Caiaphas has followed his declared policy – one for all. There is a strange irony here, for unwittingly the high priest was enunciating a principle that lay at the very heart of redemption. ‘The Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many’ (Matt.20:28). The Apostle Paul elaborates on this principle. ‘For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous’ (Rom.5:19). One for all!
So another voice has spoken in Caiaphas’ court. That word was spoken in the eternal counsels of the Godhead, and Christ had accepted it on behalf of those whom the Father had given to him. One for all! Did he hear that voice again as he stood condemned by the Sanhedrin? He certainly had not forgotten it.
Ultimately two voices have spoken in that courtroom, the voice of God and the voice of Satan: both said, ‘one for all.’ But there is fundamental disagreement between them. God speaks in terms of redemptive substitution, substitutionary atonement; Caiaphas, who is Satan’s tool as much as Judas, speaks in terms of elimination. God would have his Son die for his people so that they might live; Caiaphas would have Christ die in order to be rid of him, and so he sticks by his policy that it was expedient that one man should die for the people rather than that the whole nation should perish.
Thus predestination and human responsibility meet as Christ is condemned. He was ‘delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God,’ yet ‘crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men’ (Acts 2:23). God’s eternal purpose was realized in the death of his Son. The one for the many!
So the believer can say, ‘Christ embraced me with all my sin and guilt that I might embrace him in all his righteousness.’ That is what Luther had in mind when he said, ‘He died for me; he made his righteousness mine and made my sin his own; and if he made my sin his own, then I do not have it, and I am free.’
Taken from chapter 7, “Sentenced to Death” (based on Matt.26:65,66) by Frederick S. Leahy in The Cross He Bore: Meditations on the Sufferings of the Redeemer (Banner of Truth, 1996), pp.41-42.