“It is Better That One Man Should Die Instead of the People, so that the Whole Nation May Not Perish." (Lenten Scriptural Commentary #39)
by Erik Ritland
"There is bitter irony in Caiaphas’ statement. “It is better for you that one man should die instead of the people of God.” He meant this literally: he thought that, if Jesus survived, it’d be the end of Israel, the end of relative peace with Rome, the end of the traditions that it was his job to protect. To not understand where Caiaphas was coming from is to be incredibly short-sighted."
Fully Alive’s Lenten Scriptural Commentary helps Christians get more out of Lent by taking God’s word seriously.
Mostly avoiding personal stories and anecdotes, our commentary dives deeply into the scripture readings for each day and applies them to the broader context of Lent. We use the daily Mass readings from the Catholic lectionary.
If possible, read each passage slowly, taking in each word. If you find that you’ve hurried through a reading, read it over a few more times. Let the words reverberate in your heart. After you’ve let it sink in, read our Lenten Scriptural Commentary.
Saturday of the Fifth Week of Lent
The prophet Ezekiel describes what God’s Kingdom will look like, and Jesus’ fate begins to get sealed.
Readings: Ez 37:21-28/Jn 11:45-56
Click here to read the complete text from the USCCB website
No longer shall they defile themselves with their idols,
their abominations, and all their transgressions.
I will deliver them from all their sins of apostasy,
and cleanse them so that they may be my people
and I may be their God.
(cf. Ez 37: 21-28)
Ezekiel packs an incredible amount of descriptions of God’s Kingdom into one relatively short reading. The Kingdom will be united, will have a savior at its head, will live by God’s commands, and will have God dwell intimately with them.
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.
(cf. Jn 11: 45-56)
There is bitter irony in Caiaphas’ statement. “It is better for you that one man should die instead of the people of God.” He meant this literally: he thought that, if Jesus survived, it’d be the end of Israel, the end of relative peace with Rome, the end of the traditions that it was his job to protect. To not understand where Caiaphas was coming from is to be incredibly short-sighted.
Of course, what he said was true in a way that he never could have understood. Indeed, one man did die instead of the people of God. But it was the fulfillment of the Jewish story, not a subversion and perversion of it.
Erik Ritland is a writer and musician. The founder of Fully Alive Christian Media, he also created The Minnesota Sport Ramble and is a writer and copy editor for Music in Minnesota. He was Lead Staff Writer for Minnesota culture blogs Curious North and Hometown Hustle. Reach him via email.
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Erik Ritland received his MA in Theology in 2017. He's the founder and content manager of Fully Alive Christian Media and Rambling On, copy editor and writer for Music in Minnesota, and an acclaimed songwriter.