In the last segment, Jesus had just raised Lazarus from the dead, which is the seventh sign in the book of John. Many of the people who saw it believed upon him. Now it’s time to check in on the ones who didn’t.
John 11:46 But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done. (47) Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles. (48) If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.
Let’s understand what they are saying here. The belief was that the Messiah would come and re-establish the kingdom like it was under king David. So what we have here is a worry that everyone will follow Jesus, that Jesus will rise up to claim He is the Messiah and try to take Jerusalem from Rome, and that He will fail.
One the surface, their worry isn’t misplaced. Ever since Judah had been placed under Roman rule, “messiahs” had been popping up and rallying the people to rise up. Rome would then kill these “messiahs,” along with many of their main supporters, and the people would return to the daily grind of oppression and high taxes. But if we take a closer look at what they said, we will see that there is more to this tale. Look at verse 48 again, and see what their first concern is: That the Romans will take away THEIR PLACE.
Under the Romans, the “chief priests and the Pharisees” had a pretty cushy existence. They had money and power, and people with money and power do not like to see anything that will upset the status quo. I mean, consider the flip side. Jesus rises up, claims He is the Messiah, defeats Rome, and establishes a Davidic kingdom. Would Jesus, a man who has openly opposed them since the beginning of His ministry, keep them around in their same positions?
John 11:49 And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, (50) Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. (51) And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; (52) And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.
To prophesy means to speak the future, or to speak the words of God. That doesn’t mean the speaker always understands what he or she is saying. Here, God is honoring the position of high priest and making his words come to pass, but clearly for Caiaphas, he means that if Jesus is taken out of the way, then the nation doesn’t need to suffer at the hands of the Romans.
John 11:53 Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death.
Naturally! What else are good religious folk supposed to do with their day?
John 11:54 Jesus therefore walked no more openly among the Jews; but went thence unto a country near to the wilderness, into a city called Ephraim, and there continued with his disciples.
On most bible maps, you will find Ephraim just northeast of Jerusalem, but the true location of the city/village today is unknown.
John 11:55 And the Jews’ passover was nigh at hand: and many went out of the country up to Jerusalem before the passover, to purify themselves.
This was a custom/law, to go to Jerusalem every year for the Passover.
2 Chronicles 30:5 So they established a decree to make proclamation throughout all Israel, from Beersheba even to Dan, that they should come to keep the passover unto the LORD God of Israel at Jerusalem: for they had not done it of a long time in such sort as it was written.
John 11:56 Then sought they for Jesus, and spake among themselves, as they stood in the temple, What think ye, that he will not come to the feast? (57) Now both the chief priests and the Pharisees had given a commandment, that, if any man knew where he were, he should shew it, that they might take him.
The seventh sign, bringing Lazarus from the dead, leaves Jesus as the enemy of the state. Only the most wicked of men would seek murder for a solution to their problems and concerns. This just adds to their status as the sons of satan.
Thus we see that the seventh sign, bringing Lazarus from the dead, leaves Jesus as an enemy of the state, or more accurately an enemy of the religious community. It’s very easy for us today to sit back and say that we are not like the Pharisees and Sadducees and that we wouldn’t wish Jesus dead, that we would instantly recognize a work of God. Perhaps that is true, but in closing I would ask you to stop and ponder a work before you condemn it. Pause to at least ask yourself (or better yet ask God) if this is just another person or movement out for itself and its own glory, or if it is of God, and you simply do not yet understand. Look at the fruit of that work before you label it, because even the disciples struggled to keep up at times.