Friends, in today’s Gospel, the Pharisees plot to kill Jesus because he raised Lazarus. We see here a particular form of opposition, namely, scapegoating. René Girard identified the scapegoating mechanism as basic to the maintenance of order in most human communities. When tensions arise among people due to competitive desire, scapegoats—usually outsiders—are automatically singled out, and upon them is cast the collective anxiety of the group.
The leaders of the nation are seeking to isolate and eliminate Jesus because they are anxious to soothe tensions among the people. The author of John’s Gospel stresses this dimension when he puts in the mouth of Caiaphas the words: “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.”
But, in Jesus, the true God will undermine this officially sanctioned scapegoating by becoming the scapegoat himself.