The Daily Office | March 21, 2018
Numbers 13:1-3, 13:17-end
2 Timothy 1
Collect: Ash Wednesday
Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made, and you forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Collect: The Fifth Sunday in Lent
Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of this world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
This short passage in John when the Pharisees meet to plot the death of Jesus fittingly takes place only one chapter before Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. We ourselves stand only a few days away from Palm Sunday where we will celebrate that entry. But before we do, it is important that we not forget what happened right before.
In reading this passage I was struck with the words of Caiaphas, the high priest, as he unwittingly prophesied before the congregation of priests and Pharisees. “You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” In plotting to kill Jesus, Caiaphas unwittingly proclaimed the Gospel. Jesus would die on behalf of the people, that the people might not perish. The Pharisees’ plot of evil was intended by God for good—the good of the whole world. What’s more, the very ones who orchestrated his death were the ones Jesus came to save.
Even though we may think we stand far removed from Caiaphas and the others who killed Jesus, we can no more wash our hands of our own culpability in the death of our Lord than Pilate could. By our sinfulness, we too orchestrated his death. But by God’s unfailing grace and love, his death was not the end, and we too are the ones he came to save. This Sunday as we wave our palm branches with the crowd and shout “Hosanna!”, we must remember that only a few days later we will wave our fists with the crowd and shout “Crucify him!” Jesus knew this when he rode through the Jerusalem streets that day, but he knew those were the ones he came to save. So too was Caiaphas. So too are we. Bless the Lord.