The Rev. Paul J Cain, Jr.
St. John 11: 1-45 (46-53) NIV1984
It is better for you that one man die...
Fifth Sunday in Lent, 10 April 2011
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Sheridan, Wyoming
In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
The Senators knew they had to deal with the situation. The crisis had simply gone on long enough. It was time for action. And so, they called for a special session of the Senate. The crisis revolved around one man, a preacher, the Reverend Josephson, (pause) Jesus, thought to be son of Joseph. One event in particular brought the crisis to a head—when this Jesus raised a man named Lazarus from the dead.
In our day, we are familiar with “special sessions” of legislatures. They may convene to discuss taxes, education, or a farm crisis. In Jesus day, the Jewish Senate, the (SAN-HEE-DRUHN) Sanhedrin, called a meeting to discuss Him. This morning, let’s examine three questions: Why was the meeting called? What did they want to accomplish? And finally, what was actually accomplished? First,
• Why was the meeting called? The text gives us a clue in the first word of the final part of today’s Holy Gospel, not printed on the back of your bulletin because of its total length. That word is: “Then” in the NIV and “So” in the ESV. To what does this word refer?
Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.
Our text today comes from John Chapter eleven. The first 44 verses of the chapter tell the story of how Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. When Jesus hears that Lazarus has died, he goes to Bethany, two miles from Jerusalem. On the road He meets Lazarus’ sisters, Martha and Mary. They were grieving, but Martha, in faith, confesses her belief in the Resurrection. Jesus tells her that He is the Resurrection and the Life. Jesus calls, “Lazarus, come out!” and the resurrected Lazarus comes out, four days after being placed in the tomb.
Two verses clarify the significance of the word “then”: Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.
The spiritual blindness of the Pharisees is demonstrated again. Some Jews “tattled” on Jesus by going to the Pharisees, no doubt feeding on their fears of this man. But not everyone reacted that way. Many Jewish people believed, we read.
Lord, through your Word, increase our faith! Remove the blinders of sin. Keep us steadfast in your Word so that we may continue to believe until You come again.
God is faithful. He will accomplish it.
Now we know why the meeting was called.
• What did the Pharisees want to do?
“What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”
Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”
What did they want to accomplish? Well, it appears that at first they weren’t accomplishing much at all. People were believing in Jesus. Many Jews were convinced He was the Messiah, especially after seeing miracles like the resurrection of Lazarus. That they were losing “parishioners” was enough reason to try to stop Jesus. At the meeting they express another reason, a pretty good excuse: fear of the Romans.
Commenting on the “excuse” that the chief priests and Pharisees gave for seeking to kill Jesus, George Stoeckhardt writes, “That was mere pretense. They themselves did not actually believe that Jesus from a political point of view was a dangerous man. But He did not contribute to their prestige among the people. They hated Him because He had told the truth. In the same way, the world considers Christians to be disturbers and rebels. Those who speak thus usually know very well that Christians are harmless people. But the Christians are disliked by them and are seen as obstructionists because they tell the truth and rebuke them because of their sins.” End Quote.
Jesus’ truthfulness was the threat. Not politically, but a threat to their role as religious leaders.
Caiaphas spoke more than he knew. It is better for us that one man die for the people—better because no sinful person could die the life-giving death that we so desperately needed. Better indeed that one man—Jesus the Christ, the God-man—did die for us, doing for us what we could never do for ourselves. That death of Jesus on the cross is the fulfillment of God’s promise that He would save you.
• What did they do? What was accomplished?
(He) [Caiaphas] did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. So from that day on they plotted to take [Jesus’] (his) life.
St. John gives us some significant detail and perspective in these verses. We are familiar with the Romans 8:28 verse that goes, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him.” God can even use this selfish statement of Caiaphas to prophesy about Jesus dying for your sins in your place so that you would not perish eternally.
And not only may the Jewish nation be saved through Jesus, but also the scattered children of God, like we once were. Christ truly is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He is a light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of His people Israel. And He has made us one. Those with faith in Christ are all members of the Body of Christ, both Jew and Gentile, together as the Church.
The last verse of the unprinted part of our text this morning says that from that day on they plotted to take [Jesus’] (his) life. God used that sin so that you would be rid of your sin. Jesus allowed Himself to be crucified for you.
Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life. The resurrection of Lazarus earlier in John 11 foreshadows the Resurrection of Our Lord. And on Judgment Day Christ will say to you, “Christian, come out!” And we too will rise from our graves, and all believers will be with their Lord and God forever.
A young teenage girl had been severely ill for over a year. Her last days on earth were marked by several operations, months of hospitalization, and a full $1 million of medical care. Death was imminent. It was Jesus’ promise of our resurrection that allowed her uncle, a pastor, to lean into her ear and whisper the last words she heard on earth: “I’ll see you on the other side.”
These two Christians knew Jesus’ promise to someday halt the great funeral procession of the world and announce with a trumpet the time for all Christians to arise and to gather around His throne in eternal worship.
Yes, it is better for you that one man—Christ Jesus—died for the people than that the whole nation perish. And because He did, your sins are forgiven and you will be with Him forevermore. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.