Therefore, many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.” Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “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.” He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. So, from that day on they plotted to take his life. Therefore, Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the people of Judea. Instead, he withdrew to a region near the wilderness, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples. When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, many went up from the country to Jerusalem for their ceremonial cleansing before the Passover. They kept looking for Jesus, and as they stood in the temple courts they asked one another, “What do you think? Isn’t he coming to the festival at all?” But the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who found out where Jesus was should report it so that they might arrest him. John 11:45-57
Observation: What are the passage’s basic facts, such as the meaning of the words? While many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary and Martha believed in Jesus after they witnessed the resurrection of Lazarus, some of them went to the Pharisees to tell them what Jesus did. This had been a common occurrence whenever Jesus spoke or did anything miraculous in public. We are not sure about the motive behind the Jews telling the Pharisees about the miracle of raising Lazarus from the dead. After all, this was the third time Jesus raised a person from the dead. The only thing unique about this resurrection was that it occurred on the fourth day after the dead person had been buried. Maybe they wanted to get Jesus in trouble with the religious authorities. We are not quite sure. What we do know is that the Pharisees got together with the Chief priest and called a meeting of the Sanhedrin to discuss this latest miracle.
The religious leaders in the Sanhedrin were more concerned about the political implications of Jesus’ miracle than the religious message about the manifestation of God’s power through Jesus Christ. They wanted to stop the popularity of Jesus because they did not want more and more people to believe in Him. Thus, in verse 48, they said, “If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.” Because Jesus was attracting more and more followers, the religious leaders feared that the Romans would regard Him as a significant threat. This would jeopardize their political standing and threaten their power and prestige.
In verse 49, Caiaphas the high priest tried to ease the concerns of his Sanhedrin colleagues by giving an unconscious and involuntary prophecy that “it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish” (v. 50). In saying this, Caiaphas was urging the religious leaders to put Jesus to death to prevent the Romans from coming to take away their temple and nation. Caiaphas was willing to seek the death of an innocent man to protect the religious status quo.
Interpretation: What did the author mean in his historical setting? Caiaphas comments in verse 49 (“You know nothing at all), confirms what the historian Josephus said about the Sadducees, “they were notoriously discourteous (The Wars of the Jews 2: 8, 14). Their behavior to one another was rather rude, and their intercourse with their equals was rough, as with strangers. Whereas the Pharisees were primarily interested in protecting the integrity of the Mosaic and living according to every detail of the Law, the Sadducees, were more concerned about retaining their political and social power and religious prestige. “All the priests were Sadducees. And it is clear that it was the priests who dominated this meeting of the Sanhedrin. That is to say, it was the Sadducees who did all the talking.”
In verse 51, John makes it clear that Caiaphas’ prophecy did not come from him. John gives credit for the prophecy to the office of High Priest instead of Caiaphas. Despite Caiaphas selfish and evil intent, his prophecy was in line with God’s redemption plan for humanity. Indeed, it was better for Jesus to die so that the nation of Israel and the world would be saved. Indeed, the death of Jesus would be the reunifying force that bring together God’s scattered throughout the world to make them one nation under God and one Church.
Evaluation: What does this passage mean in today’s culture? In verse 53, the Sanhedrin put together a plot to kill Jesus. This would explain why refrained from moving about publicly among the people in Judea. Instead, He withdrew to a village called Ephraim, near the wilderness, where He stayed with His disciples.
This does not mean Jesus was scared. Jesus knew He would have to lay down His life for the redemption of humanity, but not so foolishly reckless as to throw it away before His work was done and His ministry was fully completed. This demonstrates prudence and wisdom from Jesus and a focused determination to fulfill His God-given mission on earth according to God’s timeline. Jesus was not going to let the religious leaders determine the timing and nature of His death. For, it was already prophesied the way the Messiah would die.
In verse 55, John lets us know that as many Jews throughout the country went to Jerusalem to do the ceremonial cleansing in preparation for the Passover, the religious leaders went to the temple courts to arrest Jesus. Yet they failed to realize they could not stop Jesus no matter what they did. The chief priest and the Pharisees were particularly intent on finding Jesus as they gave orders that anyone who found where Jesus was to report it so they might arrest Him. This demonstrates a level of desperation on their part to execute their evil plot to kill the Messiah and stop the Jesus movement from spreading any further.
Application: How can I apply what I learned to how I live my life? Having faith in Jesus and being called to do the great commission work does not mean putting ourselves in physical danger. As Jesus wisely retreated to Ephraim to avoid persecution and arrest from the religious leaders, believers have to know when to retreat and when to be visible in doing God’s kingdom work.
Believers do not have anything to prove to the world. Our mission is to share the gospel of truth for the salvation of the unsaved. These days, this can be done electronically through social media, zoom, or streaming. Therefore, it is not required for any believers to put their life in jeopardy. We have to know when to shake the dust off our feet and remove ourselves from any space (city, state, community), where our ministry will not be well received. God is not calling us to be superheroes. He wants us to make disciples.
Prayer- Heavenly Father, I thank you for teaching the wisdom of knowing when to retreat because of the threat of physical harm as I try to do your great commission work. May do who are doing your work in countries where the Christian faith is considered illegal be protected against all forms of persecution.