Readings: Ezekiel 37:21-28, Jeremiah 31:10-13, John 11:45-56

“What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let him go on thus, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation.” (John 11:47-48)

The chief priests and the Pharisees, with their scribes, were thrown into a panic when they heard that many people had come to believe in Jesus after seeing the signs that Jesus did. Initially, they doubted Jesus and asked for signs proving He was God. Having seen the signs, they suddenly became scared. For them, if Jesus were not killed, He would convert the entire nation (meaning that, as religious leaders, they would lose their power over the people).

The Jewish leaders also feared that by believing in Jesus, the people would make Jesus their king. Many Jews misunderstood the prophecies of the Messiah (such as that of Ezekiel in today’s First Reading). They thought the Messiah would fight wars and rule over Israel like David. This fear was concretely expressed in John 19:12: “If you release this man, you are not Caesar's friend; everyone who makes himself a king sets himself against Caesar.” Little did they know that Jesus was not interested in political power but had come for something bigger. Let us now consider today’s lessons:

1. Envy Makes Us Act Irrationally: Like Herod, who killed all the male children born at the time for fear of a rival king, the chief priests and Pharisees couldn’t stomach the idea of Jesus replacing them. Jesus called them hypocrites, white-washed tombs who loved to be greeted obsequiously while praying in the marketplace; meanwhile, their hearts were full of iniquity. Jesus cleansed the temple, which they had practically turned into a business centre, thereby “removing food from their mouth.” Jesus healed many of their sicknesses and diseases; He even raised the dead, thereby highlighting the abysmal failure of the religious leaders who had become more concerned with following rubrics than seeing to the people’s wellbeing.

Are there people I wish dead because they are far better than me (in school, business, career, church work, etc.)? Do I feel threatened by others’ progress? How often do I tell lies against others or discuss their weaknesses to bring them down?

2. Fear Expects and Thereby Attracts the Worst: Fear is self-punishment. It attempts to solve problems beyond our power even before they occur. Ninety-nine per cent of our fears never come to pass, yet the decisions we make based on these fears (negative expectations) always produce negative repercussions. Fears are self-fulfilling prophecies; whatever you expect to happen eventually happens. The Jewish leaders feared that if Jesus was not killed, the Romans would destroy their city, but even after killing Jesus, this fear became a reality in AD 70. Have a positive mindset. Expect the best. The more you nurse your fears, the more you see them come to pass.

3. Jesus is Our Sacrificial Lamb Who Died to Save Humanity: Although the fear of the Jews was baseless, their actions brought about the fulfilment of God’s divine plan of salvation for mankind. Speaking prophetically as High Priest, Caiaphas noted: “It is expedient for one man to die than for a whole nation to perish.” Caiaphas was right. Jesus needed to die to fulfil God’s plan, but then, Jesus died not only for the Jewish nation but for the whole world. Caiaphas’ motives were wrong, yet his reasoning summed up the mission of Jesus Christ on earth – “The Son of man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28).

Nothing good comes easy. Just as Jesus needed to die to save us, there are certain deaths we must go through to achieve our dreams and aspirations. Jesus withdrew to the city of Ephraim, where he maintained a low profile, knowing that a lot of people were plotting his death. Some wondered whether he would show up for the Feast of Passover. Tomorrow is Palm Sunday – Jesus shocked everyone; not only did he come for the Feast, He came triumphantly even though he knew what would happen.

Let us pray: Almighty, ever-living God, teach me to love others as you love me. Through Jesus Christ, Our Lord. Amen.

Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (Saturday of the 5th week of Lent. Bible Study: Ezekiel 37:21-28, Jeremiah 31:10-13, John 11:45-56).

@Rev. Fr. Evaristus E. Abu