Part 79 – John 18:37
The ironic King
My dictionary says irony is ‘the humorous or mildly sarcastic use of words to imply the opposite of what they usually mean’. In his account of the trials of Jesus John uses irony all the time, particularly in relation to the role of Jesus as King. His interrogators are saying he is a king in a spirit of mockery, but he IS a king, in fact the king. It is John’s rather odd way of making sure that his readers and listeners get it firmly into their heads that Jesus is the King.
He does that through a very carefully structured account of what happened. It is in many ways difficult to follow. Unlike the other Gospel-writers he tells us that the interrogations started in the home of Annas, rather than that of Caiaphas. This is because, in a way, both of them were the high priest. Annas was the senior and had been the high priest several years earlier. That made him the high priest for the rest of his life in Jewish eyes. But the Roman authorities reckoned they had the power and authority to appoint the high priest overriding the Jewish choice and did so regularly, so they had appointed Caiaphas. To complicate matters the two of them were related, Caiaphas being a son-in-law of Annas. They may have lived in the same complex of buildings so both accounts would be correct. It seems likely that these are accounts of pre-trial interrogations in the middle of the night, which were not legal and would have to be followed up by a full session of the Sanhedrin, the ruling council of the Jewish people, first thing in the morning.
That event is not clearly recorded by John. It seems likely that the Jewish authorities had made a prior arrangement with Pilate, the Roman governor so as to get him out of bed early in the morning, which he would be reluctant to do! He was the senior authority, the only one with the power of life and death – death in the Roman way by crucifixion, which was the way Jesus had to die to fulfil prophecies by being lifted up, rather than the much less painful death by stoning which was all the Jews could use. Presumably they reckoned they had all the false charges against Jesus well organized, but they did not work out as they expected. In the end, as the other writers record, they could only say that he had said he would destroy the temple and build it again in 3 days – which, taken literally didn’t make much sense – and that he was guilty of blasphemy which would be of no interest to the Romans. Hence he is eventually condemned for no crime but purely for political reasons. And so a completely innocent man and king was condemned to death. He was to die for no crime of his own but for yours, and for mine! Consider: how much are you worth if a king, the king of the ages, died for you.
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