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Let’s pray. O Lord, we know the promise in Your Word, that though you oppose the proud, You give grace to the humble, and so we pray that we would not be among the proud this morning. I pray that You would make me humble. My prayer is that of John the Baptist that I might decrease and that the Lord Jesus Christ might increase, and our prayer for each of us, whether speaking or listening, is that we might be lowly of heart, humble of spirit, eager in our minds to receive Your Word this morning. Oh, move and remove far from us any thoughts of our own accomplishments, our own impressiveness, our own deserving, and may we come as a room full of beggars to the only one who can give us the bread of eternal life. We pray in His name. Amen.
Our text this morning comes from John’s Gospel, chapter 11, the end of chapter 11, verses 45 through 57. John, chapter 11, beginning at verse 45. Follow along as I read, and if it’s not your habit to have your Bible open, it’s a great habit to start and to follow along because, of course, you want to test everything that I say against the Word of God and the power is here in the Word. If you are new to the church or to a church at all and you don’t have a Bible, we’d love for you to take the pew Bible home with you and have a Bible for yourself. It’s the most important thing you can get from this morning is God’s Word.
Follow along as I read, beginning at verse 45:
“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 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.”
The gospel of John is about faith. For God so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life, John 3:16. Believe in Him.
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book, but these are written so that you may believe, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name. That’s in chapter 20, at the end of the book. Believing in His name.
This gospel, from start to finish, is about faith, written to either very new believers or as an evangelistic document to those considering Christ that they might put faith, they might believe in Jesus. But if the Gospel is about belief, it is at the same time about unbelief. And throughout the Gospel, we see people divided on account of Jesus. It was this way in the first century, it remains this way in the 21st century, it will always be this way. Jesus will be the occasion for division. People will not, have not, do not agree about Jesus.
Ever want to throw up your arms and say “Well, I don’t get it. He’s, He’s the Son of God. He’s the Messiah. How could you not like this Jesus?” Well, when you really get to know this Jesus, you understand what He says and you look Him square in the eye in the pages of Scripture, He causes division.
We see it here in John’s Gospel, John, chapter 7. “When they heard these words, some of the people said this really is the prophet. Other said this is the Christ. But some said is the Christ to come from Galilee? Has not the Scripture said that Christ comes from the offspring of David? Comes from Bethlehem? In a village where David was? So there was a division among the people over Him.”
John, chapter 7. “Some of the Pharisees said ‘This man is not from God, for He does not keep the Sabbath.’ But others said “How can a man who is a sinner do such signs?’ and there was a division among them.”
And then John, chapter 10, verse 19: “There was again a division among the Jews because of these words.”
So much for Jesus bringing all peoples on the planet together in one acapella version of Kumbaya. Didn’t happen then, not gonna happen now.
Over and over we see this pattern in John’s Gospel. That as they see Jesus, as they hear from Jesus, some say “surely that must the Christ,” and others say “no, not that man,” and there is a division.
Some of you know this all too well, in your own families, among your own friends, perhaps in your own dorms, on your own street, in your own office, people are divided on the person of Jesus.
And here we see it in chapter 11, even after the resurrection of Lazarus we have a division. Many believed in Him, but some went to the Pharisees to tattle. Okay, kids, this is not what the sermon’s about, but just notice when you are a tattletale, you’re like these bad people, okay? [laughter] That’s not what the sermon’s about, but that’s what they did.
Some believed and some said “oh, boy, we better tell the Pharisees. This is shocking.”
This sermon, I hope you all listen to it, but this is one of those sermons that’s in particular explicitly for those who do not believe. And yes, there are people in this room, yes, in Matthews, North Carolina, on Sunday morning, at Christ Covenant Church, who do not believe in Jesus. Now maybe you know that, maybe, maybe you’re here and you know that and everyone else knows that, and you’re just visiting, you’re just going along with a friend or a relative, and yeah, you’re not a Christian. Or maybe you have not realized that about yourself, that you’ve been going through the motions for so long and sort of doing other people’s business by coming here and sort of fulfilling someone else’s wishes that you have not really realized about yourself, “You know what? This faith is not really my own.”
