Lenten Gospel Reflections, Day 39: Vindication of the Victim

During this season of Lent, I will be working through Bishop Robert Barron’s Lenten Gospel Reflections (available through Word on Fire). Each day, I will share the readings and the reflection question, followed by my own thoughts.

April 9, 2022

45 Many of the Jews who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him; 46 but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council, and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, every one will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation.” 49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all; 50 you do not understand that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish.” 51 He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. 53 So from that day on they took counsel about how to put him to death. 54 Jesus therefore no longer went about openly among the Jews, but went from there to the country near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim; and there he stayed with the disciples. 55 Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover, to purify themselves. 56 They were looking for Jesus and saying to one another as they stood in the temple, “What do you think? That he will not come to the feast?”

The Holy Bible (Revised Standard Version; Second Catholic Edition, Jn 11:45–56). (2006). Ignatius Press.

How did the scapegoating death of Jesus surprisingly “gather into one the dispersed children of God” (John 11:52)?

In the Old Covenant law, when the society was in trouble, often the Israelites were able to point to one person who was responsible for the trouble caused due to disobeying God’s laws and breaking the community’s relationship with God. They would remove that person from their midst (often violently), and have their relationship with God restored (see Joshua 7), vindicating the actions of the Jewish authorities. Surely Caiaphas had this precedent in mind when he suggested the death of Jesus to restore peace to their community. But this time, something was different. The victim was raised from the dead! This time, the victim was vindicated! And by this act, Jesus proved that His claim – that He had come “not to abolish [the law and the prophets] but to fulfil them” (Matthew 5:17). His death and resurrection restored the relationship between God and humanity in perpetuity – a restoration that far transcended the prefigured instances from antiquity.

Lord Jesus, by Your sacrifice You reconciled humanity to the Father. Let me persevere in relationship with You that I might spend eternity with You in heaven.


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