John 11:45-57

Sunday Morning Bible Study

July 25, 2010


Do people see Jesus? Is the gospel preached? Does it speak to the broken hearted? Does it build up the church? Milk – Meat – Manna Preach for a decision

We are in the final stretch of the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ.  We are about to head into the final week.

We’ve been walking through the story of Jesus raising His friend Lazarus from the dead.

Play “Raising Lazarus” video clip.

Now you would think that after an incredible miracle like this, that everyone present at the tomb would realize that Jesus was indeed the Messiah.

11:45-57 The Plot Thickens

:45 Then many of the Jews who had come to Mary, and had seen the things Jesus did, believed in Him.

:45 had seentheaomai – view attentively, contemplate

We’re talking about the very people that had followed Mary out of the house and were actual eye-witnesses to Lazarus being raised from the dead.

:45 believedpisteuo – to think to be true, to be persuaded of, to credit, place confidence in

:46 But some of them went away to the Pharisees and told them the things Jesus did.

:46 some of them went away


Same Jesus, different response

People are going to respond to the message and work of Jesus in different ways.
Some are going to believe.
Some are not.
From time to time you will come across a person who says, “I will not believe in God unless He does a miracle right in front of my face!”.
That sounds like a good line, but to be totally honest, there are going to be some people who still won’t believe.
It was around this same time that Luke wrote (Luke 16) about Jesus telling the story of a poor beggar named Lazarus and a rich man, both of whom died.  The rich man went to hell while the beggar went to paradise with Father Abraham.  The rich man yelled across the great chasm between hell and Paradise and asked Abraham to send Lazarus to bring him a drop of water to quench his great thirst.  Abraham replied that it couldn’t be done.  Then the rich man asked Abraham if Lazarus could be sent back from the dead to warn his brothers about the misery of hell. Abraham responded,
(Lk 16:31 NKJV) …‘If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.’
Miracles should make it obvious that there is a God and that you need to follow Him.
But the truth is that we humans are pretty stubborn and corrupt.  Some people won’t believe no matter what.

:47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, “What shall we do? For this Man works many signs.

:47 chief priests and the Pharisees

The Pharisees were what we might call “orthodox” or “conservative”.  The chief priests were not Pharisees but Sadducees, the exact opposite of the Pharisees. Sadducees and Pharisees rarely agreed on anything.  But here they are going to join forces to oppose Jesus.

It’s like the Republicans and the Democrats deciding to vote for the same thing.

:47 gatheredsunago (“synagogue) – to gather together, to gather

:47 councilsunedrion (“together” + “sitting”) – any assembly, the Sanhedrin

Even though the Romans ruled over the nation, they left many things up to the ruling Jewish high council, the Sanhedrin.

Sanhedrin:  The great council at Jerusalem, consisting of the seventy one members, viz. scribes, elders, prominent members of the high priestly families and the high priest, the president of the assembly. The most important causes were brought before this tribunal, inasmuch as the Roman rulers of Judaea had left to it the power of trying such cases, and also of pronouncing sentence of death, with the limitation that a capital sentence pronounced by the Sanhedrin was not valid unless it was confirmed by the Roman procurator.

:47 signssemeion – mark, token; of miracles and wonders by which God authenticates the men sent by Him

This is an important issue with the Jews, to make sure that a person claiming to be from God is indeed the genuine article.

Early in His ministry, after He drove the moneychangers out of the Temple,

(Jn 2:18 NKJV) So the Jews answered and said to Him, “What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?”

John has built his gospel by picking out seven significant “signs” out of the many that Jesus did during His earthly ministry.

At this point, the Jews can no longer say, “What sign do you show to us?”  Now they are faced with the fact that Jesus has done MANY things to prove who He was.
Just for the Jews living in the Jerusalem area, Jesus has healed the lame man, healed the man born blind, and now raised Lazarus from the dead.

Now the Sanhedrin has a real problem on their hands.  They had asked Jesus to give “signs”, and He’s done it. And they are still unwilling to believe in Him.

Do you ever find yourself fighting for a cause you know is wrong, but you still fight for it because you don’t want to lose the argument?

:48 If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation.”

The sense is this, “If we just leave Jesus alone, then it will be inevitable that everyone will start believing He is the Messiah, and then the Romans will come in and destroy us!”

:48 let Him aloneaphiemi – to send away; to let go, let alone, let be

:48 placetopos – place

They could be talking about the Temple, their “place”. (NLT footnote)

They could be talking about their position as Sanhedrin, as the leaders.

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 Romans felt that if they kept the high priests’ special holy 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 under a different Roman governor that 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.

These men are more concerned about losing their position than they are welcoming God’s promised Messiah.

