Led Like a Sheep To Its Slaughter

Matthew 26:57

After Jesus demonstrated His phenomenal power, He permitted the soldiers to take Him into custody. In a certain sense, this was simply an act, for He had already vividly proven that they didn’t have adequate power to take Him. Just one word and He could put them on their backs, yet the Bible says that they “laid hold on Jesus” and “led him away.”

The words “laid hold” are from the Greek word kratos. In this case, this word means to seize, to take hold of, to firmly grip, and to apprehend. Used in this context, it primarily carries the idea of making a forceful arrest. Once Jesus demonstrated that He could not be taken by force, He then allowed the soldiers to seize Him.

Once Jesus was in their hands, Matthew 26:57 tells us that they “led him away.” This phrase comes from the Greek word apagothe same word used to picture a shepherd who ties a rope about the neck of his sheep and then leads it down the path to where it needs to go. This word pictures exactly what happened to Jesus that night in the Garden of Gethsemane. He wasn’t gagged and dragged to the high priest as one who was putting up a fight or resisting arrest. Instead, the Greek word apago plainly tells us that the soldiers lightly slipped a rope about Jesus’ neck and led Him down the path as He followed behind, just like a sheep being led by a shepherd. Thus, the Roman soldiers and temple police led Him as a sheep to slaughter, just as Isaiah 53:7 had prophesied many centuries earlier. Specifically on that night, however, the soldiers led Jesus to Caiaphas the high priest.

Let’s see what we can learn about Caiaphas. We know that Caiaphas was appointed high priest in the year 18 AD. As high priest, he became so prominent in Israel that even when his term as high priest ended, he wielded great influence in the business of the nation, including its spiritual, political, and financial affairs. Flavius Josephus, the famous Jewish historian, reported that five of Caiaphas’ sons later served in the office of the high priest.

As a young man, Caiaphas married Anna, the daughter of Annas, who was serving as high priest at that time. Annas served as Israel’s high priest for nine years. The title of high priest had fallen into the jurisdiction of this family, and they held this high-ranking position firmly in their grip, passing it among the various members of the family and thus keeping the reins of power in their hands. It was a spiritual monarchy. The holders of this coveted title retained great political power, controlled public opinion, and owned vast wealth.

After Annas passed the title of high priest to his son-in-law Caiaphas, Annas continued to exercise control over the nation through his son-in-law. This influence is evident in Luke 3:2, where the Bible says, “Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests….” It was impossible for two people to serve as high priests at the same time; nonetheless, Annas held his former title and much of his former authority. He was so influential to the very end of Jesus’ ministry that the Roman soldiers and temple police who arrested Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane led Jesus to Annas first before delivering him to Caiaphas, the current high priest (John 18:13).

Both Annas and Caiaphas were Sadducees, a group of religious leaders who were more liberal in doctrine and had a tendency not to believe in supernatural events. In fact, they regarded most supernatural occurrences in the Old Testament as myths.

The constant reports of Jesus’ supernatural powers and miracles, as well as the reputation He was gaining throughout the nation, caused Caiaphas, Annas, and the other members of the Sanhedrin to view Jesus as a threat. These religious leaders were control freaks in the truest sense of the word, and it was an affront to them that Jesus’ ministry was beyond their control and jurisdiction. Then they heard the verified report that Lazarus had actually been resurrected from the dead! This incident drove them over the edge, causing them to decide to do away with Jesus by committing murder.

These leaders were so filled with rage about Lazarus’ resurrection and were so worried about Jesus’ growing popularity that they held a secret council to determine whether or not Jesus had to be killed. Once that decision was made, Caiaphas was the one who was principally responsible for scheming how to bring His death to pass.

As high priest and the official head of the Sanhedrin, Caiaphas was also responsible for arranging Jesus’ illegal trial before the Jewish authorities. At first, he charged Jesus with the sin of blasphemy. However, because Jesus wouldn’t contest the accusation Caiaphas brought against Him, the high priest then delivered Him to the Roman authorities, who found Jesus guilty of treason for claiming to be the king of the Jews.

