Sunday Morning Bible Study
April 14, 1996
A few weeks ago, we started a story about Jesus and His three friends, Martha, Mary, and Lazarus.
A message arrived that Jesus' friend, Lazarus, was sick.
When Jesus reached His friends in Bethany, Lazarus had already been dead for four days.
As both Martha and Mary met Jesus, they kind of rebuked Him for having taken so long, saying,
»Joh 11:21 ... Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.
But Jesus didn't rebuke the sisters in return.
He felt compassion for them and their sorrow, and He wept with them.
When He asked to be taken to the tomb, Martha was a little reluctant, because after all, Lazarus "stinketh" by this time!
At the tomb, Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come forth!" And he did!
Many believed on Jesus because of this miracle, but some didn't, even running off to the Pharisees to report on the new trouble that Jesus was stirring up.
:47-53 The plot starts to kill Jesus
:47 Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council
They convened what was called the "Sanhedrin", the group that governed the nation, but under the eye of the Roman authorities.
The Pharisees were the group of Jews who held to a strict interpretation of the Scriptures, and though they weren't really a political group per se, they were involved in the government more to protect their religious freedoms.
The chief priests were predominantly of a group called the Sadducees.
They were a political group, and were pretty liberal when it came to religious ideas.
They only held to the first five books of Moses as being inspired, they did not believe in the supernatural, did not believe in angels, nor in the resurrection from the dead (that's why they were "sad-you-see")
These two groups were traditionally at odds with one another.
It's funny how adversity to a common cause can bring the most diverse groups together.
:47 What do we? for this man doeth many miracles
Isn't it kind of funny that the very things that should be making them wonder if Jesus is the Messiah, are the things that make them want to take action against Him?
Instead of the miracles causing them to believe in Jesus as God's Son, they are concerned that these miracles are going to only stir up more trouble by making people follow Jesus instead of them.
Religiousness based on traditions can be blind.
May God help us to not be so blinded by our own various traditions so that we can't see the very thing that God is trying to do in our midst.
:48 the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation
The Sanhedrin knew that it's authority over the people was very limited, and always under the watchful eye of the Roman conquerors.
If Rome thought that a possible revolt was in the making, they would make things very hard for the nation.
According to the Jewish historian Josephus (Antiq. 18:4:3), for some time now, the Roman procurators actually kept control over the high priest's garments, locked up in the tower of Antonia.
The high priest had special robes and turbans that only he was to use in his special role as the high priest of the nation.
The Romans felt that if they kept the high priests' garments under guard, and only let the Jews have them a few times a year, that they would keep the Jews from revolting, for fear that they would lose the high priest's garments.
It wouldn't be until about five years later, that under a different Roman procurator, the high priest's garments would be given back to the Jews for full time possession.
This was the kind of tense situation that the Jews lived with under Roman rule, and they didn't want trouble from the Romans.
:49 Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year
According to Josephus, (Antiq. 18:2:2; 18:4:3), this man was known as "Joseph, who was called Caiaphas".
Apparently his name was Joseph, but he preferred to be known by another name, "Caiaphas".
Caiaphas = "as comely" (or, "as good-looking")
Does this sound a little conceited to you?
Originally, the high priest was to be a lifetime job.
It would pass from father to son.
But during Jesus' time, the high priests were puppets of the Roman government, and they were appointed by the Romans.
The Romans wanted control over the people, and if an unsympathetic high priest came to office, he could cause a lot of trouble.
Prior to Caiphas, each of the three preceding high priests averaged less than a year in office.
Each time a new high priest was appointed, the Roman governor didn't like something he was doing, and would replace him with another.
Caiaphas, on the other hand, was a crafty kind of guy, and knew what it took to please the Romans.
In fact, he was so well liked by the Romans, that he remained high priest for 18 years, through two different Roman governors.
He's now been high priest for about 15 years.
Caiaphas was appointed high priest in A.D. 18, and was high priest until A.D. 36.
He also married into the right family.
His father-in-law was a man named Annas.
Annas was the high priest four preceding high priests ago.
And of Annas' sons, five of them became high priests.
:49 Ye know nothing at all
"You guys don't know anything ..."
:50 it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people
We're going to see that there's a deeper meaning to what Caiaphas is saying.
But to Caiaphas, he means that the only wise thing is to have Jesus put to death so the Romans don't become afraid of a Jewish revolt, and end up taking away the rights and privileges they already have.
After all, Caiphas knows how to deal with these Romans.
:51 this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied
Here's an interesting phenomena!
There is no one who is more of an unbeliever at this time than Caiaphas, and yet God is using him as a prophet, because of the position he holds as high priest.