Or perhaps you’re in another category, and that is deep down, if you set your phone away for a second and have the TV off and don’t have the radio on in the car and you have a spare moment to actually think to yourself and recall that you have a soul, you realize “I don’t think I believe this stuff.”
And maybe you’re a teenager, a young person, but you could be any age. And you feel some sort of cultural, familial, society pressure to sort of do the right things and have the right look, but you don’t believe it. And some of you know you don’t believe it.
Oftentimes we talk about well, you go off to college and college is a scary place and people lose their faith in college. Yeah, that happens, but you know what? You read lots of the studies—they don’t lose it there, they lose it in middle school, they lose it in high school, and they just, they’re able to live it out, what they’ve already lost here.
Some of you may be in that spot.
I saw somebody, a Christian, lives in New York City, who commented this week online that he said he thinks it’s harder to be a Christian growing up in the South than in the North. You might think “Well, that’s strange. Don’t you have in the Bible Belt, you have much more by way of cultural support and you can do some things in public schools here that you can’t do when you go north of the Mason-Dixon line and all of that.”
But here was his point. He said “it is harder to grow up a serious Christian in the South because you have so many opportunities to hide it.” You have pressure to sort of conform and look the part, and I don’t know whether that’s true or not or what’s harder or what’s easier, but I certainly know that that happens. People feel like “I can wear the smile and I can put on the clothes and I can go to church and maybe I even go to a Christian school. Maybe I even go to this Christian school.”
But you don’t believe. You don’t really follow this Jesus. He’s not really your Lord, not really your Saviour. You’ve checked out. Well, this sermon’s for you.
There are really ultimately only two categories: Belief, unbelief.
Notice the division here. It doesn’t say “and some believed and some didn’t believe,” and then there’s a third category who just sort of hedged their bets, and just said “well, I kinda like him but I don’t really want to be all in on him.”
You believe, you disbelieve. Ultimately you are on one side of the divide or the other.
Now you can, yes, straddle the fence for a time, and it’s a process for many people to come to faith, so we don’t discount that.
But if you are on that side marked “unbelief,” I have three questions for you this morning. Three questions from this text.
Here’s the first: Have you closed your eyes to the power of God?
Just think. Have you closed your eyes to the power of God. Notice the division here happens among those who saw the same thing. Verse 45: Many of the Jews, therefore, who had come with Mary, so remember they’re coming to comfort Mary or they’re the professional mourners or they’re friends or family or they know Mary and Martha or Lazarus, remember they’ve come and had seen what He did. Now what’s that? They saw what Jesus had done: A dead man came back to life.
Believed in Him, but some… Now who are the some? We can only conclude that it’s some of these same people. Some of the same people that were there saw the same thing, they went to the Pharisees and said “Well, get a load of this.”
This is mind-blowing, but we understand this from our own experience. People can be witnesses to the same thing. Sometimes we grow up with the very same teaching, grow up in the very same house, and they go in two very different directions.
They were witnesses, they saw Lazarus. They smelled, even, the decomposing flesh. They saw the stone in front of the tomb. They heard Jesus pray to heaven. They were there when Jesus cried out in a loud voice for Lazarus to come forth, and they saw Lazarus come hopping forth from the grave. They were there when the men unwrapped his grave clothes. They saw all of that with their own two eyes.
Some believed. Some said “mmm mmm, that’s not enough.” And not only did they not believe, they found in the resurrection of Lazarus an opportunity to get Jesus into more trouble. “Hey, Pharisees, check this out. You are not going to believe what we just saw.”
Now think about how this reflects on the nature of unbelief. You can see a miracle, and still not believe. We sometimes think that to ourselves. “Well, I know it’s so hard and I struggle, but, boy, in the Bible they were just seeing miracles all the time. If I could see a miracle, I would believe.”
