John 11:45-53. Crisis

John 11:45    Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.  47 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. 48 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.” 

49    Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all!  50 You do not realize that it is better for you 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 would die for the Jewish nation,  52 and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. 53 So from that day on they plotted to take his life.

Lazarus’ return from the grave cannot go unnoticed. It demands a response. Many of the eyewitnesses put their faith in Jesus. But the nature of Jesus’ signs never compels faith in every witness. Even when confronted by a walking talking dead man, some refuse to believe and so they report the matter to the chief priests and Pharisees.

A crisis meeting of the ruling Jewish religious authority is called. The Sanhedrin decide that they must shut down Jesus and his movement before there is a rebellion– just as some Messianic movements before this one have led to riots. The thing they fear most is that the Romans will come and take away their religious independence. Although Rome rules it’s empire with crushing efficiency, the Jewish peoples have been allowed to worship at their temple without too much interference. They have hope, therefore, some God will somehow act for their freedom. But they are trapped. If they kill Jesus, this may cause the people to riot. No doubt the prospect of murdering a prophet is also discomforting.

Then Caiaphas speaks. “We cannot give the Romans cause to shut down our religious freedom to worship at the Temple. Although we might not like the idea of killing Jesus, surely it is preferable for one man to die than for the whole nation to die.” His argument is persuasive but it has greater significance than he knows. John acts as narrator and notes that Jesus’ death would indeed save many, and not just the Jewish nation but also the scattered children of God. So John’s gospel (likely written in Ephesus for a mixed audience) foreshadows the gospel mission among the nations, where Jew and Gentile are brought together and made one (v52).

So the crisis meeting resolves that it is ‘better’ for one to die for the many. God’s formally constituted religious leaders decide on an unjust murder. So from that day on, they plot to kill Jesus.

Lord Jesus Christ, your resurrection from the dead creates a crisis which demands a response. In your kindness, grant that many more will turn to you in humble faith and dependance, for you alone give eternal life. Amen.