************ Sermon on John 11:45-57 ************
By: Rev. Adrian Dieleman
This sermon was preached on March 3, 2013
"The Plot to Kill Jesus"
"Lazarus, come out!" That's what Jesus yelled. "Lazarus come out!" If Jesus had not named Lazarus when He shouted, He would have emptied the entire cemetery. The dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face.
Do you know what Jesus prayed before He did this miracle?
(Jn 11:41-42) "Father, I thank you that you have heard me. (42) I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me."After Jesus prayed this He called Lazarus to come out of the tomb. Jesus asked, then, that all those who saw the resurrection of Lazarus would believe.
Was this prayer answered? Or, maybe I should ask, how was this prayer answered? This is what John writes after the raising of Lazarus:
(Jn 11:45) Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him.
I don't know about you, but I would like to see and hear more of these people. I would like to listen as Lazarus describes to them the dying and rising experience. I would like to listen as Lazarus describes to them what he saw and felt during the four days between his death and resurrection. I would like to listen as Jesus explains this is what happens to every sinner who trusts the Savior – how he or she experiences a spiritual resurrection by going from death to life.
I would also like to see or hear something about the party, the time of celebration, that followed the resurrection – because you can be sure there was feasting and dancing in Bethany that day. I would like to witness the rejoicing of Mary and Martha and Lazarus.
But John tells us none of this!
In this season of Lent, as we prepare our hearts for the Lord's Supper, John focuses our attention instead on three other groups of people – none of whom believed in Jesus as Savior or accepted Him as Lord; yet, according to the set purpose and fore-knowledge of God, they were all used to bring Jesus to the cross and the grave (cf Acts 2:23). John tells us this morning about Informers, Plotters, and Betrayers. As the story progresses we see man at his worst and God at His best.
I The Informers
A The first group John looks at I identify as Informers. We can also call them Snitches or Tattle-Tales. This group left the cemetery that day and rushed to Jerusalem.
What did they do there? They "went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done" (Jn 11:46). They reported to the religious leaders on what had happened in Bethany. These informants were so near the kingdom, yet they did not believe. They saw the resurrection of Lazarus yet they did not put their faith in Jesus and – as we will see when we look at the Plotters – they were instrumental in bringing Jesus to the cross.
In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells the parable of a rich man and Lazarus (not the same Lazarus that was raised by Jesus). Upon death, Lazarus was carried to Abraham's side while the rich man ended in the torments of hell. Do you remember the conversation between Abraham and the rich man?
(Lk 16:27-31) "I beg you, father, send Lazarus to my father's house, (28) for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment." (29) Abraham replied, "They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them." (30) "No, father Abraham," he said, "but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent." (31) He said to him, "If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead."So true. Even though the Informers saw Jesus raise Lazarus from the dead they still would not believe. We see, don't we, how hard is the heart of man?
B "Many ... put their faith in him. But some ... went to the Pharisees." Isn't this the twofold response that we see continually throughout the Gospels? Isn't this the twofold response that we see even today? Maybe both responses are to be found among those in worship this morning – some believe and some do not.
Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God (cf Jn 20:31)? Let me warn you: If you don't believe you – like the rich man – will end up in the torments of hell. But, if you do believe you – like Lazarus – will someday be comforted by Abraham; and, right now you will experience a spiritual resurrection in your life.
Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God (cf Jn 20:31)? Let me warn you: If you don't believe you have no business taking the Lord's Supper next week. But, if you do believe you are invited to the Table of the Lord.
So let me ask: in which group are you?
II The Plotters
A The second group I identify as the Plotters.
The informers tell on Jesus to the Pharisees. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin was the "supreme court" of Israel. It was made up of 71 members – chiefly Sadducees and Pharisees. Its head was the High Priest. The Sanhedrin was given a limited scope of power by the Romans to take care of matters local to Israel.
