Podcast Reflections

Reflection on John 11.45-57 (Passiontide)

Listen to a reflection for Lent 5: Saturday, 1 April (Passiontide), on John 11.45-57

John 11.45-57

Many of the Jews who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what he had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the council, and said, ‘What are we to do? This man is performing many signs. 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.’ But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, ‘You know nothing at all! 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.’ He did not say this on his own, but being high priest that year he prophesied 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. So from that day on they planned to put him to death. 

Jesus therefore no longer walked about openly among the Jews, but went from there to a town called Ephraim in the region near the wilderness; and he remained there with the disciples. 

Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves. They were looking for Jesus and were asking one another as they stood in the temple, ‘What do you think? Surely he will not come to the festival, will he?’ Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who knew where Jesus was should let them know, so that they might arrest him. 


Caiaphas said: It is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.

When we look back at the history of human warfare, those conflicts that see human beings destroying each other because of some idealistic difference or urge to possess more than anyone else, we often see moments where difficult decisions have to be made. In the play Oh! What a Lovely War, moments in the First World War are acted out as though in some form of popular entertainment. Because of the format in which this play was constructed it is often misunderstood as being nothing more than a satirical send-up of a serious subject. But, what often gets missed is that many of the words that are spoken by the actors are genuine quotations. Every word that speaks of the death of thousands and thousands of people were actually said as the conflict unfolded over four tortuous years. On a daily basis decisions had to be made about how many men would have to be sacrificed in order that some small advance or strategic advantage might be gained. Just like Caiaphas in today’s reading, the general staff of the First World War, and every other human conflict, weighed up the value they could attach to a man’s life.

In the midst of conflict difficult decisions have to be made, but we should never forget that such decisions fly in the face of our Christian calling. It is in direct opposition to the teaching of Jesus Christ for us to feel that we have the right to place a value on any human life, and then to cast that life to one side as though it does not matter. 

In the coming week we will be seeing the betrayal, trial and execution of Jesus, the one whom Caiaphas identified as being expendable for the sake of the Jewish nation. Of course, we know that the death of Jesus will be of the greatest possible advantage to the whole of humanity. The death and resurrection of Jesus will, if we allow it, open up a new relationship between ourselves and God.

We may not think about sacrificing the life of another person to put ourselves in a more advantageous position, but we are often cruel in the way we treat others if we see a way to push ourselves to the front of any metaphorical queue. As we journey through the coming days, let us pray that we might honour Christ’s call to love and serve. Let us pray that we might love both our neighbours and our enemies. Let us pray that as we come to stand at the foot of the cross we might thank God that his Son allowed himself to suffer for us, that his sacrifice had nothing to do with the political machinations of Caiaphas and his ilk.