Many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what Jesus had done began to believe in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees convened the Sanhedrin and said, “What are we going to do? This man is performing many signs. If we leave him alone, all will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our land and our nation.” But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing, nor do you consider that it is better for you that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish.” He did not say this on his own, but since he was high priest for that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not only for the nation, but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God. So from that day on they planned to kill him.
So Jesus no longer walked about in public among the Jews, but he left for the region near the desert, to a town called Ephraim, and there he remained with his disciples. Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before Passover to purify themselves. They looked for Jesus and said to one another as they were in the temple area, “What do you think? That he will not come to the feast?”
In today’s Gospel, the Sanhedrin condemns Jesus to die. Jesus is condemned to death, according to John, because if they had not, “the Romans will come and take away both our land and our nation.” The Evangelist says that Jesus was condemned to die in order to placate the ever-threatening Roman occupation of Jerusalem. The chief priests and the Pharisees were convinced that Jesus and his followers were trying to ferment a mass rebellion throughout the region. Such a popular insurgency, they believed, would initiate a domino effect: Romans would move in, take over the temple and they would be knocked from power. Caiaphas, the high priest, spoke up, claiming that condemning Jesus to a speedy death would thwart all of this from happening: “It is better that one man should die for the people, rather than that the whole nation should perish.”
From this point forward, the plot to get rid of Jesus was set in motion. Aware of the threats he faced, Jesus and his followers hightailed it out of town and began living clandestine lives. With the Jewish Passover near, pilgrims who encountered in the countryside entered Jerusalem. As these pilgrims searched for Jesus throughout Jerusalem, their anxiety grew, “will he come to the festival or not?”
What strikes me about this passage is the motivation of the priests and the Pharisees. I am a lot like those guys, despite the fact that I would like to believe otherwise. There are times in my life when I force Jesus into hiding in order to preserve my position of power in society. My desire to cling to my privilege as a male Caucasian from the most powerful country in the world has, I am certain, forced Jesus into retreat. I would like to be more like those pilgrims toward the end of today’s gospel, placing my life at risk in order to search for Jesus.