The High Priest
When you look into the New Testament story, those who really ought to be showing us something about what it means to be a saint are actually terrible scoundrels. The one that stands out most would have to be the high priest, Caiaphas.
If we think about the role of the high priest—established centuries before by Moses—this was the person who was to serve as a mediator between God and the people of God. What was he supposed to mediate from God to the people? Mercy. That was his big job: to mediate the mercy of God to sinners.
But when we get to the New Testament, by this era the Romans are in charge and they appoint the high priest. In reality, rich people bought in to the role. It wasn't awarded because they were a descendant of Aaron anymore; it was whoever could pay the best price. It was really more of a political role.
Substance Faced Shadow
So when we get to the story of Jesus, Caiaphas is in this role as high priest. He should be the one who recognizes who Jesus is. He should be the one who, more than anyone else on the scene, should be full of joy at the coming of the one who has been promised. He should know the Scriptures and see what Jesus has come to do—the person in whom mercy is personified.
Yet, he hates Jesus and he is conspiring against Jesus. In the Gospels, Jesus comes and he stands before Caiaphas. This is amazing because Caiaphas's role as high priest was always just a shadow of a greater high priest to come. So here he is, the shadow, and he's standing face-to-face with the substance.
We can run to him. The way is open.
Substance faced shadow, and I wonder, What could have happened? How beautiful it could have been if Caiaphas had looked into the eyes of Jesus and said, I see now that you are actually what this role, that I have taken upon myself, has always been pointing toward.
If Caiaphas had only chosen to worship Jesus—to take off his robe and give it to Jesus. But instead, he tears his robe and declares that Jesus is being blasphemous. He doesn't realize that the one through whom mercy is going to come is standing right in front of him and that he is, in fact, the great high priest. We can run to him. The way is open. And we can expect, according to Hebrews, to find grace and mercy in our time of need.
Nancy Guthrie is the author of Saints and Scoundrels in the Story of Jesus.
What can we learn from some of the less well-loved characters of Scripture? Why is Jesus's scandalous family tree good news for sinners like us?
Learn from the stories of a handful of the Bible’s scoundrels and see more clearly the ways in which they reveal the generous grace of Jesus toward sinners.
The fact that you have a cesspool of sin down in your heart doesn’t mean you should camp down there because that’s precisely what God is trying to lead you out of.
What does Scripture say about God's disposition towards us as redeemed sinners? What does it mean that Jesus is "gentle and lowly in heart"?