:48 nationethnos – a multitude (whether of men or of beasts) associated or living together; a tribe, nation, people group

Historical Note:  The Romans did indeed come and destroy the nation of the Jews in AD 70, but not because of their being lenient on Jesus, but because of the revolt of the Zealots.  It’s very likely that from God’s point of view, He allowed the nation to be destroyed because they rejected God’s Son.

:49 And one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all,

:50 nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.”

:49 Caiaphas – “good looking”

In the Law of Moses, the position of high priest was a lifelong position.  But the Romans felt that leaving a man in this position for too long was too dangerous and might allow him to have too much power or authority.  Prior to Caiaphas, the three preceding high priests only lasted less than a year each.

Caiaphas was quite politically savvy and knew how to get along with the Romans.  He was high priest from AD 18 to 36. 

In 1990, archaeologists found his ossuary, the burial “bone box” containing his bones.

:49 You know nothing

Or literally, “You do not know nothing!”

I think that’s a polite way of saying, “You’re all a bunch of idots!”

:50 considerdialogizomai – to bring together different reasons, to reckon up the reasons, to reason, revolve in one’s mind, deliberate

“you haven’t thought this through…”

:50 expedientsumphero – to bear or bring together; to bear together or at the same time; to collect or contribute in order to help; to help, be profitable, be expedient

:50 perishapollumi – to destroy; to put out of the way entirely, abolish, put an end to ruin; metaph. to devote or give over to eternal misery in hell

The same word was used in:

(Jn 3:16 NKJV) —16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Caiaphas is referring to is the trouble that the nation will get into with the Romans if they think Jesus is setting up a new kingdom.  He doesn’t realize He’s actually speaking about Jesus dying for our sins.


God uses unlikely people

We’ve seen it in the Old Testament in the story about Balaam.  God spoke to the prophet through a donkey.
Now we see God actually speaking truth through the guy who wears one of the black hats in this story.
Caiaphas may be the high priest, but we know him as a wicked man.
Sometimes God works through people that seem the least likely to be used by God.
Some of us, out of concern for not being deceived, have concluded that God could never work through things we consider to be bad.


Politics – I have to admit that I’ve become overall pretty skeptical of most politicians in general no matter what party they’re from.  It seems they often only speak nonsense… PlayThe Front Fell Off”.
There are some of you who have become convinced that true Christians are registered as Republicans.  Some of you have even taken up the idea that President Obama is the antichrist or maybe at least somebody to joke about and make fun of.  There are some very fine Christians in this room that are not registered as Republicans, but are in fact Democrats.  I will keep their identities protected.
The Bible does say that we have a responsibility as Christians towards those in government leadership whether you believe in them or not:

(1 Ti 2:1–4 NLT) —1 I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them.2 Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.3 This is good and pleases God our Savior,4 who wants everyone to be saved and to understand the truth.

When Paul wrote this, the emperor in Rome was a man named Nero.

Does this mean that I’m going to be easily deceived should President Obama turn out to be the antichrist?

Don’t worry.  I will keep my thinking cap on.

For now, I will choose to pray for him instead of ridicule him.  Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t say whether I’d vote for him, I said I’d pray for him.

Religion – it’s not uncommon for Calvary Chapel people to be so spoiled by the good teaching they get that they can become close minded to thinking that God could use any other church outside of Calvary Chapel.  They won’t read any book that doesn’t have the “dove” on it.  They won’t listen to anyone that’s not a Calvary pastor.
There are a lot of very good pastors who are not Calvary pastors.  They have a lot of good things to say and you ought to be open to listening to some of them.
There are a few of us Calvary pastors who aren’t perfect in everything that we say.  Just because I’m a Calvary Chapel pastor doesn’t mean that you no longer have the obligation to listen to what I say with discernment.
Paul warns the Corinthian church that they have an obligation to discern what comes out of the mouths of those who speak in church:

(1 Co 14:29 NLT) Let two or three people prophesy, and let the others evaluate what is said.

Does this mean that I’m going to start watching the New Age Yoga channel on TV?  Probably not.  To tell you the truth, I probably won’t start watching TBN either.  I’m not sure it’s worth my time to sift through a hundred hours of nonsense to hear the ten minutes of truth that I would have found in my Bible if I had been reading it instead of watching so much TV.

Yet we need to lighten up a little on whom we are critical of.

Listen to the flow of what Paul wrote to the Thessalonians:

(1 Th 5:19–22 NKJV) —19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies. 21 Test all things; hold fast what is good. 22 Abstain from every form of evil.

My pastor used to say it this way, “Chew the chicken, spit out the bones”

When someone recommends that you read a book or listen to a message, don’t just ignore or criticize the idea because the fellow has a few “bones” in his ministry.  Do you toss out the entire fried chicken because it has bones?  Be discerning.

