Saturday, 8 January 2022
as well as Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the family of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem. Acts 4:6
The previous verse noted the rulers, elders, and scribes. Now, added to them, Luke says, “as well as Annas the high priest.” Of him, Albert Barnes notes in his commentary from John 18:13 –
“He had been himself a long time high priest; he had had five sons who had successively enjoyed the office of high priest, and that office was now filled by his son-in-law. It was of importance, therefore, to obtain his sanction and counsel in their work of evil.”
As he is called the high priest now, it adds a note of difficulty to the overall narrative because of the next person’s name, Caiaphas. In John 18, it says –
“Then the detachment of troops and the captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound Him. 13 And they led Him away to Annas first, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas who was high priest that year.” John 18:12, 13
Caiaphas is called the “high priest that year” by John. He was the son-in-law of Annas. Assuming this is shortly after the ascension of Christ, then the narrative gets a bit confusing. However, this could be telling us the events are happening later in the year. Israel had two calendars by which they conducted their affairs.
One began in the springtime in the month of Aviv, which is known as Nisan. That calendar is focused on the Lord’s redemptive narrative (see Exodus 12:2). The other began in the fall in the month of Tishri. That is used in the Old Testament for civil matters and is considered the regnant, or royal calendar. It could be that by this time, the office of high priest had returned to Caiaphas. Of the confusing nature of the appointment of the high priests, the Pulpit Commentary says –
“The succession of the high priests was so irregular, and their tenure of the office so uncertain, in these later years of the Jewish commonwealth, being dependent upon the caprice of the civil rulers who appointed and deposed them at their pleasure, that it does not surprise us to find Annas and Caiaphas high priests at the commencement of John the Baptist's ministry, then Caiaphas at the time of our Lord's passion, and now Annas again. It is possible, however, that Annas may have continued to be president of the Sanhedrim, and be called high priest, even when not actually so.”
No matter what, there is not necessarily any contradiction between John 18 and Luke’s note here. And, indeed, it is certain there is not. Of these two, Charles Ellicott also provides insight –
“These are mentioned by themselves as representing the section that had probably convened the meeting, and came in as if to dominate its proceedings. The order of the first two names is the same as in Luke 3:2, and as that implied in John 18:13; John 18:24. Annas, or Ananus, had been made high priest by Quirinus, the Governor of Syria, filled the office A.D. 7-15, and lived to see five of his sons occupy it after him. At this time, Joseph Caiaphas was the actual high priest, ... having been appointed in A.D. 17. He was deposed A.D. 37. He had married the daughter of Annas; and the latter seems to have exercised a dominant influence, perhaps, as the Nasi, the Prince, or President, of the Sanhedrin, during the remainder of his life. If he presided on this occasion, it may explain St. Luke’s calling him “the high priest.”
Along with these two, Luke mentions “John, and Alexander.” Of these two, the Pulpit Commentary says –
“Of John and Alexander nothing further is known, but Farrar conjectures that John may be "the celebrated Johanan Ben Zakkai, and Alexander perhaps the wealthy brother of Philo.”
Regardless to their identity, they were known at the time of Luke’s writing, and thus they add validity to his narrative that would otherwise be lacking. Along with these, it next says, “and as many as were of the family of the high priest.”
These would be people of prominence and some measure of status and even possibly of authority. Some speculate that they would be of the party of the Sadducees. Others think they may have become members of the Sanhedrin. Luke finishes the thought, saying that they “were gathered together at Jerusalem.”
The words “at Jerusalem” are not unimportant. Rather, Luke – as led by the Holy Spirit – is clearly indicating the seat of power and authority of the nation. As such, their decision will affect the entire nation. The collective guilt of the people exists because of their rejection of Christ. That national guilt will only be atoned for when Jerusalem, the seat of the nation’s power, repents.
For now, it is certain that all of these chief officials are noted to show that there was a great resistance to the word of the apostles, and they had gathered in force to intimidate them into silence. Will this come about? Or will the testimony of these two apostles convert the hearts of these leaders?
Life application: These are generally the same men who were gathered together to hold trial against Jesus. They had violated the law in many remarkable ways in their interrogation and sentencing of the Lord. As such, they felt they were above the law. But the law issued from Moses and Moses received it from the Lord. One can see that there was no true fear of God for them to have done the things they did. Now, Peter and John have been hauled before them to receive their own interrogation.
In the world today, there is a state of increasing wickedness. The thought of “God” is one of intimidation for those who can be intimidated by religious authority, but it is certain there is no fear of God in those same people. As such, there is no care about truth, justice, or pursuing that which is righteous. Judges make arbitrary decisions without any fear of God, nor with any care for the rule of law.
Therefore, should you be brought before such people for trial, you can expect that you will not be treated fairly if you are an avowed Christian. As such, you should probably firmly resolve, in advance, that you will uphold your faith in Christ at all costs. If you have a fear of God, and if you are certain that the message of Jesus Christ is true, then you must be willing to live by that. Have faith that He will, in fact, deliver you. It may not be deliverance from prison or execution, but He will deliver you unto Himself – just as He has promised.
Have faith, pronounce your faith without fear, and let the chips fall where they may.
Lord God Almighty, we know that the message of Jesus is true. We know that we have You on our side because of our faith in Him. Give us the courage and the resolve to stand fast in our proclamation of the truth of the gospel and of the faith that saves men. Help us to always be willing to stand up and proclaim JESUS. Amen.