TEXT: John 11:45-47
An emergency was called, an emergency meeting of the official council of the leaders of the Jewish nation and so seventy men went scampering from all of their different residential areas headed to their headquarters and their appointed meeting place. This was the meeting of the great Sanhedrin as it was called. Now these seventy men were really upset. And they were tremendously aggravated and agitated as you can see from the reading of our text. And basically they were crying out in verse 47, what shall we do? What are we going to do? They were just rattled and, for leaders and religious leaders at that, they had very little peace and a lot of upset right now. These were the great leaders of the Jewish people who were oppressed by Rome, the Roman nation had taken over, the great Roman empire had gobbled up Jerusalem and Judah and Israel at that time and had the rulership over them. However, they left their religious leaders in tact. That was a tactic that they frequently used to give the nation some feeling of comfort so they could sort of go on their own way religiously. Some other dominating nations do the same thing today when they exploit a nation and captivate them. Then they still leave intact certain structures that the people are familiar with but the people still don’t have their freedoms. If you look back in verse 45 you can tell exactly what had happened. The Jews were coming in great droves to the home of Mary and Martha. Their brother Lazarus had just been raised from the dead. Now this had happened right outside the city limits of Jerusalem, the city. And they were just the object of a lot of intense interest because if you read in just the preceding verses Jesus actually stood before the tomb of a dead man and proved that He was God. God, if He is God must have power of life and death. If He doesn’t have that and if it isn’t manifested to us, what hope do we have? And so, our Savior has that power and authority. And He called forth Lazarus from the tomb as a strong indication to you and me that when we die we will not sleep in dust forever but God will raise up all of His children again. And all men indeed will stand for their final judgment. Lazarus had indeed been raised so the people visited Mary in her home. And in verse 46, some of the people, though they left and high-tailed it to certain of the officials, let them know that this tremendous miracle had taken place. Then they didn’t know what to do about it. So they called an emergency session and you can see in verse 48 as they’re wringing their hands they are in quite a quandary. They said now, if we continue with our present tactic and let Jesus alone then everybody is going to believe in him. Then the Romans will come and take away our place and our nation.
Look at the hardness of their heart. They did not for a moment doubt, now this is the testimony of Christ enemies, they did not for a moment doubt, but what he had done this thing. Their own eyes had witnessed many of His miracles. Jesus Christ raised Lazarus from the dead. And He said in His teaching, “I am the Resurrection and the Life.” The one who believes in me is not going to reside permanently in death. He’ll live again because I am Life and have that power. But these people, despite those signs, their heart was so hardened. I pity the person who says, if only I could see thus and so then I would believe, if only this happened then I would be more certain in my faith. An ‘if only’ approach to God is to get no place. Jesus said, “Said I not unto you, if you believe then you will see the glory of God.” In a relationship with God that will permeate and change your life, then you won’t just be dependent upon these cheap signs or require God to do thus and so. No! He is God! Cheap signs don’t transform anybody, that didn’t change these people at all. They were hardened, not released. Only the grace of God can melt the ice. When I was out shoveling, I guess it was just yesterday, it seems to me I shovel just about everyday recently. But anyway, when I was running down the driveway with my scoop, my system is to jog, it gets over quicker. So I’m jogging down the driveway, pushing my scoop and there was a big clump of ice under there that hadn’t been melted, I hit that and then the handle hit me. And I’ve got a sore wrist and so forth. Only the sunshine of God’s grace can thaw a frozen heart. All the signs and the wonders that you hoped for or that you like to read about and the para-psychological evidences, those things are nothing. It matters a lot whether you understand the gracious gift of God in giving His son to die for your sins and to die for my sins. That’s the thing that counts. Well, these people couldn’t see that. And they said what are we going to do as they were wringing their hands? We’re in this quandary. Either Jesus is going to get us and capture all these people and if he does and if the people elect him as their leader and new king, then the Romans will hear about it and they’ll march in and destroy our city. Now it’s with great irony that we must observe that it was the opposite. They got rid of Jesus, the Jewish people did and then the Romans came ultimately because of that. And they surrounded the city, starved the people to the point of surrender and then they brutally, savagely massacred them. And the ones that were not killed outright were dragged away into slavery. The city was then just plowed under, the temple was completely destroyed and everything plowed under. And that little wall, did you ever hear about the wailing wall? That’s the little piece that was left. And periodically, in fact daily, you will see them there standing and wailing unto this day!