:51 Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation,

:51 forhuper – in behalf of, for the sake of

:51 nationethnos – a multitude (whether of men or of beasts) associated or living together; a multitude of individuals of the same nature or genus; a tribe, nation, people group

:52 and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad.

:52 scattered abroaddiaskorpizo – to scatter abroad, disperse, to winnow; to throw the grain a considerable distance, or up into the air, that it may be separated from the chaff

:52 gather togethersunago – to gather together, to gather; to bring together, assemble, collect

John is saying that Jesus would not only die for the Jews, but for whole world, including us pagan Gentiles.

Paul wrote,

(Eph 2:14–15 NLT) —14 For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us.15 He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups.

:51 Jesus would die


He died for me

It’s a pretty heavy image, of one person sacrificing his life for others.
Story tellers and film makers recognize the power of the image.

In the second Star Trek movie, “The Wrath of Khan”, our favorite Vulcan makes a choice to give up his life in order to save the crew and repair the ship.  I saw a video clip of the film’s director talking about this scene.  He had not been a big Star Trek fan before making the film and he was shocked after filming the scene when he looked around at his crew and everyone was silent with tears streaming down their faces.

Play Star Trek clip – Spock’s death

It’s a picture of love.  Jesus said,
(Jn 15:13 NKJV) Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.
Jesus did more than just lay His life down for His friends, He also laid down His life for His enemies:

(Ro 5:8 NKJV) But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Why did He die?  Was it just to demonstrate His love?
He didn’t die just to make you emotional and shed a tear.  He died to pay for our sins.
The Bible tells us that our sins have made a separation between us and God.
The Bible tells us that unless someone else pays for your sins, you will have to pay for them yourself.
God doesn’t want you have to pay for your sins, because that would mean going to hell.
So God sent His Son.

(2 Co 5:21 NLT) —21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.

Isaiah wrote,

(Is 53:5–6 NKJV) —5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

How do we get our sins paid for by Jesus?  Is it automatic?  Do we need to do something?
We need to believe.  We need to trust God.  We need to give our lives to Him.

(Jn 3:16 NKJV) For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

:53 Then, from that day on, they plotted to put Him to death.

:53 they plottedsumbouleuo (“together” + “to counsel”) – to give counsel; to take counsel with others, take counsel together, to consult, deliberate

:53 put Him to deathapokteino – to kill in any way whatever

They have wanted to kill Jesus before:

(Jn 5:18 NKJV) Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.

Their previous attempts to kill Jesus were spur-of-the-moment events.  Now they begin to plot and plan.

:54 Therefore Jesus no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there into the country near the wilderness, to a city called Ephraim, and there remained with His disciples.

:54 openlyparrhesia – freedom in speaking, unreservedness in speech; openly, frankly, i.e without concealment

This is the end of the “public” ministry of Jesus.  From this point on, except for His triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, we will only see Him with His disciples, not with the crowds.

:54 wildernesseremos – solitary, lonely, desolate, uninhabited; a desert, wilderness

:54 EphraimEphraim – “double fruitfulness”

This is a small town about 12 miles north of Jerusalem. See map.

The other gospels (Mat., Mark, Luke) give us some other details.  Ephraim wasn’t the only place Jesus visited before coming back to Jerusalem.  He would also spend time in Samaria (Luke 17:11) where He healed the ten lepers, and walking down along the Jordan (Mark 10:1), into Jericho (Luke 18:35) where He healed blind Bartimaeus and met little Zacchaeus (Luke 19:2), and then back to Jerusalem.

It was during this time that Jesus met the Rich Young Ruler and challenged him to stop making his money his “god”, where He talked about His upcoming crucifixion, and where He taught the disciples that if they wanted to be great, they needed to be the servant of all.

:54 remaineddiatribo – to rub between, rub hard; to wear away, consume; to spend, pass time

:55 And the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went from the country up to Jerusalem before the Passover, to purify themselves.

:56 Then they sought Jesus, and spoke among themselves as they stood in the temple, “What do you think—that He will not come to the feast?”

:57 Now both the chief priests and the Pharisees had given a command, that if anyone knew where He was, he should report it, that they might seize Him.

:55 Passoverpascha – the paschal sacrifice, feast

The Passover was one of the three main holy days for the Jews, one which required all Jewish men to come to Jerusalem to worship.

:55 many went up

The people go “up” to Jerusalem because Jerusalem is up in the hills.

Several times a year people from all over Israel would get together.  You’d see people from all parts of Israel.

Jesus had been in Jerusalem during the previous Passovers and was becoming well known among the Passover crowd.

