One of the best – known stories of the Bible deals with the conversion of Saul, the man who officiated at the martyrdom of St. Stephen. On the road to Damascus, he was accosted by the risen Christ and although the glory of Christ blinded him, he nevertheless claimed that he had seen the risen Christ and therefore qualified as an apostle of Christ. I think it is worthwhile to review the brief Bible account found in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles chapter 9: 3 – 6, “And as he journeyed, he came near Damascas; and suddenly there shined around him a light from heaven; and he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying to him. Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest; it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks. And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.” How dramatic! Even now, when we experience a personal epiphany (in any field), we refer to seeing the light on the road to Damascus.
Many of us wish we had a similar experience to Saul, who was renamed Paul. A confrontation with the risen Christ! Imagine! How could one resist? Certainly Paul did not. Now there is some evidence in the Archko volume that resistance has occurred. The Archko volume is available and I do not intend to say much about its origins except to say that the items came from the Vatican library and have been translated by learned scholars. One of the scrolls, (yes, they were scrolls), was a report by Caiaphas to the Sanhedrim on his handling of the trial of Jesus, who was justifying his actions. I suppose, if you ignore the fact that Jesus was the Son of God, his arguments made some sense, but how are the miracles explained? When Nicodemus came to Jesus by night, he said to Jesus, “We know that thou art a teacher come from God, for no man can do these miracles that thou doest; except God be with him.” So. we must not let Caiaphas off the hook! Within that scroll was a second one on the resurrection, also by Caiaphas.
Caiaphas is reporting on his actions and investigations following the Resurrection. He regretted putting the guards at the tomb because their testimony was the opposite of that expected and tended to confirm the Resurrection story. He also called Peter and John to hear their testimony and quite a bit of the scroll documents their experience with Jesus, starting with the call of Peter. Towards the end of the scroll, he defends his actions but follows with these words. “I shall try to clear myself of any charge, yet there is a conscious fear about my heart, so that I have no rest day or night. I feel sure, that if I should meet Jesus, I would fall dead at His feet; and it seemed to me that if I should go out, I would be sure to meet Him. In this state of conscious dread, I remained investigating the Scriptures to know more about the prophecies concerning this man, but found nothing to satisfy my mind.” We are well acquainted with the prophecies relating to Christ and it suggests to me that Caiaphas was not examining the Scripture with an open mind, but one that was opposed to anything that would support the claims of Christ, including the Resurrection itself!
However the narrative goes on and takes a dramatic turn. “I locked my door and gave my guards orders to let no one in without first giving me notice. While thus engaged and no one in the room but my wife and Annas, her father, when I lifted up mine eyes, behold, Jesus of Nazareth stood before me. My breath stopped, my blood ran cold, and I was in the act of falling when He spoke and said, Be not afraid, it is I. You condemned me that you might go free. This is the work of my Father. Your only wrong is you have a wicked heart; this you must repent of.” Here Jesus is removing blame from Caiaphas, by describing the condemnation the work of His Father. Of course, we know Jesus said, “No man taketh my life, but I lay it down so I may take it up again.”
Jesus then added an explanation. “This last Lamb that you have slain is the one appointed before the foundation; this sacrifice is made for all men. Your other lambs were for those who offered them; this is for all; this is the last; it is for you, if you will accept it. I died that you and all mankind might be saved. I fell on my face at His feet as one that was dead. When Annas lifted me up, Jesus was gone and the door still locked.
So, was this Caiaphas’ epiphany? His encounter on the road to Damascus? No, it was not! In his last paragraphs, he states he will wait and see how things will develop. He wanted to see Jesus taking the throne of David and ruling over Israel and eventually over the whole world as described in Scripture. Apparently, he did know the prophecies very well but was still not convinced, “this strange personage” (his words) was of God or from God! Amazing! A face to face with Jesus (he saw Jesus as Paul did not) and still not convinced. Although Jesus offered him personal salvation, it would seem he could not accept.
We do not know if Arenas, who was with Caiaphas at the time also saw Jesus. What we do know is that Caiaphas resigned, feeling unable to make any further sacrifices. We also know that Annas became the high priest. This is confirmed in the book of Acts and shows Caiaphas still in opposition. Acts 4: 5 – 10, “And it came to pass on the morrow that their rulers, and elders, and scribes. and Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas and John, and Alexander and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem. And when they had set them (Peter and John) in the midst, they asked, by what power, or by what name have you done this? Then Peter filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people and elders of Israel, if we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole; Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by Him doth this man stand before you whole.”
Caiaphas described his visit with Jesus in his letter of resignation from the office of the high priest. According to Acts, Annas suceeded him; therefore, this examination of Peter and John occurred after Caiaphas’ meeting with Jesus. There is no indication that Caiphas accepted Christ but rather he seemed to be allied to his father-in-law in the persecution of the Apostles and Christians in Jerusalem. What a pity! We must await the judgment day to know the final answer. But from his own writings, we know that Caiaphas did not say, “What would you have me do, Lord?” We thank God that St. Paul did!