It’s not like they had never thought of it before. Not even like they had never even tried to do it before. But now their determination was formalized. Now it went from what had been at best spontaneous reactions of rage to a clearly articulated proactive plan of intent. The high priest said it must be so and that it would be so. Jesus must die. Caiaphas put a hit out on the Man who claimed to be the Messiah.
So the chief priests and the Pharisee gathered the Council and said, “What are we to do? For this Man performs many signs. If we let Him go on like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” . . . So from that day on they made plans to put Him to death.
(John 11:47-50, 53 ESV)
The irony of the fact that it was the resurrection of Lazarus that sealed the deal for these religious leaders never ceases to amaze me. Unlike their questioning of the man born blind in John 9, they never tried to cast any doubt that it was the same Lazarus who had verifiably died and had lain in the tomb four days who was now alive and walking again among them. There was no disputing that Lazarus was a living miracle. And it only stood to reason that living miracles have a way of drawing people to the One who performs such miracles. And these men had too much to lose for that to happen.
And so, they make a call: Jesus must die. They put a hit out on the Author of Life (sounds weird just saying that). And just as unbelievable, they also resolve to get rid of “the evidence.” “The chief priests made plans to put Lazarus to death as well, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away and believing in Jesus” (John 12:10). Crazy!
And as I’m chewing on the bizarre, hard-hearted, self-serving determination of these “men of God” I’m drawn to John’s Spirit-led commentary of what was really going down. Of what was really putting out the hit on Jesus.
[Caiaphas] did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.
(John 11:51-52 ESV)
Jesus would die, not so these stiff-necked legalists could retain their position and stature, but so the lost sheep of Israel might be redeemed. So that those called to be children of God, Jew and Gentile, might be brought into the family. To make it real personal, Jesus died not because of the dark determination of these men, but because of the daunting debt owed due to my sin.
Sin separates from God. The wages of sin is death. So, in order to gather a people to Himself, God determined to pay the debt by His Son. Jesus died for the nations that God might redeem to Himself a people. It was my sin that put out the hit.
Jesus . . . the Lamb of God . . . crucified upon a cross at the hands of men. But not by the will of man. Instead by the loving determination of a sovereign God who so greatly desires fellowship with His creation that He would pay for our sin.
Jesus . . .the once-for-all atoning sacrifice, shedding His blood so that I, once dead in trespass and sin, might be made alive. That I, like Lazarus who was loosed from his grave clothes, might be freed from the bondage of sin and death.
It was my sin that determined His death. That one Man should die for the people, that all who believe might not perish.
O the love of God! O what a Savior!
Thanks be to God for His unfathomable grace! Praise be to God for His eternal glory!