A marginal commentary on John 11:45-56

So far I have chosen not to focus on biblical passages in this blog, but reading today’s bible passage I found the references too strong to avoid. My comments in red.

Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. Some saw this strange, eccentric man doing unusual things on the margins – he’d just raised Lazarus from the dead – and inwardly felt drawn to trust him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what he had done. Others felt fearful of this person on the margins. Perhaps they never saw or heard Jesus themselves, but just relied on hearsay. They reported on him to those close to the centre of worldly power.

So the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the council, and said, ‘What are we to do? This man is performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation.’ Those at the centre are often fearful of those in the margins – especially if they are attracting others. The last thing they want is trouble – just want to keep people in their historic and rightful places.

But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, ‘You know nothing at all! You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.’ He did not say this on his own, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus was about to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the dispersed children of God. So from that day on they planned to put him to death. The best route for those in the centre to retain power is to choose a scapegoat. That not only gets rid of the apparent problem, but also teaches others not to go down the same path.

Jesus therefore no longer walked about openly among the Jews, but went from there to a town called Ephraim in the region near the wilderness; and he remained there with the disciples. Jesus chooses to go to Ephraim, a marginal place: near the wilderness and well away from the centre at Jerusalem.

Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves. They were looking for Jesus and were asking one another as they stood in the temple, ‘What do you think? Surely he will not come to the festival, will he?’ The Passover celebrated the time when the first-born Israelite children were spared death, and the Israelites liberated from slavery to the Egyptians – free to journey towards the Promised Land. Here the question is whether Jesus – man of the margins – will have the courage and desire to be seen in the centre of power.

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