Preached at Cornerstone Church in Cascade, IA on September 25, 2016
Open your Bibles to John 11:45-57. Today we will close out chapter 11 in dramatic fashion and begin our walk with Christ to the cross. At this point, I think it would be good to review what the Apostle John has told us about the ministry of this Jesus of Nazareth.
So far we have seen John the Baptist, the greatest and most influential prophet to have ever existed, proclaim that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. We have seen Jesus, himself, make extravagant claims about who He is; such as, declaring that he is the Temple of God, that He is the bread of life, that He is the light of the world, that He is the door of salvation, that He is the good Shepherd, that He is the resurrection and the life. We have seen him back up these claims by turning water into wine, feeding the 5,000, walking on water, healing the lame and giving sight to the blind. And then last week we saw one of the most amazing miracles, the raising of Lazarus from the dead.
As we have said before, these were not the only miracles that Jesus performed. In John 21:25 Johns says, “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” All of this evidence has been accumulated over the last three years of Jesus’ life and today we come to an ordained tipping point. So with that, let us read our text, pray and see what God has to say to us this morning.
John 11:45-57 – “Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, 46but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 48If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” 49But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. 50Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” 51He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. 53So from that day on they made plans to put him to death. 54Jesus therefore no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there to the region near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim, and there he stayed with the disciples. 55Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves. 56They were looking for Jesus and saying to one another as they stood in the temple, “What do you think? That he will not come to the feast at all?” 57Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where he was, he should let them know, so that they might arrest him.”
The Council of Man
As we have seen time and time again; when Jesus preaches and then follows up his teaching with a sign that proves that He is who he claims to be, some people believe and some people don’t believe. Both set of people hear the same message and see the same evidence. Over the last month we have been unpacking the question, “Why?” And we saw that Jesus Christ gives the answer in John 10. Only His sheep hear His voice and follow him. If you are his sheep, you will believe. If you are not His sheep, you will not believe. And in our story today we see the same thing.
A group of people have just seen the most amazing miracle that has ever been performed on the planet, the raising of a dead person. As a result of this miraculous event many Jews believed that Jesus really is who he claims to be.
I want us to spend a second and emphasize how logical this is for them to believe in Jesus. Jesus has claimed that in him there is life, that he came to give life, that he is the resurrection and the life. And when Jesus speaks these extravagant claims he does so with such convincing authority, some people actually believe Him based on words alone. However, others do not believe based just on what Jesus says. So what does Jesus do, he backs up his claims with evidence. He proves to them that what he says is true. In the case of Lazarus, he commanded a four day old dead man to live, and the dead man obeyed. Jesus claimed to have the ability to give life and he provides the evidence of that with Lazarus’ death.
The people in this story who believe in Jesus were the most reasonable, logical, rational, enlightened, scientific, and common-sense driven of the two groups. The evidence that Jesus provided was in one word…overwhelming. But some people still didn’t believe. Why? As it says in 2 Corinthians 4:4, “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” The question is never about the volume of evidence, it is always about new birth, regeneration, the Spirit of Christ opening up their eyes to see His glory. This was true then and this is true today.
For those who did not believe, what did they do? Instead of running to Jesus, they ran to who? The Pharisees. Verse 46, “but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.” Can you imagine that moment? Numerous eyes witnesses coming straight from Bethany to the Pharisees in Jerusalem saying, “He just raised a dead man.” “Who?” “Jesus of Nazareth.” “What do you mean he raised a dead man?” “Lazarus…Jesus showed up on the 4th day of his funeral and commanded the rock to be rolled away, he prayed to God, and then he called Lazarus out of the tomb, and he came out. Burial cloth and all.”
You can almost see the wheels turning in the minds of the Pharisees. And can almost guess what they would have asked next. “How many people saw it? What was their reaction? Where is Jesus now? Is He on his way here?”
After receiving this eye witness account of Lazarus’ resurrection they decided to call an emergency meeting. Verse 47, “So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council.” Who is this council? It is the council of the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin was the ruling body of the Jewish nation. Think of congress. They were the ones in charge. They were the top dogs, if you will. The top of the top was the chief priest, or high priest. Think of Speaker of the House or Prime Minister. These were generally not Pharisee, but Sadducees. Sadducees were the liberal Jewish sect who were more politically motivated than Biblically motivated.
During that time, there were actually two high priests. You can see that in our text with the plural form of priests. Today in Sunday School we saw a text that spoke directly about this. Luke 3:2 mentions two high priests, Annas and Caiaphas. No one knows exactly why there was two, except to say that Annas was a previous high priest and Caiaphas was his son-in-law and perhaps due to Annas' popularity he was considered to be the one with the real power.
The main concern of the Sanhedrin is found in verse 48, “If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” It is interesting that those who rejected Christ, could not deny his miracles. His miracles were public facts that could not be disputed. However, this does not mean they believe in Jesus. Their hearts were not right, and you can see this in the second half of the verse. What was their concern? Thier concern was Rome taking away their place and their nation. Remember, these were the top dogs. These are the people who had power, control, money. They were the top of the Jewish food chain. And Jesus was a threat to retaining that control.
