The High Priest and I AM

The High Priest and I AM

The High Priest and I AM.

“The high priest asked Jesus, ‘Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?’ Jesus said, I AM (or also translated ‘the I AM is here’). And you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God’s right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven.'” (Mark 14:61-61).

a. Between the Temple authorities and the Roman authorities, Jesus had to endure six different hearings during the Passion. From Gethsemane He was taken to Annas, the powerful retired high priest; then to Caiaphus, the ruling high priest; then before the Sanhedrin, the Jewish high council, where Jesus was condemned; then onward to Pilate, the Roman governor; then to Herod; then back to Pilate, who handed Jesus over to be crucified.

b. Standing there in front of Caiaphus, Jesus couldn’t have picked a less likely supporter in His claim to divinity. Like most of the Temple authorities, Caiaphus hated Jesus and couldn’t wait to get rid of him. In his own mind, the high priest had already judged Jesus as a blasphemer and a troublesome heretic who needed to be executed. The Jewish leaders are planning to persuade the Roman authorities, led by Pilate, to sentence Jesus to death by crucifixion. The Temple leadership believed that death on a cross brought a special curse by God (Deut. 21:23). They wanted the people to see that Jesus was cursed by God, not blessed by God. So it took unique courage for Jesus to claim His divinity face-to-face with the high priest. After all, this was the one man to whom you didn’t want to say I AM… equal to the Great I AM, Yahweh (Ex. 3:14); the One prophesied so long ago in scripture; the One to bring redemption to Israel. On the surface this claim of Jesus seems foolhardy, but of course His motive was not self-survival. Any witness of this exchange would have thought that Jesus signed His own death certificate right there in front of Caiaphus.

c. While standing in front of Caiaphus in his home, Jesus was silent during the beginning of his questioning. Jesus didn’t say a word in self-defense. He didn’t explain how the charges against Him were manufactured, were outright lies. His silence fulfilled the Suffering Servant passage from Isaiah 53:7: “He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth.”

d. During the interrogation, Caiaphus finally asked an honest question, and Jesus was silent no longer, He gave an honest answer. He simply said, “I AM.” One translator put it, “The I AM is here.” So Jesus couldn’t have been clearer in His response to the high priest. Jesus told him that he was standing face-to-face with deity, the very Son of the Eternal One, the long-revered Blessed One of scripture. Jesus knew that with this declaration His days were numbered.

e. A tremendous irony: Caiaphus used the term “Blessed One” in his questioning of Jesus. That term was an acceptable substitute for “Yahweh,” which was so holy it couldn’t be pronounced. In reality, Caiaphus asked Jesus if He were the Son of Yahweh, the Great I AM, to which Jesus replied, I AM.

f. After His I AM claim, Jesus follows up with how He fulfilled two well-known and important prophecies from the Hebrew Bible, two passages that Caiaphus would have known by heart… Psalm 110:1: “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit in the place of honor at my right hand until I humble your enemies’“; and also Daniel’s famous vision in Daniel 7:13: ‘As my vision continued that night, I saw someone like a Son of Man coming with clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient One and was led into His presence. He was given authority, honor and sovereignty over all the nations of the world.”

g. “Jesus’ answer predicted a powerful role reversal. Sitting at God’s right hand in the place of power, Jesus would come to judge His accusers, and they would have to answer His questions.” (NLT notes).

h. After hearing His audacious claim, Caiaphus lost his temper and ripped his robe. He certainly must have known that a high priest who ripped his robe was disqualified from his office (Lev. 21:10). Was Caiaphus unknowingly passing the high priesthood to Jesus? The Jewish Sanhedrin soon condemned Jesus to death, and sent Him to Pilate for his necessary stamp of approval.

i. There is a mystery to the power of Jesus’ I AM statements. Earlier that same evening in Gethsemane, those very words caused a mob of enforcers to fall flat on the ground (John 18:6). But Caiaphus was not similiarly impressed. He didn’t fall down, he didn’t even seem to blink. He instead flew into a rage. The words I AM coming from Jesus seem to result in a wide variety of emotional responses. The I AM claim has heavenly authority, but provokes different reactions.