“All other swindlers upon earth are nothing to the self-swindlers, and with such pretenses did I cheat myself. Surely a curious thing. That I should innocently take a bad half-crown of somebody else's manufacture, is reasonable enough; but that I should knowingly reckon the spurious coin of my own make, as good money!” ― Charles Dickens, excerpt from the novel Great Expectations
Gospel Text: (JN 11:45-56)
Many of the Jews who had come to Mary
and seen what Jesus had done began to believe in him.
But some of them went to the Pharisees
and told them what Jesus had done.
So the chief priests and the Pharisees
convened the Sanhedrin and said,
"What are we going to do?
This man is performing many signs.
If we leave him alone, all will believe in him,
and the Romans will come
and take away both our land and our nation."
But one of them, Caiaphas,
who was high priest that year, said to them,
"You know nothing,
nor do you consider that it is better for you
that one man should die instead of the people,
so that the whole nation may not perish."
He did not say this on his own,
but since he was high priest for that year,
he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation,
and not only for the nation,
but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God.
So from that day on they planned to kill him.
So Jesus no longer walked about in public among the Jews,
but he left for the region near the desert,
to a town called Ephraim,
and there he remained with his disciples.
Now the Passover of the Jews was near,
and many went up from the country to Jerusalem
before Passover to purify themselves.
They looked for Jesus and said to one another
as they were in the temple area, "What do you think?
That he will not come to the feast?"
The film “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’ (1975) made a profound impact on me as a young man. Its story of an recidivist criminal (Randal) who whilst guilty of serious crimes, has feigned mental illness in order to find a way into an ‘easier’ life of detention in an asylum rather than a regular jail. Randal manages to become a force for change within the institution and brings many of the inmates to life with his energy and daring escapades. Of course in this he challenges the authority of the ‘system’ and is in conflict with some of the principal officials in the asylum whose power he is threatening. These people conspire against Randal and actively seek his downfall rather than choosing to take note of the new life that he has brought to others by his ‘unorthodox’ methods – yet the changes he has brought about are for good, something they can easily observe before their own eyes.
The basic the plot may well sounds familiar to us, in that it mirrors dynamics that we are all too familiar with in our mediations on the life and mission of Jesus.
One imagines that ‘good news’ – new life and freedom for people – would be widely accepted in any society and at any period of history. Of course we know that such acceptance depends on what one understands as ‘good news’ too.
In the case of Jesus it is not so much that the chief priests and the Pharisees have chosen to ignore the good he is doing, and that the people are confirming by their allegiance, but that they choose to interpret it according to their own biased viewpoint. Where the people see ‘good’ the chief priests and Pharisees choose to see ‘danger’ and ‘threat’ to the nation’s well being! One does not have to look far beneath the surface to see that when they say that the “Romans will come and take away both our land and our nation“, they are really fearing a loss of their own power!