Flashback Episode — One Death for the Salvation of All: John 11:45-57

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When reading the gospels, especially John’s gospel, I am amazed at the themes regarding Jesus’ that are focused on. With John’s gospel, one event stands above the rest as one of the most amazing things that could have ever happened. In my mind, a novelist living during that time period simply would not even think of weaving this sort of thing into their story, and I wonder if, because only John’s gospel includes it, John was given divine revelation into this closed-door event for John to see and hear what had been said.

To set the stage for what we will read, John tells us this event happened immediately following Jesus resurrecting Lazarus from the dead. Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead sent a shock wave of excitement through all of Judea as this had not been seen before, and this was one more reason that supported Jesus being God’s Messiah.

Following learning about Lazarus’ resurrection, John tells us in chapter 11, reading from the Good News Translation, and starting in verse 45 that:

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.

We’ll stop reading here because I don’t want you to miss the significance of what John tells us. Caiaphas, the High Priest that year, which is another way of saying that He was essentially the highest religious figure in the Jewish faith, made a powerfully profound statement – and one that he did not even realize had a double meaning when he spoke it.

Through his position, Caiaphas could have been Jesus’ most powerful ally, but instead, Caiaphas had aligned himself with those against Jesus because he was content with the status quo, living under Roman oppression. This made Caiaphas Jesus’ most influential and powerful opponent from a human perspective.

While there was Satan, who was also Jesus’ enemy, working actively behind the scenes, and the Roman emperor and governors, who didn’t really care for or pay much attention to a single individual who showed no military interest, Caiaphas was the leader that the Jews looked to in order to give the final word regarding spiritual matters.

However, just because someone was an enemy of Jesus doesn’t mean God cannot use them. In this passage, John quotes Caiaphas silencing and uniting the religious leaders by saying to those present, “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?

Before touching on the big truth John wants us to see, let’s look at another subtle angle on this phrase that deserves our attention. Throughout the Old Testament, an unbroken theme exists that says God will be with and will protect His people. Regardless of whether God’s people are living in the Promised Land, in Egypt, or exiled for their disobedience, God promised to hear them and to be with them.

Time and time again in the Old Testament, nations and evil people tried to kill off the Jewish people, but they were never successful. God always stepped in, whether divinely or through a strategically placed individual and set of circumstances, and the Jewish nation was saved.

Why I bring this detail up is that Caiaphas has just revealed his lack of trust in God by stating that the Romans would destroy their entire nation if they didn’t eliminate Jesus. Caiaphas fell into a trap we all face that minimizes God’s victories for us in the past in light of our present struggles and challenges. In Caiaphas’ frame of mind when he makes this statement, all of God’s protection and guidance over the past 2500 years meant nothing when faced with the Roman threat.

Caiaphas may have not directly believed this statement, but he uses this literary comparison with excellence as a way of bringing out everyone else’s doubt in God. At the end of their meeting, these leaders who claimed to be for God had just replaced their trust in Him with fear of the Romans – and it is worth us paying attention to this because we face this temptation every single day, except for the Roman part. Every day we decide to trust in something, and every day, we are tempted to make the something we trust in not God.

But John brings out a powerful parallel meaning in Caiaphas’ statement. John draws our attention to the detail that while Caiaphas meant this statement to mean that Jesus must die for the preservation of the Jewish nation, God actually stepped in and inspired this prophecy to say that Jesus’ death was necessary for the preservation of all God’s people, wherever in the world they lived, and in whatever time of history they lived in.

This powerful truth tells me that regardless of whether someone, or a group of people, has aligned themselves for or against God, God is still able to use them for His purposes. Even though Caiaphas opened the door in his statement and rhetorical question to unite the leaders against Jesus and undermine their trust in God, God still used them in a powerful way to open the way for salvation as an option for all people, and to guarantee salvation for all of God’s people throughout history.

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

Pay careful attention to where you place your trust each day. If you sense the temptation to trust in someone or something other than God, then resist the temptation. The best way I know how to orient each day for God is by intentionally placing Him first as the first thing I do when I wake up each morning. In my morning routine on most mornings, (hey, I’m being honest with you here), part of the time is spent reading a passage or two out of the Bible and praying for guidance.

Speaking of studying the Bible, be sure that you are doing that as well. While you may enjoy learning everything I have learned from my Bible study time, there is nothing to say that God doesn’t have something He wants to share with you directly. This is why I always encourage you to study the Bible for yourself, because through personal prayer and personal Bible study, you are able to grow a personal relationship with God. And with a personal relationship, He will grow you into the person He created you to be!

And speaking of growing into the person God created you to be, I also will conclude this set of challenges by telling you to never stop short, back away from, or chicken out of where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Season 3 – Episode 32: Cam discusses a statement and question that unites the religious leaders against Jesus, while also revealing their lack of trust in God for protection from the Romans.

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