You sure? How many signs did they see from the Lord Jesus? And they did not believe. They saw a dead man come back to life.
And not only that, you can believe in miracles, even see a miracle, accept that a miracle happened, and still not believe. There is no evidence here that they, they doubted what they saw. It’s not that they went to the Pharisees and they said “Well, something strange happened, but we think we have a natural explanation for it. He was really just sleeping for four days without food in a sealed-off tomb, wrapped in grave clothes, with something around his…” No, no, no… “And he started to decompose.”
No, they weren’t trying to find a natural explanation for it. They didn’t try to discount it. They didn’t say it was some sort of magic trick. Every, every sense we have here is yeah, they saw it, this happened. Guys, it happened. A guy died, four days in the tomb, and now he’s alive. They saw a miracle. Even the Council, that is the Sanhedrin, recognized that Jesus did it, that’s why they said “if he keeps doing this, if he keeps going these signs…”
They knew other signs He had with the multiplying of the loaves and fishes, perhaps. Or the water into wine. Or the raising of the man’s daughter. They had signs. And they did not believe.
We like to think that we are rational creatures, but we really are rationalizing creatures. That is, we look and seek for facts that already confirm what we want to know and believe. That’s what it’s very hard for people to really change their minds.
They had already decided Jesus was an imposter, a dangerous rabble-rouser, a blasphemer, or at least a threat to their power and their privilege. And so whatever He was going to do would only confirm their conclusions. If He shows great kindness and mercy to sinners, well then He’s a friend of sinners and tax collectors. If He performs some miracle while it’s on the Sabbath, He’s a law-breaker. If He brings a dead man back to life, well then, He’s gonna get us in trouble with the Romans. Whatever it was, they had already concluded He was no good.
Maybe some of you have. Maybe that’s how some of you have really approached Christianity. You already have in your mind what you are going to conclude. It doesn’t matter what mom tries to tell you, what dad tries to tell you, what the church tries to tell you. It doesn’t matter what book you sort of you read… You already have an answer for why all those things don’t add up.
I remember overhearing several years ago, in a bookstore of all places, two men talk about UFOs that they had seen. And like many UFO chasers, I imagine, I don’t really know many UFO chasers, but they had had an encounter with aliens, as I overheard the conversation. It was one of the more interesting conversations I’ve eavesdropped on. [laughter] And wouldn’t you know it that in their conversations of having encountered aliens and UFOs, every time this happened they reached for the camera and it just, it jammed, it didn’t, the flash, [sound effect] didn’t go off right. I remember this man telling about, on a Friday night and he was at the end of this dark road, and this light came and he was sure it was the aliens and they were there at his door and he went to get his phone or take a picture and then it didn’t turn out. What are the odds? [laughter]
As I heard them talk, it was clear that anything and everything in their life was going to be evidence for this conclusion they had already reached, as they would tell the story. “There was a bright light!” – aliens. No light – aliens. “There was a sound!” – that’s what aliens do. No sound – that’s how they creep up on you. [laughter]
If they were seeing more strange activity in the sky, then it was the aliens. And if they hadn’t seen anything for a long time, that was the sign that the government was hiding the aliens. [laughter] They had already made up their minds and there was no set of evidence that could not convince them of those things.
Maybe you already have your mind made up about Jesus. “Yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever. I’m, I’m not anti-Him and if you want to do the Jesus thing, fine. Is He really that great? Is He really that special? I really have to give my whole life to following Him?”
And perhaps you have, like these men and women, closed your eyes to the power of God. Are you doing everything you can to push aside what your ears have heard, your eyes have seen, even what your heart has felt? So you’re telling yourself, “No, the stuff I learned in Sunday School, the stuff I learned as a kid, uh huh, no, nope, not gonna believe it. I did, but not anymore.”
You’re telling yourself those answers to prayer, they didn’t happen.
