March 31, 2012 - Saturday of the Fifth Week of Lent

Today's Readings

It is so sad to see the convoluted logic of the Pharisees. Jesus is healing people. Jesus is converting sinners back to following God. Jesus is raising dead people back to life. The Pharisees are worried how they can put a stop to all of it. It will be very difficult. His life, his words, and his miracles are all very convincing. Of course, the Pharisees could have just been convinced. If they had just believed that Jesus was the Messiah, they would not have had to work so hard to prevent others from believing.

They seem more worried with preventing the Romans from coming and destroying Jerusalem than with whether Jesus was actually the Messiah. Their worries are not unfounded. Forty years later, a false Messiah would start a war with the Romans, and Jerusalem would be destroyed, and the Jews forced to leave. The Pharisees were right about the consequences of a false Messiah, but they seem to have lost real hope in the coming of the actual Messiah.

They had become cynical, whereas a Christian needs to be trusting. They had lost hope, whereas a Christian lives by hope. They loved themselves and their positions and their situation, whereas a Christian must love God above all things and their neighbors as themselves. The words of Caiaphas, “it is better for you that one man should die instead of the people” are said with the lowest intention: to betray an innocent man because his words and actions might not be looked upon favorably by the persecuting Romans. Caiaphas has turned into a collaborator.

However, the words of Caiaphas are also, St. John tells us, a prophecy. Caiaphas was the high priest, and God would use him for God’s own purposes. It is better for us that an innocent man should die in our place. It is better, for us, that Jesus gave up his life to save ours. It is better, not because we should be such cowards that we gladly see someone else die for our sins, but because if we died for our own sins, we would not have risen again, but when Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, the innocent for the guilty, he had the power to lay his life down and take it up again. It is better for us that an innocent man should die instead of the whole world, but only if that innocent man can, by his death, destroy death.