithfulness passed on through godly lives.

        Oh, may all who come behind us find us faithful;

        May the fire of our devotion light their way.

        May the footprints that we leave lead them to believe

        And the lives we lived inspire them to obey.

        Oh, may all who come behind us find us faithful;

 After all our hopes and dreams have come and gone

And our children sift through all we’ve left behind,

May the clues that they discover

And the memories they uncover

Become the light that leads them to the road we each must find.

                                                                                                Jon Mohr

What a sobering thought. What is each of us leaving behind as a message from our lives? We must leave EVERYTHING behind, right? But what we did with what we had can leave a message either for or against Jesus, right? Next we look at a man who left a message against Jesus. His name – Caiaphas. His message the man who lost everything.

Imagine being the CEO working at God’s Temple at Jerusalem when Jesus came to Earth. I can think of no greater honor. The man most acquainted with the ceremonies, the laws, the sacrifices, and the Word–was Caiaphas’. He spoke God’s Word, he served God’s plan and fulfilled Scriptures. And yet he lost everything. Here is why, these are the sobering lessons of his life.

1. Caiaphas never listened to Jesus, he only heard from he wanted to hear.

Luke 19:47-48 And He was teaching daily in the temple. But the chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people sought to destroy Him, 48 and were unable to do anything; for all the people were very attentive to hear Him. NKJV

John 7:46-47 The officers answered, “No man ever spoke like this Man!” 47 Then the Pharisees answered them, “Are you also deceived? NKJV

2. Caiaphas never denied the supernatural work of Jesus, he only disbelieved that He was God’s Son.

They never denied His perfection. One of the most remarkable statements Christ ever made was when He said was in John 8:46 Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me?  (NKJV) What is stunning is not the fact that no one answered Christ’s question—what is stunning is that Jesus would even ask such a thing after just calling them all children of the devil. If anyone could have ever been motivated to find a fault it was that crowd—yet they couldn’t find a single fault, slip, or sin in Christ’s perfect life. Neither the antagonistic religious leaders nor even His own disciples He had spent every moment with for three plus years. No one ever accused Jesus of a single personal sin.

They never denied His miracles. After Christ’s final and greatest miracle the raising of Lazarus they only wanted to silence Him—not expose Him. John 11:47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, “What shall we do? For this Man works many signs. NKJV

3. Caiaphas never sought out Jesus, he only silenced Him.

Speaking of all the religious ceremonies and rituals, Jesus points to empty hearts and condemns this total lack of seeking the true and living God in human flesh before their eyes! Matthew 15:8-9  ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. 9  And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ” NKJV

4. Caiaphas never found life through Christ, so he lost everything.

John 5:24 “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life. NKJV

John 5:39-40 You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. 40 But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life. NKJV

There is a point when God’s grace ends, it is when He no longer will strive (Genesis 6:3). It may have been that moment for Caiaphas when Jesus wouldn’t answer him.

Matthew 26:63 But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest answered and said to Him, “I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!” NKJV

When Jesus remained silent He was fulfilling Isaiah 53:7

He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth.

In all the events that surround these next few hours up to the Cross, Isaiah 53:8 is also being fulfilled.

He was taken from prison and from judgment, And who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; For the transgressions of My people He was stricken.

Of old[6] the prophet had asked, “And who shall declare his generation? For he was cut off out of the land of the living?” (Isaiah 53:8). The answer to Isaiah’s question as in wonder he said, “Will anyone stand up and declare who this Man truly is?” Seven times Jesus is affirmed to be who he said He was. These seven affirmations are given to us in the Gospels.

  1. First, Judas declared, “I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood” (Matt. 27:4).
  2. Second, Pilate declared, “I find no fault in him” (John 18:4).
  3. Third, of Herod Pilate said, “No, nor yet Herod: for I sent you to him; and, lo, nothing worthy of death is done unto him” (Luke 23:15).
  4. Fourth, Pilate’s wife entreated, “Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.” (Matt. 27:19).
  5. Fifth, the dying thief affirmed, “We receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss” (Luke 23:41).
  6. Sixth, the Roman centurion who glorified God, said, “Certainly this was a righteous man” (Luke 23:47).
  7. Seventh, those who stood with the Centurion acknowledged, “Truly this was the Son of God” (Matt. 27:54)!

