Calvary Road Baptist Church

“CAIAPHAS’ PROPHECY

John 11.49-52

 

Today is Palm Sunday, the Sunday that immediately precedes our celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, universally known as Easter Sunday. The reason this Sunday before Easter is known as Palm Sunday is because it was on this day the Lord Jesus Christ dispatched two of His disciples to fetch a donkey colt He then rode into the city of Jerusalem, which the gospel according to Matthew indicates to be a fulfillment of prophecy.[1]

What, pray tell, was the significance of riding into the city on the foal of an ass? In addition to fulfilling a centuries old prediction by the prophet Zechariah that the Jewish Messiah would do that, there was the symbolism of it all. You see, kings of that era typically entered cities in only two ways, either in peace on the foal of an ass, or on a stallion as a conqueror in time of war. When the Lord Jesus Christ entered the city in this way, the situation unfolded in a manner very differently than most people think. It is commonly thought these days that the people in Jerusalem at the time rejoiced at His entrance into the city, even as the multitudes threw down their cloths and palm branches to welcome Him as they all joined together praising Him.

However, Luke 19.37-38 is very clear in revealing to us that it was only His disciples who rejoiced and loudly praised God for what they had seen, not the general population. As a matter of fact, Luke 19.39 points out that some Pharisees on hand at the time were very critical of our Lord’s disciples for praising Him in that way. The fact that the Lord Jesus later wept over the city, and lamented their spiritual blindness to what was taking place without their observation, is a clear indication that His entrance into the city on what we now call Palm Sunday was basically without the notice and observation of most people.

Did He ride the donkey colt into the city in fulfillment of prophecy? Yes. Were there cheers and rejoicing on the part of people, who also placed branches and garments in front of Him as He passed by? Yes, but only Christ’s disciples participated, and there is no specific mention of palm leaves in the Bible, though it is likely they were used. All told, my own impression is that what we call Palm Sunday, the events surrounding our Lord’s prophecy-fulfilling entrance into Jerusalem, the demonstration by His disciples, and His weeping over Jerusalem for that city’s spiritual blindness to the serious events unfolding before them, is a testament of how insensitive people are to spiritual reality.

The eternal Son of the living God, the King of kings and Lord of lords, enters the city in peace, offering Himself to the people, and the reaction of the vast majority is to completely ignore Him. Days later, they would stand idly by as He is crucified. My friend, there is coming a day (sooner than most people can imagine) when the Lord Jesus Christ will enter the city of Jerusalem once again. When that happens, He will not be sitting atop a donkey colt posturing peace and goodwill. Rather, He will be astride a white horse, wearing a bloody garment, and on His thigh will be written, “KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” He will ride at the head of the most powerful and numerous army ever assembled, and He will come to rescue those poor souls crying out to Him in faith. In doing so, His design will be to execute judgment upon those supposedly too busy with their lives to pay attention to Him before the time of His glorious return.

Though today is Palm Sunday, and I have reviewed some of the events of that day in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ with you, I will not preach from a text dealing with Palm Sunday today. I think it is better preparation for Easter Sunday for us to focus our attention on a text bearing more directly on our Lord’s crucifixion, even though it deals with words spoken several months before our Lord’s sacrifice. Step back several months with me, to the day the Lord Jesus Christ arrived to a suburb outside Jerusalem, where Mary and Martha had summoned Him, the sisters of the now dead and buried Lazarus. You will remember that many were gathered to mourn the loss of Lazarus when the Lord Jesus arrived on the scene, and that He then raised Lazarus from the dead, calling him forth from the tomb in dramatic fashion.

This morning, I would like to deal with the aftermath of that great miracle, the repercussions of working that undeniable miracle in close proximity to Jerusalem. Turn to John 11, where we will begin reading at verse 47:

 

47     Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles.

48     If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.

49     And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all,

50     Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.

51     And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation;

52     And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.

53     Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death.

