John 11:45-57 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. How do the Pharisees respond to Jesus’ act of raising Lazarus from the dead? See John 11:47-48 (printed below)

Therefore the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin and asked, What shall we do, this man is performing many signs? (48) If we leave him alone, everyone will believe in him; then the Romans will come and take away our place and our nation. (John 11:47-48)

Upon receiving the report of how Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead, the chief priests and the Pharisees called an emergency meeting of the Sanhedrin to discuss the question, What should we do? These religious leaders were concerned that if they did not put a stop to this man, Jesus, all men would come to believe in him (i.e.; all Israel would hail Him as the promised Messiah). If that were to happen, the Romans would come with force and take away “our place and our nation” (verse 48).

2. What is motivating these religious leaders in their opposition to Jesus? Hint: Note how they refer to the temple as “our place” and to the nation of Israel as “our nation.”

The motivation for their opposition to Jesus was the fear of losing their place and their nation. They dare to refer to the temple of God and the accompanying service of the temple as “our place”—the place from which they derived their prestige, power, and wealth. They dare to refer to the people of God as “our nation”—viewing the people, the revenue, the land, and all that composed the nation of Israel as belonging to them, as being their own personal domain. They fail to appreciate that all the privileges and blessings they enjoyed were the gracious gifts of God to be received with gratitude and to be used in service to God.

3. What counsel does Caiaphas the high priest offer? See John 11:49-50 (printed below)

One of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, You know nothing at all. (50) You do not realize that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, rather than have the whole nation perish. (John 11:49-50)

Caiaphas, the high priest, offers what he believes to be the solution to their dilemma: “You do not realize that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, rather than have the whole nation perish” (verse 50). Motivated by fear, by resentment, by self-interest, there is conceived a plot to murder the long-expected Messiah.

4. Why is Caiaphas’ counsel incredibly foolish? Note John 11:25 and John 10:17-18 (printed below)

Jesus said to her, I am the resurrection, and the life (John 11:25a)

The Father loves me because I lay down my life—I lay it down in order that I may take it again. (18) No one takes it away from me, I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it again. I received this commandment from my Father. (John 10:17-18)

Motivated by fear, by resentment, by self-interest, there is conceived a plot to murder the Son of God—but how incredibly foolish it is to fight against God! What are these men doing? They are plotting the murder of Jesus. Why are they undertaking such an evil deed? The thing that finally caused them to take this concerted action was the fact that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead—a demonstration that Jesus Himself is the Resurrection and the Life. Thus, here are a group of men plotting the death of the very One who is the Lord of life! (note John 10:17-18).

5. What does John tell us about Caiaphas’ counsel in verses 51-52 (printed below?)

Now he did not say this on his own; on the contrary, being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for the nation—(52) and not only for the nation of Israel, but also that he might gather together the children of God who were scattered. (John 11:51-52)

John points out that there was a far greater meaning to Caiaphas’ words than he could ever have imagined. This counsel was not merely the murderous scheming of an evil man; this was, at the very same time, the supreme prophecy of God placed upon the lips of this man in his capacity as high priest. Here is the whole meaning of the Old Testament summed up in one brilliant word from God, and in one brilliant way by God! It is God’s way of saying, I am in control! I have seen fit to use the mouth of this villain to utter My truth. And I will employ their very scheme to accomplish My divine purpose! (note Acts 4:27-28)