5th Lenten Reading: The Last Week In Jerusalem
Annas’ Diary; Annas meets Jesus
I met him yesterday. I was just another old man on the edge of the crowd. Nobody seemed to know me. I don’t know whether I am pleased about that or upset that I am now forgotten. What I saw today is alarming and puzzling.
I watched one of our young lawyers take him on. The Nazarene had been expounding on the notion of loving your neighbor. Personally, I think I would have told the impostor that we already had that all laid out for us in the book of Deuteronomy, and we didn’t need help with it, but the lawyer had to go on and on with him about it. Finally he asked, “Who is my neighbor?”
[i]I thought that was a reasonable question because it narrowed the issue down to a specific application or should have done. Instead, that confounded man began to tell the story of some fool who on his way down from Jerusalem to Jericho got himself . One of our priests came by and saw the dead man. Quite rightly he avoided any contact with the man and went on his way. A Levite also of the Temple did the same. I could see where this was going. He didn’t mention their need to keep themselves clean for their duties or explain at all why they had to avoid possible contamination by a dead man.
Instead, he introduced a Samaritan who took the victim to an inn, paid for him to be looked after, and even then, said he would be back to check on him. On the face of it, it is a nice story about what the people should do. But no! He has to make it an attack on us. Here we are trying to do our job, and he makes our rules an occasion for ridicule. Worst of all, he all but said out loud that even a Samaritan knew who his neighbor was, and, by inference, we don’t! In other words, even our lawyer didn’t know who his neighbor was and had to ask a question to which even a Samaritan had the answer.
He asked the poor fool of an attorney, “Which of the three saw the man on the ground as his neighbor?” I wanted to scream at the lawyer not to answer, but I couldn’t draw attention to myself.
“The Samaritan,” he mumbled. Could he not see that this Jesus, by inviting his collusion, got him to undermine our authority? Jesus couldn’t have made it worse if he had said that the Samaritans know the law better than we servants of the Temple. Those people all knew what he was saying under cover of that story. At least they laughed as if they understood.
He told the people that the spiritual authority centered on our Temple will be taken away from us. Others will take our place. The intimation is that the Almighty will do all this. Who does he think he is?
My conclusion is that he does not intend to offer us the opportunity of putting down a rebellion. There is nothing that would stand up in court or that would stir the Romans to take action. However, he constantly attacks our credibility and essentially denies our integrity, authority, or function. This can’t go on.
He is building support. All his teaching is down-to-earth so that the riffraff can understand it. I watched the faces of the people. They were not whipped up or angry, rebellious faces but thoughtful. I’ve just put my finger on what is disturbing me. If he was talking civil war, I could handle him; if he was talking civil rebellion, I could deal with that; but teaching the people to think is dangerous indeed. We have to do the thinking for them. What does a crowd in a town square know of the intricacies of our religious duties? I can see that if we don’t put a stop to him, he will indeed destroy our whole edifice. We’ve spent centuries erecting this structure of law, rites, and practices. People will think for themselves and no longer respect our authority. How to stop him?
Some of our people tried to argue with him. He ran rings around them. Worst of all, the people laughed. They dared to laugh at the young priests even though they were dressed so that nobody could have mistaken who they were. This will ruin us. He appeals to common sense, but how can the thoughts of the herd aspire to understand the unknowable mysteries of the divine? He spoke with familiarity of things that should not be mentioned.
Even the Pharisees are eating out of his hand. They don’t understand how he is undermining the whole foundation of our national identity. What center will there be left if the Temple loses the respect of the people and no longer can command their obedience? What would we have if everyone were expected to do what he thought was right?
If I understood him correctly, he also advocated the destruction of the foundations of our culture. “Women will not need a man to stand for them before God.” I even saw women in the crowd listening to him as if they could possibly understand what he was saying! There was a couple of beggars sitting listening and nodding away as if they understood.
This popularization of our belief is treasonable. Gone will be all the commands and customs with all their intricate requirements. Instead we will be faced with a demand to serve the people. Instead of them serving us, we will be expected to pander to their needs. The people are there for the sake of the Temple, which, in its turn, is there to honor the divine.
If we let this happen, we will lose the lynchpin holding our nation together. We don’t have a king nor are we in command of our own existence. We are at the mercy of Gentiles, who deny our existence as a nation. They allow us to worship in our own way because we make too much trouble if we are stopped. If this Jesus has his way, the heart of who we are will be taken away, and the little identity we have left as a nation will be lost. Jerusalem will become one more city and not the city of the Most High God.
Those Samaritans would like to see that.
I am glad I saw him. Now I understand the danger I have sensed all this time. He is not crazy like so many of the doom-and-gloom club; neither is he using the base instincts of the people, but he is calling them forth in a different way. What was the phrase I heard? “Responsible for their own salvation,” was it? At least he called on those who had understood his rigmarole to take responsibility for their actions before the Almighty. That would not last long. You have to have spiritual control over the population, or else everyone is worshipping as they want. Soon you have every weird abomination of the Gentiles sharing the honors with the God of Israel.
When I think of it, he is much worse than John the Baptizer. I should have gotten rid of Jesus and not him. People would have gotten tired of John’s tirades, but I can see people do not get tired of this man. At one point he looked right at me. We have never met, so he could not have recognized me, but I am sure he knew me. He invited me to understand him. He wanted me to go along with him. I think he knew me as his enemy, but he still invited me. Later on in the morning, I noticed he looked for me again and sought my response once more. I am not imagining this.
Why would he invite me to understand him or to hear what he is saying? I would have thought he would try to hide his agendas; but this morning, when he looked at me, it was as if he was inviting me to see everything, showing me he had no secrets, and what he said was what he meant. So what is he hiding? I think he is like one of those Egyptian magicians: they ask you to watch one hand carefully and then do the trick with the other.
Maybe there are other layers to this. He must know we are capable of getting rid of him. Why is he so open? I refuse to accept this wanderer from Galilee is any kind of Messiah. He has been at it for almost six years. He is here to stay unless we get rid of him. That is the bottom line. Tomorrow, I must put in motion plans to look after the Nazarene.
I need evidence of some kind. Pilate is the only one able to carry out a quick sentence, but to accomplish that, I have to come up with evidence of treason. I have to build my case around his admission he is the Messiah. We’ve got the entry into Jerusalem; that would have to be explained in three-letter words to that fool Pilate, but even he cannot ignore the implications of what was being portrayed. I need more evidence of treason and that he is claiming to be king of Israel. Pilate could never allow any such challenge to Caesar to go unpunished, and there is only one sentence for treason. Not only that, but for such a crime, there is no waiting period. The sentence is carried out immediately unless he is a Roman citizen. There is no appeal or excuse for people like this impostor. That’s what we need, for if we arrest him and hold him for a few days before disposing of him under our system, there would be riots. No, we need Pilate to do the job.
The next thing is when and how. It will have to be at night. There must be no hint of what we are planning. Maybe I will not even tell Caiaphas. If he knew, then half of Jerusalem would know. I must look after this myself.
Next, we get him back here; have a hearing that provides us with public accusation by witnesses that he claims to be the Messiah, king of Israel; and I give him to Caiaphas with instructions to march him off to Pilate. We provide Pilate with the witnesses and the accusation; then he will have to do the rest.
I must stay in the background, for if Pilate got wind that I was involved, he would not go along with it. I like this. I get Caiaphas to front the operation and get Pilate to do the final deed. The Nazarene will be gone, and I will wring my hands over the untimely death of a son of Israel. I like it.
All I need is evidence. I will have to work my contacts tomorrow.