Jesus Christ Superstar: Being Caiaphas

One of my favorite activities is acting.  All the better if the show I’m in is a musical.  There is something about exorcising the hidden character traits within myself, through the character I’m playing.

I have all these traits within that I can draw from; good, evil, sad, fun loving, laid back, control freak, mean, rebel, and what ever other trait you can come up with.

I’m capable of pulling from the deep well of character traits, that exist in my inner most being.  They’ve always been there, yet under the surface.

I was recently in, “Jesus Christ Superstar!”, Playing the part of the Jewish High Priest.  Caiaphas.


Not a nice guy!

The story as told by Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice, may not be the most Biblically accurate, but it sets the scene poignantly and stirringly, leading me to love it anyway.  Controversy swelled from the show, upon its arrival on Broadway in October of 1971, because it left the audience to wonder about the truth of who Christ is.

That has never bothered me because, don’t we all start there?  Who is this Jesus?  images (8)It is the most important question you can ask.

Playing Caiaphas, is difficult, because of all the characters, he is the one that leads the attack against Christ.  However, in truth  Caiaphas is all of us.  He is every man, trying to hold on desperately to his own kingdom.

Our own personal kingdoms are finely crafted and extremely difficult to let go of.  Our world tells us what success is, what’s important, how to achieve it, and once we do ,we struggle to keep it or attain more!  It is what is expected, and what we’ve been told over and over again is desirable.

The world defines who we should be and how we should get there.  That has always been true.  Those who don’t follow the prescribed path and don’t shoot for the expected goals are the oddities.

And the pressure to conform mounts from all types of outside forces.  Yet, not unopposed, because we all are searching for the meaning of life, even the experts who tell us how to attain our own kingdoms wonder about that.

King Solomon, perhaps one of the wealthiest of all men according to worldly success, concluded

“8 I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I got singers, both men and women, and many concubines,[b] the delight of the sons of man.

So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also mywisdom remained with me. 10 And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. 11 Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun.”~ Ecclesiastes 2:8-11 (ESV)

Caiaphas shot for the top and made it.  High Priest of Israel circa 33 AD!  The most esteemed Holy man in Judaism.  He was born into the tribe of Levi. Priesthood was expected of him, and with it came power, wealth, prestige, and much more.  He was a cunning man too, he knew how to get what he wanted. For instance, marrying into the family of the current High Priest Annas.  He would, follow one of Annas’ sons in 18 AD as High Priest and serve until 36 AD.   As a Sadducee he only followed the books of the law, the Torah; Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy as the sole source of divine authority.  So perhaps He was unfamiliar with Solomon’s decrying of the vanity of ones own personal kingdom. Caiaphas was perhaps the most powerful Jewish man, even more so than King Herod, an usurper, and Roman pawn in most of Israel’s eyes.  Caiaphas ruled a long time and his kingdom was set!

Until around 30 AD, when along came the oddity, Jesus of Nazareth. Many were claiming he could be the Messiah!  Ho hum, Messiah candidates had popped up from time to time during Caiaphas’ time, no biggie. Except this guy was different, this guy challenged the authorities as if He were the authority.  He questioned the status quo of the religious system, set up by the priesthood and the sincerity of it.  Calling the priesthood “whitewashed tombs”, nice on the outside but dead inside. He was drawing huge crowds, and doing some very unusual acts!  Miracles?  That’s what was being reported.

images (7)The attention of the masses, drawn to this Miracle worker was putting a kink in Caiaphas style.  Feeding thousands with a a few loaves of bread and several fish, changing water3636332_orig into wine, casting out demons, healing people of their maladies, giving sight to the blind, walking on water, raising a dead guy back to life (Lazarus).  Lazarus download (2)had been dead for four days, there were many witnesses, as with all his miracles, they were not easily washed away.  These miracles were being verified, by many witnesses including members of Caiaphas’ own priesthood.

His miracles, His following, His teachings threatened everything  Caiaphas was.  In charge, the epitome of Jewishness!  The pious, righteous standard bearer.  Wealthy, comfortable, set up!

He had it made!  He did all the right things said all the right things.  He was the go to guy, with all the answers.  “How dare this guy come along and threaten my kingdom!”

I propose all of us can easily enough subscribe to this thought, as Paul attests to,

10 as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one;
11     no one understands;
    no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
    no one does good,
    not even one.” ~ Romans 3:10-12

Which He arrives at from,

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
    They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds,
    there is none who does good.

The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man,
    to see if there are any who understand,[a]
    who seek after God.

They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt;
    there is none who does good,
    not even one. ~ Psalm 14:1-3

Psalm 53:1-3 says almost the same exact thing, but again Caiaphas didn’t adhere to such teaching.  WE all seek our own interests basically, we certainly don’t naturally seek God, or the good of our neighbors before ourselves.  Especially when we have found success in what we see as our own efforts.  Caiaphas was  that person and he didn’t want to lose what was his.

So Caiaphas convinces his fellow Sadducees and Pharisees, what needs to be done is sacrifice one man for the whole nation.  Or as in the rock opera, “This Jesus Must Die”!

“Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. So from that day on they made plans to put him to death.”~ John 11:45-53

Thus Caiaphas saved his position and that of his cohorts, he saved the nation for the time being, all while prophesying, unbenounced to him, of Jesus saving grace for all mankind.  All that he tried to save, interestingly, was second-temple-destruction-jerusalem-herod-2destroyed later, in 70 AD.  It appears that his religious sect, the Sadducees, was destroyed, along with the Temple, by the Romans.  Was Caiaphas’ scheme proven nothing more than vanity, a striving after the wind?  So much for self preservation.