Josephus records that at a later Passoverin the same time period that there were over 250,000 sheep slaughtered and 2.5 million people that would crowd into Jerusalem at the time of the Passover.

Josephus (Wars of the Jews, Book 6, Chapter 9, para. 420)
(423) So these high priests, upon the coming of their feast which is called the Passover, when they slay their sacrifices, from the ninth hour till the eleventh, but so that a company not less than ten belong to every sacrifice (for it is not lawful for them to feast singly by themselves), and many of us are twenty in a company, (424) found the number of sacrifices was two hundred and fifty-six thousand five hundred; (425) which, upon the allowance of no more than ten that feast together, amounts to two million seven hundred thousand and two hundred persons that were pure and holy; (426) for as to those that have the leprosy, or the gonorrhea, or women that have their monthly courses, or such as are otherwise polluted, it is not lawful for them to be partakers of this sacrifice (427); nor indeed for any foreigners either, who come hither to worship.

:55 to purifyhagnizo (“holy”) – to be cleansed ceremonially by means of prayers, abstinence, washings, sacrifices

In the book of Leviticus, we are given lists of things that can make a person ceremonially “unclean”. Some of these things could include:

Eating unclean food:  Shrimp, bacon, bats
Touching something unclean:  A dead body or a leper.

It’s not that these things are like sin, but they are things that can disqualify you from offering worship before God.

The book of Leviticus gives instructions to bring cleansing for some of these issues, like certain prescribed sacrifices, but over the years other rituals were added as well, including ritual bathing, the “miqvah”.

Archaeologists have uncovered quite a few miqvaoth in Jerusalem dating back to the time of Jesus, ritual baths built for this ceremonial cleansing, including this one found in 2009 near the Temple mount.

:57 reportmenuo – to disclose or make known something secret; in a forensic sense, to inform, report

:57 seizepiazo – to lay hold of; to take, capture; to apprehend


Prepare to worship

I like the principle that the people are following.
But don’t worry, I’m not going to suggest that we install a “miqvah” and all take baths before we enter into the sanctuary.
People are coming from all over the countryside to worship in Jerusalem.
A lot of these people are coming early so they can take the time to be “purified” before worshipping.
About 700 years before Jesus, we see a message about being purified.  Hezekiah had become king.  It had been a long time since the Passover had been celebrated.  Hezekiah sent out word for everyone to come to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast, but some of the people weren’t quite prepared when they showed up.
 (2 Ch 30:17–20 NKJV) 17 For there were many in the assembly who had not sanctified themselves; therefore the Levites had charge of the slaughter of the Passover lambs for everyone who was not clean, to sanctify them to the Lord. 18 For a multitude of the people, many from Ephraim, Manasseh, Issachar, and Zebulun, had not cleansed themselves, yet they ate the Passover contrary to what was written. But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, “May the good Lord provide atonement for everyone 19 who prepares his heart to seek God, the Lord God of his fathers, though he is not cleansed according to the purification of the sanctuary.” 20 And the Lord listened to Hezekiah and healed the people.

The people weren't completely ready according to the full extent of the Mosaic Law, but they were willing to prepare their hearts, so God listened and honored their worship.

Some might misunderstand me about this and think that because they’re not right with God that they need to stay home from church.
The better thing to do is to simply spend a few minutes acknowledging to God that you’ve messed up and come and worship.

How do I prepare myself?

1.  Ask Jesus Christ to be your 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.
(Ps 139:23–24 NKJV) —23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; 24 And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.
3.  Confess your sin to God.
(1 Jn 1:9 NKJV) If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
4. Wait
(Ps 27:14 NKJV) Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!

In Luke 13:6-9, Jesus tells a story about a fig tree that doesn’t bear fruit.  The owner wants to cut it down, but the gardener says, “No, give it more time.  Let me add some manure to it and let’s see what happens”.

Sometimes when things aren’t going right, we want to chop it all down and start over.

Eugene Peterson writes:

Manure is not a quick fix. It has no immediate results—it is going to take a long time to see if it makes any difference. If it's results that we are after, chopping down a tree is just the thing: we clear the ground and make it ready for a fresh start. We love beginning: birthing a baby, christening a ship, the first day on a new job, starting a war. But spreading manure carries none of that exhilaration. It is not dramatic work, not glamorous work, not work that gets anyone's admiring attention. Manure is a slow solution. Still, when it comes to doing something about what is wrong in the world, Jesus is known for his fondness for the minute, the invisible, the quiet, the slow—yeast, salt, seeds, light. And manure.

Eugene Peterson, Tell It Slant (Eerdmans, 2008), pp. 69–70

Give God time to work, even if it’s a little stinky right now.  Wait.