Caiaphas: High Priest Meets High Priest

John 11:49-52

49 And one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, "You know nothing at all, 50 nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish." 51 Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad. NKJV

The Bible tells us that Caiaphas was High Priest that year. But what does that mean?

Who was the High Priest and what did he do?

Why did they have one?

What part did the High Priest play in the death of Jesus?

Why does Paul call Jesus our High Priest and what does that mean to us?


I.         Origin of the Office of High Priest

            A.        Priests were common before the term was used in the O.T..

                        1.         In the O.T. the heads of families were Priests.

                        2.         We see this in Noah, Abraham and Job.

                        3.         They were considered the religious leaders of their family.

                        4.         The sacrifice animals, prayed and led their families in worship.

            B.        The first mention of the word priest is in reference to Melchizedek.

                        1.         He is referred to as the Priest of the Most High God.

                        2.         Gen 14:18 When Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High. NKJV

                        3.         He blessed Abraham and Abraham paid tithes to him.

            C.        The office of High Priest began with the giving of the law of Moses.

                        1.         God had determined that one tribe of the thirteen would be His representatives to the other twelve.

                        2.         Of that tribe of Levi the household of Aaron was chosen to be the High Priestly tribe.

                        3.         Therefore Aaron is the first High Priest.

                        4.         Much of the law of Moses deals with the responsibilities, and qualifications for the priests, especially the book of Leviticus

                        5.         They stood between men and God and interceded on behalf of the people to God.

                        6.         They offered the sacrifices and maintained the worship of Jehovah.

                        7.         Once chosen the High Priest, he held that position for life, only replaced at death by one of his sons.

                        8.         In the 1726 years of the Jewish nation from Aaron until the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D. there were only 83 High Priests, there being only 60 before Jesus was born, and 23 in the next 75 years.

II.        The Function of the High Priest

            A.        He was first of all a priest.

                        1.         Priests did various functions in the worship of Jehovah.

                                    a.         The priests' duty was to keep the altar fire ever burning (Lev 6:12-13), symbolizing Jehovah's never ceasing worship; not like the idol Vesta's sacred fire, but connected with sacrifices.

                                    b.         They fed the golden, candlestick (or lamp) outside the veil with oil,

                                    c.         offered morning and evening sacrifices with a meat and drink offering at the tabernacle door (Ex 29:38-44; 27:20-21; Lev 24:2; 2 Chron 13:11).

                                    d.         They were always ready to do the priestly office for any worshipper (Lev 1:5; 2:2,9; 3:11; 12:6; 1 Sam 2:13).

                                    e.         The priest administered the water of jealousy to the suspected wife and pronounced the curse (Num 5:11-31).

                                    f.         Declared clean or unclean, and purified ceremonially, lepers (Lev 13; 14; Mark 1:44).

                                    g.         Offered expiatory sacrifices for defilements and sins of ignorance (Lev 15).

                                    h.         The priest as "messenger of Jehovah of hosts" taught Israel the law, and his "lips" were to "keep knowledge" (Mal 2:7; Lev 10:10-11; Deut 24:8; 33:10; Jer 18:18; Hag 2:11; 2 Chron 15:3; 17:7-9; Ezek 44:23-24).

                                    i.         They covered the ark and sanctuary vessels with a scarlet cloth before the Levites might approach them (Num 4:5-15).

                                    j.         They blew the "alarm" for marching, with the long silver trumpets which belonged to them in a special way (Num 10:1-8); two if the multitude was convened, one if a council of elders and princes (Num 10:10); with them the priest announced the beginning of solemn days and days of gladness, and summoned all to a penitential fast (Joel 2:1,15).

                                    k.         They blew them at Jericho's overthrow (Josh 6:4) and the war against Jeroboam (2 Chron 13:12; compare 2 Chron 20:21-22); 3,700 joined David (1 Chron 12:23,27).

                                    l.         An appeal lay to them in controversies (Ezek 44:24; 2 Chron 19:8-10; Deut 17:8-13); so in cases of undetected murder (Deut 21:5).

                                    m.       They blessed the people with the formula, Num 6:22-27, (from Fausset's Bible Dictionary, Electronic Database Copyright (c)1998 by Biblesoft)

                        2.         But there were certain things that only the High Priest could do.

            B.        His work on the Day of Atonement.

                        1.         As the people’s representative to God he would first offer a bull and a ram for his own sins and the sins of his family.

