I wonder what Caiaphas was thinking when he tore his robe. What was fueling his fury?
Was it pure religious zeal? Did he see himself as the protector of God’s people, saving them from error and blasphemy which would call down the judgment of YWH?
Or had he, perhaps, ceased to believe a Messiah would really come? Was he like many of our modern seminary professors, practicing religion without a living hope?
Had he become enamored with his own power and position? Did he see a Messiah as a personal threat?
Scripture does not answer this question. All we know is that Caiaphas felt so agitated that he did not wait for a reasonable hour to question Jesus. He did not deliberate with the council about the merits of the accusations. He did not ask Jesus why He claimed to be the Messiah. He never considered the possibility that Jesus was speaking the truth. Instead he tore his priestly garments and looked on with satisfaction as the crowd jeered and humiliated the quiet man who had claimed with unnerving certainty that they would see “the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the mighty one and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
How beautiful it is that, for all the wrong reasons, Caiaphas did the right thing! The high priest of an old covenant tore His garments before the High Priest of a new and better covenant. This was entirely right and fitting, though Caiaphas did not understand the import of his actions.
What a mysterious dance this trial is – Jesus is submissive, but He holds all authority. He is condemned, but remains the Judge. Free will and sovereignty are both in play. “The Son of Man will go just as it is written of Him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man!”
I believe this dance continues until the end of the age. Evil men make real decisions which cause great suffering, but God directs history toward its climax. We are free to choose; our Messiah is determined to rescue. Our Great High Priest is with us – suffering for us, with us, even through us. He is merciful, kind and powerful. He may not intervene as quickly as we would like; but He will raise us to new life., and all the kings of this earth will bow before Him.