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Author:Pastor Keith Davis
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Congregation:Bethel United Reformed Church
 Calgary, Alberta
Title:The Plot to Kill Jesus
Text:John 12:45-54 (View)
Occasion:Easter (Good Friday)
Topic:Christ's Suffering

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

The Plot to Kill Jesus

John 11: 45-57

Preached by Rev. Keith Davis at Bethel URC 3-18-18 p.m.


Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ, as we have gone through the book John together, one of the things that we have highlighted was the growing tension and antagonism which Jesus faced in his earthly ministry. That tension grew with every passing day, with every passing moment as the hour of Christ’s suffering and death drew nearer.


And we noticed the presence of that tension and antagonism especially after Jesus taught or preached, and each he performed his miraculous signs. In chapter 6, for example, after Jesus fed the 5000, we’re told that many of his followers abandoned him because of his difficult teachings. In chapter 8, the Pharisees and Jews began to whisper about Christ. They knew about his miraculous signs, but they questioned who Jesus was and by what power he was doing these miraculous signs.


Then in chapter 9, after Jesus healed the man who was born blind, their focus is not on the amazing power of Jesus, but on how they could find fault with Jesus for what he did. As odd and strange as this might sound, if given a choice, the religious leaders in Jesus day would rather see the people remain in their afflicted state; burdened with their lifelong diseases and disabilities, than have those people healed and have Jesus gain in popularity with the people.


And so it should be no surprise then, that on the heels of what is arguably the greatest and most powerful sign of Jesus to date -- the raising of Lazarus -- that once again there is hostility and hatred and antagonism against Jesus. Things have gotten so bad that, in the estimation of the Sanhedrin, something has to be done.


And since Jesus would not stop preaching and teaching and performing miracles, then only one thing could be done: Jesus must die. That is the conclusion of the meeting (the ‘action item”) which we read about in our text tonight. It’s the first recorded conversation of the plot to kill Jesus. That’s our theme this evening: The Jewish Religious Leaders Plot to Kill Jesus   

1) The Contrasting Responses

2) The Worldly Concern

3) The Expedient Solution


1) The Contrasting Responses   

Now, when you stop to consider all that had just transpired in this chapter, the sickness of Lazarus; the delay of Jesus, the death of Lazarus, followed by the arrival of Jesus and the grief of Martha and Mary; and then there was the amazing and powerful display of the GLORY of Jesus as the Messiah as he called forth Lazarus from the tomb, and then Lazarus obediently stumbled forth from the grave, alive and well and no longer dead – imagine what John could have written here.


Just imagine the story Lazarus could tell! Think of the questions they must have asked him: what was it like? Where did you go? What did you see? What did you feel? And when Jesus called, did you actually hear his voice? What does it feel like to be alive again? Do you feel any differently now than before?


Yet, John tells us none of that. Nothing. Not one word. Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote about this in his extensive poem entitled In Memoriam: Behold a man raised up by Christ! The rest remaineth unreveal'd; He told it not; or something seal'd The lips of that Evangelist.


We can be certain that this was the subject of countless conversations between Lazarus and his two sisters and their friends for years to come, but again, we never read a word of it. When I thought of this, and why this is the case, it reminded me of the experience of the Apostle Paul in II Corinthians 12, where he speaks as one whom God had given a glorious vision of heaven, he heard inexpressible things, things he says that man is not permitted to tell.


And we may wonder why that is the case, and while we might wish that Paul or John had told us something more, that they had shared something about what life is like in heaven, or of what happens when we die, the truth is, that’s not for us to know; and it’s also not the purpose or point of the Word of God. John’s purpose, Paul’s purpose was the same: to reveal the glory and majesty of Jesus Christ the Son of God, the Savior of sinners! That’s it.


That’s exactly why John doesn’t get sidetracked here. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he is compelled to tell the story of Jesus (not Lazarus); John is compelled to tell the story of Jesus whom John the Baptist identified (in 1:29) as the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world. It is his story that we must hear and it is his glory that we must see!     


So right after the resurrection of Lazarus John shows us the two contrasting responses: Look at verse 45-47: Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.


On a positive note, the predominant response to Christ’s miraculous raising of Lazarus was faith and belief! This was the original purpose and intent of letting Lazarus die, so that (verse 4) the Son of God could be glorified; so that (verse 15) his disciples may see it and put their faith in Him.


