“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.” (John 11:45–54, ESV)
You would think that in the face of the overwhelming work done before the people that all of them would fall to their knees in worship of God and the One He had sent. And sure enough many of them did. But there were still some in the crowd that did not believe. Though they were amazed at what they had seen, they still did not accept Jesus as being sent by the Father. It was this group that went back to the Pharisees and told them what He had done. It seems like this really rattled their foundation. Taking that news they gathered with the council, asking as a whole, “What are we to do?” The council that John spoke of is the Sanhedrin which comprised seventy members from the Pharisees and former High-Priests and family members of the High-Priests. This group represented the religious hierarchy and they are the ones that had whatever power was granted to them by their Roman oppressors. This group was not an entirely cohesive group as they had their “theological” differences which at times could become quite intense. But they were the ones who set the religious tone for the people of Jerusalem. They were the highest religious judicial body in the country and they had a large amount of power, with the greatest power resting in the Chief Priests who were nearly all Sadducees.
It was this group who set aside their mutual disregard for each other to unite against their common enemy, Jesus. Jesus represented to them a threat to their entire system. All that they had built up was in danger of crumbling right in front of them as more and more people believed. They were granted power by the Roman government because of their influence over the people and their ability to maintain order, but if that influence were to wane then they would be in danger of having their power taken away and their whole system dismantled. Jesus was a threat to all that they built up and knew, and they knew that they could not let Him continue to draw people away from their influence.
It was in the face of these discussions that the high priest that year, Caiaphas, spoke up saying, “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.” John added commentary to this statement writing, “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.” While Caiaphas may have been speaking about the threat that Jesus posed to their system and their existence as a unique people, and his willingness that they should kill Jesus in order to preserve this, the reality was that it was actually by His death that this same people would be saved. Not grasping the reality of why Jesus had come and the result of His death, Caiaphas said that Jesus needed to die in order to preserve what he saw as their fragile existence. His speaking out against Christ was in actuality an unwitting prophecy about what God was going to accomplish as these Jews brought their own plan to completion. Through their actions to kill Jesus God would preserve His people and bring salvation to all of the nations. And through their actions God would eventually bring all of His people back to Himself such that the nation of Israel is saved. This group that was so focused on their own self-preservation was proving themselves to be unwitting pawns in God’s eternal plan. And as John wrote this he did so from the vantage point of having seen what God did to bring it to completion.
Their resolve from that day forward was to put Him to death. In their minds they had let Him go long enough. Jesus knowing this kept His distance. He “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.” Jesus did not run for His life out of fear of what they were going to do, nonetheless He went away knowing their resolve and knowing that His time had not yet come. He went away to a place probably about 12 miles away from Jerusalem where He was removed enough from their presence to wait and yet close enough that when His time soon came that He could easily make His return.
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