The Providence of God or the Plots of Man? Part 4

“Then they sought Jesus…” John 11:56a

We are learning from the conflict over the raising of Lazarus from the dead (John 11:44-57) how the providence of God and the plans of people work together for God’s glory. So far we have learned that…

– Plans to oppose Christ can arise from fear and jealousy (John 11:45-48).

– God uses the plots of man to accomplish His purposes (John 11:49-53).

– At times we are not meant to face opposition so we can pursue more important relationships (John 11:54).

The final principle we learn from this conflict over Jesus’ miracle is that CHRIST’S CONTROL OVER HIS OWN FUTURE DEMONSTRATES HIS POWER TO CONTROL OURS (John 11:55-57). The apostle John informs us, “And the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went from the country up to Jerusalem before the Passover, to purify themselves.” (John 11:55). The Passover feast “was near,”perhaps two to three weeks away. This is the fourth and final “Passover” that John mentioned in his gospel (cf. 2:13; 5:1; 6:4). The John 5:1 reference to “a feast” is considered to be one of the three pilgrim feasts – Passover, Pentecost, or Tabernacles. I take it to refer to Passover.

The Mosaic Law required that the Jews who had become ritually unclean had “to purify themselves” for one week before participating in this feast (Num. 9:6-14). Therefore “many” of them “went…up to Jerusalem” because Jerusalem is in the mountains and most approaches would require an ascent in elevation. They went at least one week“before” the feast began to “purify themselves” ceremonially so they could participate in the Passover. According to the Mishnah (the first major written redaction of the Jewish oral traditions known as the “Oral Torah”),  this cleansing was done by immersion in a ritual bath called a miqueh (Mikua’ot 4.1). 2

From the time of Israel’s redemption from Egypt, the annual slaying of the Passover lamb looked forward to the Lamb of God (John 1:29) who, by His sacrifice (John 11:50-51), would provide redemption for those in bondage to sin. “Then they sought Jesus, and spoke among themselves as they stood in the temple, ‘What do you think—that He will not come to the feast?’ ” (John 11:56). Instead of paying attention to the rituals of purification for the Passover, the multitudes directed their attention toward the Person of Jesus Christ (“they sought Jesus”). Throngs of people were standing in the temple buzzing about whether Jesus would come to the feast. Their question expects a negative answer. 3 “No, Christ would not dare to come to the Passover feast! He is not that foolish!” is the expected response. The reason the crowd did not expect Jesus to come is given in the next verse.

What about us? Do we seek Jesus in our daily lives or do we focus on our religious traditions or rituals? Do we try to purify ourselves through acts of penance or prayers, or do we seek a love relationship with the Person of Jesus Christ Who alone can purify us from the inside out? Trying to reform ourselves through external observances will lead either to pride as we deceive ourselves into thinking we are superior to others through our own performance or it will lead to discouragement as we constantly fail to measure up to unattainable standards. Either way, religious rules and regulations fail to transform our sinful hearts. Only Jesus can transform our wounded and wicked hearts into that which is new and noble (cf. Ezekiel 36:26-27; John 7:37-39; Hebrews 8:10; 9:11-15; 10:10-18).

“Now both the chief priests and the Pharisees had given a command, that if anyone knew where He was, he should report it, that they might seize Him.” (John 11:57). The Sanhedrin had issued a command that anyone who knew of Jesus’ whereabouts should report it so “they might seize Him.”  Silence about Christ’s whereabouts meant complicity with Christ and could be punishable. The religious leaders desperately wanted Christ arrested so they would not lose their positions or their following.

Jesus was not going to be arrested before His appointed hour. Repeatedly in the gospel of John, the religious leaders had sought to arrest and kill the Lord (John 5:18; 7:6, 8, 30, 44-45; 8:20, 59; 10:31, 39), but Jesus was not to be apprehended until His appointed time. He had control of His future.

Remember I said in Part 1 that martial law had been declared all over the southern region of the Philippines called Mindanao? Was this because of God’s providence or the plans of sinful people? I believe the answer is both. Let me explain.

