The Blasphemy of Jesus :: By Gary Ritter

When reading Matthew 26 where Jesus is brought before the Sanhedrin for them to judge Him, no doubt you’ve seen the extreme reaction by Caiaphas the high priest. Caiaphas is interrogating Jesus and is getting frustrated because He doesn’t say a word in His defense. Finally, in this confrontation, Caiaphas has had enough. Matthew 26:62-66 tells us what happens next:

“And the high priest stood up and said, ‘Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?’ But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, ‘I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.’ Jesus said to him, ‘You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.’ Then the high priest tore his robes and said, ‘He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your judgment?’ They answered, ‘He deserves death.’”

What is it about the declaration Jesus makes that sets Caiaphas off so much? The typical thinking here is that the high priest takes the implication of Jesus sitting at the right hand of God as being the blasphemous statement, but it’s actually more than that. There’s a deeper meaning in what Jesus said.  It’s this connection that Caiaphas immediately made and which caused him to condemn Jesus because of this particular blasphemy in his eyes.

Note again verse 64:

“Jesus said to him, ‘You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.’”

Jesus says that He will come on the clouds of heaven. This is the problem that Caiaphas has, and of course, the question is “Why?”

For the answer, we need to look deeply into the Old Testament and how it portrays God. Beyond that, we must see how other gods in the Ancient Near East were portrayed.

The Canaanite god Baal was considered one of the foremost deities of the nations, and of course, one of those whom the Israelites continually got into trouble by worshiping. Ancient texts describe Baal as “the Charioteer of the Clouds.” He was a god that rode around in this manner and smote his foes. In this context of the Ancient Near East, the Israelites were very familiar with this depiction. This was the neighborhood in which they lived; and given their constant flirtation with gods other than Yahweh, they knew intimately of Baal’s characteristics and descriptions.

In fact, it was for this reason that the Pharisees in Jesus’ time were so strictly legalistic. They wanted to make sure that they were completely following the Law set down by Yahweh so they wouldn’t drift into the worship of other gods such as Baal as they had in the past.

In the Deuteronomy 32:8-9 worldview, which comes about following the Tower of Babel incident where God scatters mankind to the nations, God in this passage assigns the nations to other gods, in fact, to the sons of God:

“When the Most High gave to the nations their inheritance,
when he divided mankind,
he fixed the borders of the peoples
according to the number of the sons of God.
But the Lord’s portion is his people, Jacob his allotted heritage.”

He then calls out Israel as His special people, which He does through Abraham and Sarah.

God’s divine sons become corrupt through their free will and set themselves up as gods over each of their nations. This doesn’t sit well with God, and He condemns them in Psalm 82:

“God has taken his place in the divine council;
in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
‘How long will you judge unjustly
and show partiality to the wicked? Selah
Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.’

“They have neither knowledge nor understanding,
they walk about in darkness;
all the foundations of the earth are shaken.

“I said, ‘You are gods,
sons of the Most High, all of you;
nevertheless, like men you shall die,
and fall like any prince.’

“Arise, O God, judge the earth;
for you shall inherit all the nations!”

The Old Testament writers knew of these dynamics and the interplay between Yahweh and His corrupted divine sons that He has judged and found wanting. In the inspiration of Scripture, God has its writers make a clear distinction between Him and these lesser, created beings. What they do is replace Baal as the rider on the clouds with the One true God. We see this in several places.

Psalm 68:32-34

“O kingdoms of the earth, sing to God;
sing praises to the Lord, Selah
to him who rides in the heavens, the ancient heavens;
behold, he sends out his voice, his mighty voice.
Ascribe power to God,
whose majesty is over Israel,
and whose power is in the skies.”

Psalm 104:1-3

“Bless the Lord, O my soul!
O Lord my God, you are very great!
You are clothed with splendor and majesty,
covering yourself with light as with a garment,
stretching out the heavens like a tent.
He lays the beams of his chambers on the waters;
he makes the clouds his chariot;
he rides on the wings of the wind;”

Isaiah 19:1

“An oracle concerning Egypt.

“Behold, the Lord is riding on a swift cloud
and comes to Egypt;
and the idols of Egypt will tremble at his presence,
and the heart of the Egyptians will melt within them.”

None of this is problematic for Jesus. However, there’s a passage that brings all these other references together which Jesus specifically links to in His statement. It’s Daniel 7:9-13 that causes Caiaphas to issue the death penalty:

“As I looked, thrones were placed,
and the Ancient of Days took his seat;
his clothing was white as snow,
and the hair of his head like pure wool;
his throne was fiery flames;
its wheels were burning fire.
A stream of fire issued
and came out from before him;
a thousand thousands served him,
and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him;
the court sat in judgment,
and the books were opened.

“I looked then because of the sound of the great words that the horn was speaking. And as I looked, the beast was killed, and its body destroyed and given over to be burned with fire. As for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, but their lives were prolonged for a season and a time.

“I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a son of man
,
and he came to the Ancient of Days

and was presented before him.”

This is an amazing passage. It shows God’s divine council in session depicted by the thrones and the court. And who shows up? The Son of Man riding on the clouds of heaven.

Look once again at what Jesus says to Caiaphas in Matthew 26:64:

“Jesus said to him, ‘You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.’”

Jesus has just told Caiaphas that He is this One in the heavens. He is the Son of Man. Not only that, but the connection as noted above in the various psalms is that Yahweh is the one who rides the clouds.  Jesus has made the very clear declaration that He is Yahweh.

This is beyond the pale for Caiaphas. It’s absolute blasphemy from his perspective. There is only one God in the Israelite understanding according to the Shema in Deuteronomy 6:4:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.”

Is it any wonder that Caiaphas tore his robes?

Jesus is indeed who He says He is. He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords. He is above every other god because all were created by Him.

There is coming a day when the people of Israel will finally acknowledge this truth that Caiaphas and the Jews in that day denied. It will conclude the horrendous 7-year period of the Tribulation. As Zechariah 13:9 says, it will be a wonderful day for all of God’s people:

“And I will put this third into the fire,
and refine them as one refines silver,
and test them as gold is tested.
They will call upon my name,
and I will answer them.
I will say, ‘They are my people’;
and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’”