So they said, what will we do if we don’t get rid of Jesus, the Romans will take us? You will notice in verse 49 a voice of certainty rang out, Gentlemen, Gentlemen quiet just a moment. And it was the voice of Caiaphas, “you are a gathering of no nothings.” That’s what he said. You know nothing at all. And then he proceeds to utter the strangest prophecy that is in the Bible to me. And it’s something even more than Saul uttered at times. Here it is, put down in print this strange prophecy. And as we study this incident involving this strange prophecy of Caiaphas we will be directed to a greater knowledge of the cross of Christ oddly enough. And may God and then the Holy Spirit who used this strange word use it to our hearts good today and capture our thoughts so that with our minds we’ll understand clearly what the Lord Jesus Christ was accomplishing for us. And here it is spelled out for us. We’ll look at this event first of all as a word of evil. The evil advice. What he was trying to say here is you don’t know anything (verse 50) nor do you consider what is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people and not that the whole nation should perish. That is indeed an unusual statement. “It is expedient,” he says. This means it is actually an advantageous thing that we’ve come to this juncture and he gives the evil advice to liquidate Christ. This is the time when we must act. We must go and speak to the occasion, we must see to the death of Jesus Christ so that our nation can be spared. Now political expediency has marred human history. Now here is another example of it. Now even though these words can be translated by a Christian as he reads the other verses which the Holy Spirit also gave, you have to first take the words at face value. What he intended to say is this, unless we put to silence Jesus you may kiss goodbye all of the freedoms that we still do have and above all our leadership will be gone out the window. It’s either He or we, Him or us. There is no compromise. I know he intended to say that evil because you can see down in verse 53 that from that day onward they plotted to put him to death. That’s how they understood it. They intended to kill Christ and that was the advice he gave them to do. And if you notice the word down in verse 53, the word “then” in my translation, is actually the word therefore, and it occurs in verse 53, 54 and 56. In the Greek, that little word means then or so that or therefore or so and actually it says then the people therefore went out to put Jesus to death because they heard this word from Caiaphas. Now, I wonder if you weigh those words today, do you see anything else in them? Just let me read them again in verse 50. Here’s what he says, this vindictive man, he says, “Don’t you think it over, don’t you think here’s an opportunity,” and so forth. Then he adds that one man die for the people and not that the whole nation should perish. Now he meant it for evil, but God meant these words for good. That one would die for the many and that many could be saved. Weigh those words carefully, and next we see them as the good word of prophecy. It was a word of evil advice, but God overruled it and it becomes to us a good word of prophecy. We know that from the very next verse 51. Now this he did not say of his own authority, it didn’t come just from him, but this came from the Holy Spirit beyond his farthest dreams. He never thought that this could be a prediction of Jesus Christ being a sin offering and payment for the souls of men and that nations of the world could be saved through Jesus Christ’s death. But, my friends, the Holy Spirit of God meant it and God overruled and caused this man in that den of confusion to stand up and say a word that meant something malicious to them and caused them to spring into action and to execute the Lamb of God and make a sacrifice that would indeed spare men, not just that nation but the scattered children of God. What a wonderful thing in the arrangement of God, that even an enemy spoke a word valuable for our hearts today and if you read on you will see it. In verse 51 he does, this is actually the words of the Holy Spirit, 52. Those two verses, 51 and 52 are the official interpretation of God’s Spirit to make this very clear to us, that the Lord Jesus would actually die and not just for that nation, but for the scattered ones, for the Gentiles, for clear to the remotest part, for people in Canada and the United States, Africa, India, everywhere that men might be saved through our Lord Jesus Christ. And it is interesting that a key word here is a preposition and it’s the word ‘for’. You will find it in verse 50. In Caiaphas