lenten reading series: Annas' Quandry

As I read these pages, I at least get some satisfaction from Annas’ frustration. I wondered what would have happened if Caiaphas had told Annas to go back in his hole. Would things have turned out differently?

Annas’ Diary*

I’ve had just about enough of Caiaphas. He came in today alarmed and all aflutter over the arrival of Jesus the Nazarene. “What should we do? What if he marches against the Temple? Do you think he is the Messiah?” What does he think I’ve been trying to tell him for twelve months?

Damned fool, we get rid of him if he is! Caiaphas is fine at running the place, but he has no grasp of what we face here or how finely balanced everything is.

The Nazarene came into Jerusalem riding on a donkey as if he were Solomon riding to his coronation. All the crowds went out to cheer him into the city.

I must hand it to him, because he was so careful to have no display of weapons or rebellious rhetoric. There was nothing one could latch onto. Poor Caiaphas is bewildered. Well, I am not. Tomorrow he will be smack in the middle of the Temple, teaching, preaching, and pulling his miracle tricks. He is not going away this time. He has come to stay. He will exert constant pressure, wearing us down by his law-abiding reasonableness. There will be no sign of rebellion or criticism of Rome.

I can just see it now. Week in and week out he will weave a web around us that will be full of sweet reasonableness, but in the end the people will either pull us out of this place and murder us all or, worse still, ignore us. They will refuse our services: no more sacrifices, no more taxes, no more respect, and no more fear of us.

No! We must act fast. Our mistake last time was we let him call the tune. He kept escalating the pressure, both in his teaching and his healings. Finally, he did that raising of Lazarus. I still think he faked that.

He will do the same again until he has the whole of Jerusalem in his hands. He could do it by Passover. I am sure his timing includes using the festival. There is a reason he happens to come back just in time for it. We cannot let him get into his stride. The question is how.

My two siccarii are out of the game. They will be lucky if Pilate doesn’t string them up.

No, I think that a surreptitious accident would not be politic. We have to do it openly and spin the reasons afterward. We’ll need to spread rumors and belabor our regret: wringing of hands, reluctant action, no doubt an impostor, in league with the evil one—easy enough to spread around. I think it important that many different reasons are given so that there is no one thing to be refuted. We should create uncertainty so that there will be a cloud of doubt surrounding him.

If I give it some thought, we can have everything in place by the end of the week. Tomorrow, I will talk with Caiaphas. I will tell him he was right to be concerned, and, having thought things over, I agree we should take action.

I think I will set it up so Caiaphas can take full credit for his quick action and the fall, if things go wrong.


Annas’ Diary

So the Nazarene is following the path I expected. He is doing lots of teaching and healing but making no big political statements. Nothing to upset Pilate, though I bet he’s had full reports by now.

Tomorrow I will go and listen to him. I want to see him with my own eyes and listen to what he’s got to say. I should have done this before. I will go disguised and be a part of the crowd. I’ll take some muscle with me just in case.

I must give him a chance to either utter blasphemy or come out with criticism of Caesar. My preference is to use Pilate, if I can. If we go the blasphemy route, there will be a trial; there will be arguments for the defense, long-drawn-out deliberations, and the Pharisees in the Sanhedrin will never vote to get rid of him. That would all take at least a week, and who knows what the people would do in that time? That could precipitate the kind of disaster we must avoid at all costs. We must not leave anything to chance, or he will wriggle out of our grasp, and the next time will be even harder. This has to be final.

Pilate can get the job done quicker and cleaner. He hates me, suspects me, and will do nothing to help. After the games I’ve played on him over the last seven years and the way I have embarrassed him, I cannot expect him to cooperate.

Rome is too far away. We need this resolved soon. Herod might be useful. He will be here this week.

Is there anything I‘ve missed? I don’t think so. Rumor has it that Herod is still haunted by John the Baptist. I doubt whether he would be willing to do that again. No, Herod has a superstitious streak in him; he could fall for Jesus, and then where would we be?

Murder is still the easiest to set up, but the consequences would be uncontrollable, and in any case, I would be in the power of whoever I got to do it. Even if I were two or three places removed from the actual deed, I know responsibility would be laid on the Temple steps. Caiaphas and others would know who was responsible, and it might give them the weapon they need to hold over my head. However, that might be a risk I will have to take.

My best bet is to listen to the man himself, and I can better gauge what I need to do. Strange, all this time I’ve worried about him, studied his moves, even had reports on his teaching but I’ve never met him. Well, at least not in real life. He has been in my dreams more than once. I wonder if I will recognize him from that.

No! I don’t need to go down that path again.

I held the pages of the diary in my hand and wondered how Annas grew into the twisted person reflected in those pages. I have always wanted to call Annas evil. If ever there was an evil person, it was him, but I remember Jesus’ words: “Even Annas is only a sinner, he still could turn and be forgiven.” As I read these words again, I wonder if stupidity is forgivable. Only the intelligent are capable of such great stupidity and being so wrong.

*These diary entries are entirely fictitious. They explore the very real question of how the  authorities were able to force Pilate to crucify Jesus of Nazareth.  Clearly the authorities read Jesus’ triumphant procession into Jerusalem as a political statement, and his opposition to the temple was on going. They had to remove Jesus permanently, but without the crowds getting in the way. The only person who could do that was Pilate, and he would only do so for one reason, namely treason.

Excerpted from the book, Jesus, The God App. Here is an introduction to the series.