John 11: 45 – 53
45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.
“What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”
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49 Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! 50 You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”
51 He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 52 and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. 53 So from that day on they plotted to take his life.
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They say that “seeing is believing”. So it is not surprising that some people “believed in Jesus” after He caused Lazarus to come out alive from a tomb, who had been dead and buried for four days. But notice what some other people did – they ran to Jerusalem (about 2 miles) to inform the religious leaders there of what had happened in Bethany.
This immediately caused the religious leaders to convene an emergency council of the highest ecclesiastical body of leaders called the Sanhedrin. Consisting of 70 elders of Israel, they were like the religious Supreme Court of their day. All final decisions for the Jewish people, both religiously and some times politically were determined by this group of men.
These leaders had not personally seen the miracles that Jesus had performed, but they certainly had enough eye witnesses come to them to know that Jesus was a man who performed “great signs”. This is another way to say that Jesus was filled with supernatural power to accomplish the miraculous. This should have led these men also to come to a point of believing in Jesus.
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It’s interesting to see that they did not deny the facts that Jesus was able to perform miracles, “Here is this man performing many signs.” But rather than praise God for the miraculous deeds that Jesus was doing, they saw His actions as being a serious threat to them. Religiously, they were concerned that many more people would “believe in Him”. Politically, they were afraid that the Romans would come in force and threaten to destroy their Temple and their nation of Israel.
To understand these fears, it would be necessary to study the 200 years prior to Christ to see what was happening religiously and politically within Israel and within throughout the Roman Empire. After Alexander the Great had conquered most of their then known world, from Greece to India, Israel was made subject to them. But some rebel Jews rose up, brothers whom we call “the Maccabees”, who won their freedom from Greece.
But rivalries over who would become the next leaders of Israel led to more fighting and a chaotic period resulted. As a pretence, the Romans who were now subjugating countries under the new Roman Empire, came into Jerusalem to help establish “peace”. This peace was a fragile thing and required an “occupying force” of Roman garrisons of soldiers. The Jewish king, like King Herod, had to be appointed by Rome, and the religious leaders had to agree to keep the people in line to not form a rebellion against Rome, or suffer the “Fist of Rome” by having their people captured and made into slaves, and their cities and their Temple smashed into the ground.
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The threat to the Jews was very real. But these leaders took this threat personally, “the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.” Notice the pronoun “our” in their statement. So Jesus’ popularity was seen to be a threat to this fragile peace, so he was a threat to them. If Jesus was being hailed as the “coming Messiah” it would lead to people wanting Jesus to be their political king who ruled over a religiously free Jewish state.
Therefore, in the minds of the religious leaders, there was only one way they could see to save themselves and to save, in their opinion, the people and their religious ways, was to have Jesus killed. If He were removed out of the picture, then no uprising or open rebellion would be presented against Rome. They would be safe, or so they thought.
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They believed that Jesus’ death would be the end of His ministry among the Jews. But they were wrong, oh so wrong. We have the privilege to look forward and know that Jesus would rise again from the grave. Jesus would demonstrate that He had the power to conquer death, and by His example, give us hope that we too will one day be resurrected from death.
But much more than that, we know from Scripture that when Jesus died on the Cross, He accepted this penalty of death for the sins that every man and woman have committed against God. He opened up the way for men to be reconciled back into a relationship with God. So even though the High Priest was acting out of selfish motives, He was still used by God to declare a deep spiritual truth, “one man [must] die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”
Let us always be thankful that Jesus was willing to die, so that we who believe in Him will be able to live with Him forever.