own words, it says that this one man would die for the people and he meant, let him perish instead of all of us. Let’s get rid of Him, that is what he meant, but the word ‘for’ is a term therefore used often as a sacrifice of one for another in the sacrificial system of getting rid of sin. It’s also mentioned in the next verse, that Jesus would die. It was a prophecy. Look at the end of verse 51 that Jesus would die for the nation, and then 52 and not for that nation only but also that others would be included. Now, three times this preposition is used. It’s the same one in the original. And it’s the same word used back in John 10:11, that Jesus is the Good Shepherd and the Good Shepherd gives his life for the sheep. Now what does that mean when one give his life for another? I find that people really are confused on that point. They think of it like, well, say the mother in a family, a loyal woman and she just literally gives her life for the children, lives for them completely, in a service for them. Well, it means that of course, but it means much more than that when you say Jesus died for us. It may be like someone rushing into a flaming building and pulling out somebody and rescuing them. And so he gives his own life, he dies maybe in the flames and barely pushes the other person clear. How about that? So he sacrafices himself that way and saves the other person. It means that, but my friends, it means something much more than that. It means that Christ is dying for the criminal. He literally substituted and took upon Himself all of the guilt and the burden of the sinner and that He pays the full price officially in the stead of the other one. One good example of that is the negotiator for the Iranian hostages. I heard it told that a fellow, an official offered himself and he says now to the rebels “you take me” instead and let them go free. Now suppose the hostage takers did that and so Terry Waite is let go free and this man goes in and he takes his place. That’s nearer what this means. And the rebels were preparing to kill him. Did you know what that’s going to mean to you? And so he bows and they cut his head off or drill him through. So Terry Waite is home in peace with his family. The substitute is there taking his place, getting exactly what these fellows felt that the other fellow deserved. They put it now on the substitute instead. That’s what it means. It means all of that. It’s not just doing something sacrificial and loving and a service. It’s much more.
Let’s look together back in Genesis and you remember in Genesis 22 the great story where God ordered Abraham to offer up his own son. Now this was a great test. God said, I want you to put him up on the altar and let him die and I require him as a sacrifice to me. This was a great trial to Abraham to test out his faith. And as Abraham (I’m sure weeping over his son and the boy weeping about what was about to befall him) raised his trembling but obedient hand with knife to kill his own son after he placed him there on the pile of stones and was about to slay him with the knife and offer him up before God.
God called him and he said, “now Abraham, I know that you really love me and believe.” I would like to have you look at verse 12, “Do not lay your hand on the lad,” look in verse 13, “then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by it’s horns so Abraham went and took the ram and offered it for a burnt instead of his son.” That’s what the word ‘for’ means in the context of our text today. This word ‘for’ means in the official place of, instead of, as God’s appointed substituted. And, my friend, those very stones, still moist from the tears of that agonizing father and the fear of the young lad are now awash with the blood of the innocent victim who substituted. Abraham and his son go down the hill, whole, but there on the altar the substitute dies instead of Isaac,
the boy. Look at the cross now, Christ dies instead of you my friend, instead of me, paying my price on that cross, that’s what that word means. Now I see the meaning of Romans 1:16, “that the Lord, the Lord Jesus Christ, this good news about Him is the power of God to salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Gentile.” Go back to our text please. In John 11:51 you see those words, that it opens the door not just for that nation, verse 52, but for all the scattered children of God. And no matter how far you may feel from God today it is by the blood of Christ that the full payment is made and God gathers into one all of those who are near or far, either way, Jew or Gentile. All have sinned and broken God’s laws and the payment is by Jesus Christ our Lord.