It is interesting that nothing has changed in the world. It is extremely common that the persecution of Christians throughout history has come at the hands of the government. Why? Because the government is worried about losing control, losing power, losing followers. Government has frequently seen Christianity as a threat and it will until Christ returns. The old Soviet Union, China, North Korea, India. If Christianity takes hold in India, the current ruling party, the BJP which is a right wing Hindui nationalist party will lose their power. Christians are a threat to this power, therefore what does the BJP do? The prohibit groups like compassion international from serving in the nation. They close down Christian orphanages. They turn their head when radical Hindus kill Christians and burn down their houses and churches. Why? The same reason, they believe that if people believe in Jesus the BJP will lose their nation.
However, it is not just governments. Jesus is a threat to us all. To be a Christian means to give up all power and all control to Jesus Christ. He becomes your Lord. He becomes your Master. He becomes your King. This means you lay everything down at his feet. You are no longer your own. You lay down your money. You lay down your family. You lay down your American dream. You lay down your professional goals. You even lay down your life. For many people they are just like the rich young ruler in Matthew 19. Jesus tells us to lay everything down and follow him, but we walk away sad because we won't give up the power and control of our lives. We will not take the crown off of our heads and let Christ be King.
In our text today, what is their solution? Verse 49, “But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. 50Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” The High Priests answer to the Jesus problem was to remove him from the equation, to kill him. With this statement the High Priest is proving something that Jesus stated back in John 8:44, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning.” This is where their sin led them, to the killing the Author of Life. The depravity of of this statement is almost unfathomable. The High Priest was made by Jesus. Remember John 1:3, “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” Now the creature wanted to kill the Creator. The clay wants to destroy the Potter. It is insanity, but this is what sin does. It causes you to make illogical decisions.
And to an extent and in a sense, this is exactly what we do when we reject the Lordship of Jesus in our lives. When we come to a sermon that stings a little bit, or participate in a Bible study that makes us feel uncomfortable, or read something in the Bible that makes us squirm; instead of submitting, we effectively remove Jesus from the equation. We stop going to that Church, stop attending small groups, we stop reading our Bible. It is sad to say, but many people, perhaps even in this room, share more in common with the High Priest that the 12 disciples.
And with the words of the High Priest, Jesus fate was sealed. His time had come. As I said previously, the resurrection of Lazarus was the resurrection that led to the crucifixion.
The Plan of God
Fortunately, there is more, and it is good. Verse 51, “He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.”
The statement of Caiaphas to kill Christ came from his heart, came from his head, came out of his lips. He really said it. And he will really be held accountable for saying it, but he did not say it on his own accord. The ultimate cause of him ordering the death of Jesus and explaining the rational behind it was God. This statement was prophecy. Specifically the Word of God that reveals future events.
Why is this important? It is important because we must understand that what is going on in this moment is not something outside of God's sovereign will. The plan to kill Jesus did not originate in the midst of the council of the Sanhedrin. The plan to kill Jesus originated in the council of the Trinity before time had began. We must see the hand of God in every moment of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, from beginning to end. This is the way the early Church saw it. In Acts 4:27 this was Peter's prayer to God, “for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” The death of Jesus was not accidental it was providential.
The Substitutionary Atonement
Which leads us to the must crucial question of this morning and everyone morning, how does this plan work. How in the world would the death of Jesus, the Messiah, the Son of God be beneficial to anyone? Look at our text again, verse 51, “ he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.”
What Caiaphas meant with this statement was the it was better for Jesus to die than for Rome to come and destroy them. Jesus death would keep Rome from killing them. Jesus was a scape goat to avoid the wrath of Rome. However, what God meant had nothing to do with the wrath of Rome, and everything to do with the wrath of God.
What is being proclaimed by Caiaphas is the amazing reality of what is called substitutionary atonement. It is the good news that Jesus came to die in our place. He is a substiute for me. He is a substitute for you. He is a substitute for everyone who repents and puts their faith in Him, the children of God who are scattered abroad. This is the heart of Christianity. This is the core of the Gospel, substitutionary atonement.
You and I, and all of the human race deserve the wrath of God. He is a God who has given us everything. The heavens, the earth, these bodies, this moment. The only reason you exist is because it is God's will, not yours. He is infinitely good and Holy and loving, and we have spit in his face by rejecting his authority in our lives and justice demands our punishment. We have committed the highest of treason and our penalty must match the crime. And it will.
The wages of our sin is death, and this death is not just the end of your heart beating. It includes the what the Bible calls the second death. The second death is more commonly known as Hell, the lake of fire. And this eternal abode is exactly what we deserve because of the atrocities of our sins against the Supreme Lord.
However, because God is love, he gave us his Son; not to primarily be a good example, or a good teacher, but primarily to be a substitute. Jesus came to stand in your place and bear the full wrath of God. He is the sacrificial Lamb of God who will bleed out on a cross so that you don't burn in Hell for all eternity. 1 Peter 3:18 says, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God.” This is the entire point of why Jesus came. To die in our place. Caiaphas had no clue how true his statement was. Jesus came to die for the nations, and everything was playing out according to plan.
The bottom line is that we are sinners, each of us have a choice, we can choose to bear the wrath of God ourselves, or we can allow Christ to bear them for us. The penalty has to be paid by someone. Justice requires it. I can't sum it up better than John did in John 3:36, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. ” My prayer for everyone in this room is that you would feel the weight of this reality and put your faith in the death of Christ, and recognize Him as your substitute, so that you can avoid the wrath of God and live forever.