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Browsing Fr. Joel Hastings

QUESTIONS RELATED TO JESUS’ PASSION AND DEATH:

May 7, 2018

Why were Pilate and Caiaphas enemies? Then became friends?

First, for clarification: the reference to two men having been enemies to only later (during Jesus’ trial) become friends is given in Luke’s telling of the passion, when he refers to Pilate (Roman procurator/governor over Jerusalem and its locale) and Herod (who was understood as “king” or more accurately tetrarch over Galilee) having been enemies becoming friends (Luke 23:12).  Caiaphas, though he was high priest in the Temple at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion, is not the one with whom it is said that Pilate became friends.

Given the clarification that it was Pilate and Herod to whom this question refers, the Scriptures do not say “why” they were enemies. It happened that Herod was in Jerusalem for the Passover when Jesus was arrested and brought before Pilate. It appears that Pilate tried to use this presence of Herod in Jerusalem as an opportunity to not be the one to judge Jesus – as Pilate reasoned that Jesus, being a Galilean should be judged by Herod.  Perhaps it was in their common sense of disdain for both Jesus Himself and for everything that was taking place because of Him that led the two of them to see a sense of common ground in their lives, leading to friendship.  However, the texts do not say….

What is the meaning/symbolism of the curtain in the temple being torn in two?

By definition, a veil (or curtain as referred to here) keeps hidden what is under or behind it. The veil that hung in the temple hid the “Holy of Holies” from the more public (and profane) side of the Temple. That it is at the precise moment of Jesus’ death when this veil is said to have been torn down the middle is no accident, as it is in this moment that there is a revelation (that is, a lifting or removal of the veil):  what was previously hidden were the ark of the covenant and the mercy seat that are now in plain sight. However, what is truly significant is the reality that a new covenant (with a new Temple, Jesus Christ Himself) has superseded the old covenant that had previously remained veiled – revealing and fulfilling the mysteries of old. Thus, this tearing of the veil is emphasized by the evangelists as a climactic moment of Jesus’ saving mission being accomplished, with the new, eternal covenant in His Blood
fulfilling and replacing the old (among other possible meanings, too).

What did happen to Jesus when He descended into hell?

It is interesting to speculate the exact details of Jesus’ time in the tomb when (as we profess in the creed) Jesus had descended into hell (or to “the dead,” as some translations render it). Many theologians throughout the centuries have speculated on this very question, offering such ideas as how Jesus went and freed all the righteous from the chains of death, preparing to lead them out of death in triumph onto new life as He is “firstborn of the dead.” It is necessary to acknowledge that His death was a real experience of death and separation from the living. However, by no means did the forces of death (Satan in particular) have any power over Him, as death truly never had power over Christ, sinless as He is and freely accepting of death. His sinlessness and His free acceptance of death renders death powerless. What is, therefore, of greatest importance for us to profess is the reality that Jesus indeed underwent death in the full, by which He fully destroyed death of its power to enslave humanity – making it a passage to new and eternal life.

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