The ancient story of the city of Jerusalem is not told at ground level. To get to the real story of the time of the Bible, you have to (pardon the pun) dig a little deeper. Jerusalem (like many ancient cities) was described to me as a “layer cake.” To find out what was happening in the city 2,000 years ago, you need to dig down below current street level to see the ruins from an era buried beneath modernity.
All over the old city of Jerusalem there are opportunities to go underground and see some of the ancient city. One such opportunity was in the modern day Jewish quarter of the old city. After a cup of frozen coffee (these slurpee type drinks were outstanding and found EVERYWHERE in Israel), we followed our guide beneath an apartment building and visited an important archeological site.
The ruins we saw were in a section of the city where the priests lived in the first century. When we first started touring this set of ruins, we saw what looked like an entire neighborhood or village of ruins. After walking around for a bit our guide let us know that what we were seeing was NOT a village, but a single house. A huge house for the first century — one of the largest in town. The home had numbers of private ritual baths and fancy mosaics on the floors. It was apparent that whoever lived here was a person of considerable wealth.
Though we do not know for certain, it is speculated that this was the home of the High Priest . . . possibly the home of Caiaphas who was High Priest in Jesus’s day. Seeing this home helped make sense (to me) of Caiaphas’s rejection of Jesus. Caiaphas was a man of great wealth. The then current system of religion and government in Israel had led to much prosperity for the Priests. Jesus’s teaching posed a legitimate threat to this old man’s status, so he gave into temptation to take Jesus out.
I realize that what I just wrote is delving into speculation, but it is not totally unfounded. Clearly the Priest saw Jesus as a threat. Clearly he was willing to do whatever it took to eliminate the threat (Jesus) to protect the status quo. Further, we have zero indication that Caiaphas gave Jesus a fair chance to defend Himself or investigate His claims.
As Paul said in 1 Timothy 6:10, “The love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.” This was a challenging moment for me as someone who works as a paid vocational pastor of a local church. I never want to be like Caiaphas and allow my integrity or my spiritual vitality or honesty to be purchased by a salary or a position. It is too easy to allow money to obscure our faith in God.
How about you? Is it possible that the pursuit or protection of money and things has clouded your vision of Jesus Himself? Sometimes, we have to dig a bit deeper into our hearts to uncover our true intentions.