Before the fighting broke out on Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017, one of my dear pastor friends was preaching the gospel at film showings the weekend before (May 20-21), in a province next to the province where the fighting broke out. He planned to stay in that province until Wednesday, May 24th. But while preaching the gospel to those hostile toward Jesus Christ, he became very sick. He texted me asking for prayer. So my wife and I began to pray, asking God to supernaturally heal him. But instead of getting better, his condition became worse. I asked the Lord, “Father, don’t You want him to get better so he can reach more of these people in this very dark area of the Philippines?” But my friend’s condition continued to worsen, so much so, that he had to go to his home in another province where he was admitted into the hospital for treatment. Fortunately, he recovered. My wife and I both realized that perhaps the reason he became so sick, was so the Lord could move him out of this critical area to a place of safety. God used this sickness to move our pastor friend, otherwise, he may have become a target in a very volatile area of Mindanao.

Christ continually demonstrated during His earthly ministry that He was in control of His future by not allowing the religious authorities to apprehend Him before His appointed time. Do you believe Jesus has control of your future? If not, there may be some issues that need to be resolved so you can trust Him with what lies ahead. For those who have felt out of control when growing up, it may be more difficult to believe that God is in control now. God will work with you where you are at. Maybe you have some unmet needs and you are not sure how they will be met. Christ knows how to meet them and He will take care of you if you will surrender to His control.

While writing this original message in my upstairs study on Thursday, May 25th, 2017, we were having a major thunderstorm in the Metro Manila area of the Philippines. There were huge cracks of thunder and lightning. Some made me wince as they boomed across the sky. I was interrupted by our helper who came upstairs with our dogs. The dogs were terrified by the loud booms and our helper said they were scratching at our screen door to come in, so she let them in. I told her, “It’s okay. They can stay up here in my study.” As the storm got louder, the dogs kept nudging me with their noses to get closer to me as I sat at my desk writing. So eventually I gave in and sat on the floor with them as they crawled onto my lap. I then sang a song to them that used to calm me during storms in my life. The lyrics are as follows:

“I don’t know about tomorrow; It may bring me poverty But the one who feeds the sparrow, Is the one who stands by me. And the path that is my portion, Maybe through the flame or flood; But His presence goes before me. And I’m covered with His blood.

Chorus:

“Many things about tomorrow, I don’t seem to understand. But I know who holds tomorrow And I know who holds my hand.”

After I sang this song to my dogs, they quieted down and eventually I let them back outside when the storm had passed. And then I did a little research about the songwriter of this song. His name was Ira Stanphill.

“In 1936, Ira launched his own revival campaign. It concluded in Springfield, Missouri, where he agreed to pastor a congregation. In Springfield, he met Zelma Lawson. She too had musical skills. They married in 1939. Together, they wrote the song ‘Room at the Cross for You,’ which they sang as a duet. Their voices rang out together on the chorus, ‘Tho’ millions have come, there’s still room for one. Yes, there’s room at the cross for you.

“However, Zelma began drifting away from the cross. She started attending nightclubs and seeing other men. She eventually filed for divorce. Zelma remarried and began singing in the nightclubs. Ira eventually gained custody of their son, Raymond. In 1951, a car accident took Zelma’s life.

“Between the divorce and Zelma’s death, Ira reached a personal low in his life. Some criticized him for continuing to preach after his divorce. The voices inside Ira’s head and heart were equally severe. He pondered the direction of his future.

“One day, driving to the church he served at the time, Ira poured out his feelings to God. By the time he reached the church, God had birthed a new song in his heart. The experience didn’t give Ira all the answers he wanted, but it gave him the total trust in God he needed. In the decades since, many have experienced fresh faith for the future upon singing or hearing the song, ‘I Know Who Holds Tomorrow.’ The song’s essence is in the words, ‘Many things about tomorrow, I don’t seem to understand; but I know who holds tomorrow, and I know who holds my hand.’ ” 4

Do you have doubts about your future? Are you uncertain of where God may be leading you? Do you sometimes wonder how God can be in control when life seems so out of control? Then remember Ira’s song. “Many things about tomorrow, I don’t seem to understand; but I know who holds tomorrow, and I know who holds my hand.” Do you know who holds your hand? If not, He is waiting to take your hand if you would trust in Him alone for His free gift of eternal life. Then He can lead you as a faithful and loving Shepherd.

