This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary along with a headline from world news:

DESPERATION FOR FOOD IN SYRIA  syrian food

John 11:45-56

J.B. Phillips New Testament (PHILLIPS)

Jesus’ miracle leads to deadly hostility

45-48 After this many of the Jews who had accompanied Mary and observed what Jesus did, believed in him. But some of them went off to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. Consequently, the Pharisees and chief priests summoned the council and said, “What can we do? This man obviously shows many remarkable signs. If we let him go on doing this sort of thing we shall have everybody believing in him. Then we shall have the Romans coming and that will be the end of our holy place and our very existence as a nation.”

49-56 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was High Priest that year, addressed the meeting: “You plainly don’t understand what is involved here. You do not realise that it would be a good thing for us if one man should die for the sake of the people—instead of the whole nation being destroyed.” (He did not make this remark on his own initiative but, since he was High Priest that year, he was in fact inspired to say that Jesus was going to die for the nation’s sake—and in fact not for that nation only, but to bring together into one family all the children of God scattered throughout the world.) From that day then, they planned to kill him. As a consequence Jesus made no further public appearance among the Jews but went away to the countryside on the edge of the desert, and stayed with his disciples in a town called Ephraim. The Jewish Passover was approaching and many people went up from the country to Jerusalem before the actual Passover, to go through a ceremonial cleansing. They were looking for Jesus there and kept saying to one another as they stood in the Temple, “What do you think? Surely he won’t come to the festival?”

Roman frieze with Jewish spoils

Roman frieze with Jewish spoils

John’s gospel is fascinating in its mix of non- factual material generated by theological motives and factual material that seems more accurate than some contained in the other gospels. His political materiaL, although perhaps not factual, is often full of insight and shrewd deduction. The material  here about the Pharisees and chief priests suggests that their hostility to Jesus was due their desire to maintain their power deal with the Roman authority. If people rallied to Jesus as Messiah, they thought, it would result in Rman repression of the whole nation. This was a reasonable fear, as is shown by the Roman reaction to Jewish rebellions in 70CE and 135CE which effectively ended the Jewish nation.

It is doubtless John’s sense of drama and theological meaning which puts on the High Priest’s lips the ironic words about one man dying for the sake of the people. John comments that, in a sense that Caiaphas would not have intended, Jesus did die for the people and even more, “to bring into one family all the scattered children of God”. John is writing from the perspective of the Christian mission to the Gentiles and of membership of  Gentile church community. Jesus’ rejection by the rulers of his own people makes him, through his death and resurrection, available to all as the founder of a new family of faith and love.

From the start faith in Jesus Messiah was not limited to any one nation, sex, culture, class or ethnicity; and it has been at its best when it has consciously worked at gathering the scattered children of God through their brother Jesus. When it has tried to impose its beliefs by force, pressure or civic reward or when it has ceased to care whether any are gathered at all, it has been at its worst.

mass baptism in Arizona

mass baptism in Arizona

There is a danger in all world religions that mission may be adulterated by territorial expansion or institutional power. Christian mission must be clear that it is done solely in the name of a crucified messiah, the powerless and self-sacrificing Jesus, who wants the scattered children to be gathered only by their own response to his invitation.

 

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