The Nepotism of Caiaphas
Matthew 26:57-68

I came across an interesting web site yesterday. Its the Hollywood Nepotism Page, the page that pays homage to those infamous actors/actresses who only made it into showbiz because of their famous relatives. While often resembling their famous folks, usually these actors just miss the mark in the acting department and are forced to make low-budget flicks. The list below represents only a fraction of those shameless actors/actresses who practice Hollywood Nepotism. Click on the names that are highlighted to view their images. Notorious Nepotism Covers: Chad McQUEEN, Don SWAYZE, Mike NORRIS, Frank STALLONE, Joey TRAVOLTA and Christopher MITCHUM.

Nepotism is as common today as it was when Caiaphas ordained members of his family to serve as priests. The word 'nepotism' comes from the Latin nepotes meaning 'nephews'. It arose in the Middle Ages when it was applied to the so-called 'nephews' of the Popes - The nephews were actually their illegitimate children who were given positions of power and influence in Italian society by the Popes. You find Nepotism in religion, commerce, politics and entertainment. Here are just a few examples... Quote from Wraithe and Simpkins, Corruption in Developing Countries...

Introduction: Caiaphas in Context
Caiaphas was the most influential person involved in the trial and ultimately the death of Jesus. Not Judas or Pilate but Caiaphas. lets find out why. According to Old Testament Law, the high priest was to serve until death. But when the Romans took over the nation of Israel, they made the high priesthood an appointed office. This way they could be certain of having a religious leader who would cooperate with their policies. Annas served as high priest from a.d. 6 to a.d. 15, and five of his sons, Eleazer (AD 16), Jonathan and Theophilus (AD 36), Matthias (AD 42-43), and Annas the Younger (AD 63) as well as Caiaphas his son-in-law succeeded him. Caiaphas was high priest from a.d. 18-36, but Annas was still a power behind the throne (see Luke 3:2). Both Annas and Caiaphas were Sadducees, which meant they did not believe in the resurrection, the spirit world, or the authority of any of the Old Testament except the five Books of Moses. In this passage we see three dimensions of the Nepotism of Caiaphas.

1. An Arrogant Leader - Tainted by Wealth 26:57-58
He lived in a house large enough to hold the trial of Jesus. Elders = Sanhedrin = 70. He lived in a house with an open court yard large enough to make a fire. He lived in a house with guards. Why did he need guards? Because it was the family of Caiaphas who controlled the temple and its treasury as well as the currency exchange rates and fixed the price of sacrificial animals. According to one source they creamed off 12.5% of all transactions They were therefore probably the wealthiest family in Jewish society. Recent archaeological evidence has located the house of Caiaphas because of the discovery of measures used in the temple to weigh the sacrifices offered. Even the Jewish Talmud, the commentary on the Hebrew scriptures pronounces a curse on the nepotism of the family of Caiaphas. "Woe to the sons of Annas, themselves high priests, their sons treasurers, their son-in-law assistant treasurers, while their servants beat the people with sticks." No wonder Jesus said they had turned the temple into a "den of robbers." Jesus was rightly seen as a threat to the family business. Caiaphas had already made it clear that he intended to sacrifice Jesus in order to save the nation (John 11:47-54). What he actually meant was that Jesus would have to be sacrificed for the sake of his family.

Because of their haste to complete the trial and see Jesus die before the Sabbath, less than 24 hours away, the religious leaders met in Caiaphas's home at night instead of waiting for daylight and meeting in the temple. The Sanhedrin was the most powerful religious and political body of the Jewish people. Although the Romans controlled Israel's government, they gave the people power to handle religious disputes and some civil disputes, so the Sanhedrin made many of the local decisions affecting daily life.

But a death sentence had to be approved by the Romans (John 18:31).
Caiaphas therefore sought for grounds that would justify the death penalty. Insurrection? Jesus had foiled their trick question about paying taxes to Caesar. What else could they charge him with? Blasphemy. All they needed was two witnesses. They had already determined that He was guilty, but they wanted to go through the motions of a legal trial. An arrogant leader, tainted by wealth.

2. A Bent Judge - Corrupted by Power 26:59-64
Nepotism plays fast and loose with laws and justice system. Capital cases had to be tried during the daytime, but the trial of Jesus took place at night. It was not lawful for the Council to sit on the eve of a festival or during a festival but they did so on this occasion. No person could be convicted on his own testimony, but Jesus was. There could be no sentence in capital cases on the same day as the trial, but Jesus was sentenced before morning. There was compulsory provision for a defence council and the opportunity to offer a defence but Jesus was denied both. The trial was therefore quite illegal. This is what nepotism does. It sets aside the rule of law for the sake of the family.

