The head priest got to the meat of it: Did Jesus consider himself their king?
Mark 14.60-64 • Matthew 26.62-66 • Luke 22.67-71
Messiah means king.
Christians forget this, because to us, Messiah means Jesus. So when the ancient Judeans wanted to know if Jesus was Messiah, to our minds their question was, “Are you the guy the Prophets said was coming to save the world and take us to heaven?” and there are so many things wrong with that statement. One of ’em being that’s not what anybody in the first century meant.
If you know your American (or British) history, you’ll remember a
- Tory: You’re a traitor. ’Cause the Romans and Judean senate are in charge, and you’re here to overthrow ’em, and we can’t have that.
- Whig: You’re a revolutionary. (So… whom do you want us to kill?
This is why Jesus, though he totally admitted he’s Messiah, didn’t just stupidly walk around Israel telling everybody he was their king. Instead he told ’em what his kingdom looks like. Tories may still hate and fear it, and whigs may (and do) entirely disagree with Jesus about the sort of fixes to make on society. But if they really listen to Jesus’s teachings about the kingdom, they’ll know what Jesus means by “Messiah”—as opposed to what popular culture, including Christian popular culture, claims.
To Joseph Caiaphas, the tory head priest who ran the Judean senate in the year 33, it didn’t matter what Jesus taught about his kingdom. Caiaphas’s whole deal was if Jesus in any way claimed to be king, that was treason. Only the Romans could appoint a king—and in the absence of a king, the title functionally fell to Rome’s emperor, Tiberius Caesar Divi Augusti filius Augustus.
So after a couple hours of a shambles of a prosecution, Caiaphas put a stop to all that and got to brass tacks.