Caiaphas really gets a bit of a bad rap. He’s presented most often as some kind of Satanic monster solely interested in his own power, and willing to kill the Son of God to preserve it.
He’s not just that.
You see, Caiaphas was a Jewish patriot. Consider the following:
So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” (John 11:47-50, ESV)
It was Caiaphas who had advised the Jews that it would be expedient that one man should die for the people. (John 18:14, ESV)
Caiaphas, you see, completely misunderstood the situation. He saw his good and that of Israel as being one and the same–a deadly thing, for a man to declare that his good is the good of the nation–and believed that this backwoods preacher would cause enough turmoil that the Romans would need to come in and put down the unrest–and Rome was not known for being merciful to regions seen as rebellious.
Was Caiaphas acting purely with the people’s interest as a motive? Almost certainly not, especially depending on how you read the statement in the next verse that “he did not say this of his own accord”–that is, puppeteers, or divine push?
Did he believe that he was acting in Israel’s interests? Almost certainly yes.
And he helped organize the judicial lynching of the Messiah, with perjured testimony, irregular legal proceedings, and doubtless various and assorted other things.
Now, this is kind of an important reminder of a few things:
First, if you have to use false testimony to bring someone down who you think needs to be brought down, rethink the bringing down thing.
Second, don’t think that other people’s good is necessarily tied to your own. The opposite, however, is true.
Third, expediency is not the best measure of whether a policy is a good idea.
Fourth, fear makes you stupid.
Fifth, do not put the interests of the people above the law of God.