Then the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders of the people assembled at the palace of the high priest, who was called Caiphas, and plotted to take Jesus by trickery and kill Him. But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar among the people.” (Matthew 26:3-4, N.K.J.V.)
Evil can be shameless. Can you imagine the Jewish religious elite sitting around in the palace of the high priest, engaged in open conversation about killing a man? What would have caused them to do such a thing? One thing: power (or more precisely, their loss of it.)
Those chief priests, scribes, and elders saw Jesus for exactly what He was, the greatest threat they had ever known to the status quo in Israel. And make no mistake, that status quo was to their overall liking because it allowed them to play the role of big shots. They had the stroke. They had the influence. They were in control of the Jewish way of life. People showed them reverence. People looked to them for answers. Sure, the Romans held sway over the entire land, but those pagans were content to let Israel’s religious elite manage the commoners.
Some of the nastiest people you will ever meet are those who are feeling threatened by a potential loss of power. I’ve met them in school systems. I’ve met them in coaches meetings. I’ve met them in churches.
Such people don’t like change. They are loathe to admit mistakes. They are usually bullyish and vindictive. They talk a lot about the past and want the future to be nothing more than a grander continuation of it. When threatened, they lash out. And if they see someone as a big enough threat to their control, they’ll play as dirty as dirty gets.
Of course, it’s rare to find a person who will come right out and admit, “I love running things; I want to be in control of the whole show.” No, that’s a little too braggadocious. Instead, little megalomaniacs like to say things such as:
- “I see myself as a servant of those under me.”
- “The only reason I make all the decisions is because no one else will.”
- “I’d like to step down, but nobody else can do what I do.”
These statements sound so humble, don’t they? But all they really do is brush a thin veneer of false humility over the top of a beam of ego. Power is like a drug in that it is addictive. Once it has you hooked, the idea of losing it sends you out of your mind. You’ll do anything to stay in charge. You’ll stop at nothing to keep your seat at the head of the table. You’ll sacrifice any values you ever thought you held. That old saying, “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely” really does ring true.
This brings us back to those Jewish religious leaders. Not only was Jesus not impressed by them, He dared call them sinners who needed to repent. The nerve of that fanatic! Such a man could start a new movement. (The fact was, He already had.) Such a man didn’t seek anybody’s permission to do what He did. (He just went ahead and did it.) Such a man was uncontrollable. (He couldn’t be bought off by position or money.) Such a man had to be stopped. (And if that meant killing Him, so be it.)
Clear thinking was required, though. After all, it was the feast season of Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The streets of Jerusalem would be jammed pack with Jews from up and down the land, and a large percentage of those Jews considered Jesus to be nothing less than the Messiah.
If Jesus was to be killed, the situation had to be handled delicately. Those religious leaders didn’t want a riot on their hands. By the way, that’s another thing about ego manics drunk on power: they understand that it’s always best to keep the sheep tranquil. Tranquil sheep don’t question their rulers. Tranquil sheep don’t storm the gates and demand change. Tranquil sheep go along to get along. A tranquil sheep never altered the status quo.
Now, just to be clear, let me say that the world does need leaders. The Bible, for example, features scores of characters who were great leaders. But the key to godly leadership is that the leader himself must be fully submitted to Jesus. Really, such leaders don’t even make their own decisions. What they do is allow Jesus to channel His decisions through them. That, needless to say, is a whole other way of operating.
Unfortunately, this style of leadership is all but extinct in our governmental offices, businesses, courts, schools, churches, and homes today. To the contrary, the prevailing attitude of the era can be summed up in the question: “Why should we come together in a palace and have a time of confession, repentance, and seeking God’s will when we can come together in that same palace and seek the demise of those who are causing us problems?” You see, the world still has its chief priests, scribes, and elders. If you are looking for them, just look anywhere where someone has the power and control over a situation. There you’ll find them, and the chances are high that they’ll even be in the process of plotting someone’s demise.