Matthew’s Passion: The cross is atonement

Matthew’s Passion: Staying silent

40 blogs of Lent: 21

Matthew 26:57-68

Caiaphas was high priest. He did not know it, but he was about to do his job far more effectively than any high priest before him. Not even Aaron, the first high priest, had so fully fulfilled that role. The whole reason for there being a high priest is about to become apparent before the next day is over. The high priest is the one who offers the sacrifice to atone for the people’s sins.


The plot almost comes unstuck.

The plotters met at the high priest’s house, the Sanhedrin, Council in the translation below, were the local court, they could pass any sentence except the death penalty. Although Caiaphas was the head of both the plotters and the Sanhedrin he was not able to make his argument carry before the court. There is no evidence that Jesus has done anything wrong.

The cross is atonement

Caiaphas’s job is to offer the sacrifice of the atonement, the sacrifice that removes the sins of the people, the sacrifice which makes the people at one with God. That is what atonement means, at-one ment. In contrast to the sacrificial goat of the Jewish atonement, there stands in front of the Sanhedrin court and directly in front if the high priest Caiaphas God’s own sacrifice. Jesus, God be one incarnate as man is about to become the greatest sacrifice, the once and for all time sacrifice who takes the place of all the Passover lambs and atonement goats. He is about to offer himself as the sacrifice to end all sacrifices. There are no more sacrifices necessary. Jesus is about to fulfil the role of high priest and sacrifice I one act.

Jesus is in control

Does Caiaphas know this? No. But Caiaphas is not in control here. Jesus is silent before his accusers not because he is afraid of incriminating himself before his accusers but because he has no accusation that requires answering. When Jesus finally speaks, to answer the question, “are you the Christ, the Son of God?” he not only answers the court by saying yes, but makes it clear who is actually the judge here. Using words from the book of Daniel, he makes it clear that it is he, the man who has been brought before the Sanhedrin tied up as a prisoner who is judging the Sanhedrin, he who is judging the high priest, and not the other way around.

Jesus is in control. The Sanhedrin think they are condemning Jesus, the Sanhedrin are actually condemning themselves.

There are those who like to follow the passages I write about, here it is:

57 Then those who had seized Jesus led him to Caiaphas the high priest, where the scribes and the elders had gathered. 58 And Peter was following him at a distance, as far as the courtyard of the high priest, and going inside he sat with the guards to see the end. 59 Now the chief priests and the whole Council were seeking false testimony against Jesus that they might put him to death, 60 but they found none, though many false witnesses came forward. At last two came forward 61 and said, “This man said, ‘I am able to destroy the temple of God, and to rebuild it in three days.’” 62 And the high priest stood up and said, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” 63 But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” 64 Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 65 Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. 66 What is your judgement?” They answered, “He deserves death.” 67 Then they spat in his face and struck him. And some slapped him, 68 saying, “Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?”

Matthew 26 ESVUK

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.

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