And now to the passion of the Christ…
Jesus begins his interrogation with Annas. We met up with him a few days ago. His presence lingers into the book of Acts. He is no longer the high priest but he remains the power behind the office. He has set up some sort of quid pro quo with the Roman government where the priesthood becomes a family business, and a lucrative one at that. These lads sported the best fashions and religious bling of the day. Some weeks prior to this grim moment, Jesus gave us this fashion critique: The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat so you must be careful to do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. Everything they do is done for people to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces and to be called ‘Rabbi’ by others. ~Matthew 23:2-7
The phylactery is a small leather box that contains a bit of Scripture and is used as a reminder to keep one’s thoughts on the law. It was strapped down one arm and the box could be carried or attached to the forehead during prayer. This practice remains with us today. But these religious leaders were not content with a small phylactery. Oh no. As Jesus mentioned, they super-sized them, a sort of: “My phylactery is bigger than yours” mentality. It was apt for them to do so. They had made the law much bigger than God had intended – what Jesus referred to as a “cumbersome” load.
It’s mere speculation on my part, but there’s a good chance as Jesus stood before his accuser, Annas was donning this outsized phylactery on his forehead. Seated high above the accused, and wrapped in not one, but in a number of colorful robes with royal blue tassels trailing about the bottom fringe – Annas was the complete opposite of the humbly clothed prisoner who quietly and steadfastly met his gaze. Annas flaunted the very best of the wealth that could be extracted from the earth. Standing before him was the man who owned the very earth from which it came. David spoke of him in the Psalms: “The earth is the Lord’s and all it contains.” ~Psalm 24:1