By Jason Scherzer
I. The Word: John 11:53-57 (ESV)
53 So from that day on they made plans to put him to death.
54 Jesus therefore no longer walked openly among the Jews but went from there to the region near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim, and there he stayed with the disciples.
55 Now the Passover of the Jews was at hand, and many went up from the country to Jerusalem before the Passover to purify themselves.56 They were looking for Jesus and saying to one another as they stood in the temple, “What do you think? That he will not come to the feast at all?” 57 Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where he was, he should let them know, so that they might arrest him.
Bethany and the Mount of Olives are to the east of Jerusalem. Mary, Martha and Lazarus were from Bethany, which is in the area from which Jesus would ascend to the Father after the cross and resurrection. In John chapter 11, Jesus purposefully delays going to prevent the death of Lazarus. His delay means that the sickness in Lazarus results in taking his life (temporarily). But Jesus has a perfect plan which reveals the glory of God.
Jesus shows His power over death and gives the “I AM the resurrection and the life” statement, an obvious claim to be God. After Jesus commanded in a loud voice that death had to release Lazarus from the grave, the man came out immediately. Everyone had been doubting Jesus, because He hadn’t prevented Lazarus from dying in the first place. Yet Jesus had a better plan.
Many of the Jews who had been visiting Mary put their faith in Jesus, while the religious leaders (Pharisees and chief priests) called for an emergency meeting. They were incredibly frustrated, seeing Jesus as a threat to the security of their religious position. If many more people were to follow Jesus, they thought, it would result in the Romans removing the religious leaders and taking over everything.
As the religious leaders made a concerted effort to plan on killing Jesus, the high priest prophesied that one man would die for the people so that the whole nation would not perish. But Jesus could no longer move around in public because of the plot of the Jews. Without any legal process or charging Jesus with any crime, the religious leaders made their decision.
Even so, they could not take Jesus’ life from Him. John 10:18 says, “No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father.”
With threats mounting, Jesus went to a town called Ephraim and stayed there with His disciples for a while. It was a relatively remote place near the wilderness and was a solid 5 miles from Bethel. This would afford Jesus a bit of time to get away from the threats of the religious leaders.
In preparation for the Jewish Passover, the masses of people were going up to Jerusalem. Passover is one of the most sacred festivals of the Jews and commemorates God’s deliverance of His people from Egypt. As the large numbers of people went for their ceremonial cleansing, they were looking intently for Jesus, fully expecting Him to be there. The chief priests and the Pharisees, however, gave orders that if anyone saw Jesus, they were to report it immediately.
Let us remember that this opposition to Jesus intensified right after He had raised Lazarus from the dead. The result of Lazarus being raised was that many Jews trusted in Jesus. This caused fear and distress to the Pharisees and chief priests who were clinging to power.
Hebrews 4:15 says, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Jesus was tempted by the devil in the wilderness and He stood firm. After the raising of Lazarus, Jesus faced exponential threats and opposition, particularly from the chief priests. But they were not true priests of the LORD. Jesus is the true High Priest, laying down His life in sacrifice for us and making final, complete payment for sins.
As high priest over all, Jesus understands us completely; He is not unfamiliar with opposition and unfairness. He dealt perfectly with sinners even when He was hated.
Consider how mighty in power Jesus is: just His words cause the dead to rise! When all the authorities in Israel plot against Him, they are unable to lay a finger on Him until the appointed time.
God knows intimately every detail of our lives and cares deeply for us – so much that He made a way for us to be forgiven of our sins.
By Jason Scherzer