John 11:46 – … but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.

As we noted at the end of our last post, many of the Jews who were present for the resurrection of Lazarus believed in Jesus as the Messiah.  In hindsight, Mary and Martha were able to see that their suffering was not in vain; it had a purpose. 

In fact, it had more purpose than either of them realized.  This resurrection was irrefutable proof that Jesus has the power to resurrect every person at the end of this age.  Thus, this incident has given reassurance and comfort to Christians throughout all the ages.

But inexplicably, there were other Jews present during the resurrection who hardened their hearts and still refused to believe in Jesus as the Messiah.  We can only assume that their hearts and minds were blinded by Satan, the god of this world:

2 Corinthians 4:4 – In whom the god of this age has blinded the minds of them who believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

In the midst of their rage and bitterness, these Jews went directly to the Pharisees to report the actions of Jesus as if he were some kind of criminal.  In turn, the equally blind Pharisees will testify at the Sanhedrin and urge the council to issue official orders for the death of Jesus. 

John 11:47 – So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the council and said, “What are we to do?  For this man performs many miracles.”

What was the Sanhedrin and what was its purpose?

The Sanhedrin (literally “sitting together”) or council was a group of 71 Jewish members, including chief priests, elders and scribes with the high priest being the president.   

It was the highest court of the Jews and its authority was extensive.  This court ruled in both judicial and ecclesiastical (pertaining to the church) matters.  However, during the time of Christ they did not have civil/government authority; the Romans did.  (They lost this authority when they went into captivity.  They did not gain it back until Israel was declared a nation in 1948).

The headquarters of the court were in Jerusalem.  The group normally met in a specific hall near the temple courts called Gazzith although scripture also indicates they sometimes met at the home of the chief priest (Matthew 26:3).  Once the temple was destroyed in 70 AD, the Sanhedrin ceased to exist. 

As you would expect, this council was intended for the public good.  It was to uphold/exercise both righteousness and justice, the foundations of God’s own throne.

Psalm 97:2 – Clouds and darkness are round about him: righteousness and justice are the habitation of his throne.

(See also Psalms 89:14 and Isaiah 9:7).  Unfortunately, the council had become corrupt in many ways.  The majority of its members had become full of pride, envy and greed.  They enjoyed their positions of power and they loved exercising authority over their fellow man.

But the worst thing about the council was that most of them were spiritually blind.  As the learned/educated spiritual men of that day, they should have recognized Jesus as the long awaited Messiah, and endorsed him as such.  They should have encouraged all the common Jews to embrace him as well. 

But they didn’t.  In fact, they hated Jesus.  They denied his messianic claims and demanded that the common Jews reject him as well.  Instead of leading their people towards God, they were herding them away from him – straight to hell and destruction.

This was the council that the Pharisees convened for a special meeting to discuss the ‘problem’ of Jesus and how they were going to fight against it.  Their actions were predicted by the psalmist this hundreds of years before:

Psalm 2:2-3 – The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. 

Let me ask you this:  Have you ever been part of a group that was ‘infected’ by the anger or bitterness of one person?  I know I have.  The atmosphere in the room can be positive and healthy, but when that individual comes in and starts complaining, their discontentment spreads throughout the entire group like a disease.  The atmosphere changes into something toxic and pretty soon everyone is angry and unhappy. 

I imagine this council meeting was something like that.  A couple or a few Pharisees began to complain about Jesus.  No doubt, they rehearsed for the group all of the reasons why Jesus should be rejected.  Their frustration and anger infected all of the other members.  This was followed up with eye witness testimony about the most recent miracle, the resurrection of Lazarus.  By the time the testimony was finished, they were all seething with rage.

Build Up

Incidentally, you and I have this same power.  We can go into a group of people and influence it for good or for evil, just with our words.  We should avoid allowing ‘corrupt communication’ to come from our mouths at all times (Ephesians 4:29).  If we are frustrated or angry over something, it is best to share it with God or the person who is frustrating us.  Otherwise, our words need to edify and build up those we are with.   

Did you notice that the religious leaders openly admit that Jesus performed multiple miracles?  When they are judged by God, no witnesses will be needed to condemn them; they condemn themselves with their own words by acknowledging Jesus’ credentials but denying his commission.   

John 11:48 – “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.”

“If we let him go on like this” – What a ridiculous statement!  Clearly, the religious leaders believe that they are capable of shutting down or stopping the work of Jesus if they just try hard enough.