                                    a.         This was to show that although he was their priest, yet he too was a sinner like them.

                                    b.         Before he could do this he must take hot coals from the altar and put them on the altar of incense and burn there a mix of precious spices mingled with oil.

                                    c.         This fill the tabernacle with smoke to shield him from the presence of God.

                        2.         Next he would take two goats and cast lots on them.

                                    a.         Two goats were needed to fully display the atoning work of Jesus.

                                    b.         One will die for the sins of the people.

                                    c.         The other will bear their sins away.

                        3.         The Lord’s goat would be killed and its blood sprinkled on the mercy seat. And the scape-goat would be led away into the wilderness.

                                    a.         So it is fitting that the High Priest should give his pronouncement on the death of Jesus in the place of the nation.

                                    b.         Paul says this Jesus did when He entered the tabernacle in heaven for us and offered there His own blood for our sins.

                                    c.         Heb 7:26-27 - 26 For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; 27 who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people's, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. NKJV

                                    d.         Heb 10:11-14 - And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, 13 from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. 14 For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. NKJV

                        4.         That day the whole nation did nothing but watch and wait for the High Priest to do his work.

                                    a.         It was all in his hands.

                                    b.         No one could take his place or do what he did.

                                    c.         He and he alone must act on behalf of the people.

III.       The Corruption of the High Priest

            A.        During the time of the inter-biblical period the priests took on a political power.

            B.        After the time of the Maccabees, when Rome took hold of the area they often switched High Priest to prevent them from becoming too powerful.

            C.        Soon it became a political appointment.

                        1.         Caiaphas was such.

                        2.         He was the son-in-law to Annas who is also called high priest for he was the power behind the office, all five of his sons appointed high priest.

            D.        Now Caiaphas as High Priest puts together a plan to do away with Jesus.

                        1.         He fears the popularity of Jesus.

                        2.         He is sure that if Jesus is allowed to have freedom He will bring down the Roman garrisons upon them.

            E.        John’s comments on this verse might seem troubling.

                        1.         But what John is saying is that unknown to Caiaphas, he had prophecied the very plan of God.

                        2.         Peter puts it this way, “Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death;” Acts 2:23 NKJV

IV.      The New High Priest

            A.        Heb 9:11-15 - But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come,

                        1.         with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation.

                        2.         12 Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood

                        3.         He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, 14 how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?

                        4.         15 And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. NKJV

            B.        Like the high priest, Christ sacrificed for, prays for, blesses, instructs, oversees the service of His people in the spiritual temple, blows the gospel trumpet, judges. Having such a "high priest passed into the heavens," "over the house of God," we ought to "hold fast our profession," "without wavering," ever "drawing near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience" (Heb 4:14; 10:21-23). The epistle to the Hebrews is the New Testament Leviticus, unfolding the spiritual and everlasting meaning of the legal priestly types fulfilled in Christ. His true sphere of priesthood is in heaven, for "if He were on earth He would not even be a priest" (Heb 8:4; 7:13-14), being of Judah, not Levi the priestly tribe, whose functions He never assumed on earth because His was an infinitely better priesthood. His sacrifice on the cross on earth was a priestly act "without the gate"; but the crowning work, the bringing of the blood into the holy of holies, He could not do on earth, but could and did bring it into the better holy of holies above. He appeared to John in His high priestly long white garment and golden girdle (Rev 1:13). The gold, purple, etc., of the ephod typify the unsearchable riches of Christ. His robes are "for glory and beauty" to His saints; what He is, they are by union with Him (Isa 28:5; 62:3). (from Fausset's Bible Dictionary, Electronic Database Copyright (c)1998 by Biblesoft)

            C.        Jesus not only offered the sacrifice, He was the sacrifice.

            D.        Jesus not only sprinkled the blood of atonement, but it was His blood of the atonement.

The best news is through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, “and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad.”

That is you and me, if we will have it.

Caiaphas saw the death of Jesus a good thing but not for the same reason that we do.

We believe that Jesus died and rose again. That by His death, and resurrection we have peace with God and are justified from all the things we could never be before.