There have been multiple moments on this #SonlifeIsrael2017 study tour when my head has nearly exploded. It happened again at the house of Ciaphas.
It looks like there is a strange discrepancy in the gospel account of Jesus going before Caiaphas. Let’s see if we can find it and figure out what is going on.
So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound him. First they led him to Annas, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. It was Caiaphas who had advised the Jews that it would be expedient that one man should die for the people. – John 18:12-14, ESV
So Jesus is betrayed and arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. He is bound, and then brought to Anna’s, the Father-in-law of Caiaphas, who is High Priest.
Why isn’t he just brought directly to Caiaphas?
It is because Caiaphas is the High Priest and this is happening in the middle of the Passover celebration! The High Priest cannot come in contact with prisoners who may have blood on their hands, or the High Priest will become ceremonially “unclean” and will not be able to perform their duties during the celebration.
Let’s continue and see if we can spot the discrepancy.
The high priest then questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. Jesus answered him, “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 in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me what I said to them; they know what I said.” When he had said these things, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” Jesus answered him, “If what I said is wrong, bear witness about the wrong; but if what I said is right, why do you strike me?” Annas then sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest. – John 18:19-24, ESV
Did you see it? I didn’t at first.
In verse 19 Caiaphas is questioning Jesus. The questioning continues through the passage, but in verse 24 it says that Annas then sent him [Jesus] bound to Caiaphas the High Priest.
Wait a minute! Wasn’t he already speaking to Jesus? How is he talking to Jesus and then Jesus is sent to him?
It feels like some sort of riddle… until you see the house of Caiaphas for yourself.
In the house of Caiaphas, which is not really a house but more like his office, there is a literal hole in the floor of the third level. The hole goes through the second level, and all the way down to the prison area of the bottom level.
Now the story makes sense!
Caiaphas would have been on the third level questioning Jesus who is in the bottom level prison area with Annas and at least one officer (who struck Jesus with his hand). Once it became clear that Jesus was not guilty of having any blood on his hands, Caiaphas was able to speak with him face to face and not risk becoming ceremonially unclean.
The tiny details in this story help to build my faith in the word of God! There are answers for every seeming discrepancy. I may not always know the answer, but I know that there is one. This is a perfect example.
By using this Biblical account of the trial of Jesus, it was easy for archaeologists to know for certain which building in first century Jerusalem belonged to Caiaphas. It was the one with the peculiar hole system and the prison in the bottom level!
That was easy.
We made our way to the bottom level to see the prison for ourselves. Undoubtedly this is where Jesus was held, bound, and alone.
All 40 of us crammed into the small cell that would have held the suffering Savior for a short time before ultimately going to the cross. I had the awesome and sobering privilege of reading aloud from Psalm 88, a Psalm that no doubt refers to Christ, and one which he likely remembered and meditated on while standing in that very cell.
O LORD, God of my salvation, I cry out day and night before you. Let my prayer come before you; incline your ear to my cry! For my soul is full of troubles, and my life draws near to Sheol. I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am a man who has no strength, like one set loose among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, like those whom you remember no more, for they are cut off from your hand. You have put me in the depths of the pit, in the regions dark and deep. Your wrath lies heavy upon me, and you overwhelm me with all your waves.
You have caused my companions to shun me; you have made me a horror to them. I am shut in so that I cannot escape; my eye grows dim through sorrow. Every day I call upon you, O LORD; I spread out my hands to you. Do you work wonders for the dead? Do the departed rise up to praise you?
Is your steadfast love declared in the grave, or your faithfulness in Abaddon? Are your wonders known in the darkness, or your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness? But I, O LORD, cry to you; in the morning my prayer comes before you. O LORD, why do you cast my soul away? Why do you hide your face from me? Afflicted and close to death from my youth up, I suffer your terrors; I am helpless. Your wrath has swept over me; your dreadful assaults destroy me. They surround me like a flood all day long; they close in on me together. You have caused my beloved and my friend to shun me; my companions have become darkness. – Psalms 88, ESV