At this the high priest tore his vestments. “Why do we want any more witnesses?” he exclaimed.
not matching my own
the safe predictability
taken years to attain
tumbles apart to the ground
a cosmic scream
erupts from a crack
so long covered over
no more no more
off with their head
to satisfy my own
carefully positioned mirrors
shatter like dominoes falling
an image of identity exhausted
Tearing clothes is not easy. In keeping with the portrayal of a show trial, a wonderment does occur—did the high priest come prepared with a robe that had tear-away sleeves and a strategic cut to initiate a long tear?
The drama of tearing clothes precludes any response to the question other than, “No! We need no more witnesses!”
Even though there is biblical precedent for tearing clothes in the presence of “blasphemy” (2 Kings 18:37–19:1), this comes in a line within Mark that tracks from tearing open the sky, tearing these symbolic clothes, and the tearing of the Temple curtain. Each of these rendings opens an expansive and expanding blessing.
Aichele23 puts the difference between the rending of robes by King Hezekiah and Caiaphas concisely: “here in judgment, but originally a gesture of grief”. When we lose our grief, our compassion, we lose our ability to judge.
As always with scripture, there is more than one place in scripture to look for insight about a specific passage. In addition to 2 Kings, we could look at Leviticus 21:10 where the instructions about priests include this word about high priests: “The high priest…must not pull their hair in grief or tear their clothes.” They are to be removed from the usual responses for their role as intermediary between the people and G*D would be demeaned if they only had usual emotions.
It is this intermediary relationship that may have triggered the extreme of tearing clothing. Jesus’ response to the question of being “Son of the Blessed” is a role of the chief priest. The desire of James and John shows up again—who will be chief, first, prominent?