Before the High Priest!
Then the detachment of troops and the captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound Him. And they led Him away to Annas first, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas who was high priest that year. Now it was Caiaphas who advised the Jews that it was expedient that one man should die for the people.
John 18:12-14 (NKJV)
Jesus deliberately gave Himself to His enemies. They bound Him and led Him to the house of Annas, which was not too far away. Annas had served as high priest until the Romans deposed him; now his son-in-law Caiaphas was the high priest.
God had ordained that one man should serve as high priest for a lifetime, so it is easy to see that the Jewish religious establishment was in sad condition.
It is generally believed that the high priest’s family was in charge of the temple “business,” and the fact that Jesus twice cleansed the temple must have aroused their anger against Him.
The “trial” before Annas was more like an informal hearing. It was illegal and it was brutal. Imagine a guard being allowed to strike a prisoner! Imagine a man not holding an office interrogating a prisoner!
Annas, of course, was looking for some kind of evidence on which to base an accusation that would lead to a verdict of capital punishment.
What doctrine was Jesus teaching?
Was it subversive?
Jesus told him to ask the people who listened to Him, because He had said nothing secretly. In fact, Annas himself could have come and listened!
What about our Lord’s disciples?
Were they organized to overthrow the government?
Did not one of them use his sword in the Garden?
Jesus was careful to say nothing about His disciples. Think of it: while Peter was in the courtyard denying his Lord, Jesus was on trial protecting Peter!
Jewish law demanded that witnesses be called before a prisoner was questioned. Annas defied this law, and eventually the council hired false witnesses. Jesus knew His rights (“bear witness of the evil”—John 18:23), but He did not insist on them. He is an example to us when we suffer wrongfully (1 Peter 2:19-25; 4:12-19).
Annas was a Jewish high priest from AD 7 to 15. Appointed by Quirinius, Roman governor of Syria, Annas was put out of office by Valerius Gratus, procurator of Judea. Annas was succeeded by three minor figures before the post was assumed by his son-in-law Caiaphas (Jn 18:13, 24). The tenure of Caiaphas extended from AD 18 to 36; thus, he was high priest at the time of Jesus’ public ministry.
Evidently Annas’ power and influence remained considerable even after his removal from that office. Like an American Supreme Court justice, the high priest held a lifetime appointment. Deposition of a high priest by the pagan Romans would have been strongly resented by the Jews.
Consequently, Annas may still have been referred to as high priest among the public as a sort of high priest emeritus. Such a practice, evidenced in the writings of the Jewish historian Josephus, tends to clear up those references in the NT to Annas as high priest during the same chronological period as Caiaphas (Lk 3:2; Jn 18:19, 22-24; Acts 4:6).
The fact that Annas conducted a private inquiry of Jesus after he was arrested (Jn 18:13, 19-24) but before he was taken to Caiaphas is a strong indication that Annas was still a person of considerable stature among the Jewish religious leaders.
Annas is also mentioned in the NT account of an investigation of the apostles Peter and John. Interestingly, the penalty imposed on the apostles was far less severe than the one Jesus suffered (Acts 4:6-21).
Caiaphas was the high priest during the life and ministry of Jesus. As official head of the Jewish state, Caiaphas presided over the council, or Sanhedrin—its highest court. Next to the Roman governor, he was the most powerful man in Judea and was responsible to the Romans for the conduct of the nation. Caiaphas was, therefore, especially concerned about the popular enthusiasm and political unrest centering on the ministry of Jesus and about its implications for the revolutionary sentiment of the time. The activities of the Zealots were increasing and were destined to break out soon into open revolt.
A huge stir among the people, caused by the raising of Lazarus, brought matters to a head. Alarmed lest the activities of those seeking a political messiah should lead the Romans to intervene with armed force, Caiaphas advised that Jesus should be put to death (Jn 11:48-50). The Gospel writer John pointed out that, in so doing, Caiaphas unwittingly prophesied concerning the atoning nature of Jesus’ death (Jn 11:51-52).
Caiaphas played a chief role in Jesus’ arrest and trial. The leaders laid their plans in his palace (Mt 26:3-5); it was there also that part of Jesus’ preliminary trial took place with Caiaphas presiding (vv 57-68). That was after Jesus had first been taken before Annas, Caiaphas’ father-in-law (Jn 18:13). Matthew, Mark, and Luke omit the visit to Annas, and Mark and Luke do not refer to Caiaphas by name. Upon Jesus’ admission that he was “the Christ, the Son of God,” Caiaphas tore his robes and charged him with blasphemy (Mt 26:63-66). After Pentecost, he, along with other Jewish leaders, presided over the trial of Peter and John when the council attempted to stop the preaching of the apostles (Acts 4:5-6).
Annas, who had held the office of high priest before Caiaphas, remained influential in the affairs of the nation. That explains why Luke, in his Gospel, set the ministry of John the Baptist “in the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas” (Lk 3:2), and in Acts called Annas the high priest (Acts 4:6). John’s account of Jesus’ visit to Annas makes plain that Annas was still popularly referred to as “high priest” (Jn 18:22).
The historian Josephus records that Caiaphas was appointed to his office about AD 18 and ruled until he was deposed about AD 36. The high priest held office at the whim of the Romans, so Caiaphas’ unusually long term indicates that he was a man of considerable political skill. Caiaphas was removed from his position by the proconsul Vitellus, and nothing more is known of him.