To be fair, if Jesus was a false prophet, then it would be their duty/responsibility to stop him.  But clearly he is NOT a false prophet; they have already acknowledged his many miracles.  

“Everyone will believe in him” – If Jesus continues to work miracles like the last two (curing the blind beggar and raising Lazarus from the dead), he will be universally recognized as the Messiah and the people will proclaim him as king. 

“The Romans will come and take away both our place and nation” – The religious leaders mistakenly believe that the Messiah would immediately set up his earthly kingdom.  They also incorrectly assume that if Jesus attempted to do this, it would result in a war with Rome.  Sadly, the religious leaders didn’t have much faith regarding the outcome of that conflict; they clearly believed that the Jews would be defeated and the Romans would overthrow and destroy both their nation and temple. 

But was that their true fear?  Probably not.  They are hiding their hatred and jealously of Christ under the pretence of public protection/good.  In reality, they were afraid that Jesus was going to destroy their way of life. 

At that time, the religious leaders claimed to be the only people who could correctly interpret the Law.  This resulted in a special prestige and authority.  In addition, they were the temple rulers; until Jesus showed up, no one dared to question what they did. 

But Jesus had already successfully challenged their authority over the Sabbath and many of their doctrines.  If the people followed Jesus, the religious leaders would lose their power, authority, wealth and prestige among the Jews.  This was the real reason they despised Jesus.

It should be noted that there were also just and devout men on the council who truly believed in Jesus as the Messiah.  This may have resulted in some actual discussion about what to do in the matter of Christ.  But as we shall see, the high priest silences any dissenting opinions.

This may be a good time to consider the final outcome of the Sanhedrin.  After the Jews actively participated in the conviction/crucifixion of Christ, all that they claimed to fear happened to them – they entered into a devastating war with Rome in which the temple was destroyed/desecrated and the Jews themselves were slaughtered in vast numbers.  At that point, the Sanhedrin simply ceased to exist. 

Conclusion:  Fighting against God is futile!     

John 11:49 – But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all.”

When the office of high priest was instituted it was for life, unless the man did something that would disqualify him from service (I Kings 2:27).  But once Israel returned from captivity, those who ruled over the Jews claimed and exercised the right of changing the high priest at any time.  It appears that Caiaphas had recently been promoted to this position.

John 11:50 – “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.”

Wow!  This is a shocking statement considering that it comes from the high priest – the most revered and (supposedly) wisest man among the Jews.  Caiaphas is plainly saying that it is better (literal translation: profitable) for Jesus to die whether he was guilty or not, than for the wrath of Rome to be stirred up against the Jews and their whole nation destroyed. 


His point is that the ends justify the means.  Evil is okay if it results in what he thinks is best.  Specifically, if the death of an innocent man (Jesus) would make the people safe from Roman retribution, then he was all for it.  His thinking/reasoning is utterly diabolical!  It is scary to think that he was in the highest office of the Jewish nation!  

But no matter how hard he tries, man can never thwart the purposes and plans of God.  Despite his fleshly motives, Caiaphas is going to speak spiritual truth.

John 11:51-2 – 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.

Doesn’t this just make you rejoice at the power of God?  What the enemy meant for evil, God certainly used for good! 

Caiaphas was busy embracing evil – he was plotting the murder of an innocent man.  But in the midst of that, he was led by Holy Spirit to express his idea in such a way that it had a prophetic interpretation, which had an altogether different meaning from the one he intended to convey.  He actually delivered a most precious truth regarding the atonement of sin through the blood of Jesus!  Read his statement again, and you will see it for yourself!

Let’s remind ourselves that God can do the same thing in our situations.  Wicked people may plot against the righteous, but God has a way of using those plans to accomplish his purposes. 

Joseph is a good example of this.  As you recall, he was the second-to-youngest son of his father Jacob.

Trivia Question: Who was the youngest son of Jacob? The answer is at the bottom of this post.

Joseph’s brothers were jealous of him, so they plotted evil against him.  They wound up selling him as a slave, splashing blood on his coat-of-many-colors and telling their dad he was killed by a wild beast. 

But as we know, Joseph winds up being second in command in Egypt and God uses him to save the Hebrews (and countless others) from death during a severe famine.  When Joseph is reunited with his brothers they are worried about revenge.  But that was the furthest thing from Joseph’s mind.  Look at what he says to his brothers:

Genesis 50:20 – But as for you, you thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save many people alive.

In both cases (Caiaphas and Joseph) God uses the words/actions of the wicked in a manner which they do not wish or intend. 