Here, as before, we’re not told of the quality of the faith of those who believed in Jesus. Some no doubt believed unto eternal life and were saved. And there may have been others who believed like those who were mentioned back in John 2:24-25 – who “believed” in Jesus, but their hearts were not truly given over to him. They were awed, but not saved.


And then John tells us here in our text, in verse 46, that there was another response to this miracle of Jesus. Just like it happened before, when Jesus healed the man who was born blind and then some people took the man to the Pharisees, here too some people went to the Pharisees and they told them what Jesus had done.


And when the Pharisees heard of it, they realize two things: first, they’re fighting an uphill battle; it’s a battle they cannot win. How can they hope to discredit Jesus and make people turn away from him after he just healed Lazarus in front of dozens if not scores of witnesses? And word about what Jesus had done was spreading fast! The second thing they realize is that they can no longer sit idly by and let this happen again and again. As we said just a few moments ago, they have to stop Jesus.   

And so they call a meeting of the Sanhedrin. That is the name of the Jewish ruling council, a.k.a. the religious establishment; the chief priests, the Scribes, the Sadducees and the Pharisees. Together they would discuss the recent events and decide what to do with Jesus.


And John wastes no time in telling us the details of their meeting. We’re given a seat at the table, we’re a fly on the wall, so to speak. These men are frustrated and at their wits end: Verses 47: “What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”


Notice, they didn’t deny or discount the fact that Jesus was doing miraculous signs. Likewise, they didn’t deny or discount the fact that people were believing in him, that they were putting their faith in him and following him.


So time and time again the testimony which Jesus gave about himself (the Son of God, the Messiah) was proven again and again. And remember, the Jews demanded signs from Jesus! “Jesus”, they said, “show us a sign that we may believe that you are who you claim to be”! And Jesus did just that; but still they did not believe!


So just to summarize: the members of the Sanhedrin fully realize that Jesus is someone who possesses not just exceptional gifts as an orator, not just a magnetic personality (that he has a way to attract followers); but that He has power unlike any other man on earth. Jesus has power from above, the very power of God, power that the people themselves have seen and experienced and even testified with their own lips that this power was from God.


So what choice do you have when you are confronted with such a reality as this, beloved? There’s only ever two choices, isn’t there? You can choose to believe what you have seen and heard and you can put your faith in Jesus Christ, and you can follow Him and trust in Him for the salvation of your soul; OR you can deny the truth about Jesus. You can deny the truth and claim that He is a fraud, that he’s demon possessed; he’s not really who he says he is.


See, there’s no middle ground. There’s either belief or unbelief. You either take Jesus at His Word, and you believe that He is who he says he is; OR you call Jesus a liar. You say that He is not the Son of God; that He is NOT the Savior sent by God.  


And as I’ve said before in this sermon series on the book of John all of mankind falls into one of those two categories. It’s either belief or unbelief. Which category do you fall into beloved? I pray it is belief! That you see with eyes of faith the glory of Christ the Messiah; that you hear with ears of faith the Gospel, the very Word of Life that is preached to you in boldness and in truth. And that every time you see and hear, you would grow in your love for God, and your desire to serve Him and worship Him each day!


2) Their Worldly Concern

So that is the Contrasting Responses. Now secondly, I want to focus on just one other aspect of the initial response of the Sanhedrin, which I have called the worldly concern. Look again at verse 48: Their concern is that If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”


You see what their concern is? They are worried that if the people continue to believe in Jesus, if they continue to believe and say that he is the Messiah – Israel’s promised King, then that’s going to attract the attention of Rome. Rome may interpret this as some kind of uprising; as some kind of religious or political-religious coup, and then Caesar may send his legions into the city and destroy the temple and kill the priests and wipeout the nation 


Now, this is the first time this concern has been raised in regards to the ongoing controversy about Jesus. Recall, the previous concern was all about blasphemy – that Jesus was claiming to be the Son of God; and that Jesus was claiming to be one with God. But this is different.


Now their concern is political. So, do you see where their vision is, where their heart is? Do you see what they value more than anything else?! It’s not God or the things of God. It’s obviously not Jesus. No. Their concern if for their temple, for their nation, for earthly things that have no lasting worth, value or significance.

These religious leaders have sacrificed the heavenly temple for the earthly one; they would rather cling to the annual sacrifices of bull and rams and goats that can never take away sins, than have the Once for all sacrifice of Jesus Christ which would forever remove their sins.


They have forfeit the heavenly Jerusalem with its walls of jasper, its gates of pearl and streets of pure gold, for the earthly city made of wood and stone and mud and brick. They have given up the eternal and glorious kingdom of God for the sake of an earthly nation that would soon be overrun and destroyed.