 

Please notice three features of John’s record of the events following our Lord’s raising of Lazarus from the dead:

 

First, THERE IS THE RECORD OF THE SANHEDRIN’S DISCUSSION (John 11.47-50)

 

The Sanhedrin was the name of the official religious committee in Jerusalem that presided over matters spiritual for the Jewish people.

First, notice their admission, in John 11.47: “Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles.” It is well to keep in mind that there was political intrigue among the religious Jews of Jesus’ day, with the Herodians (who collaborated with the Romans), the Sadducees (who were the antisupernaturalists occupying most of the official priestly posts), and the Pharisees (who were strict legalists, but were mostly unofficial agitators against the Sadducees). As is typically the case in political situations, a kind of status quo had developed over the years between these three groups of Jews, with each group being antagonistic toward the other two, but with all three groups becoming rather comfortable and used to their niche in their contest for the affections of the people and supremacy in the society. It was all much like today’s Democrats and Republicans here in California, who fight each other but who are primarily interested only in being reelected. Now that the Lord Jesus Christ has undeniably raised someone on the outskirts of Jerusalem from the dead, someone known by all to have been dead for four days, the stakes have been raised. An outsider they have all kept their eyes on for the past several years has now intruded Himself into the milieu and puts them all at risk. The Herodians and Sadducees are threatened by further Roman intrusion into their affairs, and the Pharisees are endangered by anyone who seems to the people to be more of a Bible and God man than they are. Let me point out two things at this point: First, Pharisees could not themselves convene a council, which is to say call a meeting of the Sanhedrin. They simply did not have enough of their persuasion who held official positions in the religious structure of that day. Therefore, they had to collaborate with their enemies, the Sadducees, to convene a meeting of the ruling religious elders in the Sanhedrin. Why would the two groups gather in a meeting where only the Sadducees had official standing and authority? Though they were religious enemies of each other, the Lord Jesus Christ was the mortal enemy of them both, since He was genuine and real, since He represented God, and since He is God. His actions threatened the status quo; destabilizing the comfortable positions and prestige they held in their respective constituencies. Let me also point out that neither group disputed the miracles the Lord Jesus Christ worked. Keeping in mind that the Jewish people of Jerusalem were the most religiously sophisticated people who ever lived, and had a standard of education and thinking that was unparalleled, for them to acknowledge that the Lord Jesus Christ worked many miracles meant that He really had worked many miracles. The most skeptical audience in the world, and the most skilled and adept at exposing religious frauds, they were convinced He really was working miracles. Ergo, He was working miracles. What your bitterest enemies grudgingly concede about you should be granted as true. If He had not worked miracles, they of all people would have stood against Him on just that point. Is it not a great tragedy that those men granted that the Lord Jesus Christ truly had worked miracles, but without considering even the possibility that He was who He said He was? All the proof there was, even raising the dead, could not change the brittle and stubborn minds of Christ’s enemies. No wonder, “stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry.”[2]

Next, notice their fears, John 11.48: “If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.” I believe we see the admission of two fears in this verse, which helps to explain why all three Jewish groups, Herodians, Sadducees, and Pharisees, were so opposed to the Savior: The fear is not really that all men will believe on Jesus. They really cared for no one but themselves, so what other people did concerned them not in the least, except as it affected them. However, if the people believed on Jesus Christ (and who would not embrace someone who can feed thousands of people, who can heal ailments and diseases, and can raise the dead?) the Romans would become agitated because of the social upheaval that would take place. The Roman Empire wanted only one thing, peace, and tranquility in their conquered and occupied territories. They wanted no trouble. However, the Lord Jesus Christ threatened to disrupt everything with His good deeds. How do you tax people who are fed by a miracle worker who does not grow anything? How do you threaten the lives of people who can turn to someone to raise them from the dead? What grip do you have on a population under the thumb of religious compromisers controlled by you when they no longer follow the religious leaders you have made arrangements with? Therefore, you see, the Sadducees and Pharisees, as well as the Herodians, were terrified at the implications of the Lord Jesus Christ’s ministry. On one hand, the Romans might come and take away their nation. However, on the other hand, the Romans might come and take away their place of prestige. Therefore, they were really more concerned about their status than they were about their country. They wanted to maintain the status quo, just as almost every lost person wants to maintain his status quo, wants to preserve the present situation he has grown accustomed to, and become comfortable with. Even dogs rarely run away from masters who mistreat them, so long as they feed them. In like manner, all men grow comfortable with the slow strangulation of sin, and are unwilling to risk the upsetting of the apple cart that invariably results from someone being saved.

