Did You Know?
What did Jesus mean when he said to go the second mile?
▪ In his famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus recommended: “If someone under authority impresses you into service for a mile, go with him two miles.” (Matthew 5:41) Jesus’ listeners likely recognized that statement as a reference to compulsory service, which an authority could demand from citizens.
In the first century C.E., Israel was occupied by the Romans. They did not hesitate to press men or animals into service or to commandeer anything else they considered necessary in order to expedite official business. For example, Roman soldiers obliged Simon of Cyrene to carry Jesus’ torture stake to the site of his execution. (Matthew 27:32) Such impositions were oppressive, highly unpopular, and bitterly resented by the Jews.
Just how far citizens could be compelled to carry a load is unknown. It is hard to imagine, though, that they would have been willing to go any farther than strictly required. So when Jesus urged his listeners to go the second mile, so to speak, he was telling them to perform without resentment those services that authorities legitimately demanded.
Who was the Annas mentioned in the Gospel accounts?
▪ At the time of Jesus’ trial, Annas (Ananus) was described as a “chief priest.” (Luke 3:2; John 18:13; Acts 4:6) He was, in fact, the father-in-law of Israel’s high priest, Caiaphas, and he himself had served as high priest from about 6 or 7 C.E. until about 15 C.E., when he was removed from office by the Roman procurator Valerius Gratus. Even so, as a former high priest, Annas continued to exercise great power in Israel. Five of his sons and his son-in-law came to hold the office of high priest.
As long as Israel functioned as an independent nation, the high priest held his office for life. (Numbers 35:25) However, under the Roman occupation of Israel, the high priest served at the pleasure of the Roman governors and the kings appointed by Rome, and he could be deposed by them. Historian Flavius Josephus reports that Quirinius, the Roman governor of Syria, removed a certain Joazar from the high priesthood in about 6 or 7 C.E. and appointed Annas to the office. It seems, though, that these pagan rulers took care to select the new appointees from among the priests.
The family of Annas were notoriously greedy and enormously wealthy. They apparently acquired their riches through their monopoly on the sale of essentials for sacrifices in the temple precincts, such as doves, sheep, oil, and wine. Josephus states that Ananus (Ananias), the son of Annas, had “servants who were utter rascals and who [would] take by force the tithes of the priests; nor did they refrain from beating those who refused to give.”