Prayer: Lord Jesus, many things happen in this life – tragic things – that cause me to pause at times and question if You are truly in control. Thank You for bringing me back to You this morning. During Your earthly ministry You constantly demonstrated Your control over Your own future which guarantees Your power to control my future. When life seems out of control, the best thing I can do is to seek You and hold out my hand for You to take and lead me as my faithful and loving Shepherd. As Ira’s song says, “Many things about tomorrow, I don’t seem to understand; but I know Who holds tomorrow, and I know Who holds my hand.” Here is my hand, Lord Jesus. In Your loving name I pray. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. Harold W. Hoehner, Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1970), pg. 59.

2. William Sanfords La Sor, “Discovering What Jewih Miqua’ot Can Tell Us About Christian Baptism,” Biblical Archaeology Review (January/February 1987): 52-59.

3. Τί δοκεῖ ὑμῖν ὅτι οὐ μὴ ἔλθῃ εἰς τὴν ἑορτήν?

4.   https://lights4god.wordpress.com/2012/02/14/ira-stanphill/.

The Providence of God or the Plots of Man? Part 3

“Therefore Jesus no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there into the country near the wilderness, to a city called Ephraim, and there remained with His disciples.” John 11:54

We are learning from the conflict over the raising of Lazarus from the dead (John 11:44-57) how the providence of God and the plans of people work together for God’s glory. So far we have learned that…

– Plans to oppose Christ can arise from fear and jealousy (John 11:45-48).

– God uses the plots of man to accomplish His purposes (John 11:49-53).

Today we discover that AT TIMES WE ARE NOT MEANT TO FACE OPPOSITION SO WE CAN PURSUE MORE IMPORTANT RELATIONSHIPS (John 11:54). Because of the plot of the chief priests and Pharisees to kill Him (John 11:53), Jesus withdrew from Bethany to a village fifteen miles northeast of Jerusalem called “Ephraimwhich means “fruitfulness” (see diagram above). John informs us, “Therefore Jesus no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there into the country near the wilderness, to a city called Ephraim, and there remained with His disciples.” (John 11:54). Christ made no attempt to thwart the plot of the Sanhedrin. He chose not to move publicly among the people any longer but retreated to a village that was on the edge of the desert wilderness, into which Jesus could flee if necessary.

Christ would remain there until the appointed time for His crucifixion in another month. He “remained” or “stayed” (emeinen) there with His disciples for some time. Rather than face the opposition, Jesus wanted to spend time with His followers. This sets us up for the next few chapters of John. Christ spent some valuable time with those closest to Him prior to the catastrophe He would face at Jerusalem. Christ is not far from the mountain where the devil offered Him the kingdoms of the world if He would worship him (Matthew 4:8ff). The devil may have come again to remind Jesus of his offer in view of the present plight of the Lord.

What if Jesus had gone to battle against the Sanhedrin at this time? Where would that have left the disciples? They would have been without Jesus’ instruction in John 12-17. In fact, we would be without that instruction, too. We would jump from John 11:57 to John 18. Chapters 12-17 are very crucial teachings for Christ’s disciples. These are magnificent words from our Lord and Savior which He dispensed to them so they (and we) can experience greater intimacy with Him. That is the main issue here – cultivating intimacy with Christ through shared time and experience.

Jesus did not hang around to debate the religious leaders. He went to a secluded area because He knew He needed some time with His disciples. It was more important for Him to build into the lives of His disciples than to battle the hostile leaders.

What about you? Do you gravitate toward those who are teachable and want to grow more than toward those who just want to argue? Would you prefer to debate people rather than disciple them? Our need to argue with those who differ with us can be a way of avoiding intimacy with others. Perhaps we are afraid of getting close to others because we have been deeply hurt by people in the past. So instead of building a bridge to grow closer to others, we try to build a wall around ourselves to prevent us from being hurt.

