“What do we?”

“What do we?”

Raising of Lazarus.

(The Gospel History, Section 83)

The chief priests therefore and the Pharisees gathered a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many signs. If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation. But a certain one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, nor do ye take account that it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. Now this he said not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation; and not for the nation only, but that he might also gather together into one the children of God that are scattered abroad. So from that day forth they took counsel that they might put him to death.

“What do we?”

(The Saviour of the World, Vol VI Book I Poem II)

“What Do We? For This Man Doeth Many Miracles.” Rembrandt.

Now, Panic, imp let loose from hell to scare
Sound judgment, reason, duty, from the breasts
Of men who careless let the mischief in
And pass it to their neighbours, keeping, still,
The fear they give away,—wild Panic seized
These sober men, the Pharisees and priests.
Here, sooth, a sign done before all men’s eyes,—
Th’ raising of Lazarus, man of good repute:
In temple courts and streets, men stood in groups;
Distraught and whisp’ring, they discussed the news:
Here was a crisis which some action asked,
Immediate, before the Council sate
In ordered state to judge by Israel’s laws;
So hasty summons called the Seventy,
Who met disordered in their stately hall
As though invaders sat before their gates.

Spake one, “What do we, then? Why sit we still
And let this Man as thief come in the night
Make spoil of Israel’s heart? Idle we watch,
Dally in philosophic mood supine,
Think to confound Him with neat syllogisms,—
He turns Him round and with one measured word,
O’erthrows us where we’re strongest.”

A Second. Thou hast said;
As imbeciles we dally with our fate!
Whilst we discuss, with laboured argument
Would disprove this and that He spake, one word
From Him, and, lo, our truth’s a lie; divest
Of faith and hope, we naked stand. If we,
The Jews, set to maintain the Law, fence round
High ordinance, keep worship pure for men,
If we betray our trust at this Man’s word,
Cease to believe our Calling, in the Law,
Tradition of the elders, nay, God’s choice
Of Israel for His own,—what, then, of them,
The common people, easily gulled?

A Third. They’ll go;
Public opinion surges under us,
We stagger where we stand: no common risk
We run if we allow this Man to live;
’Tis we or He! in Judah is no room
For two so opposed as are we Scribes and He.
But let Him be, and, ere the fifth moon wax,
All men shall do His bidding; what of us?

A Fourth. Ye count without the Romans, what think they?
As ’tis, we’re let be for we have no Head;
No voice amongst us sways the people’s heart
To turn it hither, thither; inchoate,
As shifting dust in wind, they hold our race,—
No nation, but a horde, men hardly held
By any common bond—what hurt work we
Against the Empire, knit by law and zeal?
But leave the people free to make Him King,
And Rome gets up—a sleeping lion roused
And tears us in her wrath!

Then stood up one,
High priest for that same year, with eye entranced,
And that afflatus which Elijah, once,
And all the prophets felt who spake God’s word:—

Caiaphas. Nothing ye know, nor, in your cautious schemes,
Take count of how, it is expedient
Aye, in the eyes of God, that one should die
For the people that the nation perish not!
What means the law of sacrifice to you—
Is’t not that one should die that all be saved?
‘A lamb,’ ye say, ‘but what of that?’ Ye fools,
Poor ignorant! the lamb is but the sign,
Symbol of truth, that God would have one die,
A man, to save his nation! Out on you,
Cowards and slow of heart!

Aye, one should die,—
But not for th’ Jews alone that Sacrifice
Consummate; but for tardy hearts, blind souls
That vaguely stretch to touch the Infinite;
For all men know, though taught of none, a God,
Quite other than their augurs, medicine men
Portray—God, to delight men’s souls, fulfil,
Save, govern, to Himself draw heavy hearts;
Yea, all men should the Sacrifice redeem
And gather into one: while Caiaphas
Imagined ’twas his shift to save the Jews,
Nor knew, the purposes of God, how deep!
So from that hour the Jews laid wait for Him.

St. John xi. 47-53.