John 11:47-57 - Jesus and the Religious Leaders: Unbelief and Opposition
John 12:1-11 recounts the celebration dinner commemorating the resurrection of Lazarus, recorded in John 11:1-44. But we also need to be aware of what took place between those two events. Lazarus’ resurrection made the religious authorities a little nervous. They did not know where to look for a solution until Caiaphas came to their help.
He was a Sadducee, which meant he did not believe in resurrection under any circumstances, although he was the high priest. Also, as a Sadducee he collaborated with the Romans. He did not want anyone rocking the boat, especially some peasant from Galilee. Having been high priest for sixteen years, he was highly educated and intelligent, but, as we see here, also absolutely a ruthless man.
This Passage Gives An Excellent Lesson On Unbelief And Opposition To Jesus Christ, a lesson that needs to be studied.
1. The Sanhedrin met to discuss Jesus (v.47).
2. The causes of unbelief and opposition (v.47-48).
3. The conclusion of unbelief and opposition (v.49-53).
4. The response of Jesus to unbelief and opposition (v.54).
5. The providence of God in moving events despite unbelief and opposition (v.55-57).
1. The Sanhedrin Met To Discuss Jesus And To Decide What To Do About Him (v.47).
a) This was an official meeting of the nation’s leaders, including religious leaders.
(1) SANHEDRIN—The highest ruling body and court of justice among the Jewish people in the time of Jesus. Headed by the high priest of Israel, the Sanhedrin was granted limited authority over certain religious, civil, and criminal matters. The Sanhedrin was exercising this limited power when it charged Jesus with the crime of blasphemy but then sent him to Pilate, the Roman official, for a formal trial and sentencing.
(2) The word “Sanhedrin” is not found in the NKJV; instead the word “council” is used. Usually the assembly itself is meant, although the word may also refer to the assembly meeting (John 11:47) or to the place where the assembly met (Luke 22:66; Acts 4:15).
(3) The Sanhedrin had 71 members. The New Testament mentions some of them by name: Joseph of Arimathea (Mark 15:43), Gamaliel (Acts 5:34), Nicodemus (John 3:1; 7:50), the high priests Annas and Caiaphas (Luke 3:2) and Ananias (Acts 23:2). The high priest was always president of the Sanhedrin. Some scholars suggest that the apostle Paul was a member of the Sanhedrin before his conversion to Christianity, but this is not known for sure.
(4) The Sanhedrin also served as the supreme court of the Jews. The Roman rulers did, however, reserve the right to interfere with what the Sanhedrin was doing; The Romans denied the power of capital punishment to the Sanhedrin. This is why the Jews said to Pilate after they had tried Jesus, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death” (John 18:31). To secure Jesus’ death they were forced by law to appeal to the Romans for the death sentence.
b) They should have been leading people to God.
These were the very ones who should have been leading the people to God and giving moral and spiritual direction to the nation. Yet, here they were determining what to do about Jesus.
(1) There was Jesus, the Son of God, standing right before them, having come to reveal God to all men everywhere.
(2) There were the “many miracles” which Jesus had done to prove that He was truly the Son of God (John 11:47).
(3) There were the leaders, the very ones...
· who should have been rejoicing and receiving Him.
· who recognized and acknowledged His “many miracles” and His great teaching—so great that “all” were about to follow Him (John 11:48).
· who were taking the lead in rejecting and opposing Him.
2. The Cause Of Unbelief And Opposition (v.47-48). Acts 5:29-42
The basic reason for unbelief and opposition is selfish fear & envy. Self-centered fear, the fear of losing something, causes man to reject and oppose others. Three things in particular caused the leaders to fear Jesus.
a) “If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him” (v.48).
(1) The Word of God is powerful (Heb.4:12), it is the power of God unto salvation” (Rom.1:16), & “faith comes by hearing and hearing the Word of God” (Rom.10:17). Just let the Word of God speak for itself and it will accomplish all that God desires!
b) There was the fear of losing their esteem, recognition, and following.
(1) They were afraid to lose their (friends, fellow-workers, neighbors, whomever).
(2) Do you sometimes react out of fear? Do you fear giving your life totally to Jesus because you will have to lose or give something up (Phil.3:7-11)?
c) There was the fear of losing their place, position, influence, and authority.
