The Worst-Case Scenario: John 11:45-57

Focus Passage: John 11:45-57 (GNT)

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.

55 The time for the Passover Festival was near, and many people went up from the country to Jerusalem to perform the ritual of purification before the festival. 56 They were looking for Jesus, and as they gathered in the Temple, they asked one another, “What do you think? Surely he will not come to the festival, will he?” 57 The chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where Jesus was, he must report it, so that they could arrest him.

Read John 11:45-57 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

Following Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, John shifts the focus onto the messengers who take this news to the Pharisees and chief priests. While Lazarus was not the first dead individual that Jesus brought back to life, perhaps this miracle was more notable because Lazarus had already been buried.

John brings us into this council meeting and describes how the leaders present their problem. John tells us, “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! 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!’” (47-48)

The way the leaders presented their case is in some ways logical, but it is also very one-sided. If we look at the conclusion they draw, it is like presenting the worst-case scenario as the only option. In their presentation of the problem Jesus is causing, they make Jesus out to be a military threat to Rome when there is almost no evidence to support their theory of this – except for their own prophecies about a Messiah.

Centuries of Jewish tradition pointed to the Messiah coming and overthrowing whatever power was occupying their nation and setting them up as a kingdom that would never end. This angle of interpretation did make Jesus a military threat – even if nothing in His ministry demonstrated this.

But their logic may be flawed.

While the Christian movement eventually did overcome the Roman Empire, it didn’t do so through any type of military activity. Instead, it may be better to say that Christianity outlasted Rome as an empire because what the empire was built on was destined to crumble.

But what if their logic was not flawed?

Maybe if too large a group began rallying around Jesus, Rome would perceive it as a threat. Perhaps the threat wouldn’t be from Jesus Himself, but instead from His followers who believed in the Messiah being a military leader.

However, if this were the case, the Jewish system wouldn’t be guaranteed to be a target as well. All the leaders would need to do is request help from the Romans, and then they would clearly demonstrate whose side they were on.

When looking closer at how the leaders present their argument, we can see that they orchestrated the scenario to only show one side – which was the side saying Jesus should die. There is no guarantee that what they describe would have ultimately happened if they didn’t get their way, but fear drove their actions.

In our own lives, if we let fear drive us, our decisions and actions will be one-sided – driven by only looking at the worst-case scenario. When fear drives us, we are more likely to make poor decisions and make mistakes. However, even in with our mistakes, Jesus is able to reach down and help us make the best of the situation we find ourselves in.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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