Today’s reading: John 11:45-57

OpeningJesus, even your enemies prophesied of your death, and that you would gather the scattered peoples of God into one. Yet, they were oblivious to your plans. Would you give us eyes to see the beautiful new things you’re doing?

ReflectionAs you read the passage, picture yourself standing in the council room. People are giving testimony that Jesus has just raised a man from the dead amidst cries of “that’s impossible” and proclamations of a Messiah. Caiaphas makes the bold declaration that it’s time to have Jesus killed, but not everyone shares that fervor. What kind of whispers echo through the room? What hopes and fears does the debate unearth in those present?

Imagine, later, being in the Jerusalem crowd during the cleansing. The Pharisees have called for Jesus’ capture. What fears do people around you have, whether they believe that Jesus is the Messiah or not?

A Landscape of Fear.
Everyone is afraid. Throughout Israel, Roman occupation has brought much hardship: Herod’s infanticide, strong handed taxation, and now, the consequences of a Messiah figure coming through the land and proclaiming the forgiveness of sin. The Jewish political and religious leaders fear what could happen “if everyone believes,” because the appearance of the Messiah means freedom from oppression. If their Roman occupiers hear word of a revolution, the Pharisees fear that they might “come and take away our temple and our nation.”

It’s easy to portray them as selfishly holding onto their own power, but more difficult to empathize with that fear. They only want what they think is best for their people by being mediators to the Roman occupiers and holding onto their particular understanding of Judaism however they can.  Out of a desire to protect their people from even harsher occupation, they only see one way out: to kill the source of all of this fear and unrest, Jesus himself.

A Spring of Hope.
Jesus, meanwhile, has disappeared from the public eye. In his retreat, the Jews, now gathered in Jerusalem for ceremonial cleansing, wonder about his actions and how he will respond to such a public threat on his life.

This isn’t the first time the Pharisees have challenged him. They’ve sent soldiers to arrest him, questioned his teachings openly, and even questioned the source of his powers. But now, the situation has escalated and their fear blinds them to the way people respond to Jesus’ message of healing and hope.

They miss out on the way that message spreads through the people, even as Jesus waits in hiding. It is a message of a new kind of freedom, not just from occupation, but of their burdens, infirmities, and sins. The Pharisees seek to protect their people from the suffering that comes with revolution, but Jesus brings a miraculous revolution that’s worth suffering for.

The Pharisees are afraid, and it’s hard to blame them. God is asking of them everything–risk their sense of identity and belonging, their ability to protect their people and their status. They say no because they’re afraid of what might happen–that the Romans will come and take everything away. But Jesus does not bring genocide and erasure. Jesus only heals, and uncovers, and makes whole. He does this in an unexpected way. He invites people into a transformative relationship that can challenge their personal and political identity–an identity that can change one’s understanding of God and orthodoxy or change one’s allegiance from nations and empires to the Kingdom of God.

ClosingWe walk with a fragmented set of identities and allegiances through fearful landscapes–ones filled with frustration, rejection, and violence. Yet, Jesus asks his believers to come to him for healing, uncovering, and wholeness.

In what ways do you see your identity being transformed and your allegiances being shifted as Jesus heals you? How can we be open to the newness that Jesus is bringing instead?

Created by: R.A.B.

Image by: Hisu Lee