Jesus wants to heal our wounds by having us focus more on developing intimacy with those who want to grow closer to Christ. There will always be people who want to argue and lead us away from what matters most to our Lord. Don’t waste your time debating with them. Invest your time in those who want to learn how to follow Jesus. Spend time with those who love and care for you so you can face your own pain and let Jesus heal you. The world will become a better place when you do.

Prayer:  Lord Jesus, I am so thankful You refused to go debate with the Sanhedrin so You could spend more time with those who mattered the most to You. As a result, we have some of the most profound teachings on what it means to have intimacy with You (cf. John 12-17). Precious Lord, when I am triggered to engage with those who oppose You and Your Word, please help me to redirect my focus on pursuing You which is far more important. Discipling others will accomplish much more in eternity than debating with those whose minds are already made up. Please lead me to those who want to grow closer to You, my Lord and my God. May Your Holy Spirit meet with us so we can experience Your presence and peace like never before as we humbly seek Your face. In Your matchless name I pray. Amen.

The Providence of God or the Plots of Man? Part 2

51 Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad.” John 11:51-52

After Jesus miraculously raised Lazarus from the dead in front of many Jews who had come from Jerusalem to console the family of Lazarus (John 11:28-44), many of those Jews believed in Jesus for everlasting life (John 11:45) while some began to plot against Christ (John 11:46-48). We are learning from this conflict over Jesus’ miracle how the providence of God and the plans of people work together for God’s glory. The first principle we learned is that plans to oppose Christ can arise from fear and jealousy (John 11:45-48). Today we learn the second principle which is to REALIZE THAT GOD USES THE PLOTS OF MAN TO ACCOMPLISH HIS PURPOSES (John 11:49-53).

“And one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, ‘You know nothing at all.’ ” (John 11:49). No man comprehended the situation better than Caiaphas, the son-in-law of Annas. He was the high priest “that [fateful] year.” He served as high priest from 18-36 A.D. Originally the high priest held his position for a lifetime, but the Romans were afraid of letting a man gain too much power. So the Romans appointed high priests at their convenience.” 2 Caiaphas’ first words reflect rudeness to his fellow Sanhedrin members, “You know nothing at all.” Rudeness was common among the Sanhedrin members. He correctly observes that they have no solution to their problem.

Caiaphas then proposed a solution to their problem. “… Nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.” (John 11:50). The Sanhedrin could not figure out that it would be to their advantage, and that is what they cared the most about, that Jesus die at the hands of the Romans instead of the entire nation. Caiaphas proposed the death of Christ as a solution to the immediate political problem. Politicians are often willing to sacrifice the other guy for their own benefit. Ironically, “their rejection of Jesus did not solve their problem. The Jewish people followed false shepherds into a war against Rome (A.D. 66-70), which did in fact destroy their nation.” 3

John then explains that Caiaphas’ words were prophetic. “Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation.” (John 11:51). What Caiaphas meant to be cynical political realism; God meant to be understood in a deeper, more significant way. Caiaphas only had political interests in mind, whereas God had spiritual interests in mind (Acts 4:27-28). The prophetic quality of Caiaphas’ words is attributed to his priestly office, not his personal character. Because of Caiaphas’ office, God spoke providentially through him even though Caiaphas was not conscious of his word’s spiritual significance. Jesus’ death would be in place of the Jewish nation. If He would die, they would live. Christ would be their Substitute.

A former Thai navy seal diver, Saman Gunan, heroically died on July 6, 2018, while placing oxygen tanks along the twisting passageways of a cave flooded by monsoon rains in Thailand where twelve boys (ages 11 to 16) and their soccer coach were trapped since June 23, 2018. Eventually the entire soccer team was rescued between July 8 – 10, 2018. Saman died so this soccer team and their coach could live. Out of love for these boys and their coach, he laid down his life for them. Likewise, Jesus Christ loved you and me so much that He died on a cross as our Substitute for our sins so we could live forever the moment we believe in Him (John 3:14-16).