Now let’s hasten to close with one final observation of this incident involving this strange prophecy of Caiaphas. We’ve seen, we’ve viewed it as a word of evil advice, as a good word of prophecy and let’s notice finally the glorious outcome of it and truly, the outcome was remarkable and it had to be, this whole incident involving the death of Christ. If it had not a glorious outcome, then Jesus would just have died like any other martyr or hero for his ideals. If these fellows had just gone out and killed him, and that’s what they thought they were doing and there’s his body put down in the ground, that’s that. But no, he rose victorious to prove that His death was an unusual opening of the door of God’s salvation to each one of us. It’s a remarkable thing that he didn’t just die as a hero for his ideals. That’s the religion some of you have held in your heart and you have missed the whole point of it — that Christ wasn’t simply dying for his ideals, he was dying for wretched offending sinners, for us. It was a sacrificial substitutionary death on our behalf. That why he was dying and that’s the good word of this particular doctrine. And so it was that with this search to find Jesus now and capture him, begins the last week of his life. In the next chapter is the anointing of him by the loving Mary who prepares his body as it were for the death ahead of time. And pretty soon the Scriptures records that all of his followers forsook him and fled. And then we walk up the mountain and there that lonely figure in the center cross is dying in agony and the last of the great deserting of Christ comes from heaven where even the Father turns his back on the Son as the Son at that moment becomes the epitome of all our sin and is laid on the Lord Jesus Christ. He cries out, “O My God, why have you forsaken me?” But then, in a shout of triumph he concludes his entire life ministry by saying, “It is finished.” That means all is accomplished, that means Jesus is saying: “Every requirement that could be held against any of the sinners has been placed upon me, I have met every requirement, I have fulfilled it all, Father.” And then he bows his head and gives up his spirit, “Father, into your hands I comment my spirit.” Jesus paid it all, every bit of it. And there’s a little word you can’t see in English, but it’s in the original Greek of this text and it’s in verse 52, he did this not for the Jews only, but also that, the word “that, it’s a little word, a little three letter word in the original, it just means in order that he might make a gathering. Do you know what the word ‘gathering’ in the Greek is? It’s the same word that you get the word synagogue from, that he might synagogue the people that he might gather them. In our New Testament Epistle’s language it means church which just simply means an assembly. He did this so that he could assemble together (and then see the words ‘in one’) in one body, his people. Truly the Lord Jesus shed his blood for the church, that we might be brought together, not that you might become religious, not that you might just start attending church, but that you might be the church and become a people of God, united together in local assemblies throughout the whole world. This whole process of ingathering, my friends, ultimately is going to be expressed when Jesus comes back and sends out his angels to the far corners of the earth, to gather together one people that all the universe, the seen and the unseen, the spirits realm as well as the human realm might see that God has one family and one people and Christ Jesus the Lord is our great head. If today as you gathered here, nothing has spoken to your heart, and it might well be that there are some like that, you can view the cross of Christ with a dry eye and it doesn’t do anything for you, as we say, then, if I were you, in view of the fact that if one rejects the blood of Christ, there is no other sacrifice for sin, then your condition is not only hopeless, but is eternally hopeless.
For if we believe not we are condemned already, the Scripture says. But God is not willing that any should perish and perhaps you ought to be crying out “Oh God, gave me a sense of response. Oh God, come to me, convince me.” And then surrender your life to Christ.
If, on the other hand you are here and you are a believer in Christ, but you’ve gotten away then, oh my friend, cast yourself upon him today and upon this great truth that this one died, that the others, the mass might not perish, but that you might be saved.
Then I think of the faithful ones who know that they are Christians but have become hardened and indifferent that God would draw us to himself today. There may be some right ready to be saved, for the first time, to enter in and to call upon the Lord. That’s why he died and all is completed! He will not cast out those who come to him. Praise the Lord for that. This is an opportunity to revive and refresh that we are paid for by Christ, that we are his and therefore we won’t any longer want to live to ourselves, that we will put down the covetousness and the things that misguide and mislead us and we will take him and let him rule us. For if he died for us he has every right to demand that we live for him, that we follow him.