In this situation, we want to be clear that Caiaphas was NOT a true prophet. He was not conscious of, nor did he understand the truth he spoke about the atonement of Jesus.

If that is the case, why does God speak through him? 

The Jews always attached great importance to the opinion of the high priest because of the office he held.  The high priest was the official representative of God to the Jewish people and anyone in this office had the official capacity to convey God’s truth.  So God made him do just that!  He unwittingly steered the Jews in the right direction (toward Christ), when all of his intentions were to do the opposite.

As for his actual words, he predicted that Jesus should die in the place of men – an atonement for sinners.  His atonement was for both Jews (‘the nation’) and Gentiles (‘children of God scattered abroad’) alike.        

John 11:53 – So from that day on they made plans to put him to death.

The council is interpreting the words of the high priest as he intended them.  The ‘plans’ mentioned here are specific ways/scenarios in which they could charge Jesus with the death penalty under Roman law.  As we know, they will eventually accuse him of being a king, which put him in opposition to Caesar and ensured he would be crucified for treason.

John 11:54 – 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. 

‘Walking openly’ refers to going through the cities and villages of the Jews teaching, preaching and healing the sick. 

So once the Sanhedrin put Jesus on the 10 Most Wanted List (John 11:57), he and the disciples temporarily stopped traveling.  They withdrew into a quiet country place away from the open wrath of the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem. 

But of course, Jesus was not withdrawing because he was afraid of his enemies.  Nor was he withdrawing from his Father’s will; he fully intended to surrender his life to the Jews at the appointed time.

John 11:55 – Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves.

When writing his gospel, why would John use phrases like ‘Passover of the Jews’? Why mention the purification process that we already know took place?   

It shows that John was writing his gospel to include people who were not Jewish and not acquainted with Jewish customs. 

For example, Gentiles might not be aware that Jews were unable to celebrate Passover unless they were ceremonially clean.  Any number of things could make a person unclean (details can be found in Leviticus 22:1-6). 

For instance, touching or being in the presence of a tomb, dead body or human bones automatically made you ceremonially unclean.  In this particular case, the person needed seven days in order to undergo the purification process, take a bath and wash their clothes.  So there would always be Jews who came to the Passover early in order to be purified.

John 11:56 – 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?”

We know that all Jewish males, including Jesus, were to appear before the Lord at Passover.  This was not optional, it was required.  So of course, Jesus would be there.  However, due to the hostility between Jesus and the Jewish leaders, some people wondered whether or not he would show up. 

The people asking this question are the Jews who came to the feast early, from far away.  This tells us that even the Jews from the outermost regions of Judea knew about Jesus, about his message and about his friction with the Jewish leaders.  Indeed, they had probably seen the order given by the council:

John 11:57 – 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.

This proclamation falsely paints Jesus as a dangerous criminal/outlaw, who was a fugitive from justice.  It no doubt carried a considerable reward for those who were willing to help and stiff penalties for those caught harboring Jesus.   

Let me offer you some encouragement:

When Lazarus was resurrected, many people who were witnesses to the fact immediately acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah of the world.  Others did not.  In fact, they ran to the enemies of Christ to report the incident and stir up trouble.

But let me offer you some encouragement:  Even the bitterest of Christ’s enemies can be touched with the gospel and have their lives transformed.  So if you are praying for a friend or loved one who continues to firmly reject the gospel, don’t give up!  Continue to demonstrate the love, patience and goodness of God to them, and let Holy Spirit soften their hearts.   

Let me offer you some relief:

Jesus has sent all of his followers into the world to share the truth of the gospel (Mark 16:15).  Some of us fear to do that because we feel inadequate; we don’t think we know enough about the scriptures to discuss them with someone else.

But let me offer you some relief – you don’t have to know everything.  You can spread the gospel by talking about what you DO know – just share what Jesus has done for you!  Sharing your personal testimony is a very powerful way to witness to those who are desperate for hope.   

Let me offer you some strength:

Jesus had many bitter enemies during his time on earth.  His opponents included many influential and wealthy people, as well as many of the leaders at the time.  But as rich, famous and powerful as they were, they could never block the gospel message.  They could not win a fight against God.

The same is true today.  Many rich, famous and powerful people reject the gospel of Christ and mock those who embrace it.  They promote the ways of Satan whenever they get the chance.

But don’t be swayed or embarrassed by them.  They are mere men; they will never over throw the kingdom of God.       

TRIVIA ANSWER: Jacob’s youngest son was Benjamin, son of Rachel and brother of Joseph.



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