(1) Man likes to feel needed and when he does not feel that anyone needs him anymore the fear of losing something is a threat to that person.
d) There was the fear of losing their nation.
(1) These were men who had profession, position, recognition, esteem, livelihood, and security. Anyone who went contrary to what they believed and taught was a threat to all they had.
(2) Some religionists undoubtedly felt that Jesus was a threat to them. Everytime Jesus broke their law, He was undermining their very position and security. ( Matthew 12:1-8; Matthew 16:1-12; Matthew 21:23; Matthew 22:15-22; Matthew 22:23-33; Matthew 22:34-40; Matthew 23:1-12.)
They Reacted Out of Envy (Mark 15:6-15)
(1) Pilate wanted to satisfy the crowd (v.16) and in reality this was only a form of wanting to satisfy his own self-centered-selfish fear. By satisfying the crowd and giving them what they wanted he was really satisfying his own desire to be wanted.
(a) Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers because of envy (Gen.37:3-28).
(b) Bitter envy is earthly, sensual & demonic (James 3:13-16)
(c) They Were Of The Wicked One Just As Cain (1 John 3:10-12) the Pharisees works were evil and Jesus’ works were righteous they were just doing as their father has done from the beginning (John 8:37-44)
(d) Jesus tells a Parable of the landowner (Matt.21:33-46)
(e) They Hated Him Without A Cause (John 15:22-25)
The Errors Of These Religionists And Man Today Is Fourfold.
(1) They Misinterpreted And Corrupted God’s Word ( Matthew 12:1-3).
(2) They Committed Serious Sin After Sin In God’s Eyes ( 1Thess.2:15-16; Romans 2:17-29).
(3) They Rejected God’s Way Of Righteousness, Jesus Christ ( Romans 11:28; Romans 10:1-4).
(4) They Allowed Religion In Its Tradition And Ritual To Become More Important than meeting the basic needs of human life.
"But the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful." (Mark 4:19, NASB95)
"Jesus said, Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions.”" (Luke 12:15)
"But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." (1 Timothy 6:9-10; 2 tim.3:1-5; 1Jn.3:17)
(5) When Jesus comes along demanding that a man change by denying himself and giving all he is and has to meet the desperate needs of a lost and starving world—man rejects and opposes Jesus. Man is unwilling to deny himself, unwilling to live a life that is totally sacrificial.
“If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? (Luke 9:23-25)
Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Luke 12:33-34).
3. The Conclusion Of Unbelief And Opposition (v.49-53). John 18:12-14 Note four points.
a) Suggested by the religious himself (v.49).
(1) The Decision To Oppose Jesus Was Made By The High Priest Himself. Caiaphas, being the highest religious leader in the nation at that time wanted Jesus opposed. The very person who should have been leading the others to Jesus was suggesting that everyone reject and oppose Him.
Thought 1. How tragic it is...
· that men reject Christ for the things of this world.
· that men swap eternity for a few short years.
‘Thus says the Lord God to the shepherds: “Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? 3 You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool; you slaughter the fatlings, but you do not feed the flock (Ezekiel 34:2-3).
But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction (2 Pet.2:1)
For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist (2 John 7).
b) The Conclusion: Jesus Should Be Sacrificed for the people (v.50)
(1) The Conclusion suggested by the High Priest was that Jesus should be sacrificed for the people. The people were following Jesus in such numbers that the leaders feared two things.
(a) The Romans might conclude that Jesus was arousing the people to riot. The Romans would, therefore, move in and disperse the people, taking away even what little liberty they had as a conquered nation.
(b) The Romans might blame them, the present leadership, and remove them from power.
(c) The thought proposed was that it was better for Jesus to die than for the people to perish. Jesus should be sacrificed and killed in order to save the people.
(2) The Office Of High Priest Began With Aaron And His Sons (Exodus 28:1).
(a) The office was hereditary and was for life; however, when the Romans conquered Palestine, they made the office political. They chose their own man, a man who would cooperate with the Roman government.
(b) The Romans let a High Priest reign as long as he pleased them. The reign of each of the twenty-eight priests averaged only about three years, except for Caiaphas. Caiaphas was High Priest for eighteen years (18 A.D. to 36 A.D.).
