Advanced search Click here for the website of the current Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby

This is an archived website containing material relating to Dr Rowan Williams’ time as Archbishop of Canterbury, which ended on 31st December 2012

Skip Content

28 March 2015

Read today’s Gospel Reading: John 11.45-end

How much have I really understood of Jesus?

Caiaphas the high priest is very sure of his own view. He ridicules the other Pharisees and their concerns about Jesus’ increasing popularity. ‘You know nothing at all! You do not understand….’  

The Gospel writer makes much of the irony here - did Caiaphas really understand what he was saying?  His was a political judgment - a bloodletting was necessary - someone would have to die in order to set an example and prevent an uprising which would end up with thousands dead. And yet in hindsight, how prophetic these words proved to be! As High Priest that year he had unwittingly told the truth - Jesus would indeed become the one to die to save his people - from their sins.

Caiaphas spoke the truth without knowing it. He accuses the others of not understanding, but does he himself really understand? For me, this begs the question, how much do we understand of the purposes of God?

When we explore the truth of the Gospel, especially Jesus’ suffering, his death, and his resurrection, we are utterly dependent upon the Holy Spirit. As we approach Holy Week, and the story is told once more, it is the Holy Spirit who makes it real to us. We cannot know fully, what it was for Jesus to give his life for us – but knowing that he died for us we are led by the Holy Spirit into an awesome place of worship and thanksgiving, and into the certainty of his saving love. 

‘We may not know, we cannot tell,

what pains he had to bear,

But we believe it was for us,

he hung and suffered there.’


Today’s Gospel Reading: John 11.45-end

Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what he had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the council, and said, ‘What are we to do? This man is performing many signs. 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.’ But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, ‘You know nothing at all! You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.’ He 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. So from that day on they planned to put him to death.

Jesus therefore no longer walked about openly among the Jews, but went from there to a town called Ephraim in the region near the wilderness; and he remained there with the disciples.

Now the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves. They were looking for Jesus and were asking one another as they stood in the temple, ‘What do you think? Surely he will not come to the festival, will he?’ Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who knew where Jesus was should let them know, so that they might arrest him.