In Chapter 45 we joined Zacharias at the altar of incense in the temple. This goodly Israelite was, by birth and ordination, God's own high priest. Yet the temple "priesthood" at this dark hour in Jewish history was corroded with power motives and political appointments. Zacharias was often excluded by those who had bought their religious authority. As Chapter 46 begins, God's true representative is in his temple, being blessed and taught by an angel. While this rare and holy event is taking place inside, the other officiators, along with numerous Jewish worshipers, are waiting outside. They have been waiting for what seems like a long time for Zacharias to complete his simple duties in the Holy Place.Chapter 46 — Make Yourselves Ready"Perhaps the old goat has forgotten what to do," whispered one of the younger men to his father-in-law. Both men stood in the Court of the Priests, wearing priesthood garb.Another one standing nearby heard this, chuckled quietly, and outdid the first. "No, Caiaphas, it isn't that," he whispered, "he's lost in there. It's a big place, you know."Several others alongside these smiled broadly but said nothing.The first now added, "Yes, that must be it. He's weaving around the shewbread table, bumping into the walls. If he bumps into the candle sticks, just think, his clothes could catch on ...""Shh!"Embarrassed, the young men turned with apologetic faces toward the older man, he who was the father-in-law of Caiaphas. This man was the feared and respected Annas, a senior authority. He seldom smiled, but at the moment his face was especially unhappy. It was the picture of disgust.What offended Annas was not the whispered bantering outside the temple, but the bungling inside the temple. Zacharias was keeping important people waiting in the biting winter air, while babbling on in prayer in the Holy Place. Likely, the prayer was for the Messiah to come soon, as if the prayer of a befuddled and nonconforming old man could be heard.Did anyone one of sense and reputation really think Zacharias could preside over the entire authority system in Israel? Could he, this man without an estate in Jerusalem, without financial or educational status, and even without a son or daughter, be looked upon as a father to his people?Could any thinking Jew imagine the flowing white, blue and gold clothing of a presiding high priest — with all the human as well as divine significance that this clothing implied — being worn by the quiet, smiling man from Ein Karem?And what was the Messiah to do, even should he arrive? Somehow "save" Israel from Annas and the rest of the temple brotherhood?Thus did the eyes of Annas narrow in displeasure as his jaw worked impatiently and the knuckles of his tightened fists grew whiter.
See Chapter 47 in next week's Mormon Times.