March 27, 2014
Dear brothers and sisters,
I am taking the good news today from John 11:45-54.
Now many of the Jews who had come to Mary and seen what he 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 the 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.
Self-interest versus self-sacrifice. That is the story of Jesus’ public ministry. That’s the story of humanity, the story of my life. Jesus made the ultimate self-sacrifice and tells us that there is no greater love than when a man lays down his life for another.
That’s a struggle for me every day it seems. I’ve been told that I make everything about me and I’ve been told that I instinctively subordinate my own needs to the needs of others. Both are true and both are false. The reality is somewhere in between as I suspect it is for most of us.
Here John has painted a picture of the evil that is perpetrated when I justify or rationalize my ravenous desire to sate my own self-interest while proclaiming that it is all for the greater good. It is an enticing lure that the devil dangles in front of me all the time. When I say the devil I mean that dark part of my human nature that wants only what I want without consideration of what God or anyone else may want or need of me. God knows the darkness within me and endeavors to shine a light into it so that I can see it for what it is. That’s what Jesus tried to get the Pharisees, the scribes, and the Jewish authorities to do, to see the self-interest that blinded them to God’s unconditional love for all His children with all of their flaws and sins and to acknowledge their self-serving righteousness. That’s why Jesus was so hard on them. They asked, “What are we going to do?” God’s response is the right thing, the selfless thing, the thing that serves Him by serving His people in love.
I often or maybe usually act to satisfy or further my self-interest. God doesn’t condone my selfish behavior, but I think He’s more when I’m dishonest about it. Times when I don’t question my own motivations. Times when I delude myself into rationalizing that it’s for a greater good or that it’s really not going to harm anyone else. Times when I indulge my own desires at the expense of someone else’s well being. Times when I am like Caiaphas, all too ready to sacrifice someone else on the altar of my selfishness. Those are times when Jesus groans in anguish that his mission has been in vain. But still he returns again and again, the light of the world, light for my soul. He persists in his mission to make me his disciple, to do my part to bring about the kingdom of God, to gather into one the dispersed children of God. What am I going to do? The right thing or the selfish thing?