You’re telling yourself, “Well, yes, those people that I grew up with, who loved me, who evidenced a changed life to me, no, no, no, they’re, they’re bigots. They’re… I don’t trust them.” Maybe your own mom, on Mother’s Day.
The evidence in history. “Well, I don’t even need to really look at it, I don’t need to think about it, and I’m sure that… Didn’t the Church just pick the books of the Bible and then they make up stories about Jesus. I saw The DaVinci Code once, it all made sense to me. Isn’t that what happened?”
Or maybe most of all you’re pushing away your own sense of sin, in the quiet moments of the night when you know that you need a saviour, when you know that you’re not the way you’re supposed to be, when you know that you can’t just brush aside and say “Well, nobody’s perfect” because you understand how deeply you are not perfect. And you are doing whatever you can to close your eyes to the power of God, to close your ears to the voice of God.
They saw miracles. And they squinted hard enough to not see Jesus.
Here’s the second question. That’s the first question, Have you closed your eyes to the power of God?
Here’s the second question: Have you hardened your heart to the Son of God?
Have you hardened your heart to the Son of God?
Do you understand what’s going on here at the end of John 11? Some of these onlookers go tell the Pharisees. And then the chief priests and the Pharisees gather the Council. The Pharisees had no authority to take judicial action. Remember the Pharisees were, were the teachers. They were the popular preachers and experts of the law. They were often scribes. They were popular with the people because they were really serious about the Torah. Then you have the Sanhedrin, the Council, is what it’s called here, dominated by the priests. It was the highest legislative and judicial body in Judea. Ultimately, of course, underneath the authority of the Romans, but the Romans had given to the Sanhedrin, to the Council, made up mostly of priests, the authority over the religious, spiritual, political affairs of Judea, and all of those things would come together.
So they start to chatter and to murmur together. Verse 47: The chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “Guys, what are we doing? If he keeps this up with more miracles, more signs, I mean, a dead man is walking. People are going to believe in him.” And here’s what they feared: They feared a popular messianic movement was going to grow around Jesus, and this would attract the attention of the Romans, who were not fond of insurrectionists or messiahs, because they had seen this pattern before, would-be messiahs, and usually what they would do is they would attract thousands of people, a large following to themselves, and then they would mount some sort of guerrilla campaign to overthrow the Romans, because that’s what they thought of as the messiah. It was going to be the great political leader to get the Romans off their backs and reinstall a proper king in Jerusalem. So they feared these messianic pretenders, wanted to stamp them out.
And so the Jewish council can see and connect the dots. “Oh, okay, if he keeps doing this, he’s going to get a following, he’s gonna be another one of these guys. The Romans are going to come in here.”
And what are they doing to do? Well, we read in verse 48, “the Romans will come and take away our place and our nation.” “Our place” refers to the Temple. They’re going to come, this is the second temple we’ve had, and they’re going to wipe out this Temple, and our nation.
Now incidentally, as we’ll see in a few moments, they were right about a whole bunch of things that they didn’t even know they were right about. Jesus always, always comes to upset your nation.
Now, I believe when I stand before God someday, I will stand before God having been in an American. And as the song, proud to be an American. But if we think that Jesus doesn’t come in a way that supposed to upset America, then we don’t understand Jesus. Because He puts Himself higher than any nation. And He, and allegiance to His name and His rule and His kingdom, is always going to run into some conflict, no matter what nation were a part of, no matter now privileged or how Christian that nation might seem to be.
And so they understand this is a threat. Now, they don’t understand the way in which it’s a threat, they fear the Romans, but they know that this Jesus means trouble for them.
And at the very bottom what they fear is Jesus is going to be a threat to their position and their privilege. Because who are these people? Pharisees, chief priests, council… These are the religious leaders, the religious experts. These are the people at the top of the Jewish food chain. And they realize that Jesus could upset all of that.
