Saturday, March 27, 2010

If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts (Saturday, 5th Week of Lent, John 11:45-56)

Many of the Jews who had come to Mary
and seen what Jesus had done began to believe in him.
But some of them went to the Pharisees
and told them what Jesus had done.
So the chief priests and the Pharisees
convened the Sanhedrin and said,
“What are we going to do?
This man is performing many signs.
If we leave him alone, all will believe in him,
and the Romans will come
and take away both our land and our nation.”
But one of them, Caiaphas,
who was high priest that year, said to them,
“You know nothing,
nor do you consider that it is better for you
that one man should die instead of the people,
so that the whole nation may not perish.”
He did not say this on his own,
but since he was high priest for that year,
he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation,
and not only for the nation,
but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God.
So from that day on they planned to kill him.
So Jesus no longer walked about in public among the Jews,
but he left for the region near the desert,
to a town called Ephraim,
and there he remained with his disciples.
Now the Passover of the Jews was near,
and many went up from the country to Jerusalem
before Passover to purify themselves.
They looked for Jesus and said to one another
as they were in the temple area, “What do you think?
That he will not come to the feast?”
Many of the Jews who had come to Mary
and seen what Jesus had done began to believe in him.
But some of them went to the Pharisees
and told them what Jesus had done.
So the chief priests and the Pharisees
convened the Sanhedrin and said,
“What are we going to do?
This man is performing many signs.
If we leave him alone, all will believe in him,
and the Romans will come
and take away both our land and our nation.”
But one of them, Caiaphas,
who was high priest that year, said to them,
“You know nothing,
nor do you consider that it is better for you
that one man should die instead of the people,
so that the whole nation may not perish.”
He did not say this on his own,
but since he was high priest for that year,
he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation,
and not only for the nation,
but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God.
So from that day on they planned to kill him.
So Jesus no longer walked about in public among the Jews,
but he left for the region near the desert,
to a town called Ephraim,
and there he remained with his disciples.
Now the Passover of the Jews was near,
and many went up from the country to Jerusalem
before Passover to purify themselves.
They looked for Jesus and said to one another
as they were in the temple area, “What do you think?
That he will not come to the feast?”

* * * * * * * *

Caiaphas, the high priest, unwittingly prophesies Jesus’ death for the sake of the people of Israel in today’s gospel reading. He was at a meeting with the chief priests and Pharisees, when he spoke those words. They had come together to discuss the many signs and wonders Jesus was performing among the people—deeds that brought many to follow him. This, the assembled leaders feared, would bring their nation on a collision course with the Roman occupiers who were very wary of popular figures with a big following that could easily turn into a revolt. Jesus had to go. Israel couldn’t afford another pretender who would only incur the ire of Rome.

But that’s where the leaders of Israel were wrong. They had pigeon-holed Jesus, categorized and classified him according to their very own notion of power and authority. As far as they were concerned, Jesus was another upstart leader whose message of death and destruction to the occupying power would only lead to terrible consequences for Israel. Caiaphas, the chief priests, and the Scribes, failed to even consider that the message of Jesus might actually be a completely different one, that his message of authority might actually mean service, and that his idea of power might actually mean something other than tyrannical control.

Once again they failed to recognize the uniqueness of Jesus and his message, not because they were unlearned or unwise—they were after all, the most educated of all the people in Israel. They failed to recognize Jesus because their hearts had already been hardened by their prejudices and biases. We too can be that way, especially when we go about labeling people.

"The Kingdom of Heaven is a condition of the heart." (Friedrich Nietzsche)