Holy Week – Part 2 – The Jerusalem Establishment

The Priests were descended from Aaron and the tribe of Levi. The Scribes may or may not have been Levitical but it appears that they were influential as teachers, copyists and philosophers. The Sadducees were one of the theological divisions within the Temple organization and traced themselves back to the High Priest during Solomon’s reign. The Pharisees were another theological group, differing from the Sadducees in that they believed in oral tradition as well as the Torah for guiding them; as such, they tended to decide what God had really meant to say. Keeping the Sabbath holy, for example. What could you do or not do? How much of what you could do, could you do? How far were you allowed to walk before it was a sin? These leaders loved to sit around the Temple and debate, (argue, actually) eventually leading to such great middle age discussions as “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” {Answer: Quite a few for a slow dance; not soo many if square dancing.}

In any case, these groups were the primary power structure at the time, and it was to them that Jesus posed a threat. The feared Jesus being acknowledged as the Messiah and declared king leading to greater restrictions by the Romans. Even if that didn’t happen, Jesus was definitely playing in their sandbox and had to go. There had been many attempts to trap Jesus in religious riddles, but until now, Jesus had always turned the tables on these experts


Caiaphas was the Chief Priest, a duty that was normally rotated. However, you had to be from the right tribe and family and there’s no doubt that the position had political benefits as well. Little detail that I suspect he was not proud of was that Caiaphas was appointed by the Romans, not the Jews, as Chief Priest. Caiaphas is often regarded as the chief instigator of Christ’s persecution. Inasmuch as he could be judge and jury with regards to religious issues, not to mention a puppet of the Romans, this was quite handy. When he was done with Jesus he had Him taken to Pontius Pilate, having no power of his own.


King Herod the Great had attempted to have Jesus murdered when still a child. When the Magi asked for directions to the new king, he first asked them to return and tell him where they had found the king so he could pay homage. When the Magi left by a different route, he ordered all male children born within that timeframe killed. When Herod died, his kingdom was split and his son Antipas was given control over one of four parts and became known as Herod the Tetrarch. In the Bible he is sometimes referred to as a king, but this is not precisely true.

The rotten apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree, and Herod Antipas the Tetrarch would have made his father proud. Although he had at least one wife, he lived with Herodias the wife of his half-brother. (Herod and Herodias – sounds like cozy little bookends, doesn’t it?) Herod kept John the Baptist captive to minimize his influence over others and because John intrigued him. Ultimately he had John beheaded because Salome was such a great dancer. I suspect that John’s fate was already sealed, but blaming it on the “exotic dancer” sounds so much more exciting. “The lap dancer – she made me do it!”

When Jesus was taken to Pilate, seeing that Jesus was a Galilean, Pilate hoped to get out of the middle and sent Him to Herod for judgment. Herod, wanting to see Jesus crucified sent Him right back to Pilate. Apparently Herod could have people stoned or crushed to death but inflicting crucifixion was strictly a Roman right.

One might guess that Herod, Caiaphas and the other establishment members not only wanted Jesus executed, but they also wanted to make an example of Him – to show that a united Judea and Rome would not tolerate someone else picking up Jesus’ cause. Once Jesus was out of the way, these high officials could return to their business ventures and, of course, once again enjoy fighting among themselves.


Pontius Pilate was the Roman governor for this area. Periodically someone would gather a group of Jews together and try to start a revolt. Pilate’s job was to keep everything under control. When faced with the accusations against Jesus he tried (half-heartedly) to deflect Jesus to Herod, to placate the crowd, but when push came to shove he was not about to sacrifice his career for something as esoteric as justice. His symbolic washing his hands of the affair shows his lack of belief in Jesus’ guilt; however he was never going to back that up with action. As the old saying goes, he was born without a backbone.


Judas Iscariot was one of the twelve disciples commonly referred to as apostles; there are two apostles named Judas, which is why you normally see “Iscariot” as a reference to his place of origin (it basically means “from Kirioth”) . The Bible tells us that he approached the Jewish religious leaders and offered to point out Jesus when He was vulnerable. Jesus had foretold the betrayal and said that it would have been better for his betrayer to never have been born.

Judas apparently had a thing for money. John’s gospel tells us that he was responsible for the money bag and stole from it. He was also the one who complained when Jesus was anointed with fine perfume saying that it could have been sold for 300 days wages and the money used for the poor. Judas was paid thirty pieces of silver for betraying Jesus. After betraying Jesus, Judas threw the money he had received into the temple. Consumed with guilt for what he had done Judas hanged himself, one account stating that this caused his body to burst open. A fitting literary end to a despised individual.


Although these are the “bad guys” of the story of Christ’s death, it is wise to always remember that our thoughts are not God’s thoughts and His ways are not our ways. Jesus died for all of our sins. As He hung on the cross He asked the Father to “Forgive them for they know not what they do.” He did not ask forgiveness for everyone except Judas, Herod or Pilate.

Some believe that these people had a role to play that was impossible to avoid. Some even believe that Judas was entrusted with the knowledge of what was to happen and in concert with Christ they orchestrated the whole event.

It’s not for us to know – not today. What is important to know is that we have a God who loves us so much he is willing to die in order to save us.

4 responses to “Holy Week – Part 2 – The Jerusalem Establishment

  1. Pingback: The Passion of the Lord « Inspirations

  2. Pingback: Good Friday Family Prayer « A Robin Hood's Musing

  3. Pingback: the way of heaven: cease blame and forgive your own condemnation « JRFibonacci's blog: partnering with reality

  4. Pingback: The Passion of the Lord | Impressions

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