Saturday of Week 5 of Lent – Gospel

Commentary on John 11:45-57

We are now on the threshold of Holy Week and today’s Gospel sets the stage for the coming events. The passage is again full of Johannine irony, where people make statements with a meaning far beyond what they intend to say.

The raising of Lazarus had led many to believe in Jesus, but others were alarmed. They went off to the chief priests and asked what was being done to stop this man in his tracks. Their report was serious enough to warrant calling the Sanhedrin, the ruling council of the Jews, into session:

What are we to do? This man is performing many signs.

Far from seeing the great significance of the “signs”, they go into a panic:

If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation.

Of course, what they feared and wanted to stop is exactly what happened. Jesus did go “on like this” and the Temple and the nation were destroyed.

Caiaphas, the high priest, moves to quell their fears and then goes on to make his own unwitting prophecy. A gift of prophecy, sometimes unconscious, was attributed to the high priest. He says:

You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.

Caiaphas is saying that it is better to get rid of Jesus, than put the whole nation in jeopardy. In fact, in a very different way, Jesus did die for his own people, and John comments that Jesus died not only for the Jewish people, but for people everywhere. And, it was not for the political preservation of a nation, but for the giving of new life to a people where all conventional divisions became irrelevant.

The end for Jesus is coming close, so he goes into hiding until the time is ready. Again he goes to Ephraim, a place thought to be about 20 km northeast of Jerusalem, where mountains descend into the Jordan valley. It was a remote desert area where Jesus was relatively safe.

As the Passover approaches, people are on the watch for Jesus to appear. Instructions have been given out that any sightings of Jesus were to be reported so that the authorities could arrest him.

Again there is another ironic question:

What do you think? Surely he will not come to the festival, will he?

Little did they know that Jesus would be the central character of this Passover and make it the most famous Passover in history. We are now ready to enter the great finale of Holy Week.

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