Now we come to the prophecy of the high priest, Caiaphas, John 11.49-50:

 

49     And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all,

50     Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.

 

Caiaphas had no idea he was uttering divine revelation when he spoke those words. I am sure he thought he was simply pronouncing the political wisdom needed to keep the lid on things in Jerusalem and in the surrounding regions. Thus, though they had spoken of it before, since these words were being spoken when the Sanhedrin was officially in session, there is now a formality to their intent to see the Lord Jesus Christ slain. The official Jewish religious organ is about to reach the consensus that an innocent man must die a substitutionary death, one for all. All the high priest was concerned about was expediency, what seemed to be the immediate remedy to a pressing problem. He had not the slightest idea, nor the slightest concern, what the long-term implications of either Christ’s miracles or their own decisions would be. In other words, this man was purely the politician, willing to sell out the welfare of his people for his own prestige and place in the institutions of his society. The astonishing thing about Caiaphas’ words was that they were precisely true. He was inspired of God to utter those words, all the while having no concern about God or any realization that God was speaking through him. Therefore, who can God make use of to accomplish His will? Anyone . . . at any time.

 

Next, THE SPIRIT’S COMMENTARY (John 11.51-52)

 

51     And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation;

52     And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.

 

I want to recap the first 50 verses of John chapter 11 before commenting on these two verses: The Reese Chronological Bible places the Passover that was approaching that is referenced in John 11.55 in April in the year 29 AD.[3] So many events are recorded in the other gospels that occurred between John 11.54 and 55 that many often think an entire year transpires. My own opinion is that our text is only a couple of months removed, at most, from our Lord’s crucifixion, and that a flurry of activity is what accounts for the events recorded in the other gospel accounts that John makes no mention of at all. That said, John chapter 11 opens with the Lord Jesus Christ and His disciples on the east side of the Jordan River, where He was notified that His beloved Lazarus was seriously sick. His response was puzzling to many. It was really no response at all, and Lazarus died. From our distant perspective, we see that providential preparations were being made for the greatest of our Lord’s miracles performed before His Own resurrection. In John 11.17-37, we see that a number of things transpired upon the arrival of the Savior. He talked to Martha, then to Mary. The crowd of friends who were hostile to the Lord Jesus Christ was in attendance after Lazarus’ burial in a cave, giving them an opportunity they would not otherwise have had to observe the Lord Jesus Christ’s compassion and the great love He had for Lazarus and his sisters. In John 11.38-44, the Lord Jesus Christ performed the astounding miracle of raising before a hostile audience a man dead four days, whose tightly wrapped and stinking body had for that entire time been entombed in a cave behind a rock so large that it required the effort of several men to open. Verses 45-50 record the results of raising Lazarus from the dead that our gospel writer is inspired to report to us. Verse 51 opens with these words: “And this spake he not of himself.” Of course, John is referring to the high priest, Caiaphas, verses 49-50:

 

49     And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all,

50     Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.

