The events surrounding Lazarus in this chapter are well known and it is possible they were the driving force in the decision to convene the Sanhedrin which was the supreme council, or court in ancient Israel, to deal with this Jesus problem. Last Sunday’s message led me to this weeks blog. Ever wonder what happens to the people recorded in these events? The adulteress saved by Jesus, “go and sin no more”, no other mention is made of her. The blind man, after he is called to verify the event of his regaining his sight, we hear no more about him, and there are many more. While it is important what occurred latter in Lazarus’ life, the real story here to me is what happened to Jesus and because we know what happened let’s look at the why.

We know Lazarus as a follower of Jesus. He is identified as the brother of the sisters Mary and Martha. Lazarus, Mary and Martha lived in the town of Bethany. It is believed that Bethany was less than 2 miles from Jerusalem. Bethphage is believed to have been even closer to Jerusalem. While details are important they can be a distraction. The importance of Bethany and Bethphage to Jerusalem and the story of Jesus’ crucifixion is that their distances and the time period that evolves in these last crucial days leading up to the crucifixion lend to the believability of this biblical event. Much will happen between Bethany, Bethphage, Mount of Olives and the final hours in Jerusalem and their close proximity to each other figures in the flow of events to come. Three important locations, add to that two important groups and our question concerning Jesus and we have a blog. This event is not mentioned in the three other Gospels. After some research I settled on the thought advanced by William Barclay, whom I quote below.

(3) Perhaps the greatest difficulty is that John sees in this miracle the essential cause which moved the Jewish authorities to take definite steps to have Jesus eliminated (11:47– 54). In other words, the raising of Lazarus was the direct cause of the cross. In the other three gospels, the great moving cause of the crucifixion was the cleansing of the Temple. It is difficult to understand why the other three gospel writers have nothing to say of it, if indeed it was the immediate cause of Jesus’ crucifixion. [1]

Lazarus or the temple, I’ll go with Lazarus because the healing acts of Jesus threatened the status and power of the Jewish ruling class. Who might they be? Sadducees and Pharisees would be the most prominent. They would have the largest presence in the council, also known as the Sanhedrin. The council numbered about seventy and the Sadducees were more numerous. The Sadducees were very much political and all of them were Priests. The Pharisees were not a political party at all; their sole interest was in living according to every detail of the law; and they did not care who governed them as long as they were allowed to continue in meticulous obedience to the law. [2]

Reading verses 45 through 48 we can see that the main concern of the Sadducees was to retain political, and social power and the prestige that came with it.

John 11
45 Many of the people who were with Mary believed in Jesus when they saw this happen. 46 But some went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 Then the leading priests and Pharisees called the high council together. “What are we going to do?” they asked each other. “This man certainly performs many miraculous signs. 48 If we allow him to go on like this, soon everyone will believe in him. Then the Roman army will come and destroy both our Temple and our nation.” [3]

If I am reading this right some of the people went to the Pharisees, who went to the Priests, most of whom were Sadducees and were very astute in the political side of this problem. Thus the Pharisees who only wanted ensure the integrity of the faith had unwittingly energized the political arm of the Sanhedrin. To keep it simple their first concern was to protect themselves and in no way mirrors Jesus’ love and concern for all the people. “ If we allow this man to continue on we will lose control and Rome will impose their will on us with no respect to who we are or our position among our people.” The Sadducees were dominating and arrogant to others and at times even rude to each other. Their judgement had nothing to do with what was right but rather how it would affect their positions of power and influence and of course their wealth. I believe this would be a good place to ask this question. Does this behavior bring to mind the position we find our nation in today and in some cases the state of the “church”. Keeping this in the secular tongue the next verses show the Sanhedrin putting a “HIT” on Jesus and issuing a BOLO on Jesus.

John 11
49 Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! 50 You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” 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, 52 and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. 53 So from that day on they plotted to take his life. 54 Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the people of Judea. Instead he withdrew to a region near the wilderness, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples. 55 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, many went up from the country to Jerusalem for their ceremonial cleansing before the Passover. 56 They kept looking for Jesus, and as they stood in the temple courts they asked one another, “What do you think? Isn’t he coming to the festival at all?” 57 But the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who found out where Jesus was should report it so that they might arrest him. [4]

As Paul Harvey a popular radio personality of “back in the day” would have said…. “now for the rest of the story”. Looking back to verse 51 Caiaphas, from his lips as the High Priest…..”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”.

There is a strange twist to all this. The Jews insisted that Jesus must be eliminated so the Romans would not take their authority away. Then some years latter about AD 100, Rome tired of the Jewish problem besieged Jerusalem, left it in ruins and destroyed the Temple. We know what happened to Jesus, but we also know the rest of the story. Jesus died not just for a nation but for[5] all God’s people throughout the world. Of course the most important part, the ending that as a beginning. THE RESURRECTION. HE LIVES!! 

Thanks for joining me in the pew


[1] William Barclay DBS   [2] William Barclay DBS  [3] NLT   [4] NLT  [5] William Barclay