Jesus is not a revolutionary, as we think of political revolutionaries. He’s not out to overthrow the “system,” but make no mistake—Jesus always upsets the status quo. That’s why in the Gospel so often Jesus means bad news for rich people and good news for poor people. It’s not that it’s a sin, necessarily, to be rich—Abraham was rich, Job was rich, Joseph of Arimathea was rich.
But when Jesus comes and he upsets the status quo, it means that in general the people who are on top think “I might not be on top,” and the people who are on bottom think “When Jesus comes, I might be on bottom anymore.” And so the people who perceive themselves to be on the bottom think “I’d like some of that Jesus,” and the people who are up on top start elbowing and start positioning themselves, “This Jesus is going to upset everything that I have.”
See, when you are truly poor in spirit, you say “Jesus can change my life,” and when you are haughty in spirit, you say with great fear and trepidation, “Jesus will change my life.”
One is good news, and one is fear. But both understand, yes, when Jesus comes into your life, things do not remain the same.
Now here comes Caiaphas. We read in verse 49 that he was high priest that year. The high priest was supposed to serve a life term until he died. When it says “that year,” it may simply mean he was the high priest that fateful year, that is, the year of the crucifixion, or it may be a reference that around this time the high priest, as happens so often with political offices, was bought and sold and people were in and out and all sorts of political intrigue, but whatever the case, he was the high priest now.
And you notice that the council cloaks their disdain for Jesus with the zeal for public good. “We’re just interested in public welfare. We’re just interested in human flourishing. We just want our nation to go well, and we just think that this Jesus is going to be trouble for our nation.”
And Caiaphas gives them quite a put down: “You know nothing at all.” In the Greek it says “you’re clueless,” more or less.
This is the way that the Sanhedrin sometimes spoke, especially the chief priest, sort of rudeness is how Josephus characterizes it. He’s frustrated—”What are we accomplishing, people? What are we doing? We’re having our meetings and we’re trying to figure things out. Remember how that went with the man born blind? We ended up looking silly there, embarrassing. No, no, no. We need to take sterner measures.”
And by the end of the chapter, after Caiaphas’ speech, they have crossed a threshold. No turning back. Verse 53: So from that day on, they made plans to put him to death.
It’s one thing to sort of breathe out murderous threats against Him, but now, no, no, no. This is in cold blood. “From that day on, okay, enough is enough with this Jesus.” And they start conspiring, they start making plans, they start drawing up minutes… “Okay, what are we going to do, this Jesus has to go.”
And now they are actively seeking to arrest Him. That’s why, in verses 55 through 57, when you get to the Passover, if you’re counting this is now the third Passover that’s been mentioned in John’s Gospel, and this is the Passover that leads into Holy week. Isn’t it amazing that in John’s Gospel we’re only halfway through the book and we are now to the last week in Jesus’ life, because this is not an ordinary biography; no ordinary biography spends half of the time on the man’s last week, but of course Jesus’ entire mission was bound up in His suffering and in His death.
And they are looking for Him. “Do you think He’s going to show up? He’s been to the Passover before. He has to. It’s a pilgrimage festival. Are we going to see Him? Is He going to hide?” They are now seeking to arrest Him, verse 57. And notice they are not seeking to arrest Him that they might then give Him a fair trial. No, they are seeking to arrest Him because they have already determined that He is guilty. Their hearts have become hardened.
Some of these people had seen Lazarus brought back to life, and somehow in their sinful calculation they go from “He brought a dead man back to life, therefore we should kill Him.”
That’s how it happens with hard hearts.
The Puritans had a saying that the same sun that melts the butter also hardens the clay. That is to say, the same sun, the same Word of God which makes some hearts responsive and then embraces Christ, that same Gospel message makes people hard, as they harden themselves.
And notice that they may have gone to the Pharisees in a moment of just eager anticipation to tell their leaders what had happened, but now by the end of the sequence, the council is there and they’re ready to murder Jesus.
Unbelief may seem neutral at first, but it does not stay there very long. You may think “I’m just indifferent to Jesus, I’ve just sort of set Him aside, I’m just, I’m just bored with the whole thing. It’s just not what I’m into. It’s not just not, not my, my bag, this Jesus.”