(c) Apparently he was a master of intrigue and compromise. This throws great light on his fearing an uproar (Matthew 26:5) and wishing to wait until the feast was over to arrest Jesus. There was the danger that the people might rally to the support of Jesus if they saw Him arrested. So many believed Him to be a great prophet that a serious uprising was a real possibility. Caiaphas knew the Romans would hold him responsible and remove him from office. He would lose everything he had.
c) The Mystery of the Conclusion (v.51-52).
Note that the High Priest was being used as a spokesman by God: “This he did not say on his own”. He was predicting the death of Jesus Christ. He proclaimed that Jesus should die for the people and be sacrificed in order to save the people. Note two facts.
(1) The idea of substitution was the suggestion (v.51): that “Jesus should die for that nation.”
“I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd gives his life for the sheep” (John 10:11).
“Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).
“For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6).
“For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3).
“And that he died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them, and rose again” (2 Cor. 5:15).
“Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father” (Galatians 1:4).
“And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us, and given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma” (Ephes. 5:2).
“Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from every lawless deed, and purify for himself His own special people, zealous for good works” (Titus. 2:14).
“By this we know love, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16).
(2) Jesus Christ Was To Die To Save Both Jew And Gentile (v.52), all “the children of God that were scattered abroad” (Acts 2:5; Acts 10:2; Acts 17:4).
In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace… that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him (Eph.1:7,10).
But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation (Eph.2:13-14).
d) The Decision Was Made And Jesus Was Rejected (v.53).
(1) They wanted nothing to do with Him. Note the words “from that day on.” The idea is that from that very moment on, they were set on doing away with Him. Because of self-centered envy, they plotted to put Him to death. This is of the Devil (John 13:27)
"He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him." (John 1:11)
"“He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day." (John 12:48, NASB95)
"“He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”" (John 3:36, NASB95)
"“Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.”" (John 8:24, NASB95)
4. The Response Of Jesus To Unbelief And Opposition (v.54).
a) Jesus withdrew His presence from those who rejected Him (v.54).
Jesus went away & pleaded with them no more. Jesus no longer walked among them, but went away, giving them up to their own desires (Rom.1:24-32)
(1) The Lord’s Spirit does not always strive with men ( John 7:33-34).
(2) Jesus even told His disciples to turn their backs upon rejecters (Matthew 10:14; Mark 6:11; Luke 9:5).
b) Pushing Away the Presence of God In Our Lives (1 Samuel 5:6-11)
(1) The Hand Of The Lord Was Very Heavy (v.6). They would not listen when God struck down their statue of Dagon; they just set it up again. When we close our ears to God, He often finds another way to speak to us, and we may not like the second way.
(a) God’s hand was on Egypt: Pharaoh would not let His people go (Exodus 9:1-5)
(b) God’s Hand Was Heavy Upon David When He Had un-confessed Sin (Psalm 32:1-5)
(c) God’s Spirit will not always strive with man (Genesis 6:3 cf. Acts 24:25)
(2) It Must Not Remain With Us (v.7)… Let The Ark Of The God Of Israel Be Carried Away (v.8). Instead of submitting to the God of Israel, they decided to get rid of Him. The problem is, we can’t get rid of God. We may ignore Him and try and patch up our lives or we can even do things to push Him away, but even the best of those are temporary. We must all face God, and stand before Him one day. Sin and shame often cause people to run from God, rather than to Him and His forgiveness.
(a) Adam and Eve ran from God in the garden (Genesis 3:8-10)
(b) David ran from God until he was confronted by the prophet Nathan (Ps. 51).
(c) During the tribulation, people’s hearts will be so hardened against God that they will run from rather than to Him (Revelation 6:12-17).
(d) The judgments in Revelation are not only to judge the people, but also to shake them, with the hope that they will turn back to God (see also Rev. 9:20; 16:9).
(e) Men begged Jesus to leave their city after casting out demons (Matthew 8:28-31)
(f) Men of Nazareth wanted to throw Jesus off a cliff (Luke 4:29)
(3) Send Away The Ark Of The God Of Israel, And Let It Go Back To Its Own Place (v.11). The Philistines, if they would have repented and turned towards the LORD, could have benefited from the ark. Instead, it became a curse and a judgment to them.
