Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
John 11:49-50 One of them, Caiaphas, who was High Priest that year, said to them, AYou know nothing at all! You=re not considering that it is to your advantage that one man should die for the people rather than the whole nation perish.@
Others were hesitating, but one man has made up his mind. He had a perfectly clear, single purpose which will end their vacillation. The Council had expressed their timid fear, AThe Romans will come.@ In this time of terror, Caiaphas the High Priest, found his chance to interject a foul plan.
Caiaphas wearing Aaron=s mitre on his brow, embodied centuries of illustrious and noble priestly tradition. Though justice and mercy forsake all others, surely it will find a dwelling place in the High Priest=s heart. Not this time. Caiaphas= contemptuous arrogance was a stark contrast to Jesus= loving gentleness.
Israel found in the high Priest, not godliness, but a leader morally blind, a schemer totally unspiritual, the cruelty of a cut-throat. The supreme religious leader of the nation proved himself to be an assassin, an accomplice of murderers.
Is it possible Caiaphas stood in the position held by Aaron, who risked his life to stop the death sweeping over Israel (Numbers 16:48); Eleazar, to whom Joshua came when he needed a word from God (Numbers 27:21); Phinehas, whose zeal stopped the plague in Israel (Numbers 25:6-8); Eli, who blessed Hannah and raised Samuel (1 Samuel 1-4); Abiathar and Zadok, who risked life and limb to serve as David=s fifth column during Absalom=s revolt (2 Samuel 15:29); Jehoiada, who courageously overthrew wicked Queen Athaliah (2 Kings 11); and Azariah, who boldly withstood King Uzziah when he trespassed the Holy Place (2 Chronicles 26:17-18)?
Solemn, strange, and sad that the long illustrious line of Aaron=s priesthood ended in a man like this. Aaron=s blessed river ended in a cesspool. And of all years, it was Athe@ year of people=s redemption.
John 11:51-52 He did not say this on his own, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to unite the scattered children of God.
Though Caiaphas degraded and prostituted the High Priesthood, it was still the most sacred of all human offices. Israel was yet God=s people, and the High Priest was yet their representative. God turned the unscrupulous priest into an unconscious prophet, and let his savage advice be a great prediction.
Sometimes God speaks through us without our even knowing He is doing it. As the hearts of all are in God=s hands, so are all tongues. God can use even the mouths of the wicked. Balaam was not allowed to say what he wanted to say when he came to curse Israel. God spoke through Balaam=s donkey. Laban was refrained from speaking harshly to Jacob. Pagan Pilate unwittingly wrote, AThis is the King of the Jews.@ Even demons testified Jesus was the Son of God (Matthew 8:29).
What Caiaphas uttered as a cynical political reality, God meant for us to understand in a much deeper way. AOne man should die for the people@ is nothing more or less than a prediction regarding the purpose of the cross.
John took Caiaphas= narrow words and expanded them to world-wide significance. Caiaphas was speaking of physical life for a nation; John thought of spiritual life for the whole world. Caiaphas was unwittingly proclaiming one of the major blessings of the cross B substitution.
Jesus took our place. We deserved the cross. He endured it for us. Under Napoleon a certain man agreed to enlist in the place of a friend who had been drafted. The substitute was killed in battle. Later another draft was made. When they tried to take the man whose substitute had died, he replied, AYou can=t take me. A substitute died in my place.@ The appeal was carried to the Emperor himself, who ruled in the man=s favor.
A legend comes from early Rome. In 350 B.C. a great chasm opened n the Forum. Sorcerers said it could only be closed by throwing into it Rome=s greatest treasure. Metters Curtius, a young and noble Roman knight, arrayed himself in full armor, mounted his charger, and declaring Rome possessed no greater treasurer than a brave citizen, leaped into the chasm, upon which the earth closed over him.
At Ragenbach, Germany, a rabid dog one day rushed a crowd. A blacksmith saw the dog coming and ran to meet it. He seized the dog and held him down. He then yelled to the crowd, AHurry! Better for one to perish than for all.@ The dog tore at the man until the beast was finally killed.
The crowd re-gathered and stood around the man weeping. The blacksmith said, ABe quiet, my friends; don=t weep for me. I=ve only done my duty.@ He then went to his shop, chained himself to the anvil, faced his friends, and said, ANow it=s done. You are all safe. I cannot hurt you. Give me food while I am well, and keep out of my reach when I am mad. The rest I leave with God.@ Soon madness seized him, and in 9 days he died B for his friends.
Plague was making a desert of Marseilles, France. It was before modern understanding of disease. A group of physicians thought it might help if a corpse would be dissected, but it would mean death to the surgeon. A celebrated physician, Guyon, said, AI devote myself for the safety of my country.@ He immediately left the room, made his will, and spent the night in prayer. The next morning he dissected a corpse and wrote down all his surgical observations. He died within 12 hours. Substitution! It is our only hope.
John 11:53 So from that day on they plotted to kill Him.
Caiaphas= words marked the turning point. They swayed the day. He said what all others feared to say. His words gave body to their thoughts. They now had a concept to which their thoughts and confusions could gravitate. Evil men confirm, encourage, and worsen one another. Silencing, censoring, banishing, punishing, or imprisoning Jesus was not sufficient for their cruel hearts.
People hate to be disturbed in their sin. When Wilberforce began his crusade against slavery, a nobleman pointed to a picture of the crucifixion and said, AThat is the end of reformers.@
Jesus was already condemned to death before his trial began, mainly due to the influence of the High Priest.
Early in Jesus= ministry, the Pharisees were His chief adversaries. But as He approached His Passion, all four Gospels present the priests themselves as His principal opponents. The priests, the ones who offered sacrifices for Israel, would now offer one for all mankind.
It is fitting the High Priest himself played a strategic role in Jesus= death. It was the High Priest=s duty to offer every year the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the people. This was exactly the duty being performed here by Caiaphas. By his vote and influence, the last legitimate representative of the Aaronic priesthood began the process which led to the sacrifice of the ultimate Victim, the Lamb of God.
John 11:54 Therefore Jesus no longer walked openly among the Jews but departed from there to the countryside near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim. And He stayed there with the disciples.
They rejected Him, so Jesus departed for Ephraim, a town 15 miles northeast of Jerusalem. His physical absence here pictured God=s spiritual absence from Israel. It was a sad preview of the thick darkness coming soon on Jerusalem.
John 11:55-57 The Jewish Passover was near, and many went up to Jerusalem from the country to purify themselves before the Passover. They were looking for Jesus and asking one another as they stood in the temple complex: AWhat do you think? He won=t come to the festival, will He?@ The chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where He was, he should report it so they could arrest Him.
The crowd did not expect Jesus to come to the Passover. They underestimated the Galilean Carpenter. Ready to confront all of Israel=s religious and political leadership, He was undaunted.
When Luther was warned against going to Worms, he replied, AI would go if there were as many devils in Worms as there are tiles on the housetops.@ Luther=s courage was merely an imitation of his Master=s courage.
Jesus always causes a stir. He forces people to decide. What will our decision be? For or against Him?