Therefore, many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. ‘What are we accomplishing?’ they asked. ‘Here is this man performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.’ Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, ‘You know nothing at all! You do not realise that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.’ He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. So from that day on they plotted to take his life. Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the people of Judea. Instead he withdrew to a region near the wilderness, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples. When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, many went up from the country to Jerusalem for their ceremonial cleansing before the Passover. They kept looking for Jesus, and as they stood in the temple courts they asked one another, ‘What do you think? Isn’t he coming to the festival at all?’ But the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who found out where Jesus was should report it so that they might arrest him.
This passage, flowing seamlessly from the account of the raising of Lazarus, not only highlights the bewilderment of everyone at such a happening – it raises the questions `Who is this Jesus?` `What are
we to do with him?` `Many believed in him` we are told, but in what sense? What did they believe? And as we ourselves ponder this passage, as we see the pressure mounting, what is it about him that directly affects our lives? There is this paradox. For Christians Jesus is the source and inspiration of our faith. Yet, repeatedly, he was – and often still is – seen as a threat by authorities both religious and secular. Will he always be experienced as a threat to the `establishment`, the leadership in church life – local as well as national?
Here we see the defensiveness of those in entrenched positions of power and authority. We see expediency in full flow. However remarkable he was, he had to be stopped. So, just as the chief priests and Pharisees saw Jesus as subversive, how would he be seen in our congregations? Would we expect him to fit in completely? Would we be disturbed if he did?
“Lord, we believe,
help us when faith falls short.”
May we rejoice in Christ`s presence,
be challenged and celebrate.
Alasdair Pratt is a retired minister and former moderator of General Assembly
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