February 17, 2016: It is Better That One Man Die for the People


TEXT: John 11: 45-53

Dearly Beloved By Christ:

Some of us grew up during the Vietnam War. I was a senior when they still had the draft lottery. (My number was 163, as I recall.) Anyway, during the war a press officer is reported to have said: “We had to destroy the village to save it.” Amazing! Talk about ironic statements! This year we’re talking about irony and ironic things connected with Christ’s passion. Tonight we focus on unintentional irony. Caiaphas, the high priest, says:



Christ’s ministry is winding down. Soon it will come to a crashing end. But right now, Jesus is at the zenith of His power. He has just finished raising Lazarus from the dead. Many Jews came out of the city of visit Mary and Martha when their brother died. They were a prominent family. When Jesus uttered those words: “Lazarus, come out!” Everyone there heard it. They saw the 3 day dead Lazarus rise to life! And many believed in Jesus as the Messiah.

Yet, John also tells us: “Some of them (those present) went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.” They went and tattled to Christ’s enemies. The Pharisees called an emergency meeting of the Jewish council. Usually the Sadducees, who were the majority group, didn’t get along with the Pharisees. They disagreed about everything. But now they join forces. “What are we accomplishing?’ they asked. ‘Here is this man performing many signs. 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.'”

These enemies recognized that Jesus was doing miracles. They didn’t deny Lazarus’ resurrection. They understood that Jesus did it to create faith. What’s their response? “Everybody’s going to believe in Him!” They were terrified that they would lose their grip on their power. It would spell an end to their view of Israel’s unique place in history. But most of all they feared for themselves. From the beginning they understood that Christ was a threat to their authority. They claimed the sole right to interpret Scripture. But Jesus proved to them time and again that they were wrong. They were losing their hold over the people. Soon the Romans would remove them.

So, their leader, the high priest Caiaphas, had a problem. “You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” That ended the discussion. From this time on they plotted just how to kill Jesus. It was the only solution that made sense. It would solidify their prominence and keep them in control.

Why did they reach this conclusion? It wasn’t politics. It was pure hatred. We read in the next chapter how they even plotted to kill Lazarus! But, that’s the nature of unbelief. Ultimately it is pure hatred, pure evil, against God and His Gospel. That’s ironic. The Gospel is all about saving people. It is all about God lovingly giving us the gift of forgiveness which leads to eternal life. But the Gospel is an affront to human pride. Even those every-day, church-going Pharisees weren’t immune from pride. And because of it their hearts were cold and dead.

You see, pride kills faith. Faith says: “I need God to do everything for me.” But pride says: “I can do it myself.” Don’t be a Pharisee and glory in your personal dedication to God, or how lucky the church is to have you. For when pride takes control of your heart it will destroy faith and replace it with hatred.

Perhaps you don’t think pride is a big problem for you? Well, pinch yourself, hard, right now. Does it hurt? Do you have flesh and blood? Then you’re guilty of pride because it lives in the heart of every single human being. And if left unchecked it will carry us down to hell where we can join many of those Pharisees. Pride became the means to the end for these men—Jesus had to die in Jerusalem. But the amazing irony of it all is that God used their evil and turned it into good for us! For in dying Jesus saved the nation of God, the Christian Church, us!


Caiaphas was out-of-control when he made his bold statement. But, the irony was that God was in control! Jesus says, “He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation.” Go back 1500 years before all this. God told Moses to make Aaron His high priest. And God gave them something called the Urim and the Thummim to “inquire” of God about things. Many think they were some sort of stones, but we really don’t know as they’ve been lost. In any case, the high priest was God’s intercessor on behalf of His people. Well, just as He had done when the high priests were faithful, God uses this high priest to send a message one last time.

Caiaphas was unaware of what the Holy Spirit was doing. Again, it’s ironic since for the past 1500 years the high priest had offered the great sacrifices to God for the people’s sins each year. But now, The High Priest, Jesus Christ, was offering up Himself to save them once for all time! And God used this evil high priest named Caiaphas to accomplish this glorious work! Oh, this is rich in irony….

Caiaphas preached a memorable sermon that day to his allies. One should die so that the many could live. Well, it all played out just that way. God’s Son died so that God’s beloved elect could be saved and live forever! It took the blood of God to do this. Since Jesus is true God, His blood was enough.

The irony of this text is also seen in that in killing Christ, these evil men ultimately destroyed their nation.—They accomplished the opposite of what they intended. For today Christianity isn’t confined to one small nation, it is an unseen force numbering millions and over-the-centuries, billions, around the globe. Finally, the great irony of the passion is God’s unending, undeniable love that He declares even through the mouth of this unbeliever. Amazing! Amen