God can speak through unbelievers!
He spoke through a false prophet named Balaam. (Num.22-24)
Balaam was hired by the king of Moab to put a curse on the Israelites as they were marching into the promised land.
But instead of cursing, all that came out of his mouth was continuous blessings on the nation.
In fact, in one of the more humorous passages of the Bible, God was even able to get a message across by allowing Balaam's donkey to speak!
Hey, if God can use a donkey, he can use me!
:51 ... Jesus should die for that nation
Caiaphas meant that Jesus' death would keep the Romans from getting suspicious.
But God meant exactly what Caiaphas said.
Jesus would die for the people, all the people.
Jesus died for you.
From the very beginning of the gospel of John we've seen clearly that Jesus came to earth for one purpose.
It wasn't to live a good life and give us an example how to live.
It wasn't to give us good teaching on how to live our lives.
It was to die.
Man from the garden of Eden has had a major problem in relating to God, his own sin:
»Isaiah 59:1-2 Behold, the LORD'S hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: 2 But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.
Jesus came for one reason, to pay the price of our sin, and remove the blockage between God and man.
For God, it was not just a matter of forgiving us of our sins, but for there to be justice, the sins had to be paid for.
»Isaiah 53:5 But he [was] wounded for our transgressions, [he was] bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace [was] upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
God offers to you today complete forgiveness and salvation as a gift from Him, but like all gifts, it's not yours until you receive it.
»John 1:12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, [even] to them that believe on his name:
A little girl was helping to nurse a sick gentleman whom she loved very much. He said to her, "Ellen, it is time I should take my medicine; measure just a tablespoonful, and put it in the wine glass." She quickly did so and brought it to his bedside. He made no attempt to take it from her, but said, "Now, dear, will you drink it for me?"
"Me drink it! What do you mean? I am sure I would in a minute if it would make you well all the same; but you know it won't do you any good unless you take it yourself".
"Won't it really?"
"No, I suppose it will not."
"But if you cannot take my medicine for me, I cannot take your salvation for you. You must go to Jesus, and believe in him for yourself."
Each human being must seek, repent, believe and obey for himself.
-- Rev. Elon Foster, New Encyclopedia of Prose Illustrations (Thomas Crowell & Co., 1877), p. 12.
It's strange coming from the lips of a man like Caiaphas, but there's no greater truth, that Jesus died for you.
:52 he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad
It wasn't just the nation of Israel that Jesus died for, but for all of us.
:53 from that day forth ...
It's now from this point that the Sanhedrin has decided that Jesus must die.
:54-57 Jesus withdraws
:54 Jesus therefore walked no more openly among the Jews
Somehow, I get the idea that Jesus was aware that the Sanhedrin had made a decision about Him.
Why does Jesus go into hiding?
It's not because He is afraid.
It's because He has a schedule to keep, and it's still just a bit early for Him to be getting arrested and executed.
God's plan is for Jesus to die on the Passover, as the Passover Lamb, dying for the nation.
And Passover is still a few weeks away yet.
Wait for the right time! Be patient!
I don't know about you, but I don't like to wait.
If I buy something at the grocery store, I don't just look for the shortest line, but the quickest checker!
In the morning, I don't microwave my hot water for instant coffee for 2:30, but 2:20!
I always leave at the last possible minute for things because I don't want to waste any time waiting around at the other end. Which is why, by the way, I'm usually late to most of my appointments!
If I order something by catalog over the phone, I'll gladly pay the extra few dollars to have it shipped Federal Express, because I don't want to wait for regular mail.
But like it or not, some things you just have to wait for.
I have yet to figure out how to make all the street lights turn green when I'm late to an appointment.
With my first real girlfriend in high school, I knew she was the one, and we could hardly wait to get married. With my second real girlfriend in high school, I knew she was the one, and we could hardly wait to get married. With my third real girlfriend in high school, I knew SHE was the one, and we could hardly wait to get married.
But it wasn't until I was in college, and finally sworn off of girls for a whole year that I found Deb. Then dumped her. Then dated her. Then dumped her, then got engaged!
Like it or not, I had to wait. And I'm glad I did!
I sensed God's call to be a pastor when I was 18, and though I knew I wasn't ready yet, I was pretty ready by the time I finished school.
But it wasn't until I was 38 that the final position happened.
Sometimes you just have to wait until the right time.
»Psalm 37:7-9 Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass. 8 Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil. 9 For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the LORD, they shall inherit the earth.
:54 into a city called Ephraim
Ephraim, besides being the name of one of the tribes, was in Jesus' day a small village about 13 miles north of Jerusalem, up in the hills.