Benny Hinn the TV evangelist is a contemporary example. Using his brother-in-law, a police officer, to intimidate critics. The scheme used by the Sanhedrin was to find false witnesses who could twist Jesus' teachings. They found two who distorted Jesus' words about the temple (see John 2:19). They claimed that Jesus had said he could destroy the templea blasphemous boast. Actually Jesus had said, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days." Jesus, of course, was talking about his body, not the building. Ironically, the religious leaders were about to destroy Jesus' body just as he had said, and three days later he would rise from the dead. When confronted with this charge, Jesus remained silent. This was a fulfilment of Isaiah 53:7.

Jesus could not deny that He made the statement, and yet neither could He explain the spiritual meaning of the statement to this group of unbelievers. In His attitude toward His enemies, Jesus set an example for us to follow (1 Peter 2:18-23). Caiaphas was an arrogant leader, tainted by wealth. A bent judge - corrupted by power.

3. A Scandalous Priest - Blinded by Unbelief 26:65-68
When Caiaphas saw that the false charges were not incriminating Jesus, he took another approach. He put Jesus under oath. In our day perjury seems common even in our law courts as we saw in the trial of Nicholas Aitken and Geoffrey Archer. Its hard therefore to appreciate the solemn importance that the Jews gave to oaths. This, of course, was according to their Law (Ex. 20:7; Lev. 19:12; Num. 30:2). Caiaphas knew that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God (John 10:30-33), so he put Him under oath to incriminate himself. The judge therefore became the prosecution. He demanded Jesus reply which he must. Jesus did affirm that He is the Son of God.

He applied to Himself Psalm 110:1 and Daniel 7:13, both of which are messianic passages. In these two quotations, Jesus predicted His resurrection and ascension and His return in glory. This would mean salvation to those who trust Him, but for Caiaphas it would mean condemnation. Jesus replied declaring his royalty in no uncertain terms. In saying he was the Son of Man, Jesus was claiming to be the Messiah, as his listeners well knew. Jesus was calm, courageous, and determined. But without even considering the evidence, Caiaphas stopped the trail at that point and passed sentence.

They pronounced Jesus guilty of blasphemycalling himself God. The religious leaders refused to consider the possibility that Jesus' words might be true. They had decided against Jesus, and in so doing, they sealed their own fate as well as his.
The treatment given Jesus after the verdict had been reached was certainly illegal and inhumane. Of course, all of this only revealed the wickedness of the priest's heart.

At the same time, it fulfilled the messianic prophecies (Isa. 50:6). Even as he hung on the cross, it says the religious leaders mocked and taunted him, "He saved others..." (Matthew 27:42). An arrogant leader, tainted by wealth. A bent judge - corrupted by power. A scandalous priest - blinded by unbelief
. What difference then does the cross make to those enmeshed in nepotism? For a start we know that not all within the Sanhedrin could stand this nepotism and abuse of power.

Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were members of the Sanhedrin who did not consent and chose instead to identify with Jesus in his death. But what of Jesus own family and disciples? In Mark 10 the mother of the two brothers, James and John came to Jesus and said, 'Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory' (Mark 10:37). They were unfeeling. They were insensitive about how their request would affect the other ten, and the other disciples grew angry.

The story comes right in the middle of the occasion when Jesus is trying to command their attention to say that the Son of Man must go up to Jerusalem and be crucified. All James and John can think about is the seat on the right hand and the seat on the left. This is the time when Jesus says,

Jesus also warned against nepotism when he said,

At the Cross there is an interesting sequel to that episode of James and John. In John's gospel remember John was one of the two brothers who wanted the places on the right and the leftJesus looks down from the Cross at his own mother and says, 'Here is your son.' And he looks down at John and says to him about Mary, 'Here is your mother.' And the gospel says, 'From that time on, this disciple took her into his home'. (John 19:26, 27). John is the only one of the four Evangelists who tells us that story about the Cross. John is the only one who explains that it is those who are born again who become the children of God. John is the only one who mentions Annas and the nepotistic family connections in the account of the trial of Jesus. All this suggests that John is saying, 'I was like that, but the Cross made a difference. I began to discover where my real family was at the Cross.'

It is interesting that in the Crucifixion story in Mark's gospel, the mother of John and James, called Salome, is present at the Cross as well. It's a lovely picture, isn't it? The woman who was pushing her two boys for the right and the left seat on the throne isby the time she comes to the Crosswith her son and his new mother Mary, patterning a radically new family concept that would totally revolutionise the world.

Caiaphas, then, tells us about one way of doing things in life - putting your family first; and the Cross of Jesus shows us a totally different way of relating. Where do we stand before the Cross? With the family of Caiaphas, mocking Jesus because he was not one of their own, or with the extended family of Jesus learning that all relationships are now governed by love? Who is your brother? Who is your mother? Who is your sister? Who is your father? Jesus answers for us, 'Whoever does the will of my Father.'

I am grateful to Tom Houston and Warren Wersbie for material used in this sermon as well as Internet content from the Hollywood Nepotism Page.