A core group within the leadership of Israel has decided. They will not deny themselves, their power, prestige, their place. They will not take up their cross and follow Jesus, the way, the truth, and the life. They will not allow the teaching and momentum of the growing number of those following Jesus to continue unchecked. As Passover drew nearer, thousands of people were coming to Jerusalem to purify themselves for the great feast.
This meant the Romans would have many more centurions in place to keep the peace. The division and commotion that Jesus was causing could cause conflict and unrest and then swift and violent retribution from the Roman presence. The Sanhedrin, the Jewish High Council, followed the lead of the high priest, Caiaphas, who said, “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” (Jn 11:49-50). With these words, they began to plan how to put to death the carpenter of Nazareth.
With the words of Caiaphas, the sun began to set on the life of Jesus. These words even affect us still today as they usher in the sunset of our Lenten observance. The gift of our liturgical readings allows us to relive the story of our faith. Lent has given us a time to reflect, to meditate on who Jesus is. Is he just a carpenter, another teacher, or a holy man from the past, or is he that, but someone so much more, the Son of God who became one with us in his humanity so that we can become one with him in his divinity?
Do we see his teachings and life as a threat as did the Sanhedrin? Do we like our life the way it is, such that we do not want Jesus to come into our home and start turning over the tables and disrupting our order and comfort? Or do the Gospels cut us to the heart and inspire us to shake off our complacency, our indifference, our cynicism, so to be inspired to acknowledge our sins, to repent, and to begin anew?
As Holy Week begins with the Vigil Mass for Passion Sunday may we meditate on the words of Caiaphas, “consider that it is better for you that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish” (Jn 11:49-50). Caiaphas did not know that what he proclaimed would be so true, that the one, Jesus, would die, not only so the nation would not perish, but that all humanity would not perish.
Jesus died for you and for me that we might have life and have it to the full. As the sun sets this evening, may it not be just another rotation of the earth on its axis, but an opportunity to commit once again to die to our false selves, our egos, our self-centered postures, so to take up our cross and follow Jesus into Holy Week.
Photo: Sunset a few nights ago on my evening walk.