On the day Jesus died, he encountered opposition from four powerful men. These authority figures represent the types of people who will seek to frustrate God’s plan for your life.
We can learn a lot from how Jesus responded to these four men and his responses were different for each.
1. Annas the false father
The first powerful man Jesus faced, was Annas. Once upon a time, Annas had been the high priest, which meant he ran the ruling council of Israel, the 70-man Sanhedrin. He was no longer the high priest, yet he acted as he if was and he retained the title of high priest.
Old man Annas questioned Jesus about his teachings (John 18:19). On the face of it, his questions seemed harmless, as though he simply wanted to learn more about Jesus’ message. But from Jesus’ abrupt replies, we realize that Annas was a snake. His motives were rotten and significantly, he sent Jesus away in bonds.
Who is Annas and why do we need to be wary of him? Annas represents those false-father figures who question you about the grace message or your grace journey. On the surface, they give the impression of being paternal and caring, but their real motive is to keep you bound and under their thumb.
Annas may try to give the impression of being a wise head – “Listen, kid, I’ve seen all this before” – but his wisdom is that of the serpent. “Did God really say?” Listen to the Annas-types in your life and you will fall from grace back under law. Jesus doesn’t really engage with Annas (John 18:21), and neither should we.
2. Caiaphas the religious bully
The second powerful man Jesus faced, was Annas’s son-in-law and the current high priest Caiaphas (John 18:24). This guy was a murderous bully who, more than any other person, was responsible for putting Jesus on a cross. He also slandered Jesus’ character and questioned his identity.
Who is Caiaphas and why do we need to be wary of him? Caiaphas represents that religious voice that says, “Who do you think you are?” Caiaphas will tell you that you’re a grub, a sinner, or a servant, anything but a dearly-loved child of God.
Listen to the lies of Caiaphas and you will forget who you truly are and be susceptible to manipulation. “I’m a sinner, so I’d better make myself clean. I’m a servant, so I’d better serve.”
Jesus spoke back to Caiaphas and so should we. Before the ruling council, Jesus emphatically affirmed that he was the Son of God (Matt. 26:54). This is how to respond to religious bullies. You are not a sinner or a servant, but a dearly-loved son with all that entails. God is for you; who can be against you? Like Jesus, you have nothing to prove.
3. Herod the head-hunter
The third powerful man Jesus faced was Herod Antipas, the tetrarch of Galilee (Luke 23:8). Like the other men on this list, Herod questioned Jesus. But to Herod, Jesus said nothing. Not one word. So Herod mocked Jesus, and then sent him away.
Who is Herod and why do we need to be wary of him? Herod represents those mockers who find your beliefs mildly fascinating, but they will happily chop your head off with arguments. Herod beheaded John the Baptist and he’d tried to do the same thing to Jesus (Luke 13:31). Listen to the Herods in your life, and you’ll find yourself running in circles like a headless chicken.
Not everyone who asks questions is sincere. While Annas seeks to control you, Herod merely wants to argue and wind you up. Jesus wastes no time with Herod and neither should we.
4. Pilate the king-killer
The final person Jesus visited was the most dangerous of all. Yet Pilate was not a snake like Annas or a religious bully like Caiaphas. Nor was he a bored mocker like Herod. But Pilate represented Rome, an empire that had little tolerance for rival kings.
Who is Pilate and why do we need to be wary of him? Pilate is that person in your life – your boss, your manager, your biggest client – who has a vested interest in preserving the status quo and no interest in the kingdom of God.
Your heavenly Father has big dreams for you. He wants you to rule and reign in life. But the Pilates in your life are not tolerant of rival kings, and they will not support your God-given dreams. They have power over you, and as long as you do your job and play your part, they won’t bother you. But step out of your rut or take a stand, and they will lean on you, and even crush you.
Of the four leaders Jesus encountered, Pilate comes across as the most reasonable. He was just doing his job. But Jesus didn’t fit in Pilate’s world and this became a problem. “Don’t you know I have the authority to kill you or release you?” (John 19:9). The Pilates in your life say something similar. “I can fire you or promote you, but you have to play my game.”
Jesus does not talk to Pilate like the other three. In fact, Jesus has considerable grace for Pilate. He understands that Pilate is under pressure from his own bosses. “You would have no authority over me unless it had been given you from above” (John 19:11).
This is not to absolve Pilate of his responsibility in the crucifixion of Jesus, but to contextualize his actions in the larger drama of an ancient cosmic battle between the kingdom of heaven and the powers of darkness. Jesus recognizes that Pilate is in an awful situation, and he feels for the man.
The lesson we learn is this: don’t hate your boss. The authority figures in your life may not understand who you are or where you’re coming from, but Jesus loves them and he’s put you in that position to help them discover his love.
Many people come into our lives for a season, and some enrich us while others hurt us. Some will try to frustrate the grace of God in your life. So be wary of those who seek to bind you (Annas), diminish you (Caiaphas), mock you (Herod), or keep you from your kingly destiny (Pilate).
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