You want the Jesus to be your thing? You will not stay in a point of indifference very long.
Calvin says the resurrection of Lazarus ought undoubtedly to have softened even hard hearts of stone, but there is no work of God which impiety will not infect and corrupt by the bitterness of its poison. You may have convinced yourself that it’s not Jesus you’re opposed to, it’s just religion, it’s the church. But if you can be honest with yourself and honest with the Bible, perhaps you will find that a good deal of your angst is actually with Jesus Himself, the sort of claims that He makes, with the sort of allegiance He demands, with the sort of worship that He envisions with His sort of unyielding allegiance to the Scriptures, this Jesus. “No, no, no… I don’t what this Jesus.”
Have you hardened your hearts toward this Christ?
Here’s a final question. Have you hardened your heart, have you closed your eyes, and then finally, and I’ll just be direct because that’s the only way I know how to preach: Have you considered the folly of your unbelief?
Have you considered the folly of your unbelief?
In a Gospel filled with double meanings, this particular section is thick with irony. Just a little aside here from your English teacher, irony is not mere coincidence. Alanis Morissette’s song Isn’t It Ironic? didn’t actually have any irony in it. Maybe that was the ultimate irony—it’s a song about irony that has no irony. [laughter] Go look it up, Google it. Rain on your wedding day is unfortunate—it’s not ironic. Rain on your wedding day when you are marrying a weatherman, that’s ironic. [laughter]
What we mean here with irony is that this section is filled with meaning up here on a human level and then a deeper meaning on the divine level. That over and over again we see here people saying something, people posturing for something, people planning for something, and underneath it all, God is saying something different. God is posturing something different. God is working a different purpose. That up here on the human level they think they’re so smart, and they think they’re making this work, and down here God says “you don’t have any idea.”
We do this all the time. It’s like, if you’ve never understood the game of golf, and you go with your scorecard playing around in a foursome sometime, and you think, “Huh, I can win this. High score wins. All right. [laughter] [sound effect] You guys, I’m cleaning up.” You don’t understand how the game is played. You don’t understand how God’s gonna flip this.
In my studies in Scottish church history, came across the practice, which was very common in the 18th century and it started to fade away in the 19th century, but when they would do church discipline, it was a very public event. And if someone was being disciplined formally, especially if they were being excommunicated, they would be publicly rebuked and admonished in front of the congregation. And in many churches, and they have pictures of this, they would have something like, like a chair like this up here and it was the repentance chair, and sometimes you could even, you can see pictures, and it even said “repentance,” and that’s where the sinner who was coming to be admonished and to give public display of penitence and sorrow for sin, might sit in that chair.
And there’s a story that I came across that a nobleman was coming into a church and he thought, “Well, I’m a very important person. Where do I sit? Surely I sit up front.” And so he went and he found himself sitting in the repentance chair. How fitting to think that “this is my seat of honor.”
Now, whenever you sit up here, you’re going to say “Pastors are in the repentance chairs.” Okay, well, it’s different, different, but that’s what happens with God.
We think we’re claiming the seat of honor, and God says “You don’t really know what that chair’s for.”
We think that we have our great plans and purposes to thwart God, and God says “You don’t know what you’re doing.”
Do you see all of the double meanings here in this text? The Jewish leaders wanted to avoid again the destruction of their temple, and so they thought “we’ll get rid of this Christ.” But of course, in a generation, at 70 A.D., this is exactly what would happen is their temple would be lost and they would be cast out.
The gathering of this Sanhedrin and all of their sin to kill Jesus would result in the gathering of all of God’s children unto Christ.
Or, notice verse 55, the Passover of the Jews, and many went up from the country of Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves. They are going for ritual purification, when of all people they are most sullied by sin and unbelief.
