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Daily Readings in John – Day Thirty-Nine

November 26, 2017

John 10:45-57 (NRSV)

45 Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what he had done. 47 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. 48 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.” 49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all! 50 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.” 51 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, 52 and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the dispersed children of God. 53 So from that day on they planned to put him to death.

54 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.

55 Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves. 56 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?” 57 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.

 If John had a soundtrack, it would have just changed in mood, rhythm, meter, and tone rather abruptly. We move from the soaring glory-of-God-on-full-power raising of Lazurus from the dead, to smoky room political conspiracy, fearful rumors, plots of death, and hiding out in the wilderness.
I used to feel more judgmental or shocked about the actions of the elites in the gospel stories. The council hears rumors that Jesus has performed miracles, and all they can do is fear for their own security? Don’t they have an ounce of curiosity or wonder in them?
I guess over time I’ve taken a dimmer view of political processes and how much good happens in council and committee meetings. So often our collective group psychologies tend drift toward expression of our fears and resentments, that why should it surprise us that this Jerusalem council would be any different? They had a fearful and complex role – try to manage the Roman occupation and preserve a limited degree of civic and religious freedom, keep the hopeful and resentful masses at bay, and see if they could hold on to their own power and positions all at once.
No wonder that Jesus, who had no real interest in their concerns represented a problem. He didn’t have much sympathy for human prestige and ambition. And while he had no interest in direct confrontation with Rome, he didn’t exactly keep people’s wildest hopes in check. No, he increased them. People around him got restless and hopeful and motivated for change – they started to believe. Which may have been great for them, but not so helpful for the cause of political stability.
So the council wants him dead.
Here, though, John things that the possibility that God works for good in all things for those who love God may once again be at play. Even in Caiaphas’ Machiavellian moral calculus, God manages to turn things for good. Jesus’ death will turn for the good of the whole nation, if not in the way that the council intended. Within a generation, their city, their temple, their council will all be gone. But Jesus will have thousands of people scattered about the Eastern Roman Empire saying that he died and has risen again, and all peoples on earth – Palestinian Jews, Romans near and far, and everyone beyond has a stake and blessing and a hope in this.