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Gene’s Daily Scriptural Postings

The Ironic Twist: John 11:45-57

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Year in John – Episode 27: In an ironic twist, God uses Jesus’ most high-profile opponent to give one of the most powerful and direct prophecies about the mission Jesus came to accomplish in this world, and just in case we might miss it, John takes two extra verses to draw our attention onto it.

Read the transcript:

Over our last two episodes, we looked closely at Jesus’ miracle raising Lazarus from the dead. In many ways, this was an unprecedented miracle, because Lazarus had been dead and buried longer than any resurrection miracle prior to this. And this miracle serves as a powerful foundation for us to place our faith on that when we have chosen Jesus, He will be able to raise us from the grave just like He raised Lazarus.

Because this miracle was so powerful and amazing, we come to our passage for this episode, which focuses on what happened because Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. In this passage, we see not only the response of the people present and those they told, but also of the religious leaders who already disliked Jesus.

Our passage is found in John’s gospel, chapter 11, and we will read it using the Good News Translation. Starting in verse 45, John tells us:

45 Many of the people who had come to visit Mary saw what Jesus did, and they believed in him. 46 But some of them returned to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 So the Pharisees and the chief priests met with the Council and said, “What shall we do? Look at all the miracles this man is performing! 48 If we let him go on in this way, everyone will believe in him, and the Roman authorities will take action and destroy our Temple and our nation!”

49 One of them, named Caiaphas, who was High Priest that year, said, “What fools you are! 50 Don’t you realize that it is better for you to have one man die for the people, instead of having the whole nation destroyed?” 51 Actually, he did not say this of his own accord; rather, as he was High Priest that year, he was prophesying that Jesus was going to die for the Jewish people, 52 and not only for them, but also to bring together into one body all the scattered people of God.

53 From that day on the Jewish authorities made plans to kill Jesus. 54 So Jesus did not travel openly in Judea, but left and went to a place near the desert, to a town named Ephraim, where he stayed with the disciples.

55 The time for the Passover Festival was near, and many people went up from the country to Jerusalem to perform the ritual of purification before the festival. 56 They were looking for Jesus, and as they gathered in the Temple, they asked one another, “What do you think? Surely he will not come to the festival, will he?” 57 The chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where Jesus was, he must report it, so that they could arrest him.

In this passage, from how the events are framed, we could conclude that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead a few weeks before the annual Passover celebration.

It is also interesting, that the religious leaders give orders that anyone with knowledge of where Jesus was must report it so they could arrest Jesus. This detail is interesting because during the week of the Passover celebration, Jesus speaks openly in the temple at least twice, and leading up to this, Jesus openly rides a donkey into Jerusalem. These events are prime events to arrest Jesus, but an arrest does not happen.

However, the most fascinating piece of this entire response to Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead is what the high priest prophesies about Jesus. Caiaphas, the high priest that year, told the religious leaders in verse 50: “Don’t you realize that it is better for you to have one man die for the people, instead of having the whole nation destroyed?

Even though John follows this quotation up with the powerful idea that this was a prophecy, in this statement itself, we have so much depth that it is hard to grasp it all.

On the surface, Caiaphas’ statement is relevant, because in their minds, Jesus’ presence and ministry was significant enough to threaten Rome, and Rome did not like to be threatened. However, it is also worth noting that any time Jesus drew a crowd of followers larger than a certain size, He began to challenge this crowd with difficult to accept spiritual truth prompting the crowd to leave and many in the crowd to doubt. This is recorded in the gospels on at least two occasions, though I suspect there were more. We don’t have to look very far in Jesus’ ministry to realize overthrowing Rome was not anywhere on His agenda.

However, while Caiaphas said these words as a defense against the threat of Rome, and primarily for self-preservation, these words have a much deeper meaning, also foreshadowing Jesus’ ultimate mission in this world.

In an ironic twist, the highest spiritual authority in the Jewish faith, who also happened to be Jesus’ most high-profile opponent, is led by God to give the most powerful prophecy describing Jesus’ mission and purpose for coming to this world.

Even though I’m sure Caiaphas did not fully grasp the full significance of His statement, God used Caiaphas, who was openly against Jesus, to give a true prophecy about what Jesus came to accomplish.

At that point in history, the set of prophecies that the religious leaders focused on were the ones where the Messiah overthrows Rome, and where the Messiah ultimately lasts forever. There were prophecies that describe a Messiah who suffers, is betrayed, and who is killed as a sacrificial lamb, but these prophecies were discounted, minimized, or outright ignored.

The last thing on these religious leaders’ minds was that Jesus was the Messiah God would send. Jesus didn’t fit their picture for the messiah, even if it was clear that Jesus was actively stepping into the role of Messiah.

Earlier this year, we saw that these religious leaders rejected Jesus because He was raised and from Nazareth. This was true, but it was a false assumption that Jesus was born in Nazareth. It is easy for us to see this in the scriptures, but perhaps more challenging for those in the first century who only knew of people being born and raised in one location. If it had not been for the census, Jesus’ wouldn’t have been born in Bethlehem, and I suspect if it had not been for Herod’s threat, Mary and Joseph may have raised Jesus in Bethlehem, being familiar with the prophecies about the Messiah.

In the first century, the religious leaders used plenty of reasons to reject Jesus as the Messiah. But even with their choice to reject Jesus, God used Jesus’ opponents in a powerful way to fulfill His prophecies about the Messiah. Topping this list is Caiaphas’ prophecy about Jesus’ mission into this world to die, and John’s side-note describes Jesus’ mission perfectly in verses 51 and 52. Caiaphas prophesied that “Jesus was going to die for the Jewish people, and not only for them, but also to bring together into one body all the scattered people of God.

Jesus came to this earth to redeem not just one race, one religion, or one ideology. Jesus came to redeem and unite all of God’s people that were scattered throughout the world. Jesus’ mission is bigger than we could ever imagine, and I suspect that God’s people are more diverse than we could ever imagine either. Jesus came to unite and redeem God’s people, and that means for us living today that when we ally ourselves with Jesus, we join with the body that will be saved when Jesus returns! Allying with Jesus leads to eternal life.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

As I always challenge you to do, seek God first in your life and choose to place your faith, your hope, your trust, and your belief in Jesus, allying yourself with His plan, His mission, and His purpose for your life.

Also, continue praying and studying the Bible for yourself to purposely grow closer to God each and every day. While God can use people for His purposes regardless of whether they have allied themselves for or against Jesus, only when we grow towards Jesus will we be saved for eternity, and the best place for us to find Jesus is within the pages of the Bible, and specifically in the pages of the gospel record. Through the gospels, we discover not only what Jesus is like, but what God is like as well.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or walk away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

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