Lectio notes : John 11:45 -56

Today's section of St John's Gospel (New Advent page) deals with the consequences of Lazarus' raising.  You can listen to the Latin here (from around 4.40) and the Greek here.


The Latin:

45 Multi ergo ex Judæis, qui venerant ad Mariam, et Martham, et viderant quæ fecit Jesus, crediderunt in eum. 46 Quidam autem ex ipsis abierunt ad pharisæos, et dixerunt eis quæ fecit Jesus. 47 Collegerunt ergo pontifices et pharisæi concilium, et dicebant: Quid facimus, quia hic homo multa signa facit? 48 Si dimittimus eum sic, omnes credent in eum, et venient Romani, et tollent nostrum locum, et gentem. 49 Unus autem ex ipsis, Caiphas nomine, cum esset pontifex anni illius, dixit eis: Vos nescitis quidquam, 50 nec cogitatis quia expedit vobis ut unus moriatur homo pro populo, et non tota gens pereat. 51 Hoc autem a semetipso non dixit: sed cum esset pontifex anni illius, prophetavit, quod Jesus moriturus erat pro gente, 52 et non tantum pro gente, sed ut filios Dei, qui erant dispersi, congregaret in unum. 53 Ab illo ergo die cogitaverunt ut interficerent eum. 54 Jesus ergo jam non in palam ambulabat apud Judæos, sed abiit in regionem juxta desertum, in civitatem quæ dicitur Ephrem, et ibi morabatur cum discipulis suis. 55 Proximum autem erat Pascha Judæorum, et ascenderunt multi Jerosolymam de regione ante Pascha, ut sanctificarent seipsos. 56 Quærebant ergo Jesum, et colloquebantur ad invicem, in templo stantes: Quid putatis, quia non venit ad diem festum? Dederant autem pontifices et pharisæi mandatum ut si quis cognoverit ubi sit, indicet, ut apprehendant eum.

The English:

[45] Many therefore of the Jews, who were come to Mary and Martha, and had seen the things that Jesus did, believed in him.[46] But some of them went to the Pharisees, and told them the things that Jesus had done. [47] The chief priests therefore, and the Pharisees, gathered a council, and said: What do we, for this man doth many miracles? [48] If we let him alone so, all will believe in him; and the Romans will come, and take away our place and nation. [49] But one of them, named Caiphas, being the high priest that year, said to them: You know nothing. [50] Neither do you consider that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.[51] And this he spoke not of himself: but being the high priest of that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation. [52] And not only for the nation, but to gather together in one the children of God, that were dispersed. [53] From that day therefore they devised to put him to death. [54] Wherefore Jesus walked no more openly among the Jews; but he went into a country near the desert, unto a city that is called Ephrem, and there he abode with his disciples. [55] And the pasch of the Jews was at hand; and many from the country went up to Jerusalem, before the pasch to purify themselves. [56] They sought therefore for Jesus; and they discoursed one with another, standing in the temple: What think you that he is not come to the festival day? And the chief priests and Pharisees had given a commandment, that if any man knew where he was, he should tell, that they might apprehend him.


There is an awful irony that returning a man to life brings forth the desire to kill:

THEOPHYL. Such a miracle as this should have drawn forth wonder and praise. But they make it a reason of plotting against His life: Then gathered the chief priests and, Pharisees a council, and said, What do we?

AUG; But they had no thought of believing. The miserable men only consulted how they might hurt and kill Him, not how themselves might be saved from death. What do we? For this Man does many miracles.

CHRYS. Him of whose divinity they had received such certain proofs, they call only a man.

They claim to fear that Jesus is raising a rebellion against the Romans, yet ultimately it was the Jews, not the Christians who rebelled:

ORIGEN. This speech is an evidence of their audacity and blindness: of their audacity, because they testified that He had done many miracles, and yet thought that they could contend successfully against Him, and that He would have no power of withstanding their plots; of their blindness, because they did not reflect that He who had wrought such miracles could easily escape out of their hands; unless indeed they denied that these miracles were done by Divine power.

