This year I was invited to join a number of other Anglicans from across Canada to contribute to a daily Lenten reflection resource. You can find the whole resource, called Behold the Lamb: Lenten Reflections from Canadian Anglicans, here:

This is my reflection for April 6th, on John 11:45-end. 

“If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and destroy both our holy place and our nation.” 

I find this surprisingly…understandable. The pharisees and the chief priests are afraid of the quite real threat of violence and destruction the Romans pose. 

It is so refreshing to catch a glimpse of a different, more human, perspective of these ones. The chief priests and pharisees are so frequently cast in the role of Jesus’ opponent in the gospels, that they have too often been reduced to two-dimensional villains. This in turn has been fuel for the fire of the great sin of anti-Semitism in the Church and the world – something to guard against whenever we wonder our way through the stories of Jesus. 

While fear is a powerful motivator, something that we might understand and even relate to, what they did was still wrong. It is wrong to conspire to arrest and murder someone. And so, perhaps the opportunity we have this Lent, with this text, as we assess the brokenness in the world and those who contribute to it, is to soften our eyes and our hearts a little. Perhaps this can be an invitation to resist reducing those who do wrong to two-dimensional villains, to hold on to their humanity, to be curious, to remember their belovedness and their hope of redemption, while still holding them to account. 

I think that the invitation for soft eyes and hearts might just be for when we look at ourselves too. Because sometimes it is us who are like the religious leaders in this story, both as individuals and certainly as the institutional Church. We too have done what is wrong, silencing those who are different and challenging, sacrificing the innocent out of fear. While we are called to this important and uncomfortable self-reflection, to repentance, to atonement and newness of life; while we need to be held to account, we too are still beloved in our brokenness.