But there is more. Caiaphas continued, “And not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad.” (John 11:52). Caiaphas’ words were not just for Israel, but for the whole world. John has a world-vision in mind. This refers to uniting Jews and Gentiles around the world into“one” body, the church (cf. John 10:16; cf. Ephesians 2:14-18; 3:6). Sin scatters people, but the Savior unites them. Only Christ can unite the nations and cultures of the world into one body. Governments cannot do this. The United Nations cannot bring world peace nor can Black Lives Matter. But Jesus Christ can because He changes people from the inside out.

“Then, from that day on, they plotted to put Him to death.” (John 11:53). The Sanhedrin concurs with Caiaphas’ proposal. They seriously plot to kill Jesus. An old purpose (John 5:18; 7:19, 44-45; 8:59; 10:31, 39) was revived with fresh energy due to the raising of Lazarus from the dead. What these wicked men planned for evil, God providentially intended for good.  

Do you remember the story of Joseph in the Old Testament? After Joseph’s father, Jacob, died, his brothers fear that the only thing that has kept Joseph from taking revenge on them has been his respect for his father. So, they come to Joseph begging for forgiveness – even though he gave them that forgiveness many years earlier. How does Joseph respond? Does he avenge the wrongs that they did to him?

He said, “You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good” (Genesis 50:20a).  Joseph doesn’t try to rewrite history saying, “Oh, I know you guys didn’t mean it.” He is honest – “You guys tried to harm me – but God intended your harm for good.” Romans 8:28 says, “We know that God causes all things to work together for good for those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” This “all things” means “all things” – including people’s evil intentions, their desire to cause harm, and sin. This is an absolutely amazing promise from God! Nobody can do anything to you that God cannot bring good from.

We see it clearly in Joseph’s life – sold into slavery, falsely accused and imprisoned – which was exactly where, in the strangest kind of way, Pharaoh, would be able to hear about him. Then Joseph says, “God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive” (Genesis 50:20b). Joseph experienced tremendous pain – heartache, difficulty, problems, but God used all of that for incredible good – the saving of many lives. And as it turned out, not just the people of Egypt, but also his own family – including the very men who did him wrong – his brothers.

Can you relate to Joseph? Perhaps God has used the most painful experiences in your life involving believers who betrayed you to help and bless others. He has used your weaknesses and failures much more than He has used your so-called strengths. It is important for us to see God’s ability to do far more through our trials or failures than through our successes. God causes all things to work together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. That means that many can gain through our pain!

The religious leaders had evil intentions toward Jesus, but God intended to bring good from their rejection of His Son. Jesus’ death would unite Jews and Gentiles into one body, the Church. Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross would pay the penalty for the sins of the world so that all who believe in Him may be reconciled to God and have everlasting life (John 3:14-16; Romans 5:10; Ephesians 2:16).

Christ’s work in our lives can turn enemies into friends. He can bring men and women back into harmony with each other. But it begins by resolving our conflict with God. The Bible says that before we come to Jesus Christ we are in conflict with God. “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son.” (Romans 5:10). Before we became Christians, we were God’s “enemies” because of our sin. God hates sin (Genesis 6:5-7; Deuteronomy 25:16; Proverbs 6:16-19; Romans 6:23; Hebrews 1:9), but He loves the sinner (Romans 5:8). Jesus Christ came to this world to make peace between humanity and God, to resolve this conflict. This is the key place to begin in resolving conflict in all of our relationships. Jesus died in our place to pay the penalty for our sins so we could be “reconciled to God.” The moment we believe in Christ “we have peace with God” (Romans 5:1). Once we gain peace with God we can learn to live peacefully with one another.

“As parts of the same body, our anger against each other has disappeared. For both of us have been reconciled to God and so the feud ended at the cross.” (Ephesians 2:16 – TLB). Paul is talking about conflict between nations in this verse, but this works between people too. “The feud ended at the cross.” God is able to resolve the conflicts in our lives. Many conflicts between people could be solved overnight, if both parties involved would come to know Christ because of the power that He has to resolve those conflicts we face in our lives.

For me, this is the most everyday advice I could give anyone. In my relationships with people, my relationship to Jesus Christ more than anything else sets the tone for the ability to handle the conflicts that we face. He gives me the ability to think in a different way and relate in a different way. Finding the love of Christ helped me find the forgiveness in my life that built the foundation of strength for all of my relationships. Finding the love of Christ also gives me the strength to forgive others. If you are going to resolve conflicts you have got to have that strength. 