Unfortunately, for the sake of his own kingdom, Caiaphas missed the one kingdom that promises peace eternal, the kingdom, Jesus proclaims, “is not of this world”.

Although Jesus states in the show He doesn’t know where his kingdom is, the actual statement as recorded in the Bible is;

Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.”~ John 18:36

Also Jesus confirms He was born to be a king and though Andrew Lloyd Webber adds the phrase, to Jesus “I find that I get damned”, the actual Biblical account is,

“Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.”~ John 18:37

What Jesus came into this world to do was to die on the cross, for mankind’s sin.  Which He did and during that He cried out to God, “Father why have you forsaken me?”  Was He damned, I don’t know if that specific word applies, yet He was suffering an undeserved death for He was sinless.

Did God turn away, or not hear Him?  Psalm 22, from which that famous statement on the cross comes from indicates otherwise.

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
    Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer,
    and by night, but I find no rest.

Yet you are holy,
    enthroned on the praises[a] of Israel.
In you our fathers trusted;
    they trusted, and you delivered them.
To you they cried and were rescued;
    in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

But I am a worm and not a man,
    scorned by mankind and despised by the people.
All who see me mock me;
    they make mouths at me; they wag their heads;
“He trusts in the Lord; let him deliver him;
    let him rescue him, for he delights in him!”

Yet you are he who took me from the womb;
    you made me trust you at my mother’s breasts.
10 On you was I cast from my birth,
    and from my mother’s womb you have been my God.
11 Be not far from me,
    for trouble is near,
    and there is none to help.

12 Many bulls encompass me;
    strong bulls of Bashan surround me;
13 they open wide their mouths at me,
    like a ravening and roaring lion.

14 I am poured out like water,
    and all my bones are out of joint;
my heart is like wax;
    it is melted within my breast;
15 my strength is dried up like a potsherd,
    and my tongue sticks to my jaws;
    you lay me in the dust of death.

16 For dogs encompass me;
    a company of evildoers encircles me;
they have pierced my hands and feet[b]
17 I can count all my bones—
they stare and gloat over me;
18 they divide my garments among them,
    and for my clothing they cast lots.

19 But you, O Lord, do not be far off!
    O you my help, come quickly to my aid!
20 Deliver my soul from the sword,
    my precious life from the power of the dog!
21     Save me from the mouth of the lion!
You have rescued[c] me from the horns of the wild oxen!

22 I will tell of your name to my brothers;
    in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
23 You who fear the Lord, praise him!
    All you offspring of Jacob, glorify him,
    and stand in awe of him, all you offspring of Israel!
24 For he has not despised or abhorred
    the affliction of the afflicted,
and he has not hidden his face from him,
    but has heard, when he cried to him.

25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
    my vows I will perform before those who fear him.
26 The afflicted[d] shall eat and be satisfied;
    those who seek him shall praise the Lord!
    May your hearts live forever!

27 All the ends of the earth shall remember
    and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
    shall worship before you.
28 For kingship belongs to the Lord,
    and he rules over the nations.

29 All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship;
    before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
    even the one who could not keep himself alive.
30 Posterity shall serve him;
    it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;
31 they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn,
    that he has done it.” ~ Psalm 22 (ESV)

Still, the guilt of all sin was placed on Him, so without knowing how all the complexities of the Son of God dying for our sin works, and knowing there are various viewpoints regarding this,  I’ll conclude Jesus no doubt felt forsaken and cursed and perhaps even damned, because He deserved nothing but our worship and praise as God! Yet in dying, He brought access to the Kingdom He was accused of being King of.

It’s the one kingdom we all need, the kingdom Caiaphas and Israel actually needed as well. Still, many will miss it, by holding onto their own self made , moth eaten, and rusting, gone at the grave, personal thrones.  They will miss it as Caiaphas did.

I pray you all had a blessed Easter!  If you passed over another Easter Sunday (pun intended) still holding on to your own kingdom, Will you consider, “Who is this Jesus?”  As Lazarus found out, He is “The Resurrection and the Life”!  Oh, the Sadducees didn’t believe in the resurrection after death, only death.  I wonder what Caiaphas is thinking now?

We all will find out as Lazarus did or as Caiaphas is.  That our answer to the question of Jesus’ true identity has dire consequences.  Those consequences will affect the life you live and your eternity beyond.

For me the answer is a certain yes!  He is God’s only son, sacrificed for you and me.  He died because of my sinfulness.  My personal kingdom, that I’ve only given up by His grace and mercy.  Somehow I allowed the walls of my kingdom down.  I believe God called me from my own throne to serve under Him and if you are reading this He’s calling you too.  You see, I may have been playing Caiaphas, but I had the Caiaphas trait inside me all along.

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If you ask, “Who is Jesus,with all sincerity, and a desire to know the truth, God longs to answer for you.  He’s provided all the answers you need, you just need to be able to see beyond the walls of your own kingdom!

Ponder this as you revel in your kingdom!  From your throne room, what is hidden from your view and what will your personal riches leave you with in the end.  Is it all vanity?  Then perhaps you’ve missed the meaning of life as Caiaphas did.