- Religion and Philosophy
John's Gospel-a new look:no 30 "One man dying for many"
The world that Jesus came into was complex and challenging. Rome was the super power in the area but the religious leaders in Jerusalem (Sanhedrin) controlled the hearts and minds of the people locally. Politics and religion were not always clearly separated in this interesting situation.
Rome needed the regional leaders and the religious leaders used Rome when it suited them. It is no surprise that when the chief priests and the Pharisees came to arrest Jesus two groups of armed men were in attendance. The Roman Soldiers carried swords and the temple guard batons. As it was night time some also carried torches. It must have been a frightening scenario as the small group of followers of Jesus saw the approaching mob.
Jesus knowing what was happening faced the soldiers without fear and as he came face to face with them John tells us that “they fell to the ground”, a strange situation indeed. He who was the supposed victim was in fact in total control.
Peter in an act of extreme courage or great stupidity tries to take on the soldiers with his lonely sword, fighting a battle that he did not fully understand, with a lonely weapon that could not win it. Matthew tells us that Jesus told Peter; ”put away your sword because those who live by the sword will die by the sword” (Mt.26:52) going on to gently remind him that the power was in God’s hands.
It is John however that that mentions the words of the high priest Caiaphas who stated that “it was better for one man to die for the people”. He unwittingly was stating a prophetic spiritual truth while seeing it from his very limited his human viewpoint. Jesus was not a threat to the Roman governors but was a threat to the spiritual leaders who failed to recognize the coming of the Messiah. They were perhaps too busy looking after their own interests to realize what an important this moment was in the history of the world.
Peter was trying to fight the battle with weapons that were totally unsuitable. The Apostle Paul is later to remind Christians in Ephesus that the battle in "not against flesh and blood but against the spiritual forces and powers". What is then needed is to put on the whole armor of God to win that battle. (Ephesians 6:10-18)
In this sad account of human confusion everybody was lost as to what was happening, except Jesus. Looking back John could see the truth and thankfully so can we.