Seeing is believing. And many, when they saw Lazarus walk out of the tomb — grave clothes and all, having been buried for four days — “believed in Him” (Jn. 11:45). They believed in Jesus. They believed that this Raiser-From-The-Dead must be who He claimed to be, “the resurrection and the life”, and that whoever believed in Him, “though he die, yet shall he live” (Jn. 11:25). They believed that the One who commanded “Lazarus, come out”, was the Messiah. They believed He was the hope of the nations. Yes, John writes, many believed.
So, the irony never ceases to amaze me that, because Jesus irrefutably raised a man from the dead, the council of chief priests and Pharisees knew that now they must put Jesus to death. Huh? First, seems pretty unjust to sentence someone to death because they have just given the gift of life to another. But even more head-scratching, wouldn’t it have occurred to them that someone who has power over death might just have power over His own death? That even if He laid down His own life at their hands, that He’d also have the power to take it up again? I’m thinkin’. Jesus said as much (Jn. 10:17-18).
But the council was, in a sense, believing too. The evidence was mounting that Jesus just might be the Messiah. That Jesus could, in fact, be the King. But they weren’t ready, willing, or able to accept the cost of Christ as King.
So the chief priests and the Pharisees 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.”
(John 11:47-48 ESV)
If Jesus really was the Messiah it was going to mess up the comfortable gig these guys had secured with those governing the land.
For if He was the Messiah, and He was to be the King, and He was actually modeling what the kingdom was gonna look like on earth — not a kingdom of pomp and power, but of peace and persuasion; not a kingdom of turning the tables on one’s enemies, but of loving them; not a kingdom of ruling through governmental structures but of reigning through redeemed hearts; not a kingdom marked by climbing the structures of power in order to reign, but of serving others in order to be ranked among the greatest in the kingdom — if this was the sort of kingdom Jesus was going to lead, then, “Count us out!” said the council.
They weren’t prepared to upset the apple cart with the Romans, even if Jesus was the fulfillment of the promise. They weren’t prepared to let go of their position of power and privilege within their nation, even if the kingdom of heaven had come. They were willing to be religious, but only in so far as it secured their place and comfort in the land in which they lived. The cost of Christ as King was more than they were prepared to entertain.
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.”
(John 11:49-50 ESV)
For them, maintaining their status quo with the culture was of more importance than declaring all out allegiance to such a King. Better to work towards maintaining a favorable disposition from Caesar and those in power then accepting the consequences of being ambassadors of another place under the rule of another Prince.
[Jesus] began to say to His disciples first, “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees . . . ”
(Luke 12:1b ESV)
Our hope lies not in being on the right side of the governing authorities. Our hope lies solely in the Man who raises the dead to life.
“Do you believe this?”
She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”
(John 11:26b-27 ESV)
Because of grace. For His glory.