Caiaphas was so powerful that even after the death of Jesus, he continued to persecute believers in the Early Church. For instance, after the crippled man at the Beautiful Gate was healed (see Acts 3), Peter and John were seized and brought before the council (Acts 4:6). Caiaphas was the high priest at this time and continued to serve as high priest until he was removed in 36 AD.

This emphatically tells us that Caiaphas was also the high priest who interrogated Stephen in Acts 7:1. In addition, he was the high priest we read about who gave Saul of Tarsus written permission that authorized him to arrest believers in Jerusalem and later in Damascus (Acts 9:1, 2).

Because of the political events in the year 36 AD, Caiaphas was finally removed from the office of high priest. Of the nineteen men who served as high priests in the first century, this evil man ruled the longest. The title of high priest, however, remained in the family after Caiaphas stepped down, this time passed on to his brother-in-law Jonathan, another son of Annas.

Consider this: Jesus had never sinned (2 Corinthians 5:21); no guile had ever been found in His mouth (1 Peter 2:22); and His entire life was devoted to doing good and to healing all who were oppressed of the devil (Acts 10:38). Therefore, it seems entirely unjust that He would be led like a sheep into the midst of the spiritual vipers who were ruling in Jerusalem. According to the flesh, one could have argued that this wasn’t fair; however, Jesus never questioned the Father’s will or balked at the assignment that was required of Him.

The apostle Peter wrote this regarding Jesus: “Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously” (1 Peter 2:23). The word “committed” is the Greek word paradidomi, a compound of the words para and didomi. The word para means alongside and carries the idea of coming close alongside to someone or to some object. The word didomi means to give. When compounded together, it presents the idea of entrusting something to someone. The prefix para suggests that this is someone to whom you have drawn very close. It can be translated to commit, to yield, to commend, to transmit, to deliver, or to hand something over to someone else.

The Lord Jesus yielded Himself to the Father who judges righteously when He found Himself in this unjust situation. In that difficult hour, He drew close to the Father and fully entrusted Himself and His future into the hands of the Father. Jesus knew He was in the Father’s will, so He chose to entrust Himself into the Father’s care and to leave the results in His control.

If you are in a situation that seems unfair or unjust and there is nothing you can do to change it, you must draw as close to the Father as you can and commit yourself into His loving care. You know He wants the best for you, even though you have found yourself in a predicament that seems so undeserved. Your options are to get angry and bitter and turn sour toward life, or to choose to believe that God is in control and working on your behalf, even if you don’t see anything good happening at the present moment.

When Jesus was arrested and taken to Caiaphas to be severely mistreated, there was no escape for Him. He had no choice but to trust the Father. What other choice do you have today?

MY PRAYER FOR TODAY

Lord, in times when I find myself stuck in a situation I don’t like or enjoy, help me lift my eyes and look to You for strength. I know that You love me and are looking out for my life, so in those moments when I am tempted to be nervous or afraid, I ask You to help me rest in the knowledge that You will take care of me.

I pray this in Jesus’ name!

MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY

I declare by faith that I am kept by the peace of God. Even when I find myself in situations that seem unjust, undeserving, and unfair, God is secretly working to turn things around for my good. He loves me; He cares for me; and He wants to see the very best for my life.

Therefore, I entrust my job, my income, my marriage, my children, my health, and everything else in my life into the hands of my Heavenly Father!

I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!

QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER

  1. Have you ever found yourself trapped in a situation that seemed unfair? What did you do to stay in peace and to avoid fear and anxiety?
  2. If you were counseling a friend who was caught up in an undeserved situation, what steps would you suggest that your friend take in order to stay in peace?
  3. If you were to lead someone in a prayer of commitment to God, how would you word that particular prayer? Why don’t you take a few minutes to pray this same prayer for yourself?

 

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