Near the end of our pilgrimage to the Holy Land, we journeyed to the traditional location of Caiaphas’ house, now known as the Church of Saint Peter in Gallicantu. In the basement of the church, there’s a first century prison cell hewn out of an ancient mikvah. Today, the cave is well lit with easy access via stairs cut into the ancient stone. If you look up, you can see a narrow opening in the top. According to church tradition, Jesus was lowered through the hole in the stone ceiling down into this sacred pit. It was here that Jesus spent his final night on earth – alone in a dark, dirty cell being punished by the religious authorities of his day.
In today’s Gospel, we read that Caiaphas decided that Jesus had to die after, “some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what he had done.” What was the crime that warranted Jesus’ execution at the hands of the religious authorities? What had he done to warrant death? He showed compassion in Bethany. He wept at the sorrow of his friends Mary and Martha. He wept at the loss of his friend Lazarus. It moved him so much that he raised Lazarus from the dead. Foreshadowing his own death, burial, and resurrection, Christ shows his compassion – crossing the line in the mind of Caiaphas.
The Gospel reading concludes, “[Caiaphas] did not say this on his own, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus was about to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but to gather into one the dispersed children of God.” As we approach the end of Lent and the beginning of Holy Week, let us remember to show compassion to the Christians currently living behind a wall in Bethany, separated from their family and friends in Jerusalem, as well as those who are suffering and oppressed in Palestine and around the world – so that the dispersed children of God may be gathered together.
Appointed readings for today: Ezekiel 37:21-28, Psalm 85: 1-7, John 11:45-53