Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. “Take away the stone,” he said. “But, Lord,” said Martha, the sister of the dead man, “by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” Then Jesus said, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. Then Jesus looked up and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face. Jesus said to them, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go.” Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 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. 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.” Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. So from that day on they plotted to take his life.
Consider for a moment examples of public people who were assassinated in order to silence them and to slow down or stop the influence they were having in making changes to their society.
Arch Duke Ferdinand World War I
Attempts on Hitler’s life
John F. Kennedy
Martin Luther King, Jr.
One can argue whether or not the influence these people had on society was positive or negative. What they do have in common is that they were or had made a difference and certain elements of their society were not pleased with the results or the potential of what might soon happen.
For us as Christians, the most profound orchestrated death of an influential man is the execution of Jesus. This comes to a head in connection with one of his most profound miracles — the raising of his good friend Lazarus from the dead.
You should know the story well. (briefly retell the circumstances). This text is often used at a funeral in order to comfort the bereaved with the sure hope of the resurrection. But if this were only because Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, the impact of this miracle would be limited because we can safely assume that Lazarus died again. The real hope is in the resurrection of Jesus. But this could only happen if he died first.
Why did Jesus have to die? We do well to answer this question from two perspectives.
He had to die (or so the Jews reasoned) in order to protect their nation and their political power.
He had to die according to God’s plan of salvation. (see passages)