Tag Archives: High Priest

God’s People, part 124: Sadducees

Read Acts 4:1-22

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“Then Jesus was approached by some Sadducees—religious leaders who say there is no resurrection from the dead.”  (Luke 20:27, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

SadduceesPart 124: Sadducees. The Sadducees were a group of people who existed during the Second Temple period in Jerusalem (516 BCE – 70 CE). They became prominent during the second century BCE and were among the sects of Judaism during a very divided time in Jewish history. The division stemmed around the Hellenization (e.g infiltration of Greek culture) of Israel under the Seleucid Empire.

While some groups, such as the Pharisees, thought one ought to separate themselves from Grecco-Roman culture altogether, the Sadducees worked to regulate relations with their foreign occupiers. This is not to say that the Sadducees promoted Helenization; however, their role was a political one as much as it was religious. They were of the high social class of Jewish society, they were the aristocracy, and they had much influence and power in Judaea.

This was epsecially true when the Romans conquered and occupied Judaea. Annas and Caiaphas were both members of the Sadducees. Annas was appointed to the position of high priest by the Roman governor of Syria, Quirinius. While not all priests and high priests were Sadducees, many of them were. They were responsible for maintaining the Temple and the life of worship. They performed rituals, sacrifices, and other duties related to the temple; however, they also served as politicians and judges.

They were on the Sanhedrin, the ruling Jewish Council, along with the Pharisees. They managed the state domestically, and represented the state internationally. They collected taxes, including collecting international tax from Jews living in other countries. They also equipped and led the Jewish army, and structured relations with the Romans. On top of all of those political roles, the Sadducees also mediated local and household complaints.

The Sadducees were a people of great prominence and importance. With control over the Temple and the worship life of the Jewish people, the Sadducees held a power that few Jewish groups in that time period had. They were an aristocratic sect that had utilized its status in ways that often benefited them to the detriment of the people beneath them. This angered many, and caused dissident sects like the Essenes and the Zealots to take matters into their own hands to usher in the Messianic age.

As we will soon see, this group would cross paths with the Christ, the anointed One of God, Jesus of Nazareth. The Messiah would not be impressed by their power, nor would he be afraid to hold them and others accountable for the way they abused the authority God had given them. This imminent confrontation would lead to the most dramatic and powerful events the world has ever seen.

The challenge for us is to remember the Sadducees and recognize our own desire for power, control, and authority. We ought to keep that desire in check and remember that it is God who is power, it is God who is in control and who has authority, not us.

Let us submit ourselves to God rather than try to bend God into submission. The latter will NEVER happen and will lead us to our own downfall, just as surely as the power hungry Sadducees went down with their Temple when the Romans finally came in and destroyed it along with the entire city of Jerusalem. Remember, to God be the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever. Amen.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
“Watch out! Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” – Jesus Christ (Matthew 16:6, NLT)

PRAYER
Lord, I surrender all to you, and place all that have and all that I am in your hands. Amen.

God’s People, part 123: High Priest

Read John 11:45-57

ALSO IN SCRIPTURE
“‘Away with him,’ they yelled. ‘Away with him! Crucify him!’ ‘What? Crucify your king?’ Pilate asked. ‘We have no king but Caesar,’ the leading priests shouted back.”  (John 19:15, NLT)

When we think of God’s people, we tend to think one of two things. We might think of the Israelites who were God’s “chosen people”, or we might think of specific characters in the Bible. Either way, we tend to idealize the people we are thinking about. For instance, we may think that God’s people are super faithful, holy, perform miracles and live wholly devout and righteous lives. Unfortunately, this idealism enables us to distance ourselves from being God’s people, because we feel that we fall short of those ideals. As such, I have decided to write a devotion series on specific characters in the Bible in order to show you how much these Biblical people are truly like us, and how much we are truly called to be God’s people.

bible-videos-caiaphas-jesus-trial-1426886-printPart 123: High Priest. When we think of the High Priest of the temple in Jerusalem, we think of someone who was from the Levites and was chosen by God to serve in the position of High Priest, fulfilling the duties of ordering the worship life of the Temple and leading the kingdom of Israel in an ongoing and faithful relationship with God. We think of someone divinely chosen and independent of politics.

Unfortunately, this is a mistake. First, the High Priest WAS a political position as much as it was a religious one. The ancient world did not make any sort of distinction between the political and the religious spheres. That distinction is, strictly speaking, a modern one. This is extremely important to realize. The high priest was not just in charge of religion, but also of law. The TORAH was not just religious law, but the LAW of the land.

Second, the High Priest in the time of the Roman occupation became more of a political role than it was religious. This may sound scandalous and, if you are thinking that, you are absolutely right. It was scandalous. By Jesus’ time, some groups such as the Essenes had left Jerusalem and went out into the wilderness to live. They believed that the corruption of the office of the High Priest, and the ultimate corruption of the Temple, were signs of the end times. Thus, they waited in the wilderness for the Messiah to come, ready to join the holy war when that time came.

The first high priest to be appointed under the newly formed Roman province of Iudaea (aka Judea, pronounced Yoo-dee-ah), was Annas in 6 CE. What’s more, Annas was appointed to that position by Quirinius, the Roman legate governor of Syria. You read that right! A Roman aristocrat and politician appointed Annas as the High Priest of Judea. I am sure you can now see why groups like the Essenes “got out of Dodge” and headed for the wilderness hills.

Annas’ was deposed as High Priest in 15 CE at the age of 36. With that said he held great influence of the Sanhedrin (the Jewish Legal Council made up of priests) through his sons who succeeded him in the role of High Priest. First, his son Eleazar succeeded him and was High Priest for one year (16-17 CE). Following Eleazar was Annas’s son-in-law, Caiaphas. He was High Priest from 18-36 CE and was the High Priest who plotted to have Jesus handed over to the Romans to be crucified.

As you can see, there were major politics at play here in the first century. We Christians like to pretend that everything Jesus did was “spiritual” and not “political”; however, this simply was not true. By accusing the High Priest of hypocrisy and corruption, by violently overturning the tables in the Temple, Jesus was intentionally upsetting the political and the religious order simultaneously!

This should challenge us as Christians. We often choose to remain silent on issues because we don’t want to be “political”; however, our silence is just as political as speaking out. In fact, when we don’t speak out we stamp our seal of approval on whatever it is that is going on. We ought not be afraid of upsetting the political or the religious order. If what is going on is wrong, we ought to take a stand against it. Our Lord did no less. We ought to carefully steer away from the status quo, which the High Priests were holding fast to for their political gain and power, and draw close to Jesus who would have us interrupt the silence for the Kingdom of God.

THOUGHT OF THE DAY
Damning are the politics of silence.

PRAYER
Lord, give me courage to interrupt the silence. For I know you are with me and strengthen me. You are my rock and my redeemer. Amen.