Notes on John 11:45-57

John 11:45‑47  •  6 min. read  •  grade level: 8
Mighty as was the work of thus raising Lazarus, we see here, as everywhere, how dependent man is on grace. Sin makes him the slave of Satan, little as he suspects it. His will is against God, in His goodness or in His judgment, in His word or His works; and the greater the mercy, the less he likes what is so contrary to his thoughts, and so humbling to his pride. If many were impressed and believed, some went mischievously to the enemy with their information.
“Many of the Jews, therefore, that came to Mary, and beheld what he did, believed on him; but some of them went unto the Pharisees, and told them what Jesus did. The chief priests, therefore, and the Pharisees gathered together a council, and said, What do we, for this man hath many signs? and if we leave him thus, all will believe on him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation. But a certain one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest of that year, said to them, Ye know nothing, nor reckon1 that it is profitable for you2 that one man should die for the people, and not the whole nation perish. Now this he said not from himself, but, being high priest of that year, he prophesied that Jesus was about to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but that also he should gather together into one the children of God that were scattered abroad. From that day, therefore, they consulted3 that they might kill him. Jesus therefore walked no more openly among the Jews, but went away thence into the country near the desert, unto a city called Ephraim, and there he tarried4 with the5 disciples."
(Vers. 45-54.)
The chief priests and the Pharisees are immediately on the alert. They assemble a council; they wonder at their own inactivity in presence of the many signs done by Jesus; they fear that, if left alone, He may become universally acceptable, and that they may provoke the Romans to destroy them, church and state, as men now say. How affecting to see the power of Satan blinding those most who take the highest place in zeal for God after the flesh! It was their desperately wicked purpose to put Him to death, a purpose as desperately effected, which led to the cross, in which He did become the attractive center to men of every class, and nation, and moral condition; and it was their guilt in this especially, though not this alone, which drew on them the wrath of “the king,” who sent his forces, destroyed those murderers, and burnt their city. All righteous blood came upon them, and their house is left desolate unto this day, and this too by the dreaded hand of the Romans, whom they professed to propitiate by the death of Jesus.
And most solemn it is to see that God at the last hardens those who have long hardened themselves against the truth. So He is by-and-by to send men a working of error, that they should believe what is false, that all might be judged who have not believed the truth, but found pleasure in unrighteousness; and this most justly, because they received not the love of the truth that they might be saved. It was He who spoke by Balaam, against his will, to bless His people, though hired of Balak to curse them, and proving afterward, not only by hi& corrupting wiles, but to his own destruction, how little the prophecies then were from himself. It is He who now speaks by Caiaphas, whose high-priesthood in that year gave his words the more official weight. Not that it was an orderly condition that there should be such shiftings of the high priest. But so it was total confusion when the Son of God came here; so, most of all, when He was to die. No wonder that God, long silent, should speak by the high priest of that year. He is sovereign. He can employ evil as well as good—these heartily, those spite of themselves—and if their will be in it, with a sense as wicked as themselves.
So it was here, When Caiaphas said, “Ye know nothing, nor reckon that it is profitable that one man die for the people, and not the whole nation perish.” God was not in his thoughts but self without conscience. The evangelist comments on this, that he said it not from himself, but, being high priest of that year, prophesied that Jesus was about to die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but that He should also gather together into one the children of God that were scattered abroad. In the heart of Caiaphas it was an unprincipled sentiment; in the mind of the Spirit it was not only most holy, but even the foundation of God's righteousness in Christ, on which is based the future hope of Israel, and the actual gathering of God's scattered children, the church. From that day measures were taken in concert to compass the death of our Lord, who retired to the northern wilderness of Judea, and there abode awhile with the disciples in the city called Ephraim. The hour was coming.
“But the passover of the Jews was near; and many went hp unto Jerusalem out of the country before the passover, that they might purify themselves. They were seeking, therefore, Jesus, and said among themselves, standing in the temple, What think ye? That he will not at all come unto the feast? Now the high priest and the Pharisees had given commandment that if any one knew where he was, he should inform, that they might take him.” (Vers. 55-57.)
Thus the closing scene is at hand; and Jesus pursues His service in retirement during the little interval before the passover, the last so soon to be fulfilled in His death. They went up to purify themselves before the feast, which gives rise to their seeking Him, and surmising as to His not coming. For orders had been given to inform as to His whereabouts, in order to His apprehension. Little did any, friends or foes, anticipate that one would be found among the chosen twelve to indicate the spot whither the Lord was wont to resort; but He knew all that should come upon Him. How far is man suspecting that it is all a question between Satan and God, and that, if evil seems to gain the upper hand, good triumphs even now to faith, as it will in the judgment of evil to every eye ere long!
1. λογίξεσθε à B D L, some cursives, &c., instead of the Text. Rec. διαλ., supported by most uncials, cursives, &c.
2. ὑμῖν B D L M X Γ, many cursives, &c. ἡμπιν “us” still mors, à &c., omitting either.
3. ἐβ. à B D, &c.; συνεβ. much the most.
4. Instead of διέτριβεν, as most, à B L ἔμεινεν.
5. à B D I L Γ Δ &c. do not read αὐτοῦ; “his” as in the rest.