2nd Wednesday of Lent
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ, has this ever happened to you? This morning Marjorie was here at church doing some secretarial work and we were talking about two file sharing computer programs and I said, “Well, they’re the same but different.” And she caught what I said and told me I needed to leave off the last part of that sentence. “They’re the same but different.” Have you ever said something like that? I didn’t mean to contradict myself, I just failed to see the irony of my statement. This year in our midweek services we’re looking at irony – where situations are different from what you would expect. Tonight our focus is on unintentional irony. Sometimes we do or say things that are ironic without even realizing it.
Tonight we’re looking at Caiaphas. He was the High Priest at the time of Jesus’ ministry and he makes one of the clearest statements of the gospel and he never realized it. This happened a few weeks before Jesus’ last trip to Jerusalem. Jesus had just done an astounding miracle. His friend Lazarus had died and was in the tomb for four days. Jesus went to the tomb and said, “Lazarus, come out!” And this man –dead for four days- came out of the tomb alive as ever. A clear demonstration of Jesus’ power. Some people went and told the Pharisees about what Jesus had just done. Now, you’d think they’d be moved by this news about Lazarus being raised from the dead by Jesus, but instead they held an emergency meeting of all the Jewish rulers and said, “What are we accomplishing? Here is this man performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away our temple and our nation.”
They knew Jesus was doing miracles, they couldn’t deny it, they couldn’t deny that Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead – it happened in Bethany, less than 2 miles from Jerusalem. They even knew why Jesus had done this miracle – to create faith in Him as the Savior. “Everyone is going to believe in him!” What a tragedy! You see, they were afraid. Why were they afraid? They were proud of their nation, proud to be Jews, proud to be the leaders of the Jews. But here comes Jesus – and He thinks He’s the Messiah – But He’s just an ordinary man! He isn’t going to be able to lead a rebellion and fight the Romans and win our independence. (They had a total misunderstanding of who the Messiah would be – a political leader). Instead, the Romans are going to come in, destroy our temple and destroy our nation, but worst of all, we’re going to lose our positions of leadership and influence over the people! What a tragedy! Jesus was a threat to their authority – they sensed that. Jesus kept showing them that their ideas about God were wrong, that their hearts were hard, that their religion of good works to earn God’s favor was false.
But Caiaphas has the solution: It is better that one die for the people than the whole nation perish. That ended it. From that time on they plotted to kill Jesus. That makes sense, right? If someone doesn’t agree with us, we plot to kill them. Really? Where’s the trust in God? If Jesus was really teaching false things, shouldn’t they entrust themselves to God and oppose him with the truth? But they decide he has to die. And why did they come to that conclusion? It’s not politics, it’s hate. They hated Jesus, they also plotted to kill Lazarus as well. So, in the face of one of Jesus’ greatest miracles –raising the dead- his enemies want to kill him. That’s both ironic and sad, isn’t it?
Pride. We’re each infected with it. We each have to battle against it. You see, faith says, “I’m a total failure, I’m completely lost on my own, I need God for everything.” But pride says, ‘I’m good, I can do it myself, I don’t need God. Look at how dedicated I am, look at how much I do for God.” And how can you tell if pride is infecting your life? You see, pride leads to fear. Are you afraid? Do you worry? Pride makes me think that I’m in control, that every depends on me, does it? Are we really in control? Pride leads to fear because relying on myself is too big a burden to bear. I’m not in control only God is in control. Pride also leads to hate. It leads to an attitude of, “I’m better than others.” “I can’t stand that person.” In hate we lash out at someone in anger or at the very least stick pins in them in our minds. But the reality is, we’re all sinners, so we’re no better than the person we despise the most. Think about the person you despise the most, you’re no better than that person. God says, “Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer.” Pride leads to fear and it leads to hate.
But there’s an even greater irony here. “He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation.” From the mouth of this prideful person, this enemy of God, this unbeliever God preaches a sermon. You see, Caiaphas didn’t know it, but his whole office as High Priest was meant to picture Jesus. In the OT the high priests would inquire of the Lord and God would reveal his will to them- Jesus came to reveal God’s will to us, the high priest was to make intercession before God – Jesus came to intercede with God the Father for us, and the high priest was to offer sacrifices in order to show that the Savior would sacrifice himself to pay for our sins.
Caiaphas said that Jesus had to die. He didn’t know it but what he really said was that it was better in God’s sight that one man die so that the whole human race would not perish. Our sinful pride infects us and infects our lives, it makes our lives miserable, but the worst effect of our pride is that it condemns us to hell. But God didn’t want that to happen. So, He sent His own Son, who became the ultimate high priest, shed His blood, offered His own blood to pay for our pride. By his death he made us friends with God again. God’s blood is worth more than the whole universe and He paid it for the sins of all – yours and mine included.
This is the end of pride. On our own we’re worthless and have nothing. But in Jesus we have everything. There’s no reason to worry or fear, because in Jesus we have an incredibly loving God who is in control. And there’s no reason to hate others, instead to see every person, each person as someone who desperately needs the grace and love of Jesus, just like us. The true irony in all these accounts is really God’s unending, unconditional, undeniable love. A love that he declared even through an unbeliever like Caiaphas. Amen.