The plot thickens- 5th Week of Lent, Saturday- John 11: 45- 56
Interestingly, more than forty five percent of the Gospel of John will deal with Jesus’ passion, death and resurrection. Chapter thirteen through twenty one is dedicated only to this theme. In Chapter twelve, Jesus will enter triumphant into Jerusalem; Holy Week will begin.
The plot thickens in chapter eleven. Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead and “many believed in Him” (10:42). It is this growing belief in Him that causes the Jewish leaders to get rattled; rattled enough for religious leaders to plan a murder!
Jesus, by His words and deeds, has effectively got a whole Samaritan village to believe in Him (4:41). That belief spreads to the royal household when Jesus heals the royal official’s son (4:50). There is belief in Jesus after He foretells His death (8:30), after the healing of the man born blind (9:36-38), at the end of the good shepherd discourse (10:21), at the feast of the dedication of the temple (10:42), through Martha’s profession (11:27) and in the Jews who witnessed Lazarus’ raising from the dead (11:45). To top it all, many acknowledged Him as a prophet (7:40) some even as the Messiah (7:41).
All this was too much for Caiaphas and the Jewish establishment. The ‘rabble-rouser’ that they thought Jesus to be, with His band of peasant following, had now, in their eyes, become a political problem. If this got out of hand, Caiaphas was out of a job. The Romans had no qualms in putting down insurrections with an iron fist. Crucifixions along the Roman highways served as public notice: “don’t mess with us or you land up on a cross.”
History tells us that Caiaphas held the office of High Priest from AD 18 and continued to do so till AD 36. High Priests held office as long as they enjoyed Roman favour and that will explain the true anxiety over Caiaphas’ remarks. He was not concerned for the Jewish people; he was most certainly concerned to enforce the ‘Pax Romani’ or the peace of Rome, to ensure his own position as high priest.
Caiaphas’ words are ironic though. His ‘desire’ to save the nation by putting Jesus to death did not prevent the Romans from coming and destroying the Temple and Jerusalem. Somewhere between 66-70 AD, as a consequence of the Jewish revolt against Rome, Caesar ordered his general Titus to slaughter one and half million Jews. In this melee, the temple was destroyed.
The Early Christians, reading the gospel of John, considered the destruction of Jerusalem, punishment for failure to recognize Jesus as the Messiah. (Luke 13: 34-35, Mark 12: 9-11, JBC). But Jesus’ death was neither a political one, nor merely a plot of some half crazed power seekers. Jesus dies so that all who are “children of God” can be gathered into one. And inadvertently, Caiaphas, whose motive was wrong, pronounced the truth.
Clean water can run through rusty pipes, for God’s ways are not man’s ways. Surely Caiaphas had all the wrong intentions. He wanted Jesus dead because he hated Jesus; for him this was personal. Caiaphas was not only rusty, he was ready to burst! Yet God sends us the words of salvation through ‘the prophesy’ of a ‘rusty pipe’. In his prophesy, Caiaphas said that ‘Jesus was about to die for the nation and not for the nation only but to gather into one the dispersed children of God.’ Caiaphas was right in this, for Jesus died so that we all could be brought into God’s kingdom.
Tomorrow we begin Holy Week, a week that changed the world. Take some time off today to pray. We prepare for a holiday, an examination or a job interview. This week too, needs preparation. As we step into Holy week tomorrow, we should find our feet side by side with the disciples on the dusty road to Jerusalem, experiencing closely the ‘great drama’ of our salvation as we join the crowds in shouting, “Hosanna”. You can’t be audience any more. You are on stage.
Written on behalf of the Holy Spirit
References from the Jerome Biblical Commentary.
Fr Warner D’Souza may be contacted on whatsap on +91- 9820242151.
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