Description / Transcription
You can find in your bulletins, or you can turn with me in your Bibles, to John chapter 11, as we read together verses 45 through 57. John 11, 45 through 57.
“Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what He did, believed in Him, but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let Him go on like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. So from that day on they made plans to put him to death.”
“Jesus therefore no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there to the region near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim, and there He stayed with the disciples.”
“Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves. They were looking for Jesus and saying to one another as they stood in the temple, “What do you think? That He will not come to the feast at all?” Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where He was, he should let them know, so that they might arrest Him.”
People of God, the year was 1939. Father Maximilian Kolbe was a Polish priest who was arrested by the Nazis and sent to the concentration camp in Auschwitz. One July night the air was filled with the sound of shouts and motorcycles. A man had escaped from Kolbe’s barracks. When the roll was called the next morning, there was no condemned man standing before the others, his face bloodied from blows and dog bites. It meant the prisoner had made it out and someone else must die. The punishment was the starvation bunker number 11.
Anything was better than the starvation bunker. Prisoners heard stories from there, condemned men who didn’t look like human beings, their throats turned to paper, their brains turned to fire, and their intestines dried up. Soon there were 10 men listed on the death roll. As the 10 men removed their shoes, a common practice, death ritual, there was commotion in the ranks. A prisoner stepped out of line. It was unheard of. It was cause for execution. It was Father Kolbe. He spoke up. He said, “I would like to die in the place of one of the men you condemned. I am old. My life will serve no purpose. Let me die for that one.” The commandant nodded. Kolbe took off his shoes, joined the others in marching to barracks 11.
As the days passed, the camp became aware that something extraordinary was happening in the death cell. Past prisoners spent their days howling, attacking one another, clawing at the walls. But now singing could be heard. After some weeks, only four prisoners remained. Kolbe was one of them. The doctor descended into the barracks and with a prick of a needle, Kolbe and the others died.
The death of one man for another. That, of course, is what Jesus did for us, in our place, as our substitute, for our sins. In His case, the righteous for the unrighteous. As the old hymn says it so well, “in my place condemned He stood and sealed my pardon with His blood.”
Looking tonight at that passage that I read from John chapter 11, three parts to this text – a plot, a prophecy, and the Passover Lamb.
The text begins with a plot, and that plot comes on the heels of Lazarus’ resurrection. If you have your Bibles open, you can see that most of chapter 11 in the Gospel of John is the story of Lazarus being raised. It was an amazing miracle. For four days Lazarus laid dead in the tomb and then Jesus raised him to life again, simply by the power of His word, “Lazarus, come forth.” And the dead man, bound with his clothes on his body, sat up and stood up and was unchained from the bonds that had bound him and from death.
This miracle created a tremendous stir around Jesus. There were a number of responses to it. The first you can see in our text, verse 45, many of the Jews who had come with Mary and had seen what He did, believed in Him. So there was this group of people who put their faith in Christ. We don’t know what kind of faith it was, was it simply a miraculous faith, was it a temporary faith, was it saving faith? Not really sure, but some witnessed the miracle and they were drawn to Christ.
There were others, verse 46, who went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. They reported Jesus, they turned him in. Then still others, the Jewish council, particularly the Sanhedrin, plotted to take Jesus’ life. They called an emergency session. They said amongst themselves, “We have to do something about Jesus. We can’t deny His signs. We’ve seen His miracles. We’ve heard what has happened. But if His popularity continues, the Romans are going to take away our place and our nation.”
Our place. Probably on the one hand their place of power and privilege. “We’re no longer going to have the privileges and power that we’re used to if the Romans come along.”
But no doubt, also place referring to the temple. The place where they came to worship God, the center of their worship. “They’re going to take away our place; they’re going to take away our nation.” Whatever independence they had.
And you see the result of, at least in part, their scheming. Verse 53 says that they made plans to put Jesus to death. Verse 57, the last verse, “They looked for a way to arrest Jesus.”
It was in the middle of that Sanhedrin meeting and the plot to take the life of Christ that there was secondly a prophecy. It was a prophecy made by the high priest Caiaphas. Caiaphas served from 18 to 36 A.D., had been appointed by the Romans. As high priest he was the chairman of the Sanhedrin, the Sanhedrin made up of both Sadducees and Pharisees, kind of a judicial/legislative with the presence of the high priest and executive body. In other words, kind of the three branches of our government all rolled into one, at least to a certain degree.
And Caiaphas, the high priest, was both the chief civil and religious leader. In other words, he could rule over civil law and was a connecting point to the Roman government, but he was also over religious law, over religious ceremonies, over sacrifices that were offered. And here was his counsel to the Sanhedrin. You see it in verse 49. He says at the end of the verse, “You know nothing at all nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish… And he did not say this on his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied.”
Friends, what a profound statement coming out of the lips of this unbelieving high priest. You can look at it from a number of different vantage points. It was a political word that he spoke. Of course, it’s on the surface a statement of political expediency. If the Sanhedrin was confused about to do with Jesus, Caiaphas was not confused. He weighed the options. He quickly came to a decision. If he was going to hold his position, if the nation was going to remain intact, something had to be done with Jesus. And Caiaphas knew what it was – Jesus must die.
Because you see every minute that Jesus lived, Caiaphas saw him as a danger to his political ambitions and power. He was a threat. So Jesus’ death would be better than the entire nation being destroyed. A political word.