(a) The Same Is True Of The Presence Of God Among Us (2 Corinthians 2:15-16).
(b) The work of Jesus on your behalf will either be the greatest blessing you have ever known for all eternity or it will be the greatest witness of God’s judgment against you. If you submit and surrender to God, it can be a blessing. If you refuse His voice and His heart towards you, it can be a curse. What will you decide?
(c) No matter what we decide, no matter what the Israelites decided, no matter what the Philistines decided, God was going to glorify Himself. Period. The unfaithfulness and superstition of the Israelites couldn’t deny God His glory. The pride and the arrogance of the Philistines could not take one bit of glory from God. God will be glorified; the only question is “Will we choose to enjoy it?”
"The Lord said, “My Spirit will not put up with humans for such a long time” (Genesis 6:3, NLT)
"Blessed are those who have a tender conscience, but the stubborn are headed for serious trouble." (Proverbs 28:14, NLT)
"Whoever stubbornly refuses to accept criticism will suddenly be broken beyond repair." (Proverbs 29:1, NLT)
"Don’t you realize how kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Or don’t you care? Can’t you see how kind he has been in giving you time to turn from your sin? But no, you won’t listen. So you are storing up terrible punishment for yourself because of your stubbornness in refusing to turn from your sin. For there is going to come a day of judgment when God, the just judge of all the world, will judge all people according to what they have done." (Romans 2:4-6, NLT)
"Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God. You must warn each other every day, as long as it is called “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God. For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ." (Hebrews 3:12-14, NLT)
c) Jesus concentrated and drew closer to His disciples (v.54).
"Suddenly, Jesus himself came along and joined them and began walking beside them… "They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts feel strangely warm as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?”" (Luke 24:15,32, NLT)
"The members of the council were amazed when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, for they could see that they were ordinary men who had had no special training. They also recognized them as men who had been with Jesus." (Acts 4:13, NLT)
"That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ." (1 John 1:3, NKJV)
"Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me." (Revelation 3:20, NKJV)
5. The Providence Of God In Moving Events Despite Unbelief And Opposition (v.55-57).
a) God Controlled The Time (v.55).
(1) It Was The Passover Season, A Significant Fact. The Feast symbolized the removal of sins. Note that while the people were celebrating the Passover Feast, the leaders were seeking to commit the most heinous crime: the murder of the very Son of God Himself. 22:7.)
b) God Stirred The People’s Interest (v.56).
(1) God Caused Them To Seek Jesus. People flooded into Jerusalem by the hundreds of thousands during the Passover season. The picture is that of people about wondering and asking if Jesus would come to the Feast. The people actually “sought” Jesus (John 11:56). God took even the rejection of evil men and worked it out to cause others to seek His Son.
(2) God Takes The Rejection And Opposition Of Men And Uses It To Stir Interest In His Son.
(a) Throughout history some of the greatest movements and revivals of Christianity have been the result of persecution and attempts to stamp out the name of Christ. A man’s rejection is often taken by God and used to stir salvation in others.
(b) 2 Corinthians 4:11-12—Paul faced death every day, yet he was willing to pay that price if it meant salvation for those to whom he preached (Phil. 2:17; Col. 1:24; 2 Tim. 2:10).
(3) Paul’s Imprisonment Created New Opportunities For The Gospel (Philippians 1:12-14).
(a) “furtherance” or “progress of the gospel”, literally “pioneer advance”. Greek military term referring to the army engineers who are sent ahead of the troops in order to remove obstructions and clear the roads for the rest of the army. Paul discovered his circumstances opened up new areas for ministry.
(b) Paul’s Chains Gave Contact With The Lost (Phil.1:13). Paul was chained to a guard 24 hours a day, changing guards every 6 hours (4 guards per day). The gospel went from guard to guard, to the families of the guards, to Caesar’s household (Phil. 4:22). What do you suppose Paul talked about?
(c) Paul’s Chains Gave Courage To The Saved.
(i) at first they were frightened (1:28)
(ii) then they became “much more bold to speak the word without fear” (1:14)
(iii) Paul tells them it is a gift to suffer for the sake of Jesus (Phil.1:27).