Whose Interests Are We Thinking Of?
John 11:45-53 NIV
Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. “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.” (John 11:45-48)
The resurrection of Lazarus was witnessed by “many of the Jews” and they believed in Jesus. However, some didn’t and reported this to the Pharisees. Now this caused a stir amongst the religious authorities, as there could have been major repercussions on them.
The religious authorities were made up of two opposing groups, the Pharisees and chief priests (a powerful faction within the priesthood). They didn’t like each other, but they saw Jesus as a threat to the both of their groups. This spurred them to call for a meeting of the Sanhedrin, just to discuss how to deal with their common enemy.
It had reached a boiling point. They acknowledged that Jesus was “performing many signs”. But instead of admitting that Jesus’ miracles came from God, they were more concerned that “everyone will believe in him”. This was a threat to their religious authority and influence over the people. They didn’t want to lose the people to Jesus. They also feared that “the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.”
Would the Romans really take away their temple and nation? This was unlikely as Jesus wasn’t starting a physical revolution. He had always taught that his is a spiritual kingdom and even told the people to pay their taxes (Matthew 22:21).
It is true though that the Pharisees and priests didn’t want to lose “their” temple and country — their authority and power. The Pharisees and chief priests held a delicate balance of power under the rule of the Romans. They certainly didn’t want Jesus to come and upset that balance. Jesus had often preached against the religious hypocrisy of the Pharisees. The chief priests were also upset that Jesus had driven away the merchants and money changers, from whom they had taken a cut from. They were so concerned with their own self-interests that they’ve forgotten they were called to serve God and His people.
It is sad when church leaders are more interested in personal aggrandisement than helping God’s people. They sacrifice Jesus to further their own gains, whether in ego, authority or finances.
Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “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.” He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. So from that day on they plotted to take his life. (John 11:49-53)
The high priest, Caiaphas, was inspired by the Spirit to make a prophecy. He knew what he said was from God, but there were two different ways he could have interpreted it. He could have seen Jesus as the lamb that would be sacrificed to save all people and realised that Jesus is the Messiah. Instead, he told the people that “it is better for you”, reducing Jesus into an obstacle that had to be removed to keep them in power. Convinced by what Caiaphas said, they plotted to kill Jesus.
If we focus on our own self interests, we will interpret God’s words to suit our own agenda. And we will end up influencing our listeners to stray away from God’s words to our own teachings too.
For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. (2 Timothy 4:3)
Whose interests are we thinking of when we look at God’s words? The Pharisees and chief priests were blinded by their achievements. They failed to watch their hearts as they were not looking at God’s interests but their own. Shouldn’t they have spent the time to examine if Jesus was indeed the Messiah instead of hastily plotting to kill him? Interestingly, despite their incredible knowledge of scriptures, only very few Pharisees (for example, Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea) believed in him. Jesus’ followers were mostly ordinary people.
Let us pray for ourselves to understand God’s interest when we read God’s words.
Andy is the head of compliance for an international bank and is happily married, with three daughters. He became a disciple of Christ three decades ago, and studies God's Word passionately. He desires to be constantly led by the Spirit. Andy joined the Central Christian Church in 1990.