 

Verse 51 continues, “but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.” We have here an example of God making use of a man, without his knowledge, to speak prophetic truth. We also have here an example of a man driven solely by pragmatic political considerations. Caiaphas was more than willing to give up another’s life to avoid the Romans becoming unnecessarily riled up to oppress his people even more than was already the case. Look at Proverbs 19.21, to see the utter futility of Caiaphas’ scheming: “There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand.” Consider also Psalm 76.10, which begins, “Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee.” In other words, no one thwarts God’s purpose or prevents the outworking of His divine plan.

Recognizing that wicked Caiaphas was an unwitting tool in the hands of God; consider what he actually said once more: “Ye know nothing at all, Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.” Two things, briefly: First, he severely criticizes his colleagues: “Ye know nothing at all.” This appears to reflect great pride on the part of Caiaphas. His colleagues were debating what to do, verse 47. After all, there was no denying the miracles, especially the raising of Lazarus. Then, Caiaphas predicted the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus Christ. “. . . that one man should die for the people.” The Apostle Paul could not have stated it more succinctly.

 

Finally, THE SANHEDRIN’S RESOLUTION (John 11.53)

 

“Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death.”

 

The resurrection of Lazarus was the decisive turning point, since that was the day the leaders of the people formally decided to put the Lord Jesus Christ to death. They had decided on the death penalty, now all they had to do was arrange for His arrest, trump up charges against Him, and find Him guilty.

To be sure, the Sanhedrin were not the first of the Jewish leaders to call for Christ’s death. At the grass roots level, opposition had been building against Him for some time. Let me quickly read several verses that verify this:

 

·         John 5.16:  “And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day.”

·         John 5.18:  “Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.”

·         John 8.37:  “I know that ye are Abraham’s seed; but ye seek to kill me, because my word hath no place in you.”

·         John 8.40:  “But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham.”

·         John 8.59:  “Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.”

 

Opposition against the Lord Jesus Christ first rose up in rural areas, during the first year of His public ministry, where the local leaders could see His impact on the people with His teaching and miracle working. In Jerusalem, the Sanhedrin was slow to react, but react they did when they saw His impact on the people in Jerusalem, where their imaginations were fueled by their fears.

Oh, the damning consequences of agreeing to do as a group what you would never do by yourself. This is why Proverbs 13.20 declares, “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed.”

 

Were it not for Luke’s careful research we might think the Sanhedrin was unanimous in their verdict to condemn our Lord Jesus Christ to death. However, Luke 23.50-51 shows us there was at least one member of the Sanhedrin who refused to go along with the mob mentality Caiaphas so effectively manipulated:

 

50     And, behold, there was a man named Joseph, a counsellor; and he was a good man, and a just:

51     (The same had not consented to the counsel and deed of them;) he was of Arimathaea, a city of the Jews: who also himself waited for the kingdom of God.

 

You might wonder why Nicodemus is not mentioned here. He may not have been in attendance. Not every member of the Sanhedrin was required to be present in order to have a quorum. Nicodemus could have been excluded because of his stature, while the younger Joseph of Arimathaea was thought to be young enough that his opinion could be swayed by the others. If that was the case, they were mistaken.

I close with this: No one can successfully oppose God, or His Son. No matter how smart you think you are, how seasoned and expert in intrigue you imagine yourself to be, how clever and politically manipulative you compliment yourself to be, you will not succeed in your opposition to God. Caiaphas didn’t. What kind of a mind does it take for a man to think he can eliminate God by simply deciding He is not so, or that his own will prevails over God’s will because he chooses to believe it possible? Caiaphas actually predicted the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus Christ on Calvary’s cross, the One dying for all, without knowing he was accomplishing God’s will and participating in the fulfillment of God’s plan.

Can such a God as this, can such a Savior as Jesus is, be opposed? The evidence says, “No.” I urge you to bow before the God of the Bible, my friend, and embrace His Son as your own Savior and Lord.



[1] Matthew 21.4-5; Zechariah 9.9

[2] 1 Samuel 15.23

[3] Edward Reese, The Reese Chronological Bible, (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 1977), page 1360.



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