Towards the end of the epic movie Braveheart, depicting the life of Scottish warrior William Wallace in the late 13th century, a treacherous conspiracy comes to light. Robert the Bruce, due to meet Wallace to create a pact and unite forces against a common enemy King of England Edward I ‘Longshanks’, is betrayed by his own father. This results in Wallace being arrested in front of Robert’s eyes. Watching the movie, I can remember the feelings of disgust that rose in me towards Robert’s father and all that participated in this secret conspiracy. But before my anger rises again we need to point out the betrayal was not in fact his father’s, rather a nobleman named John de Menteith who delivered Wallace to the English. Also, the nickname ‘Braveheart’ actually historically referred to ‘The Bruce’ rather than Wallace. But why let the facts get in the way of a story?
As we cross over into Chapter 26 of Matthew’s account of Jesus’ life, we are confronted by a similar treacherous conspiracy cooked up in secret at the dead of night by the religious elite. However, this plot was to take out the ‘Prince of Heaven’ rather than the ‘Guardian of Scotland’. The religious leaders’ long-standing vendetta against Jesus was reaching a climax late Tuesday night. This tumultuous day, recorded in so much detail by Matthew, which we have read now for 18 days, is packed full of Jesus’s words. It captures his tussles in the temple with Pharisees, Sadducees and Scribes and His teaching on the Mount of Olives overlooking Jerusalem with his closest friends. This day is not over.
The religious cabal met in the presiding officer’s palace namely the high priest Caiaphas. It is not clear why they met in the palace rather than, what would have been expected, in the temple. Possibly to maintain secrecy, ensuring those ‘who were not far from the kingdom’ we read about a few days ago. Another factor may be the time of the meeting, as it seems to have dragged on into the night as they hatched their devious plan far past temple closing time. This desire to deal with Jesus was nothing new as the Gospel writers have given us a glimpse into the motives and aims of the leaders before. In healing a man on the Sabbath, Matthew records ‘The Pharisees walked out furious, sputtering about how they were going to ruin Jesus.’ (Matt 12:24) But now they were putting feet to their plan in deciding ‘how’ to carry out their devilish plan. They agree to take Jesus by trickery.
Yet, although the ‘how’ is well defined their ‘when’ is much less clear. They agreed to trick, arrest and kill Jesus but not yet. Not during the Passover festival which still had 9 days still to run. The schemers knew that Jesus had many friends in the 1000’s of Galileans assembled in Jerusalem for Passover and many more had been attracted by his teaching and miracles. Action now could provoke trouble so, they decided to wait saying ‘not at the festival’.
This plan cooked up in the palace situated on Mount Zion stood in complete contradiction to the words of Jesus to his followers on the Mount of Olives a short distance away. While they were declaring ‘not at the festival’ they could have looked from their vantage point, across the Kidron Valley and seen the Mount of Olives where Jesus was ‘at that very moment’ predicting something completely different. Jesus had confided in his followers before that crucifixion and death lay ahead for him but now he adds something new, the very day it would happen. While the schemers said ‘not at the festival’ Jesus said ‘at the festival’.
When man’s conspiracy meets God’s command there is only one winner. Historian Josephus names the High Priest, Joseph who was called Caiaphas. The name can be translated ‘expert in the art of reading character in the lineaments of a person’s face or form’. It would seem that Caiaphas fancied himself, or at least had a reputation of, being a prophet. (John 11:49-51 would seem to lend credibility to this thought). But, Divine decree always triumphs over man’s decree in the kingdoms of this world and the Kingdom of Heaven and when the created get ideas above their station it would seem there is laughter in the Godhead.
Demagogues and delegates meet for summit talks, The God-deniers, the Messiah-defiers: “Let’s get free of God! Cast loose from Messiah!” Heaven-throned God breaks out laughing. – Psalm 2:3-4
More From This Series
View the other Devotionals in our “For the Joy” series