There is no doubt about it, Easter was by far the worst day of Joseph’s life. To make matters worse it followed almost immediately after what had been one of his best days ever. As best we can tell Joseph was about 45 years of age and had, via a wise marriage, moved up the corporate ladder to the top position. You probably know Joseph better by his family name, Caiaphas.
Joseph or Caiaphas hated Jesus for a variety of reasons. His difficulty with Jesus stemmed from the fact that the two had radically different theological positions. Caiaphas was a follower of the branch of Judaism known as the Sadducees. The Sadducees denied that there was any kind of afterlife. Jesus taught that He was the resurrection and the life and that whoever believed in Him though he were to die, would still live.
More basic than theological differences, Jesus constantly declared that the religious leaders were misleading the people by establishing rules and regulations that God never intended them to insist were essential. Read in Matthew 23:33 what Jesus said about them. As the popularity of Jesus grew the fears of the religious establishment grew also. Caiaphas and the other religious leaders did all they could to discredit Jesus but time and time again it backfired on them. Questions designed to get Jesus in trouble with either the Romans or the Jews included things such as “Do we pay taxes to Rome?” It seemed like a foolproof way to trap Him, but it didn’t work.
The Pharisees went out of their way to keep peace with Rome. Arriving in Jerusalem amid calls for Him to be their Messiah certainly did not set well with them. The High Priest had to meet with Roman approval and a key factor in them accepting the High Priest was his ability to keep his people under control. Read John 11:45-51
John 18 records the arrest of Jesus and being taken first to Annas (18:13) and then to Caiaphas (18:24). Matthew gives us a description of Jesus’ time before him in Matthew 26:57-60. The plan to use false witnesses failed. Finally, Caiaphas personally challenged Jesus to declare if He was the Messiah. Jesus neither confirmed nor denied that He was but His answer infuriated Caiaphas. Read Matthew 26:65-66 for His response to Caiaphas.
Jesus was taken to Pilate whom Caiaphas asked to sentence Jesus to death. Read Matthew 27:20. Jesus was beaten and mocked and then taken out to a place called Golgotha where He was crucified.
It seemed by midday on Friday that Caiaphas’ plan had worked. Jesus was on a Cross about to die. By 3 that day the soldiers declared Jesus was dead. Caiaphas could relax, his plan worked and the threat of Jesus to him and to the nation was over. With that Caiaphas went home rejoicing. Jesus of Nazareth would no longer be a problem. The Romans had ensured that He would no longer influence anyone. Caiaphas got the last word, or so he thought.
I suspect he had a very restless night. The next day was Saturday or the Sabbath, and one was not supposed to do much. Caiaphas was uneasy. Read in Matthew 27:62-64 what he did that day.
Then came the first day of the week. For the Jews it was the beginning of a new work week. If Caiaphas slept in that morning, the women who were close to Jesus did not. Matthew 28 records that early that morning the women rushed to the tomb to finish the task of burying Jesus. His body would need more spices and be wrapped formally for the grave. Read in Matthew 28:5 what the angel told them. For the followers of Jesus that was an incredible announcement that would forever change their lives. It was not, to put it mildly, good news for Caiaphas.
Read Matthew 28:11. Wouldn’t you like to have a picture of the look on Caiaphas’s face when he got that news? His worse fears had become a reality. I am sure we know what he did next. Caiaphas met with some of his associates, and they agreed to pay the guards to make up a story that the Disciples had stolen His body. Matthew records that the guards accepted the money and told that story.
I can’t begin to imagine how the mind of Caiaphas worked. He knew that the Disciples of Jesus had not stolen His body, yet he refused to accept the truth that Jesus was alive. He stubbornly lived as if Jesus was dead. Acts 4 records that sometime after the resurrection and ascension of Jesus the temple guard arrested Peter and John for, according to verse 4, “proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead.” The temple guards put them in jail overnight. Read Acts 4:5-6. There was Caiaphas once again.
In that encounter Peter preached Jesus to them, declaring that while the religious leaders crucified God raised Him from the dead (4:10). In the end all Caiaphas and the other religious leaders could do was threaten them and let them go (4:21).
I find it unbelievable that after all the evidence he had, Caiaphas still refused to accept the truth that Jesus was alive and because of that everything should be different. He had so much evidence that Jesus was who He said He was, yet he refused to believe. Even with the first-hand testimony of the guards and individuals like Peter who saw Jesus alive, he still refused to believe.
Think about all Caiaphas missed because for him, the resurrection never occurred. He missed living with the reality that Jesus is alive and because of that His promise to never leave or forsake us can be a day-by-day reality. Jesus promised that we can, “Come unto me all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” He promised, “I am with you always” and “I will never leave you or forsake you” On other occasions He promised, “I am the good Shepherd who cares for His sheep” and “If anyone drinks of the water, I will give him he will never thirst again” As far as Caiaphas was concerned Jesus was still dead, so none of those promises were possible.
Think about the fact that Caiaphas would never be able to know the strength we have because our Savior lives. A dead person, even a dead Savior, would not be able to strengthen us, or encourage us, or give us peace or help us overcome temptation, or guide us etc. The reality Caiaphas never understood is that He lives and because He lives, He can do for us everything He has promised to do.
The most important things we have here and now come from Him, and Caiaphas never knew any of them. Our risen Savior give us the strength to live each day, the help to overcome difficulties and resist temptations, the peace that passes understanding in situations that otherwise defy any sense of peace, the joy that fills our hearts and souls when seemingly everything around us is falling apart and still we know He is in complete control. These are the important things in life and for Caiaphas none of them were a reality.
The Apostle Paul declared that if Jesus had not been raised from the dead, we would be most miserable. Caiaphas could only know that miserableness. The truth that He lives changes the way we view death and eternity. On the Cross the cause of death was dealt with as the sin that brought about death was cared for. When Jesus arose from the dead the victory was formalized, but not for Caiaphas. Because he refused to believe those provisions were never his. Jesus made it clear that the provisions of the Cross were for “whosoever believes” and Caiaphas did not believe so those benefits were not available to him.
Today, if you are a Caiaphas who insists Jesus is either dead or of no relevancy to today, or a Caiaphas who has never made a personal commitment to Jesus, think about the evidence that Jesus was truly raised from the dead. There is so much evidence for the truth that He arose from the dead that no honest person can deny it. There is no better time to make Jesus your Savior.
For those of us who have made that decision, contemplate all we have because we did see the truth that Caiaphas missed, Jesus is alive and because He is, He is with us today and we will be with Him for all eternity. Then contemplate all the promises Jesus made and can keep because He lives.
What a day to celebrate and what a message to share with those who like Caiaphas still do not believe Jesus is alive.