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Caiaphas/Nicodemus Dialog

from Rev. Greg Thomas

Close your eyes … now open them. It is now 2,000 years ago on a night two days after Jesus’ triumphant entry into the City of Jerusalem. You are all members of the Sanhedrin – the governing body of the Israelites. You have been called to an emergency meeting by the High Priest, Caiaphas. The city is crowded with Jews from all over the known world. They have gathered to celebrate the Passover, and make their annual sacrifices to God at the Great Temple. Additional Roman soldiers have been sent to keep the peace in a part of the Roman Empire that rejects Rome’s rule.

Jesus, just this morning, has come into the Temple courtyard and driven out the money-changers and driven off the animals for the sacrifices.

All rise and honor the Chief Priest as he enters…

C: Good evening, I know that it is highly unusual for the Sanhedrin to be called into session after the sun has set, but we have business that just cannot wait another moment. I thank you all, Sadducees and Pharisees together, for your dedication to our people and our traditions. As high priest, I take my responsibilities very seriously and after the events that unfolded just this morning and not more than a few steps from here, I felt that I had no choice but to call this body together. I have only one item for the agenda tonight; How can we best respond to this upstart rabbi, Jesus of Nazareth? He has made a mockery of everything that we as the leaders of the people hold dear. And now he is threatening the very foundations of our faith.

N: My dear Caiaphas, may I speak?

C: Yes, I recognize one of the preeminent Teachers of the Law and one of the leading Pharisees in this body, Nicodemus.

N: Thank you, Caiaphas. I must say, you do have a flair for the dramatic. The city is packed with the Passover crowds and most of us still have our holiday plans to finalize, meals to prepare, and family traveling to be with us, and you choose this moment to call an emergency meeting? Jesus has been teaching throughout this area for over two years what suddenly makes this moment a crisis?

C: Well, You must not have been in the courtyard of the Temple this morning. I was not there personally... but many of those here tonight were. Just ask them. This Jesus came inside the temple walls and began to rage like a madman. He nearly created a riot. He overturned the tables where the people were changing their money to the Temple script. Coins were scattered everywhere. The reports I received described a scene of pure mayhem. And then the animals... doves escaping their smashed cages, sheep wandering confused, in all direction and the sellers of these sacrifices scrambling to retrieve their lost inventory. I tell you it was chaos!

N: I know full well what happened in the temple court today. And though I cannot defend Jesus' methods, I will remind this body that several times over the past few years some of us have raised the concern that this pre passover marketplace needed to be reformed. The exchange rates charged are nothing short of usury. Most of the people who come here for Passover are not people of means, but ordinary folks. And the prices charged for the sacrificial animals are outlandish. This is not a new debate, some of us have been calling for a change for some time now.

C: My dear Nicodemus, debate is fine, but insurrection is not. Prices and exchange rates we can talk about, but but we can never condone the kind of disruption to the function of the temple and this body that this prophets actions today brought about. You know as well as I do that with out the money that we collect from these activities, the life and work of this institution and this governing body would screech to a halt.

N: My good Caiaphas, I am sure that no matter what happens you will not appear before us any thinner!

C: With all due respect ... this is no joking matter. How do you think this will be viewed by Rome. If we can't keep the peace in our most holy of places, and if our tax revenue stream is interrupted, they will have all the excuses they need to send in more troops and quash even the limited freedoms they still allow us. We must maintain control. That is the only way that Rome will respect our leadership.

N: Respect from Rome!? Did they respect us when they marched their armies into the Holy City with their military stanchions proclaiming Caesar to be God? Did they respect us when they installed that half breed Harrod  as a puppet king over us. did they respect us when...

C: They may laugh at our faith in the one true God. They may belittle our religion. But the Romans do respect one thing, and that is cold hard cash. What happened today threatens the very means by which we collect money. Money that is used here at the temple, and money that we can use to buy influence in Rome.

N: Your preoccupation with money is to be expected my dear Caiaphas, and your control over all activities in the Temple goes unquestioned, but you have failed to understand the needs of the people. Their lives are lived each day in pursuit of survival - food, shelter and making a meager living are foremost on their agenda. Politics? They are happy to leave that pursuit up to the Sadducees, Herod and Rome. You should take the time to see how they live and listen to their concerns. They do not share your enthusiasm or desire to play politics with Rome.

C: I don't claim to be a man of the people, especially that rabble that follows this Galilean Jesus, but I am a man who stands for up holding the institutions and practices of our faith. Tell me my dear Nicodemus, are you here to defend this Jesus?

N: Defend? No. But it is only fair - and true to our traditions, that an accused person have an advocate from among us. And since I have spent some time listening to him, I think that I as well as anyone am in a position to represent his point of view.

C: Well ... You are not the only one who knows him. Over the last two years, we have sent a variety of spies, some at the direction of this body and some that I have contracted with personally, to report back to me about his activities. From everything I can tell, he has dazzled the commoners with magic and empty words about love.

N: I must admit that the words and the deeds of power - miracles if you will - have been quite effective in the promotion of his message.

