90 Days with Jesus, Day 57: John 11:45-57: Jesus is Condemned

John 11:45-57

45Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him. 46But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. “What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. 48If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” 49Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! 50You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” 51He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 52and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. 53So from that day on they plotted to take his life. 54Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the Jews. Instead he withdrew to a region near the desert, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples. 55When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, many went up from the country to Jerusalem for their ceremonial cleansing before the Passover. 56They kept looking for Jesus, and as they stood in the temple area they asked one another, “What do you think? Isn’t he coming to the Feast at all?” 57But the chief priests and Pharisees had given orders that if anyone found out where Jesus was, he should report it so that they might arrest him.

What is amazing about these few verses is this: They didn’t deny the sign. They were perfectly willing to allow that Jesus actually performed the sign—after all, it was witnessed by some folks. There was no doubt! In fact, it was the very acceptance of this sign that caused them such consternation. Our culture is exactly the opposite: People here reject Jesus precisely because they don’t believe He did such miraculous signs. It is strange how things work out, isn’t it?

Something about these signs upset the power-brokers. They didn’t like that someone else was garnering so much attention and taking it away from them. They were afraid that they would eventually be has-beens, also-rans, disenfranchised. Not only was Jesus performing signs, but if he kept it up, the Romans would take away their place and nation. Jesus: Always the threat to those who feel secure in their subjugation of others, and the power that goes along with it.

Caiaphas, the wise one, makes his point abundantly clear: The death of Jesus would be politically expedient. If they get rid of Jesus then they can get rid of the signs that point to who Jesus is. If they get rid of Jesus the Romans will not come and take away their place and their nation. If they get rid of Jesus their power would be safe. And yet, in an ironic twist of history, their killing of Jesus to prevent the Romans from taking away their place and nation did nothing of the sort. Around AD 70 the Romans sacked Jerusalem and destroyed the temple.

But it is that singular statement by Caiaphas that really stands out in this Gospel, almost like a watershed moment, a turning point in the narrative: From this point on, the cross is explicit. He said:

“You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”

One of their own said it. He pointed out to them that Jesus was going to die, and they make plans to see that it happens, but they were only doing what God had aleady determined should happen and would happen: Jesus would die.

It seems to me that at least a couple of things can be said here with respect to the statement of Caiaphas. First, it seems fairly apparent to me that Jesus would die instead of the Jewish nation and the ‘scattered children of God.’ Or perhaps ‘in place of.’ This means, in short, that there was something about those folks that warranted death, but Jesus would die instead. Jesus, in short, was going to take their place. The truth is, he took the place of all of us. Some folks say he died only for those he intended to save. Others say he died for the sins of the entire world—even those who ultimately reject him. Whatever the maximum extrapolation, the minimum is that Jesus died for the sins of many and the only way to be saved is by the Jesus who took the place of you.

I think there is another sense here too in which Jesus died ‘for’ the Jewish Nation and the scattered children of God. I think it also means ‘because of.’ In other words, if God desired to save (either a minimal elect or whosoever will come) then sin, the sin of those saved, had to be dealt with in its entirety. So it is fair to say, then, that Jesus came to die because of the sin of those he saved (whether a non-majority sovereignly elected or a non-majority ‘vote in your own election’ elect). In short, it was the sin of sinners that was the cause of the death of Christ. It was the sin of sinners that necessitated the cross.

Finally, there is this: Jesus’ death, the one prophesied by the Jewish High Priest Caiaphas, was more, in John’s eyes, than a matter of political expediency. John says that part of the result, at least, was to ‘make them one.’ This comports with what Paul wrote in the letter to Ephesus:

Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (that done in the body by the hands of men)— 12remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ.

For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, 16and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, 20built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. 4In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. 6This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:11-3:6, NIV).

His death, then, had nothing to do with ‘saving the nation’ and everything to do with ‘saving the nation.’ Whatever else we might say about the death of Jesus, we must not be so reductionistic as to say: His death was merely expedient. His death was also effective, the results of which will probably not be fully understood or appreciated this side of eternity. But His death accomplished the very thing it set out to do even if we don’t fully recognize or participate in the fullness of those accomplishments. Nevertheless, John here hints at or at least echoes, what Jesus said earlier:

“I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd” (John 10:16).

There is one final thought here: Humans plotted to take Jesus’ life, but evidently He knew of their plot because he went into a sort of low-profile mode. The point is, they were not going to take his life. Jesus would reveal himself ‘when the hour came’ (which we will see it did in chapter 12), and then, as He also said in John 10: The Good Shepherd [would] lay down his life for the sheep. They could plot all day long, but they were not going to crucify Jesus until the time had fully come. And Paul says in Romans 5 that ‘at just the right time, Christ died for the ungodly.’

So the death of Jesus was instead of, because of, effective, and utterly under Christ’s control. No one took his life from Him: He laid it down. It is sort of ironic, perhaps, that at the end of this chapter of John, this chapter where Jesus brought a dead man back to life, that the end result would be other people plotting to take Jesus’ life. Now think about it: If Jesus had the power to give back life to a dead man, a man who had been in the tomb for ‘four days,’ do you really think that any mere human would have power over Jesus’ life? No, if Jesus raised Lazarus, how much more then ‘was it impossible for him [Jesus] to remain in the grave’?

Soli Deo Gloria!

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  1. Carol Price

    Thanks a lot Jerry.Is this a new blog?

  2. Carol,

    Thanks for writing. No, I posted this on September 6.

    jerry




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