Reflection on John 11.45-57 (Lent)

Caiaphas said: It is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.

When we look back at the history of human warfare, those conflicts that see human beings destroying each other because of some idealistic difference or urge to possess more than anyone else, we often see moments where difficult decisions have to be made. In the play Oh! What a Lovely War, moments in the First World War are acted out as though in some form of popular entertainment. Because of the format in which this play was constructed it is often misunderstood as being nothing more than a satirical send-up of a serious subject. But, what often gets missed is that many of the words that are spoken by the actors are genuine quotations. Every word that speaks of the death of thousands and thousands of people were actually said as the conflict unfolded over four tortuous years. On a daily basis decisions had to be made about how many men would have to be sacrificed in order that some small advance or strategic advantage might be gained. Just like Caiaphas in today’s reading, the general staff of the First World War, and every other human conflict, weighed up the value they could attach to a man’s life.

In the midst of conflict difficult decisions have to be made, but we should never forget that such decisions fly in the face of our Christian calling. It is in direct opposition to the teaching of Jesus Christ for us to feel that we have the right to place a value on any human life, and then to cast that life to one side as though it does not matter. 

In the coming week we will be seeing the betrayal, trial and execution of Jesus, the one whom Caiaphas identified as being expendable for the sake of the Jewish nation. Of course, we know that the death of Jesus will be of the greatest possible advantage to the whole of humanity. The death and resurrection of Jesus will, if we allow it, open up a new relationship between ourselves and God.

We may not think about sacrificing the life of another person to put ourselves in a more advantageous position, but we are often cruel in the way we treat others if we see a way to push ourselves to the front of any metaphorical queue. As we journey through the coming days, let us pray that we might honour Christ’s call to love and serve. Let us pray that we might love both our neighbours and our enemies. Let us pray that as we come to stand at the foot of the cross we might thank God that his Son allowed himself to suffer for us, that his sacrifice had nothing to do with the political machinations of Caiaphas and his ilk.