B "What are we accomplishing?" they asked (Jn 11:47). That's a strange question. "What are we accomplishing?" In other words, they have been trying to stop Jesus. This sent me looking through the Gospel of John for their attempts to stop Jesus. I learned they questioned John the Baptist about baptism because he baptized Jesus (Jn 1:24). They heard, with alarm, that Jesus was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John (Jn 4:1). When many of the pilgrim crowd put their faith in Jesus, they sent the temple guards to arrest Him (Jn 7:32); and, when the temple guards returned empty-handed they accused the guards of being deceived by Jesus (Jn 7:45-47). They challenged Jesus' teaching (Jn 8:13). They closely examined the blind man healed by Jesus (Jn 9:13ff).
To sum up: they questioned, they examined, they accused, they challenged, and they tried to arrest. "What are we accomplishing?" No matter what they did to thwart Jesus and stop Jesus and refute Jesus, they were getting nowhere. In fact, Jesus was gaining in popularity.
C Listen to their next statement: "Here is this man performing many miraculous signs" (Jn 11:47). Did you hear that? These are the bitter enemies of Jesus speaking. They testify to the reality of our Lord's miracles! Yet, they refuse to believe the truth. They knew about the miracles. But they refused to believe. Rather than asking if Jesus was the Messiah they asked, "How do we stop Him?" They should have been rejoicing in Jesus and receiving Him with open arms. Yet, they took the lead in rejecting and opposing Him.
D "If we let him go on like this ..." (Jn11:48). "If we let him go on like this"? What kind of statement is that? Do you hear the underlying premise? That the miracles and teachings being done by Jesus require their permission and their blessing. Of course, this permission and blessing would never be given (cf Lk 20:27; Jn 5:16).
"If we let him go on like this ..." As if it was up to them. As if God had nothing to do with this. They claimed to believe in God but lived and ruled as though they were atheists.
E Why this increasing hostility towards Jesus? Why were they so opposed to Him and His ministry?
"If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him" (Jn 11:48). At first glance, it might appear they wanted to protect the people from a false teacher. But later events confirm they were not concerned about truth or heresy. For if they were concerned they would have fully examined Jesus' claims about Himself.
The key word in their response is "everyone." "Everyone will believe in him." Jesus was becoming too popular. His crowds were getting too big. He had too many followers. And, here is the real sin, people were listening to Jesus rather than to the Sadducees and Pharisees. Which means they will lose their influence and their authority. They worried that "the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation" (Jn 11:48).
Selfish fear and envy. Those were the motives driving the Sanhedrin. How sad it is that they rejected Christ for the things of this world. How sad it is that they swapped eternity for a few short years on earth. "He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him" says John (Jn 1:11).
F It was Caiaphas the High Priest, the leader of the Sanhedrin, who proposed a solution:
(Jn 11:50) "You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish."The words of Caiaphas marked a turning point. From that day on the Pharisees and chief priests looked for ways and means to kill Jesus. Thanks to Caiaphas, they knew what to do. "So from that day on," says Scripture, "they plotted to take his life" (John 11:53). The Sanhedrin decided it was best "that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish." Thus, thanks to the Informers, the Plotters started the events that we remember in this season of Lent and celebrate in the Lord's Supper.
"It is better for you that one man die for the people." The High Priest was the holder of the Urim and Thummin – used to determine God's will in a particular situation. What he said came from God. So John says,
(John 11:51) He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation ...Caiaphas was speaking of God's eternal plan for our salvation in which it is necessary, absolutely necessary, for the One to die so that the many may live. Unknowingly, Caiaphas was stating the Gospel in a nut-shell. Unknowingly, Caiaphas was stating the very reason for which Christ has entered our world in human flesh.
There is an absolutely wonderful doctrine contained in the words of Caiaphas. Do you know the doctrine? The substitutionary nature of Christ's death. I can't think of this doctrine without thinking of the words of Isaiah:
(Isa 53:4-5) Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows ... (5) But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.Do you hear that word "our"? Our infirmities, our sorrows, our transgressions, our iniquities ... We have gone astray. We have sinned. But He was punished. He was crucified. He was killed. He was forsaken by God and man. He died for me so I don't have to perish. One man for many – just as the High Priest said and the Sanhedrin plotted.
