Daily Homily: It Is Better That One Man Should Die

Fifth Week of Lent: Saturday

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Ezekiel 37:21-28
Jeremiah 31:10, 11-12abcd, 13
John 11:45-56

The response of the Sanhedrin to the raising of Lazarus by Jesus is not one of faith, but of condemnation. They recognize that Jesus is performing extraordinary signs. Instead of pondering in prayer what this could mean – that Jesus is the Messiah, sent by God – they prefer to remain in their blindness (John 9:39-41) and look at things from a very human point of view. If we do nothing, they argue, «the Romans will come and take away both our land and our nation».

The theme of nationhood and land is a central theme in today’s first reading as well as yesterday’s first reading. Yesterday, we read how Abraham was promised both land and nationhood: «I will make nations of you, and kings shall come forth from you… I will give to you, and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession» (Genesis 17:6, 8). This promise is made through a covenant: «I will establish my covenant between me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you» (Genesis 17:7).

Ezekiel’s prophecy was made when it seemed like the promise made to Abraham had failed: The kingdom of David was divided, Israel had long been in exile, Jerusalem had fallen (Ezekiel 33:21), the temple was pillaged, the king of Judah, a descendant of David, was deposed. Ezekiel himself would die in exile in Babylon. Yet God is faithful to his promises. Through Ezekiel, he says that he will gather the scattered children of Israel from among the nations and bring them back to the land promised to Abraham. God will make them one nation: «Never again shall they be two nations, and never again shall they be divided into two kingdoms». There will be a New David, God’s servant, who will rule over them. God will make an everlasting covenant of peace with them. He will dwell with them: he will be their God and they shall be my people». This will be the true fulfillment of the promises made to Abraham: one kingdom, one nation, dwelling with God, united by an everlasting and unbreakable covenant.

Jesus is the fulfillment of these promises: he is the New David; the Servant of God; the one sent to the lost tribes of Israel; the one who proclaims the coming of the Kingdom of God; and the one who establishes the New Covenant. This New Covenant is established on the Cross. The high priest Caiaphas does not realize the depth of his prophetic words. He thinks that by condemning Jesus to death, he will eliminate the problem Jesus is causing among the people and preserve the land promised to Abraham from the Romans. Caiaphas says: «It is better for you that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish». John, however, knows that Jesus’ death will gather the dispersed children of God: «And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself» (John 12:32). John knows that Jesus’ death is key to the inauguration of the reign of God on earth. Jesus dies for us, removes the ancient curse of death, and bestows life on those who receive him in faith and love.

Readers may contact Father Jason Mitchell at mitchelljason2011@gmail.com.

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Jason Mitchell

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