C: My dear Nicodemus, please don't talk to me about miracles. What do you think we are here, simple minded women? Half Breed Samaritans? There are plenty of magicians traveling the countryside who...

N: I had friends who were there when he and his disciples fed as many as 15,000 people - 5000 men alone - with only a couple of fish and a few loaves of bread and ...

C: Really, and God provided Manna - bread from heaven - for our ancestors, after he split the sea so they could cross. Tall tales of signs and wonders to mesmerize the simple minded.

N: You cannot deny that many of these miracles that have been reported have their basis in fact. It was just last week that you yourself met with this very body after Lazarus was raised from the dead by Jesus. There were dozens of reports, and most by very credible witnesses. They came here and told us in minute detain how Jesus called him out of the tomb after he had been dead for several days. My dear Caiaphas, you cannot tell me that you don't remember.

C: Of course I remember, and I also remember that the majority of this body called for the arrest of this miracle man Jesus. I also recall that members of your own party joined in the chorus shouting "Death to Jesus"

N: It seems to me that the fear you have fomented in this body is completely irrational. I fail to see that Jesus is this great a threat. From what I have seen his actions of healing, feeding, teaching have only illuminated his motives - that of offering hope, acceptance and the love of God to the masses who struggle through each day of their lives.

C: Motive?! I think most of us can plainly see what his motives are. The Heretic made them clear enough just two days ago! The arrogance of this man, riding into town on a donkey. Does he think that he is the fulfillment of Zachariah's prophesy? Who does he think he is, the Messiah of God? The new King of Israel? No. I tell you that this man is the most dangerous man to have ever set foot in the temple. If the people proclaim him king and he decides to claim the throne of David, the might of Rome will descend on Palestine like an anvil plummeting from the walls of the temple.

N: If you have learned anything at all about Jesus, you would know that he rejects any notion that he will rule from the throne of David. He is not here to drive out the Romans, nor is he here to gain any earthly power. His message is solely about the Kingdom of Heaven and our God who he claims is his father.

C: Than not only is he a political threat, but his teachings are heresy. My dear Nicodemus, don't you see? He is the greatest threat to our faith, our Laws and our traditions since this temple was built! I will not allow this institution to be destroyed!

N: The only thing that will destroy it is if it becomes irrelevant. What Jesus is teaching is the law itself. The more I have listened to him, the more I have begun to realize that we as the leaders of the people have become so bogged down in the finer points of the law that we have failed to remember the spirit of the Law. Through the Law and the Prophets, God has called us to be a shining example to the world, a light unto the nations. And what have we done? We exclude those who we deem as unworthy or different, and we have become so concerned with the institutions and the sacrifices that we have ignored the reality behind them. Many times in the past the rulers of Israel had to be reminded of this fact by the prophets of old. I see Jesus as very much in their tradition. Everything he does seems to echo the strong corrective that the prophet Micah brought us from God, "He has showed you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."

C: I am in no need of a lesson from the Teacher of the Law! How dare you to presume to instruct me! Tell me my dear Nicodemus, Have you become one of his disciples? Have you come here today to spread his lies? Are you here to convert us to be his disciples?

N: My Good Caiaphas, you should know me well enough by now. You know that I will not be intimidated by your hyperbole, or the volume or tone of your voice. No, I am not one of his disciples, I do however have a naturally inquisitive mind and it is my life's vocation to be a seeker of the truth. Therefore I have taken the time to listen to this man and to question him. I must say that I find much to agree with in his message and I think that we all could gain from listening to him.

C: Oh, listen to him we will. This body has called for his arrest. I believe that he must be made an example of and therefore I believe we cannot wait another moment. He must be arrested this week brought before us for trial and then we must find a way to put him to death.

N: I am sure I am only wasting my breath in telling you that these actions will not have the effect that you desire.

C: Oh, they won't will they? By eliminating the threat from this Jesus, we will be reminding Jews from all over the world that we are the ones who interpret the Law and guide the people. And we will be showing Rome that we can manage our own internal affairs.

N: You are looking at him as a seditionist, the people out there see him as a savior, you are looking to destroy him, and they have looked to him for hope and love. How easy it is that power blinds truth. You, my Good Caiaphas, you and many in this assembly can close your minds, ears and eyes and remain blind leaders. But I choose to listen, see and experience the word of God. For me, that word comes from the Law and the prophets - the scrolls that we hold sacred and it may just be found in that which flows from the mouth of Jesus, who claims to be the Son of God.

C: ENOUGH! Nicodemus, you are walking a dangerously fine line. Jesus must be arrested, It must happen this week before the Passover.

N: You know what happened at the temple this morning, the mayhem, as you termed it, will be nothing compared to what will happen if you try to arrest him. If you want to show Rome that you can keep the peace, the riot that will ensue upon his arrest will not sent the type of message you intend.

C: The it must be done quietly, away from the rabble that follows him. Maybe at night... under the cover of darkness... away from the temple.  [turning to the congregation - the Sanhedrin] do any of you have any ideas? And suggestions?

Member of the Sanhedrin: Caiaphas, I met a man today named Judas, he says he is one of Jesus' disciples. I think he may be of help.

C: Good, you must introduce me to him tomorrow...

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