But even more obviously in this text, and John points this out, Caiaphas made a prophecy, and as he prophesied, God was saying something very different. See, Caiaphas is shrewd. He never mentions Jesus by name. His argument is devilishly simple: If he goes, we live. That’s his argument. He’s going to get the attention of the Romans, he’s going to be one of these messianic pretenders, we’re going… But listen, I got a prophetic word. I prophesied this earlier that there was going to be one man who was going to die for the nation, and so isn’t it better, if he goes, we live.”
You see the irony? Both Caiaphas and John, writing the Gospel, understand that Jesus’ death will be a substitution, that Jesus will die in place of the nation. That’s why it says verse 51: “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.”
Now when Caiaphas said that, he was surely thinking of the Jewish dispersion. That’s what they meant by the “children scattered abroad” was the Jewish diaspora. But we know from John’s Gospel, John 10, verse 16, for example, that the “children scattered abroad” are the Gentiles who are going to come in.
So here’s Caiaphas at some point, who gives this great word as high priest, and hear, listen to me, one man is going to die for the nation. One man will die that our nation may be free, and this one man who dies will be the means by which the children are gathered altogether.
And here he’s thinking to himself, “Well, yeah, that’s Jesus, this messianic pretender, who we’re going to kill in order that we may save our nation.”
And God in heaven laughs. Says “You know what, Caiaphas? You couldn’t be more wrong, and you couldn’t be more right. Because this Jesus will die for the nation, and this Jesus will be the means by which the children of God will come unto Me.”
Calvin says “Caiaphas spoke with two tongues, for he vomited out the wicked and cruel design of putting Christ to death, which he had conceived in his mind, but God turned his tongue to a different purpose, so that under these ambiguous words, he likewise uttered a prediction.”
This is why I’ve asked this last question: Have you considered the folly of unbelief?
Yes, we can say it’s wrong, it’s evil, but it doesn’t work. Unbelief was not the first word in the world and unbelief will not have the last word in the world. There is a divine plan that you cannot thwart and you will not conquer.
Caiaphas was at the pinnacle of power and prestige, uttered a prophecy and all the people listened and nodded in agreement and said “yes, we will do it.” His purpose would carry forth and they would put Jesus to death. And in doing exactly what his heart designed to do, he was fulfilling God’s greatest purpose on earth.
Jesus will not go until His appointed hour, we see that. He will then freely lay down His life. This entire plan is of God, not of man. Do you see that? At their most sinister moment, they were working out God’s plan. At their narrowest, they were working to achieve God’s global purposes.
Your unbelief will not prosper.
Jesus is King on His throne. He is awaiting no referendum. No disputed election. It will not change one iota whether I follow Him, you follow Him, your children follow Him… He will be King and He will come again and He will judge the living and the dead. And every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Unbelief will not have the last word.
For some in that moment, it will be the great climax of all they have lived their life for, and for others it will be a moment of profound resignation: “The one that I spurned, the one that I scoffed at, I see now when it is too late, that He is the Son of God.”
Do you remember several weeks ago when I was preaching through John chapter 9, the man born blind, and I said that if you are in Christ, know these two things: God loves you, and He knows what He’s doing.
Now let me say to you, even if you are not in Christ, God still knows what He’s doing. Whether we’re with Him, or against Him, he is working out all of His purposes. Even in this most grievous act, the crucifixion of the Son of God, God’s plan from all eternity, for His own glory, for the salvation of His people, would go forward. No, no, no…Unbelief will not have the last word.
Will it have the last word in your life?
Let’s pray. Our gracious heavenly Father, we thank you for Your Word. We thank you that you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned. You have revealed them to little children. You have revealed them to those who come with broken hearts and open ears, and may we be among them. O Father, we pray that you would give to each one in this room, each one who will listen to this sermon online, some days or weeks or even years from now, the eyes to see and the ears to hear, and the heart to believe, and the mind to understand, who this Jesus is and to put their faith in Him. We pray in His name, knowing that You work all things for our good, for His glory, and for the salvation of Your chosen people. Amen.