CHAPTER XXXII. THE HIGH PRIESTS HOLD A CONFERENCE
For a long time Caiphas had planned the punishment of the Prophet, but found himself checked on every hand; and not being able to do as he wished in the matter, his anger was but augmented. The cries of joy, the shouts of delight which had filled the streets of Jerusalem, and which had been carried to him on every breeze, so loud and so prolonged that it seemed as if they would never cease, fed his rage with such intensity that he felt as if he could no longer contain it. So he ordered the officers of the palace to his side, and sent them in haste throughout the town, bidding them call together the Doctors of the Law, the Scribes, the chiefs of the Pharisees, as well as the princes of the Priests. He assembled them in council.
"What are we to do?" he asked, in the heat of his passionate anger. "You heard these clamors? Shall we suffer this? Jesus, who calls Himself a Prophet, draws all after Him! If we allow Him to master the multitude, the people will believe in Him. Already in the public places and in the crossroads the mob is crying: 'Blessed is He who cometh in the name of the Lord !' Publicly the people call Him the Messias! Suppose they revolt in His favor? What will happen ? The Romans will come and destroy our country and our nation!"
He stopped to observe the effect of his words. Those who listened were much calmer than he wished —for Caiphas had already won the disfavor of some of them by adverse judgments. He continued:
"We have been divided in opinion, true, and even have not thought alike upon some points of doctrine. But a common danger threatens us, and we must face it united. This Nazarene is your enemy as well as mine!"
He turned to the Scribes and the Pharisees.
"What does He say of you?" he sneered. "'Wo to you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you are like to whited sepulchers, which outwardly appear to men beautiful, but within are full of dead men's bones, and of all filthiness. Wo to you, wo to you! That upon you may come all the just blood that hath been shed upon the earth, from the blood of Abel the just, even unto the blood of Zacharias, the son of Barachias, whom you killed between the temple and the altar. (St. Matthew xxiii, 27, 35.)
"Also has He said of you: 'The Scribes and the Pharisees have sitten on the chair of Moses. All things, therefore, whatsoever they shall say to you, observe and do: but according to their works do ye not; for they say and do not.
"Tor they bind heavy and insupportable burdens, and lay them on men's shoulders: but with a finger of their own they will not move them.' " (St. Matthew xxiii, 2, 4.)
In a moment he saw that he had roused the Scribes and Pharisees. Stronger than their disagreement with Caiphas was their hatred of the just One. He turned then, to the Priests and Doctors.
"Our altars are abandoned since this Man began to teach His mad doctrine, which overthrows our own. How many times hath He pronounced anathemas against us? 'Wo to you, blind guides!' He cries. What respect have the people for you— you who alone ought to be heard!—since He comes to the Temple to teach? He blames your doctrine, mocking you in your own words: 'Whosoever shall swear by the Temple, it is nothing; but he that shall swear by the gold of the Temple is a debtor!'
"And if you had heard, as I have just heard, the bitter irony with which this Galilean added: 'Ye blind! For whether is greater, the gold, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift ?' (St. Matthew xxiii, 16, 17.) He makes Himself King! He makes Himself Priest! He makes Himself Doctor! He arrogates our powers to Himself, holding us up for derision. Shall we suffer it ?"
"No, no, no!" cried out with one voice the Scribes, Pharisees, Priests, and Doctors of the Law. "He is a disturber of public and private peace. Let Him be punished as He deserves!*'
"Agreed! We shall forget our dissensions, since all are threatened as one man. Let us have but one object now—the silencing of the Nazarene. Only His death can effect this."
And the hatred of each added fuel to the hatred of all.
They decided to be rid of the Saviour as soon as it could be accomplished, but it was necessary to find some means of seizing Him. They feared an outbreak of sedition among the innumerable multitudes that followed Him, and were then assembled at Jerusalem, for the Feast of the Passover was near at hand.
* * * * *
While these men sat plotting the death of our blessed Lord, His triumphs continued. Mary followed Him, her heart filled to overflowing with pure worship, and delight, not unmixed with sorrow, in the praises which were being showered upon Him from all sides.