“Better That One Man Dies For The Nation..."
Not only had Jesus confounded his enemies in public, but in the raising of his friend Lazarus from the dead, he had worked a sign of his divine power which made him immensely popular. As John put it, the crowds turned up not just to listen to Jesus, but to see Lazarus as well.
The Sadduccees and the Pharisees met in council to deliberate on what they should do. The presence of Jesus threatened their hold over the people. It’s not that Jesus incited the populace to revolt, like other self-styled messiahs. Rather it was the force and power of his teachings which exposed the ‘leaders of the Jews’ for what they were – hollow men, hypocrites in large measure, many of them in league with the Roman government to keep their own people oppressed and exploited.
The Jewish establishment felt that if the people kept listening to Jesus, they would turn against them. A popular uprising might take place, which in turn would invite repressive measures from Rome. It could only work out badly for the Sadduccees and Pharisees. The control of the Temple might pass from their hands. Rome would want to know why they couldn’t keep their own people in check. They would probably be a purge. Many older Sadduccee families would lose out, their place of power taken by other upstarts.
Or perhaps even worse.
It was the High Priest who voiced these fears, and John records them with his usual irony: “It is more to our interest that one man should die rather than the whole nation be destroyed.” Of course, what he meant was: it would be better to kill off this one man Jesus rather than risk the destruction of the whole Jewish government.
But, as John also notes, he uttered these words in a much larger and more truthful context. He prophesied the death of Jesus as a sacrifice, not merely for the Jewish nation, but for all the world, so that the scattered children of God might be gathered together through his saving death. Thus ever does God draw straight with crooked lines.
The die was cast. From this day onwards his enemies looked for a way to trap Jesus. The Passover festival was just a few days ahead.
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