51.Now he spoke this, not of himself. When the Evangelist says that Caiaphas did not speak this of himself, he does not mean that Caiaphas — like one who was mad, or out of his senses — uttered what he did not understand; for he spoke what was his own opinion. But the Evangelist means that a higher impulse guided his tongue, because God intended that he should make known, by his mouth, something higher than what occurred to his mind. Caiaphas, therefore, might be said, at that time, to have two tongues; for he vomited out the wicked and cruel design of putting Christ to death, which he had conceived in his mind; but God turned his tongue to a different purpose, so that, under ambiguous words, he likewise uttered a prediction. God intended that the heavenly oracle should proceed from the high priest’ seat, that the Jews might have less excuse. For, though not one person in the whole assembly had his conscience moved, yet they afterwards perceived that their insensibility was not entitled to forgiveness. Nor did the wickedness of Caiaphas prevent his tongue from being the organ of the Holy Spirit, for God looked at the priesthood which he had instituted rather than at the person of the man. And this was the reason which I glanced at, that a voice uttered from a lofty place might be more distinctly heard, and might have greater reverence and authority. In the same manner, God intended to bless his people by the mouth of Balaam, on whom he had bestowed the spirit of prophecy.
But it is highly ridiculous in the Papists to infer from this that we ought to reckon as an oracle whatever the Roman high priest may think fit to pronounce. First, granting what is false, that every man who is a high priest is also a prophet, still they will be under the necessity of proving that the Roman high priest is appointed by the command of God; for the priesthood was abolished by the coming of one man, who is Christ, and we no where read that it was afterwards enjoined by God that any one man should be the ruler of the whole Church. Granting to them, in the second place, that the power and title of high priest was conveyed to the Bishop of Rome, we must see of what advantage it was to the priests that they accepted the prediction of Caiaphas In order to concur in his opinion, they conspire to put Christ to death. But far from us be that kind of obedience which drives us to horrid apostacy by denying the Son of God. With the same voice Caiaphas blasphemes and also prophesies. They who follow his suggestion despise the prophecy, and adopt the blasphemy. We ought to guard against the same thing happening to us, if we listen to the Caiaphas of Rome; for otherwise the comparison would be defective. Besides, I ask, Must we conclude that, because Caiaphas once prophesied, every word uttered by the high priest is always a prophecy ? But soon afterwards Caiaphas condemned as blasphemy (Mat_26:65) the most important article of our faith. Hence we conclude, that what the Evangelist now relates was an extraordinary occurrence, and that it would be foolish to adduce it as an example.
That Jesus would die. First, the Evangelist shows that the whole of our salvation consists in this, that Christ should assemble us into one; for in this way he reconciles us to the Father, in whom is the fountain of life, (Psa_36:9.) Hence, also, we infer, that the human race is scattered and estranged from God, until the children of God are assembled under Christ their Head. Thus, the communion of saints is a preparation for eternal life, because all whom Christ does not gather to the Father remain in death, as we shall see again under the seventeenth chapter. For the same reason Paul also teaches that Christ was sent, in order
that he might gather together all things which are in heaven and in earth,
Wherefore, that we may enjoy the salvation brought by Christ, discord must be removed, and we must be made one with God and with angels, and among ourselves. The cause and pledge of this unity was the death of Christ, by which he drew all things to himself; but we are daily gathered by the Gospel into the fold of Christ.