“He will provide the way and the means, such as you could never have imagined. Leave it all to Him, let go of yourself. Lose yourself on the Cross, and you will find yourself entirely.”
– St. Catherine of Siena
SCRIPTURE & DEVOTION: Mark 14:53-65
They took Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests, the elders, and the teachers of the law came together. Peter followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. There he sat with the guards and warmed himself at the fire. The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus, so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any. Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree. Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with human hands and in three days will build another, not made with hands.” Yet even then their testimony did not agree. Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” “I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked. “You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?” They all condemned him as worthy of death. Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, “Prophesy!” And the guards took him and beat him.
If you’ve ever been to court, you know it can be pretty intimidating. It’s designed to be that way—you alone (in most civil cases) before a judge and other court officials (and perhaps a jury). You blew it—the place and its power tell you—and unless you can convince us otherwise, you will pay for it. My infraction was a wrong turn in a congested zone, and the $150 fine got waived since I had no other stops the next year. But it WAS scary. I was shaking until I stepped out of the courthouse.
Not so for Jesus.
He does not fear the crowd arrayed against him at Caiaphas’ house. It includes accusers who had been after Jesus since he’d first attracted a crowd of seekers, sick, and tormented people. A final straw for those stalkers—he had tossed out of the Jerusalem temple moneychangers and other sellers who set up shop there to bilk the gentile pilgrims seeking God (Mark 11). Some sources say Caiaphas and his father-in-law Annas (the previous high priest) had a financial stake in those charlatans. Jesus both hits these powerful leaders in the pocket, and also challenges their power.
For Jesus, fear is not part of this scene. The trial is no surprise. Over and over again before this he has told followers about his accusers, coming death, and his resurrection to live again—and here they are.
Still, I am stunned by Jesus’ initial silence in the face of false testimony. With this crowd he won’t begin to try to counter weak or conflicting testimony, or to explain what he really means when he’d said the temple would be destroyed (Mark 13). The high priest himself twice challenges Jesus to speak up. But Jesus “remains silent.”
“Are you the Christ [the Messiah], the Son of the Blessed One?” At last, Jesus does speak to this one question from the high priest. The gospels of both Matthew and Mark report that Jesus very clearly responds, “I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
Instantly, Caiaphas and the crowd all realize Jesus claims here to be the promised Messiah and God himself; they know very well passages in Hebrew scripture that show “the LORD riding on a swift cloud,” about to destroy Egypt (Isaiah 19:1) and describe the Messiah as “a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven” (Daniel 7:13).
“Is there enough silence for the Word to be heard?”
This central question heads up every monthly email sent me by a contemplative group called Friends of Silence. Consider, perhaps in silence, what it means that Jesus at first says nothing at trial before Caiaphas and his accusers. Could Jesus’ accusers have heard him even if he had answered their taunts and lies?
For his followers, however, Jesus IS the Word. In this situation, he starts by saying nothing, yet his presence at this trial and his actions these crucial days of Holy Week together speak volumes. In silence, if we have ears to listen, could we too discover that worship in the depths of our hearts can tear down and replace any other temple?
O LORD—Son of the Blessed one, the Mighty One, our Messiah coming on the clouds of heaven—let me be silent but not afraid before you. O, Jesus, my savior, enable me to welcome into my heart both your presence and your power.