It kind of seems like Jesus is just hiding out until the Passover gets near.
:55 the Jews' passover was nigh at hand
:56 Then sought they for Jesus
By now, Jesus had become quite the talk about town.
:57 the chief priests and the Pharisees had given a commandment
They've now made it known that Jesus is a wanted man.
Let's go back and pick up on something we glossed over:
:55 many went out of the country up to Jerusalem before the passover, to purify themselves
There's something happening here that I think is worth looking at.
The people from all over the countryside are getting ready for the upcoming celebration of the Passover, and they're doing it by "purifying" themselves.
God has always been very concerned that His people get prepared before coming to worship Him.
All the way back in the days of Moses, God had told the people that they needed to be in a spiritually "clean" condition to celebrate God's feasts like the Passover.
»Leviticus 7:20 But the soul that eateth [of] the flesh of the sacrifice of peace offerings, that [pertain] unto the LORD, having his uncleanness upon him, even that soul shall be cut off from his people.
We're not just talking about dealing with sins, but about other things as well that made a person unfit for worship.
When the time of the second annual Passover rolled around, there was a serious concern, because a few of the men weren't in a "clean" condition.
»Numbers 9:6-11 And there were certain men, who were defiled by the dead body of a man, that they could not keep the passover on that day: and they came before Moses and before Aaron on that day: 7 And those men said unto him, We are defiled by the dead body of a man: wherefore are we kept back, that we may not offer an offering of the LORD in his appointed season among the children of Israel? 8 And Moses said unto them, Stand still, and I will hear what the LORD will command concerning you. 9 And the LORD spake unto Moses, saying, 10 Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If any man of you or of your posterity shall be unclean by reason of a dead body, or be in a journey afar off, yet he shall keep the passover unto the LORD. 11 The fourteenth day of the second month at even they shall keep it, and eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.
We're going to zoom ahead about 800 years to the time of King Hezekiah, who after the people had gone far from the Lord into all kinds of idolatry, he brought them back to following the Lord.
One of the first things he did was to reinstitute the Passover.
»2Chronicles 30:13-20 And there assembled at Jerusalem much people to keep the feast of unleavened bread in the second month, a very great congregation. 14 And they arose and took away the altars that were in Jerusalem, and all the altars for incense took they away, and cast them into the brook Kidron. 15 Then they killed the passover on the fourteenth day of the second month: and the priests and the Levites were ashamed, and sanctified themselves, and brought in the burnt offerings into the house of the LORD. 16 And they stood in their place after their manner, according to the law of Moses the man of God: the priests sprinkled the blood, which they received of the hand of the Levites. 17 For there were many in the congregation that were not sanctified: therefore the Levites had the charge of the killing of the passovers for every one that was not clean, to sanctify them unto the LORD. 18 For a multitude of the people, even many of Ephraim, and Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun, had not cleansed themselves, yet did they eat the passover otherwise than it was written. But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, The good LORD pardon every one 19 That prepareth his heart to seek God, the LORD God of his fathers, though he be not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary. 20 And the LORD hearkened to Hezekiah, and healed the people.
The people weren't completely ready according to the full extent of the Mosaic Law, but because they had prepared their hearts, God listened and honored their worship.
Prepare your heart for worship.
Don't get me wrong - I'm not advocating that you stay home from church if you don't feel worthy to be here.
But I think it's a good idea to spend a few minutes asking God to cleanse your heart and prepare you to come into His presence before you come to worship.
What do you think we're doing when we spend so much time singing these songs of ours?
We are presenting our offerings of praise and adoration before our Great God and King.
And it doesn't hurt to have your heart prepared beforehand.
Prepare your heart for communion.
Paul warned the Corinthians of the dangers of celebrating communion with the wrong kind of heart:
Paul tells us of the problems they were having during communion.
»1Corinthians 11:26-34 For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come. 27 Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink this cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. 28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of that cup. 29 For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body. 30 For this cause many are weak and sickly among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world. 33 Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to eat, tarry one for another. 34 And if any man hunger, let him eat at home; that ye come not together unto condemnation. And the rest will I set in order when I come.
It's not just dealing with personal sin that we should be concerned with, but areas of "uncleanness" as well.
"Uncleanness" is something that's not really specifically a sin, but it just somehow makes your heart stink a little bit.
I think certain attitudes are pretty "unclean":
How do I prepare myself?
1. Ask Jesus Christ into your heart to be your Lord and Savior.
He's the one who died in your place, to pay for your sins.
But you need to first receive His free gift before it's yours.
2. Ask God to search your heart and show you any problems you have.
»Psalm 139:23-24 Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: 24 And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
3. Confess your sin to God.
»1John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.