But it was also a prophetic word. John tells us this in verse 52: “He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation.”
You understand Caiaphas wasn’t saying those last words. This is John’s commentary on what Caiaphas was saying. He didn’t say this on his own, he didn’t say this of his own accord, John says. This is not to say that Caiaphas was a puppet, that he was just kind of made to mouth these words. No, he spoke his own ruthless opinion, but what John is telling us is that not only was Caiaphas speaking, but through Caiaphas’ words, God was speaking.
God had something to say here. You see, the villain became a prophet. Think about what biblical prophets do, what prophets from the Bible, what their job is. Their job primarily is two things. One is they foretell things, they look into the future, they say what’s coming. Judgment might be coming, or blessing might be coming. They talk about the future. Foretell.
But prophets in the Bible also forth-tell. In other words, they speak to the people of God and they say, “This is how you’re to go about living. Repent of your sins. Turn to God,” and things like that. They say, “Thus sayeth the Lord.”
Friends, that’s what was coming through in Caiaphas’ voice. He didn’t understand how true his words were, or how he was actually declaring the glorious Gospel of God.
You see, there’s a political word here, a prophetic word, and a precious word. “It is better for us that one man should die than all the nation perish.” That’s sacrificial language. That’s the language of offering. That’s the language of sacrifice. It’s the language of ransom. One man, one life, in the place of another.
Not, of course, as Caiaphas intended to save us from the Romans, but as God intended to save us from our sins.
Friends, this is the heart of the Gospel, isn’t it? Jesus as our sin-bearing substitute. What we talk about when we speak of substitutionary atonement. Because God is just and holy, when sin is committed, sin must be paid for. There is no salvation without payment for sin. Either we must pay or somebody else must pay.
This is a theme you see all through the Scriptures. All the way back to the garden of Eden, just before Adam and Eve are put out of the garden, standing there naked before God, what happens? Animals die and through the death of those animals, Adam and Eve are covered with skin.
Or you can go to the book of Leviticus that we’ve been studying Sunday morning by Sunday morning. Offering after offering, sacrifice after sacrifice, one after another, many times during the day, day and night. Why? Because there needs to be atonement for sin. Something must die if we are to live.
We could go on and on, but you see all of this in the Scripture pointing to Jesus.
You know these familiar words, I think, from Isaiah 53 – He was pierced for our transgressions. He was crushed for our iniquities and upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace and with His stripes we are healed.
Or as the apostle John would go on to say in his first letter – And this is love, not that we loved God but that He loved us, and He sent His Son to be the propitiation, or the atoning sacrifice, for our sins.
Don Carson, he says it this way – Either Jesus dies or the nation dies.
We can apply it to ourselves, can’t we? Either Jesus dies or we die. If He dies, we live. His life for ours.
But friends, you also see there’s a perspective word here. So a political word, prophetic word, precious word, a perspective word because what John tells us is that Jesus would not only die for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who were scattered abroad.
What a vision John gives us here. This is what the death of Jesus would accomplish. This is the extent of the atonement, that not only would Jesus die for the Jewish nation, but the children of God who were scattered. Or as John puts it in John chapter 10, sheep that are not yet in the flock that also must be brought in so that there will be one flock and one Shepherd.
This is a missions vision. This is a vision of the Gentiles coming in. That Jesus would not only die for the Jewish people, but Jesus would also die for those who had yet to come. It’s not a surprising word or message here from the Apostle John. The Scriptures had said this would be the case. In Isaiah 49, God’s servant would be a light for the nations that salvation might reach to the end of the earth.
What is the extent of Jesus’ atonement? What did Jesus die for? Well, His death was effective for His own children, the children of God. A death and atonement that doesn’t just make salvation possible, but actually saves.
Friends, this is something that Caiaphas could never have imagined saying, that Jesus would not only die for the nation, but for the true Israel, for every Jew, for every Gentile, who puts their faith in Christ Jesus.
Well, all of this leads us to one final thing, people of God. That Jesus is the Passover Lamb. So we also see here a paschal word, paschal meaning or related to the world Passover or Easter. Just notice how the text that we’re looking at tonight closes, verse 55. It says, “Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand.”
So here the nation was to gather to celebrate God’s deliverance of Israel from Egypt. As the Angel of Death passed over every home in which the blood of the lamb had been smeared on the doorpost, on the top, on the sides, blood running down on the bottom. What happened at the Exodus? What happened at the Passover? It was a lamb for the people, wasn’t it? A lamb in place of each home where the blood was spread. If you were under, if you were behind the blood, you lived.
Well, the wheels were in motion to put Jesus to death. John tells us it’s Passover time. In just a week’s time, the Lamb, the Lord Jesus, would be slain, bearing the sins of His own. As people gather for the Passover, they asked the question, “Where’s Jesus? Isn’t He coming? Is He going to go up to the feast at all?” they asked.
Jesus was not only going up to the feast, Jesus was the feast. He is the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world.
So it is true, isn’t it? As we sing “bearing shame and scoffing rude in my place, condemned He stood and He sealed my pardon with His blood. Hallelujah, what a Savior.”
Let’s pray together. Father in heaven, we do praise You for the substitutionary death of Christ, that Christ died in our place, bearing our sins, taking the curse on our behalf, so that we might have life in Him. Bless us now, O God, as we come to your table. We pray that by faith we might partake of Jesus Himself. We pray this in His name. Amen.