Then the high priest stood up before the others and asked Jesus, “Well, aren’t you going to answer these charges? What do you have to say for yourself?” But Jesus was silent and made no reply. Then the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”
Jesus said, “I Am.” Mark 14:60-62a (NLT)
The more you understand about the scene that unfolds in today’s chapter, the more amazing it is. The religious racketeers led by their own version of the Godfather, Caiaphas the high priest (who wasn’t really in charge – the real “don” was his father-in-law, Ananias), pull together a kangaroo court in the middle of the night. The trial itself broke their several of their own laws and reveals how desperate they were to deal with Jesus secretly and swiftly, before the public got wind of it.
When Jesus answered the high priest’s question with the word “I Am,” he was making far more than a simple admission. The word Jesus used was the Hebrew Yahweh, translated “I am who I am.” It is the name to which God referred to Himself in the burning bush when He spoke to Moses (Exodus 3). The Jewish people considered that name holy, and it was reserved only for God Himself. The name was so holy, in fact, that it was never to be uttered by human lips. When Jesus responded to the high priest’s question with the word “Yahweh” He was literally claiming for Himself the holy name of God, and with that admission He drew a line in the sand.
The response from the high priest was swift and showy. He tore his robe (a traditional act to show how grievous of a blasphemous wrong he’d just witnessed) and immediately called for a verdict. By uttering that one word and claiming to be God, Jesus sealed his human fate. He was savagely beaten for his admission and led off to the one man in Jerusalem who could legally have Him executed. It was another political move by the high priest. If Caiaphas and the religious racketeers killed Jesus, the public would turn on them. By getting the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate, to sign the death order, they could point the finger of blame at him.
Today, what stands out for me as I read the chapter is the reality that the line in the sand remains two thousand years later. C.S. Lewis argued that with Jesus’ bold claim of being God, we find ourselves standing in the sandals of the religious leaders. Reason and logic dictate that Jesus was either a liar (He knew he wasn’t God but claimed to be), a lunatic (He thought he was God, but wasn’t), or Lord (He knew He was God, and was exactly who He claimed to be). As we read today’s chapter and consider the enormity of Jesus’ claim, we each must each answer the high priest’s question: “What’s your verdict?”