This is classic unbelief.  Romans 1 characterizes unbelief as when we sinful human beings love and serve the created things instead of the Creator; it’s when we exchange the truth of God for a lie; it’s when we give ourselves over to the passions and the desires of the flesh (to indulge ourselves in sinful pleasure) instead of living our lives to the glory and honor of God.


And we know what it is to meet people like this. You may talk to a complete stranger on a job site, or maybe a co-worker as you share a coffee break, and within a few short moments of making small talk you can learn a lot about someone.


You can find out what interests they have, what their priorities are, and if they are living for this life or the next. So in that way, the concern of the members of the Sanhedrin is the same concern many people have today. It is worldliness and foolishness. If I follow Jesus, then what will happen to my life as I know it? If I follow Jesus then what might become of my relationship with someone I really love? If I follow Jesus what will happen to my business, my reputation; my sinful selfish pleasures? So, what do YOU love most in this life? 


An answer that comes to mind is given by Jesus in Mathew 16:24ff. Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save this life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 What good will it be for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what he has done.


So beloved, may our hearts be set on things above; may our concerns, may our desires be for the things of Christ and His kingdom. The world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. I John 2:17.


3) The Expedient Solution

Finally we come to the third point, the expedient solution. From the way verse 49 reads, it appears that the Sanhedrin was at a loss as to know what to do with Jesus. And that’s when the chairman, the president spoke up. He’s Caiaphas the high priest. He’s described by historians and commentators as arrogant, brash and rude.


He was insanely jealous of the popularity of Jesus, and he was a sly manipulator who was bent on having things his own way, and he didn’t let things like fairness or justice get in the way. 


It is he who speaks up out of his pride and conceit – and makes a seemingly wise observation: First, he sets himself apart from everyone saying: You know at all nothing! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.


Notice also how carefully he also chooses his words – he never once mentions the name of Jesus as he says this. It’s sort of like the head of a mafia family putting out a hit, but he’s careful not to say too much; he won’t name names; and he won’t literally say he needs to die – only that it’s better for one man to die than an entire nation. But his point is as clear as it is obvious!


It is Hendriksen who really captures the essence of what Caiaphas says when he writes: Under the guise of noble patriotism this unscrupulous scoundrel was trying to get rid of an obstacle to his own popularity and glory.  And there’s a glorious irony and divine humor at work here, because this is where John now interjects; this is where John ends the board meeting of the Sanhedrin and he’s going to tell us what this means. He writes: (verse 51-52) He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 52 and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one .

John isn’t saying that Caiaphas was coerced into saying this, or that Caiaphas didn’t know what he was saying or that he didn’t mean, or that he was not responsible (in the end) for what he said. That’s not the case at all. He wants to kill Jesus


What John is saying is that God was at work here -- unbeknownst to Caiaphas. God is orchestrating these events. In God’s wonderful providence the choice of his words reflect the heart of God’s glorious plan of salvation! Just as God spoke in the past through the wicked prophet Balaam, he speaks now through this wicked high priest and prophet, Caiaphas!


Hendriksen’s puts it this way: Nevertheless God’s will, without becoming even in the last degree defiled, so directed the choice of phraseology that the words which issue from the lips of this coldblooded murderer were exactly the ones that were needed to give express ion to the most sublime and glorious truth regarding God’s redemptive love. Without becoming aware of it, the villain had become the prophet!


And that just summarizes this whole scene in such a beautiful way, reminding us of what the Psalmist said in Psalm 2: Why do the nations conspire and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth rise up and the rulers band together against the Lord and against his anointed, saying, “Let us break their chains and throw off their shackles.” The One enthroned in heaven laughs; the Lord scoffs at them. He rebukes them in his anger and terrifies them in his wrath, saying, “I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain


Even here among sinful men, sinful men who are conspiring against Him, Christ is King. God is in control. They might plot and scheme and whisper and move about in the shadows, but they can do nothing but that which God has predestined and directed to happen so that in the end it is God’s plan of salvation that is accomplished – not their wicked and vile plan!


I want to close with that encouragement to you beloved. This is true for us today as well. Yes, our world is full of wickedness and evil; and certainly there are those plotting ways to undermine our faith; to silence our witness, to remove God and His Word from our society and life, but the truth is, God’s Word cannot silenced. And God will carry out His mission in this world, in His own time, in His own way, and nothing men can do can stop it. Amen

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
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