They resolved then not to let Him go; thinking that they should thus place an impediment in the way of those who wished to believe in Him, and also prevent the Romans from taking away their place and nation. If we let Him thus alone, all men will believe on Him, and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.

CHRYS. They say this to alarm the people; as if they were incurring the suspicion of setting up an usurper. If, say they, the Romans in crowds follow Him, they will suspect us of setting up a tyranny, and will destroy our state. But this was as wholly a fiction of their own.

For what was the fact? Did He take armed men about with Him, did He go with horsemen in His train? Did He not rather choose desert places to go to? However, that they might not be suspected of consulting only their own interests, they declare the whole state is in danger.

AUG. Or, they were afraid that, if all believed in Christ, none would remain to defend the city of God and the temple against the Romans: since they thought that Christ's teaching was directed against the temple, and their laws. They were afraid of losing temporal things, and thought not of eternal life; and thus they lost both. For the Romans, after our Lord had suffered and was glorified, did come and take away their place and nation, reducing the one by siege, and dispersing the other.

ORIGEN. Mystically: It was fit that the Gentiles should occupy the place of them of the circumcision; because by their fall salvation came to the Gentiles. The Romans represent the Gentiles, being the rulers of the Gentile world. Their nation again was taken away, because they who had been the people of God, were made not a people.

Some insights on the discernment of spirits:

ORIGEN. The character of Caiaphas is strewn by his being called the High Priest of that same year; the year, viz. in which our Savior suffered. Being the High Priest that same year, he said to them, You know nothing at all,

nor consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. i.e. You sit still, and give no attention. Attend to me. So insignificant life of one man may surely be made a sacrifice for the safety of the state.

THEOPHYL. He said this with a bad intention, yet the Holy Spirit used his mouth as the vehicle of a prophecy: And this spoke he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation.

ORIGEN. Not everyone that prophesies is a prophet; as not everyone that does a just action is just, he, for example, that does one for vainglory. Caiaphas prophesied without being a prophet, as did Balaam.

Perhaps some will deny that Caiaphas prophesied by the Holy Spirit, on the ground that evil spirits may bear witness to Christ, as the one in Luke, who says, I know You who You are, the Holy One of God; the intention of Caiaphas too being not to induce his hearers to believe on Him, but to excite them to kill Him. It is expedient for us. Is this part of his prophecy true or false? If it is true, then those who contended against Jesus in the council, since Jesus died for the people, and they participate in the advantage of His death, are saved.

This you say is absurd; and hence argue that the prophecy is false, and, if false, not dictated by the Holy Spirit, since the Holy Spirit does not lie on the other side it is argued, for the truth of the prophecy that these words only meant that He by the grace of God should taste death for all men; that He is the Savior of all men, specially of them that believe. And in the same way the former part of the speech, You know nothing at all, is made out to be an assertion of the truth. They knew nothing of Jesus, who did not know that He was truth, wisdom, justice, an peace.

And again, That one man should die for the people. It was as man that He died for the people: in so far as He is the image of the invisible God, He was incapable of death. And He died for the people, in that He took upon Himself, made away with, blotted out the sins of the whole world.

And this spoke he not of himself.

Hence we see, what men say sometimes proceeds from themselves, sometimes from the influence of some power upon them. In the latter case though they may not be taken quite out of themselves, and in a certain sense go along with their own words, yet they do not go along with the meaning of them. Thus Caiaphas says nothing of himself; and therefore does not interpret his own prophecy, because he does not understand it. Thus Paul too speaks of some teachers of the law, who understand neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm.

AUG. We learn hence that even bad men may foretell things to come by the spirit of prophecy, which power the Evangelist ascribes to a divine sacrament, he being Pontifex, i.e. High Priest.

CHRYS. See the great virtue of the Holy Spirit, in drawing forth a prophecy from a wicked man. And see too the virtue of the pontifical office, which made him, though an unworthy High Priest, unconsciously prophesy. Divine grace only used his mouth; it touched not his corrupt heart.

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