When day came, the assembly of the elders of the people, both chief priests and scribes, gathered together, and they brought him to their council. They said, ‘If you are the Messiah, tell us.’ He replied, ‘If I tell you, you will not believe; and if I question you, you will not answer. But from now on the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the power of God.’ All of them asked, ‘Are you, then, the Son of God?’ He said to them, ‘You say that I am.’ Then they said, ‘What further testimony do we need? We have heard it ourselves from his own lips!’
And from The Message:
When it was morning, the religious leaders of the people and the high priests and scholars all got together and brought him before their High Council. They said, “Are you the Messiah?”
He answered, “If I said yes, you wouldn’t believe me. If I asked what you meant by your question, you wouldn’t answer me. So here’s what I have to say: From here on the Son of Man takes his place at God’s right hand, the place of power.”
They all said, “So you admit your claim to be the Son of God?”
“You’re the ones who keep saying it,” he said.
But they had made up their minds, “Why do we need any more evidence? We’ve all heard him as good as say it himself.”
I will admit that, during accounts of Jesus’ trial and confrontation by the religious authorities — the scribes and priests of the Sanhedrin — and by the political authorities — Pontius Pilate — his waffling and refusals to answer their questions directly sometimes make me want to slap him. I want to shout at Jesus, What are you doing? Don’t you know that they want to kill you? Of course, Jesus does know that they plan to kill him. He doesn’t want to make it easy for them, by the letter of the law, but his non-answers certainly infuriate the authorities, spining them up into a murderous frenzy.
My son is fifteen years old, and my daughter is fourteen. When we find ourselves in situations of conflict, usually it ends up that I am sitting in judgment over one or both of them. I am in that position of authority, and they go out of their way to make it difficult for me. They give me similarly evasive responses and non-answers. They try to derail me by taking the discussion into a tangential direction. And yes, it frustrates and infuriates me, until I end up just throwing pure power at them. You’re on silence, young lady! or maybe Go to your room! or perhaps That’s it — no television for a week! But the thing is, pure power doesn’t accomplish anything, or truly, tends to accomplish the opposite of what’s intended. When you send a teenager away or shut them up, you’re admitting that you can’t handle them, that they’ve gotten to you, and they spend that time in their minds, listing all the reasons why you are obviously wrong and they are obviously right. And when the Jewish authorities threw pure power at Jesus… well, he didn’t exactly stay dead, did he?
Perhaps this use of power is an automatic response, when we feel threatened. I didn’t respond to my children when they were younger in this way, because they didn’t threaten my authority. But now that they’re teenagers, it’s their job to buck parental authority, to form themselves into independent adults. In the same way, Jesus and his teachings were an enormous threat to the religious authorities. After all, if it was okay to buck The Law out of love and kindness and mercy… well, then how were all these lawyers going to stay in business? And if everyone is supposed to make his or her own decisions based on God’s love… then how can the priests remain in authority? No, it’s far better to keep the interpretation of The Law centralized, so that we don’t have to burden anyone with this work. Jesus wasn’t condemned because he was a bad person or teaching bad things, but because he was teaching very true and right and good things that were a threat to authority. So authority pushed back.
That’s it, Jesus, you’re on silence! No more teaching in the synagogues or on the hillsides. No more healing on the Sabbath or pretending you can forgive sins. Just stop it. We’re in charge here, and everything is just fine.
Perhaps the problem with being in a position of authority is that, just maybe, it’s easy to forget who is really in charge?