What relationship in your life still has walls to tear down? Whom do you despise? Maybe you dislike the way they look, talk, walk, laugh, and work. You detest being near to them. How can Christ slowly take down those walls one brick at a time so you can live peacefully with them? Ask Him to show you. He is our Peace (Ephesians 2:13-14) and He can teach us to live in harmony with others.

Prayer: Dear Lord God Almighty, Your ways are so much higher than ours. While evil politicians proposed the death of Jesus to advance their own plans and welfare, You providentially intended Jesus’ substitutionary death to save the nation of Israel and the entire world from eternal death. And not only that, Christ’s death would unite Jews and Gentiles into one body, the Church. Over and over again we see throughout history that sin divides people, but our Savior died to unite people of all colors, cultures, and countries. Many of us are not able to resolve conflicts with people because we are still in conflict with You. Our sin separates us from You, Oh Lord. But Your only Son, Jesus Christ, died in our place for all our sins and rose from the dead to reconcile us to You. Oh Lord, I pray that those who are still in conflict with You will recognize that Jesus can resolve that conflict by freely forgiving all their sins and giving them eternal life the moment they believe in Him alone. Then He can give them the strength to love and forgive those they are in conflict with. And if we are all honest with ourselves, we must admit that there are people in our lives that we despise for whatever reason. Please show us today how we can begin the process of taking down those walls we have built so we can live peacefully them. It may begin with the words, “I am truly sorry for what I have done. I was only thinking of myself. Help me to see things as you do.” In Jesus’ name. Amen.

ENDNOTES:

1. J. Carl Laney, Moody Gospel John Commentary (Chicago: Moody Press, 1992), pg. 215.

2. Edwin A. Blum, The Bible Knowledge Commentary: Gospels, (David C Cook: Kindle Edition, 2018), pg. 640.

3. Ibid, pp. 640-641.

The Providence of God or the Plots of Man? Part 1

“What shall we do? For this Man works many signs. If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation.” John 11:47b-48

Life can take a turn for the worse very quickly. On the eve of Tuesday, May 23, 2017, President Duterte declared martial law in the southern region of the Philippines called Mindanao due to the fighting in Marawi City of Lanao Del Sur Province between the Philippines military and the Maute terrorist group. More recently, COVID-19 caused you to lose your job and health. The police show up at your door to tell you your son was killed by a drunk driver. Your spouse informs you he or she does not love you any longer and is filing for divorce. The doctor’s office calls you with bad news. We may wonder, “Are we merely the victims of fate? Is there any purpose for the events which are taking place in our lives? Or is this because of the sinfulness of man?”

The Bible tells us, “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). This verse alludes to the plans of people and the providence of God. The providence of God is that “work of God by which He preserves all His creatures, is active in all that transpires in the world, and directs all things to their appointed end.” 1  Sometimes God guides the ways of men outside their consciousness of that guidance (cf. Genesis 50:20; Isaiah 10:5). He exercises control over things that seem accidental or insignificant (Proverbs 16:33; Matthew 10:30). Although people make their plans, the Lord determines how those plans will unfold (cf. Proverbs 16:9; 19:21; 20:24).

Jesus had just raised Lazarus from the dead in front of many Jews who had come from Jerusalem to console the family of Lazarus (John 11:28-44). Christ had claimed to be “the Resurrection and the Life” (John 11:25-26). He had claimed to have the power over life and death, and now He had just backed up that claim by raising Lazarus from the dead. We will now look at the conflict over this miracle to discover how the providence of God and the plans of people work together for God’s glory. We will focus on four principles:

1. RECOGNIZE THAT PLANS TO OPPOSE CHRIST CAN ARISE FROM FEAR AND JEALOUSY (John 11:45-48) over those responding to Him in faith. “Then many of the Jews who had come to Mary, and had seen the things Jesus did, believed in Him.” (John 11:45). Throughout John 11 the emphasis has been on Martha and it is curious that the Jews are said to have come to the less prominent sister, Mary. There may have been more concern for Mary who was weeping than for Martha who was actively seeking Jesus. Mary seems to have been expressing more grief and therefore, had a greater need for consolation. These “Jews”beheld the resurrection of Lazarus by Jesus and they believed in Christ for eternal life. They didn’t need an instant replay. They saw enough evidence to persuade them that Jesus was the Messiah-God who guarantees a future resurrection and never-ending life to those who believe in Him (cf. John 11:25-26; 20:31).

