Behind the few short texts that present today’s events we find some emotions and roots that we might relate with. The new context that this unusual season of Lent is finding us in, gave me new lenses for observing today’s text from John 11:47-53. “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 realize 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.”
The religious leaders did not like Jesus. His message was threatening and they considered Him outrageous and inappropriate. Too many people are already following Him. What if things get out of control and “then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation”? It is clear that they were living in constant awareness and fear of the Roman oppression, and this oppression was as real as it could be. It was not a fruit of their imagination. It was a constant threat of things getting even worse than they had already been. It was a constant fear of the unknown, of the uncontrollable.
When we give in to fear and we allow it to control our lives and our decisions, we can easily get to irrational conclusions. Jesus had no connection with the Roman oppression, but somehow, under this constant threat, they end up believing that if people followed Him, the Romans would be able to take away both their religious system as well as their national identity. These are big things! These were the most important things to them! They were convinced that they were doing the right thing in plotting to kill Jesus, because when we allow fear to take control of our whole head and heart, it starts distorting everything in and around us.
We live in a world that is facing the most unusual situation possible. The pandemic is forcing all of us to change plans, to stay inside, to find solutions for homeschooling, to care for our elderly parents, to live in more isolation than we could have ever imagined, to let go of things, to learn to adapt. But in addition to these, we have to live under this constant awareness that we might get sick, that someone we love might get sick, that the financial market might collapse, that our savings might become trash, that the worst could happen and we are not prepared for it. The threat is real. So was the threat of the Roman empire back in the time of Jesus. But so is our hope!
You see, having hope does not mean that we don’t allow ourselves to feel all the feelings or that we minimize them, so we can feel acceptable before others or before God. Hope is the strangest thing. It can bring sanity when things are falling apart. It can make us stand when our knees are trembling. It can make us wake up in the morning. There is something crucial that we need to know about hope – it has to be based on something real, stable and unchanging. Otherwise, it only brings more disappointment and disillusion in our lives. Basing our hope on something frail can wound us forever. We need a Hope that does not wither, a hope that lasts, a hope that remains. And this hope can only come from outside of ourselves.
When I am now reading the Good Wednesday’s text about the plot to kill our Messiah, up in our 6th floor apartment, isolated from the world and from what seemed familiar, well established and planned, I have a new perspective. This week, name it the Passion or Holy or Good week – because it is all of them and more! – this week reminds us that our Hope is real. That Hope has a Name. That Jesus is our Hope. When we place our trust in Him, our context may remain hard, confusing or disappointing. But His promise is that we can have peace through it all.
The people of hope are not the people that don’t feel the fears and confusion of their realities. They are not delusional. The people of hope are the people who know that the most real thing is that they are held through it all. The most real thing cannot be seen, but can be known and experienced through faith.
This is the paradox of the Passion Week: One came to die, so we could all have life. One came to be payment, so we can receive grace for free – because nothing is free! Somebody always has to pay. One came to love, so we can become the Beloved. His Beloved. Our Hope does not disappoint because it has been tested and proven. It lasts. It is eternal. Our Hope has a Name. He is here, with us.
“You do not realize 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.”