Topic: ChristThe young couple gave their lives for their child. This is what Christ has done for us. This is what we celebrate in this season of Lent. This is what we celebrate at the Lord's Supper next week.
Subtopic: Became Man's Substitute
A number of years ago, a news story told of a dramatic incident that occurred in a small mid-western town. A siren warned the residents of this town to take cover because a tornado had been sighted. Living in this town was a young couple with a small baby. Knowing the tornado was upon them and that they had no time to take cover, they laid the tiny infant on the floor of their living room and covered the baby with their own bodies. The tornado struck with devastating force and leveled a row of homes, including theirs. The next morning, as rescue workers were rummaging through the destroyed homes, they heard a muffled crying. They came upon the lifeless bodies of the young couple, with their baby still safe beneath them.
But now the question, did He die for you? He did if you are one of those who see and hear what Jesus has done and believe He is the Christ, the Son of the living God.
III The Betrayers
A After this, says Scripture, "Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the Jews" (Jn 11:54). He withdrew to a region near the desert. He went into hiding. Why? His time had not yet come (cf Jn 7:6, 8, 30; 8:20; 13:1). It wasn't yet the time ordained by the Father from eternity for His death and resurrection. So, with the sentence of death hanging over Him, Jesus withdrew.
God has a plan. This plan must be followed. Jesus was not to die until His time had come.
B However, the people were looking for Jesus. They were asking about Jesus. Of course they were. Because once you believe in Jesus you cannot get enough of Him. Because once you believe in Jesus you want Him always there.
Knowing this, notice what the chief priests and Pharisees do next: they gave "orders that if anyone found where Jesus was, he should report it so that they might arrest him" (Jn 11:57). The chief priests and Pharisees know that Jesus would never leave or forsake His followers and used that against Him.
Those who respond to these orders of the Sanhedrin I identify as Betrayers or Traitors. We know of at least one in this group – Judas, who betrayed the Lord for thirty pieces of silver (cf Jn 13:18-30).
My prayer is that none of us will ever join Judas and betray the Lord.
During the Korean War, a group of believers were in a little chapel when communist soldiers barged in with machine guns. One of the soldiers said, "All right everybody, get up!" So they got off their knees. He said, "Line up against the wall!" They did what the soldier said to do. Then that soldier ripped the picture of Christ off the wall and threw it down on the floor. He said, "All right, one by one, I want you to come by here, spit on this picture, and curse His name." The three men, we would have to say, betrayed the Lord while the girl did not.
The first three in line were men of the church, they did what the soldier said to do. They spit on the picture and they cursed the name of Christ. The fourth one in line was a high school girl. She came up before the picture and she dropped to her knees. She wiped the spittle off with her skirt, and she said, "Go ahead and kill me. I cannot curse His name."
The soldier said, "Get up!" They blindfolded that girl and the three men, and marched them out behind the chapel. The people inside heard three shots. The soldiers came back in with the girl -- alive.
One of the soldiers said, "Anyone who gives up what they believe that easily is not fit to be a communist." And they marched out.
-- Ron Blue, Moody Founder's Week, 1985.
Congregation, did you notice the progression? The story starts with informers running to Jerusalem. It moves to plotters wanting to kill Jesus. And it ends with those who betray the Lord into the hands of men. All these wicked men were used by God to bring Jesus to the cross and grave so we could be saved.
In this season of Lent, as we prepare for the Lord's Supper, the Spirit of the Lord wants us to see man at his worst and God at His best. And it wants us to examine ourselves. Are we one of those who believe in Jesus? Or, are we one of those who inform, plot, and betray?
You can e-mail our pastor at: Pastor, Trinity United Reformed Church
Back to Index of Sermons Page