Turn with me to John 11.49-53. One of the most prominent[7] figures in all the Gospel accounts that describe Jesus final week of conflict in the Holy City is the high priest Caiaphas. Caiaphas spoke God’s Word and prophesied truth. Caiaphas, who served as the leader of the Sanhedrin from A.D. 18-36, is known in the Gospel accounts as the one who prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation.

John 11:49-53 And one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all, 50 nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.” 51 Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad. 53 Then, from that day on, they plotted to put Him to death. NKJV

Pause and think about that– Caiaphas spoke God’s Word and prophesied truth. Now turn back to Matthew 7:22-23

Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ NKJV

Now turn to John 18.14. Caiaphas served God as an instrument in His hands, and actually was used to fulfill many Scriptures. He was used by God to bring about the crucifixion of Christ, and is the man who actually set in motion the plan to kill Him, and then presided over the late-night trial at which Jesus confessed Himself to be the Messiah and was subsequently condemned (Matthew 26:57-68).

Pause and think about that—Caiaphas served God as an instrument in His hands, and actually was used to fulfill many Scriptures. Now turn back to Matthew 25:30 And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ NKJV

Part-12 The DEATH OF JESUS CHRIST Matthew Mark Luke John
Jesus is betrayed, arrested, and forsaken at Gethsemane 26:47-56 14:43-52 22:47-53 18:2-12
1st Jewish Phase: Annas questions Jesus at Gallicantu       18:13-24
2nd Jewish Phase: Caiaphas questions Jesus 26:57-68 14:53-65 22.54  
Peter denies knowing Jesus 26:69-75 14:66-72 22:55-65 18:25-27
3rd Jewish Phase: The council of religious leaders condemns Jesus 27:12 15:1a 22:66-71  
Judas suffers remorse and kills himself (Acts 1.18-19) 27:3-10      
1st Roman Phase: Jesus stands trial before Pilate at Palace 27.2, 11-14 15:1b-5 23.1-5 18:28-38
2nd Roman Phase: Jesus stands trial before Herod Antipas     23:6-12  
3rd Roman Phase: Pilate hands Jesus over to be crucified 27:15-26 15:6-15 23:13-25 18:39-19:16
Roman soldiers mock Jesus at Gabbatha 27:27-30 15:16-19    
Journey to Golgotha 27:31-34 15:20-24 23:26-33a 19:17
1st Three Hours of Crucifixion (the 5th Event of Christ’s Life) 27.35-44 15.24-32 23.33b-42 19.18-27
2nd Three Hours of Crucifixion 27.45-50 15.33-37 23.44-45a 19.28-30
Jesus dies on the cross 27.51-58 15.38-45 23.45b-52 19.31-38
Jesus is laid in the Garden Tomb 27.59-60 15.46 23.53-54 19.39-42
Guards are posted at the tomb and the women watch 27.61-66 15.47 23.55-56  

[1] Matthew 21-28; Mark 11-16; Luke 19-24; John 12-21.

[2]  John Hagee, His Glory Revealed. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1999, p.18-20.

[3]  For details of the discovery, see Zvi Greenhut, “Burial Cave of the Caiaphaas Family,” Biblical Archaeology Review 18:5 (September/October 1992): 28-44, 76.

[4]  See Zvi Greenhut, “Caiaphas Final Resting Place,” Israel Hilton Magazine (Spring 1993), p. 16. 

[5]  See “Ossuary of Caiaphas,” in P. Kyle McCarter, Jr., Ancient Inscriptions: Voices from the Biblical World (Washington D.C.: Biblical Archaeology Society, 1996), p. 133.

[6]  Pink, Arthur, W., Exposition of the Gospel of John Volume 4. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1945. p.205.

[7]  Price, Randall, The Stones Cry Out. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 1997, pp. 305-308.