While most of the people believed in Christ, some did not. “But some of them went away to the Pharisees and told them the things Jesus did.” (John 11:46).Some of these Jews were skeptical, so they went to the Pharisees who were enemies of Jesus to tell them what Christ had done. Their motive was not to win them over, but to oppose Christ. “Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, ‘What shall we do? For this Man works many signs.’ ” (John 11:47). The report of this miracle came to the attention of the “chief priests”(Sadducees) and the “Pharisees.” These two groups called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin was composed of seventy-one members, including the presiding high priest. They could be called the Jewish Supreme Court of Palestine at that time.

The Pharisees were anti-Roman, and they loved to foster among the Israelis a dislike for the foreigner and a devotion to the hopes and ideals proper to the people of God; but they could only fear and oppose a movement that might end in allegiance to Jesus as the Messiah. The Sadducees were tolerant of Rome and they feared and obeyed her. And they dreaded nothing more than a revolt that would stir her wrath. So these two ancient rivals were united by a common hate for Jesus Christ. They met to plot against Jesus so that they could destroy Him.

From this point on, the Sadducees take the lead in opposing Jesus. “What shall we do? For this Man works many signs?” “He is active, and we are idle.” They admit the miracles are taking place, but they decide to oppose Christ instead of believe in Him. Their minds are already made up despite the evidence supporting that Jesus is the Messiah-God. “If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation.” (John 11:48). They were fearful that if they don’t stop Jesus and He keeps on raising the dead so close to Jerusalem, then “everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place” of leadership in the temple and “our nation.” As Jesus’ popularity grows, the Romans would fear a revolution and intervene by seizing complete authority, thus destroying their Jewish government and their national identity.

The Sanhedrin misunderstood Jesus. They were typical politicians. Their personal power came before their country. They failed to recognize Jesus’ fulfillment of prophecies. They failed to recognize their need for deliverance by Christ. Christ had shown no political ambitions. He had already shown this by His refusal to be made King after He fed the five thousand (John 6:15). He had no intention of organizing a revolt against Rome. But the Sanhedrin perceived Christ to be a threat. They wanted Him dead so they could get their followers back. Jesus attracted many followers because of the healing grace He offered to them. People were oppressed by the spiritual demands of the religious leaders, so they came to Jesus for healing. The Sanhedrin despised Christ and His popularity because they were losing control over the people.

If you are loyal to Jesus, people may hate Him and you for that. Legalists will especially oppose the Lord’s work in your life, and they will resent the Lord because He is in control instead of them. As you grow in your commitment to follow Christ, your family and friends may hate you and the Lord because Jesus is first in your life instead of them. They may be afraid of losing you and their influence in your life. Try not to take their opposition personally. They misunderstand who Jesus is and how He can make their lives and yours better.

Prayer: Lord Jesus,thank You for showing me why people may oppose Your work in my life. They are mostly afraid of losing me or their influence in my life. They either love me and want the best for me or they are thinking only of themselves and want to have control over me. But what either of these groups don’t realize is that You can do far more for me than any mortal human being. Thank You Lord Jesus for giving me life everlasting and a hope that never ends!!! Please use Your relationship with me to draw the people in my life to Yourself. Help me not to take their opposition to You personally, but to see that they want to help me the best way they know how, even though it often is not helpful. You are the best, my Lord and my God. Thank You for loving me and saving me. In Your hope-filled name I pray. Amen.  

ENDNOTES:

1. Louis Berkhof, Manual of Christian Doctrine, 2nd Ed. (Arlington Heights, Illinois: Christian Liberty Press, 2003), pg. 42.