The Gospel of John – Lesson 31 – John 11:45-57
45 Therefore many of the Jews who came to Mary and saw what Jesus did believed in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. They asked, “What are we going to do, because this man is doing many miraculous signs? 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him. Then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” 49 But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. 50 You do not even consider that it is better for us that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” 51 He did not say this on his own, but, as high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, 52 and not only for that nation, but also in order to gather into one the scattered children of God. 53 So from that day on they plotted to kill him. 54 Therefore Jesus no longer walked about openly among the Jews. Instead he withdrew into a region near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim. And he stayed there with his disciples. 55 The Jewish Passover was near, and many went up to Jerusalem from the country to purify themselves before the Passover. 56 They kept looking for Jesus and asking one another as they stood in the temple area, “What do you think? He certainly won’t come to the Festival, will he?” 57 The chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where Jesus was, he should report it so that they could arrest Jesus.
As the high priest of Judea, Caiaphas should have been Jesus’ most loyal follower. The office of high priest was instituted by God at the time of Moses, to be a mediator between God and his people. But by this time in history, the office of high priest was little more than a political office. The Roman governors in Judea frequently removed high priests from office if they weren’t submissive enough to Rome. The Romans had removed Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas from the position of high priest and gave it to his son-in-law.
Caiaphas was an enemy of Jesus. He presided over Jesus’ trial before the Sanhedrin. He even declared that Jesus had spoken blasphemy when he proclaimed himself to be the Son of God. Caiaphas showed his opposition to Jesus in our Scripture reading as well. The Sanhedrin met to consider what to do about Jesus. He had just raised Lazarus from the dead. Word of this and the many other miracles Jesus did were spreading everywhere. More people were putting their faith in Jesus. The Sanhedrin feared that the Romans would hear about the excitement Jesus was causing. If the Sanhedrin couldn’t keep the people under control, the Romans would do so themselves. They would likely remove the chief priests and Pharisees from their position of authority. They would probably also execute many people in the process.
Caiaphas immediately took charge of the situation. His focus was purely political. He wasn’t going to allow this son of a carpenter from Nazareth to put their positions of power in jeopardy. He proclaimed that Jesus needed to die. His reasoning was that it was better for this one man to die than that a whole nation should perish at the hands of the Romans. The decision was made. The Sanhedrin began looking for an opportunity to put Jesus to death.
But God showed his total control over the situation. God used the words of the high priest for prophetic purposes. Jesus was going to die. The Son of God was going to give his life so that we would be spared from the judgment that our sins would have otherwise brought on us. Romans 6:23 said “For the wages of sin is death, but the undeserved gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Because we are sinners we earned death. Our physical death in this life would have been followed by eternal death in hell. But Jesus placed himself under God’s judgment in our place. He endured the pains of hell on the cross that ended with the sacrifice of his own life. Because the Son of God perished on the cross and rose again from the grave, we and all who trust in him as our Savior will not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
God displayed his total control of the situation in another way. Jesus needed to die. But his death would not take place until the time God had chosen. Jesus still had work to do. He withdrew to a remote region where he would continue to proclaim God’s Word despite his enemies’ best efforts to destroy him. But Jesus didn’t stay in this area for long. We’ll see in our studies of the next chapter of John, how Jesus entered Jerusalem to fulfill the prophecy God made through the unbelieving Caiaphas.
God has many enemies in the world, who openly speak against the message of salvation he brings us in the Holy Scriptures. But as we see with the example of Caiaphas that God cause even his enemies to achieve his purpose. Caiaphas’ prophecy was soon followed by Jesus arrest and death. But all this happened so that we would not die in our sins, but rather that we would receive the gifts of forgiveness of our sins and eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ.
1 – What were the results of Jesus’ miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead?
Many of the Jews who witnessed the miracle believed in Jesus. However when word of this miracle reached the Sanhedrin they became alarmed. They called a meeting where it was decided that Jesus must be put to death. No matter what Jesus taught or what miracles he did they continued to harden their hearts against him.
2 – What did Caiaphas the high priest mean when he said it was better for one man to die for the people than for the whole nation to perish?
Caiaphas was focused on worldly matters. He felt it was better for Jesus to be killed rather than for the entire nation to face possible destruction at the hands of the Roman Empire. What he didn’t realize was that God used him to prophesy about the work Jesus was going to do. Jesus was soon going to give his life to take away our sins. Because of this we won’t have to suffer eternal torment in hell.
3 – What are some other ways God uses his enemies to achieve his purpose?
God sometimes uses pagan nations to provide protection for his people. (Example: Egypt during the time of Jacob) God has also used his enemies to carry out his judgment when his people rebel against him. (Example: Babylon took Israel into captivity after they refused to repent of their sins) God also uses even pagan governments to provide peace and order in society. (Example: The Roman Empire in the time of the apostles)
4 – What was on the minds of many of the Jews as the Feast of the Passover approached?
They wondered if Jesus would come to Jerusalem for the Passover. Many of them doubted that he would come since the Sanhedrin had decided it was necessary for Jesus to die. Jesus did stay away from Jerusalem for a short time. But he knew the time was approaching quickly when he needed to go to Jerusalem to complete the work of our salvation. No death threat could keep Jesus from doing what he was sent to do.
If you have any questions about the Word of God we studied in this lesson please contact Pastor Greg Tobison. You can send your questions to