Ezekiel 37.21-28; Jeremiah 31; John 11.45-56
The priesthood of the Jerusalem Temple was limited to descendants of Zadok, the priest who, a thousand years before the time of Jesus, had famously “anointed Solomon king.” [I Kings 1.39] This family, known as the Sadducees (from Zadok), enjoyed power and prestige as well as real pecuniary advantage. They were the aristocracy of Jerusalem. When Israel was colonised by the Roman empire, the Sadducees were allowed to retain their Temple prerogatives, with the expectation from their colonial overlords that they would keep the common rabble under control.
So when the Sadducee Caiphas warned that “it is better for one man to die for the people than for the whole nation to be destroyed” he knew what he was talking about. Rome certainly knew how to deal with uprisings, and loose talk about the appearance of a Messiah would occasion certain reprisal—perhaps even the destruction of the Holy Place and our nation.
Only decades after Jesus’ crucifixion the Roman legions did just that. Today only one wall of the Temple that had been the glory of Jerusalem remains standing. The Temple priesthood was dispersed, its pretensions having no further purpose.
But Caiphas’s ironic prophecy did come true: by his death Christ Jesus gathered together in unity the scattered children of God. As the solemn events of Holy Week begin to unfold with tomorrow’s Solemn Entrance into Jerusalem, may we find ourselves gathered by him into his one flock, Himself its one Shepherd.