The officers then went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who said to them, “Why did you not bring Him?” The officers answered, “No man ever spoke like this man!” The Pharisees answered them, “Are you led astray, you also?”
The officers in today’s gospel belong to the vast unsung chorus of Street-Smart Second Fiddles, Sancho Panzas, Wry Lackeys of Evil Geniuses, and other second bananas from world literature. One can almost see them, muttering about their masters’ folly as they gamely follow their stupid orders. In this little vignette we see once again the comic (and tragic) effects of sheer human pride on the supposedly brainy elite that was bound and determined to kill Jesus. The officers — plain soldiers and not theological Einsteins — know what they know: this man Jesus speaks like no one ever spoke. Any fool can see He’s not a bad man. The Pharisees, in contrast, know what they don’t know: this man Jesus has to be leading people astray! After all, he criticized us and no amount of common sense from reliable people can contradict that all-important fact. And so, the Pharisees, in a monumental display of cleverness and cluelessness, conclude that if Jesus is winning over even the officers, why then He must be even more demonically clever than they ever dreamed. It would all be farce if it weren’t tragic. And it would all be old tragedy if it didn’t still happen to us today. This Lent, pray for the gift of vision and humility from the Holy Spirit so that you don’t make the Pharisee’s mistake of blind pride.