Today’s grim gospel conspiracy to put Jesus to death is sandwiched between the beautiful miracle of the raising of Lazarus, brother of Martha and Mary of Bethany, and the unforgettable act of love that Mary offered Jesus when she anointed his feet with perfume and wiped them with her hair. In these stories, we see the very winsome human friendships that Jesus shared with his three friends from Bethany. They all cared for His physical needs, fed, and sheltered Him when He came to Jerusalem. He shared his love and time with them. When their brother got sick, Mary and Martha immediately called for Jesus’ aid, but when he deliberately was late to Lazarus’ sickbed, they trusted that he could raise their brother from the dead.
The shortest verse in the Bible, John 11:35, “Jesus wept” shows each of us that Jesus enters into our sorrows; he is aware of our emotional and psychological needs. Out of gratefulness and love, Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with nard. To those who criticized her for her extravagance, Jesus said, “Let her alone, let her keep it for the day of my burial.” Jn 12:7
A Death Warrant
But since many of the Jews began to believe in Jesus after Lazarus was raised from the dead, there was a growing envy and hatred of Jesus and a concern for loss of political and religious control of the temple sacrifices and the city of Jerusalem. The Sanhedrin met to decide how to meet this threat of Jesus and His growing number of followers, “What are we going to do?” Caiphas, the high priest, pompously proclaimed “It is better for you that one man should die instead of the people so that the whole nation may not perish.” Jn 11:50.
St. John indicated that Caiphas spoke the truth “that Jesus would not only die for the nation of Israel only, but to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.” Jn 11:51-52. Jesus’ death warrant was sealed and from that day on they planned to kill him and Lazarus. This conspiracy would lead to Satan entering into Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve apostles, who later conferred with the chief priests as to how to betray Jesus. This passage leads us into Passion week this Palm Sunday.
The apostles did not understand what their Master had been warning. Three times in the gospel of Luke (Lk 9:45; Lk 17:25; Lk 18:31-33) Jesus foretold his death and resurrection. John the Baptist pointed to Jesus after his baptism and the descent of the Holy Spirit and said, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Jn 1:29. These words pointed backward to the Passover deliverance of Israel from Egypt by the power of God and Moses and forward to Jesus’ death at Calvary, at the time of the evening sacrifice, on Good Friday.
He Came To Die
Bishop Fulton Sheen noted that one of the differences between Jesus and all other men is this: “Every other person who ever came into this world came into it to live. He came into it to die.”1 It was through His taking on our humanity, His incarnation, that Jesus was able to be obedient unto death, in order to reconcile humanity to God, to be the Savior which the name, “Jesus”, means. It was not just a Caiphas-Judas Iscariot conspiracy that led to Jesus’ crucifixion. According to paragraph 598 of the “Catechism of the Catholic Church,” the Church teaches that “sinners were the authors and ministers of all the sufferings that the divine Redeemer endured.” When we relapse into our sins, we make Him “suffer again”. In that same paragraph, St. Francis of Assisi said: “Nor did demons crucify Him; it is you who have crucified him and crucify him still, when you delight in your vices and sins.”2
Thanks Be To God
After his resurrection, on the road to Emmaus with Cleopas and companion, Jesus said: “Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and so enter into His glory?” Lk 24:26 . Acts 2:23 says that Jesus was delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God. And He was crucified and killed by hands of lawless men. At Calvary, Jesus became obedient unto death. He drank the chalice that the Father offered him and then proclaimed, “It is finished” as he breathed his last. “Therefore, God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name, which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Phil 2:9-11 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” I Cor 15:55,57
For further reflection:
Prayerfully consider applying St. Francis of Assisi’s quote in this reflection to yourself during this Passion Week.
1 Life of Christ by Fulton Sheen, McGraw-Hill, 1958, p14
2 Admonitio 5,3. by St. Francis of Assisi