Jesus is the resurrection and the life. Jesus proves his power over death and the giver of life in this moment when he comes to the tomb and calls Lazarus out of the tomb. Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days. His body was decaying. But Jesus has power over our decaying bodies and can call us to life. Jesus was glad for this event to happen so that his disciples and all the people would truly believe (11:15, 42). It was a moment when no one believed for they all thought that Jesus had come too late. “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” The crowds are questioning, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?” No one understands who Jesus is. No one has the greater level of faith to truly believe in him. Now the greatest of all the signs has been accomplished. Jesus has risen a man from the dead by simply crying out, “Lazarus, come out!” In John 11:44 we see Lazarus come out of that tomb, bound in burial clothes, and live as if nothing had ever happened to him. Oh, what a glorious and sweet moment that must have been as the sister hugged Lazarus and hugged Jesus with tears of joy. Jesus did not have to be there and it was not too late. For those who believe in Jesus there is no such thing as “too late” for Jesus has your life. Now what will this amazing sign accomplish in Judea? What will be the answer of the crowds and the Jewish leaders as the news of resurrection travels through the region?
The Moment of Crisis
Verses 45-46 tell of the two reactions. In verse 45 we see that many of the Jews there believed. They just saw a dead man come out of the tomb. This was no trick. Nothing could more powerfully show who Jesus is as the Savior of the world, the Son of God, the resurrection and the life than this sign. Many believed in Jesus at that moment. This is what the sign was supposed to do. The sign was to cause people to make a decision about Jesus. Will they follow him because they recognize him to be the resurrection and the life? However, some did not. Some went to the Pharisees in Jerusalem and told them what Jesus had done. Now what is the Sanhedrin Council going to do? Notice in verse 47: “So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the Council and said, ‘What are we to do? For this man performs many signs?'” The council was the ruling body of Israel in civil, criminal, and religious matter. Now they have a hilarious problem. Jesus does many signs. What should we do? Listen to verse 48: “If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” What a problem! If this guy continues going around doing miracles and raising people from the dead, then we are going to have a problem with the Romans and they will take away our position of power and our nation. Rather than looking at Jesus and being amazed at what Jesus is doing and coming to have faith in the claims of Jesus, they look at their own problem. What are we going to do?
So how do you handle this problem? Caiaphas, the high priest at that time for Israel, has a solution. His solution is that it is better for one person to perish than for the whole nation to perish. If we kill Jesus, then we can keep doing what we are doing. If we do not kill Jesus, then are going to lose everything. But John tells us something very interesting in verses 51-52. Little did Caiaphas know that his words were quite prophetic. How true it is that in God’s eyes he saw that it was better for Jesus, the Son of God to perish than for his whole creation to perish. This was the choice that was set before our gracious and loving God. Every human is going to perish because of their sins. God could allow every human to die in eternal torment for their sins, as each of us ought to do. Or God could allow Jesus to die for the sins of the world. God decided that it is better for one to die. Listen to verse 52: “And not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.” Jesus would die for the world so that each person could be gathered into one family as the children of God. Sin separates us from God. Jesus would reunite them back to their Father. So the Council, rather than understanding what Jesus had come to do and believing in him, decided that they will put him to death (11:53). They have been trying to arrest him and stone him repeatedly. But now their effort will intensify. They see a Roman intervention against the nation coming if they do not kill Jesus soon. So kill him is what they will do. This is what happens in our hearts. We either draw closer to Jesus in belief or try to get Jesus out of our lives. Therefore Jesus did not walk openly among the Jews. Jesus knew their plans and knew what they were trying to do. Jesus would not allow them to arrest him and kill him until he was ready to give his life for the nation.
Verse 55 tells us that it is the Passover. The Passover required all the male Jews to return to Jerusalem. So Jesus is going to come back to the city. It is time for the Passover lamb to be slain for the people and Jesus is going to be the lamb for the people’s sins. It is ironic that the people are purifying themselves in preparation for Passover. But their hearts needed to be purified as the Jewish leaders are plotting to kill Jesus. Verse 56 shows another problem and a common reaction that shows unbelief. The people are simply spectators. They want to see if Jesus is going to come to Jerusalem for the Passover. Why do they care? They just want to see what is going to happen next. They are not giving their lives to Jesus. They do not love Jesus. They just want to watch and see what is happening.
Listen to verse 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.” Jesus is an outlaw in Jerusalem. He is wanted and the people have been told to tell the leaders where he is when they see him. As Isaiah prophesied, Jesus is numbered with the outlaws (Isaiah 53:12). The dye is cast and the scene is set for Jesus to give his life for the world.
What Will You Do With Jesus?
Jesus always causes a decision. The same question that faced the Jewish leaders is the question each of us must face. “What are we to do?” (11:47) There is a cost to saving faith. Each of us makes the calculation of how the faith that Jesus demands will affect us. This is what we see these religious leaders doing. They are trying to figure out what to do because if Jesus keeps going, they are going to lose what they value most. This was the problem for the rich young ruler. The rich young ruler thought he had been keeping God’s law. But Jesus sees what he is unwilling to part with, which was his wealth, and tells him that he must give up his wealth. Whatever it is that we prize or value, Jesus asks us to part with it to follow him. The religious leaders did not want to give up their place of power in the nation. They wanted to be in charge, not Jesus. They wanted the people listening to them, not Jesus. They wanted to power, not anyone else.
Here is the point I am trying to make. Unbelief is not a lack of information but a heart of rebellion against the authority of God and his word. Jesus spoke about the depth of unbelief in Luke 16:31, “If they will not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead.” Jesus has just raised a dead man to life. What is the response of the some of the people and the religious leaders? Their response is that they need to kill this Jesus. I had a similar conversation with a friend of mine, who came here for quite awhile. I’ve shown him the evidences. He acknowledges the information that I have given him about God and Jesus. But his response is that he just does not believe. The reason is clear. Unbelief is not coming for a lack of information but rebellion against the authority of God. To say this another way, we do not want to do what God calls us to do. We do not want to have to give up what is required for saving faith in Jesus. This is our problem. It is not that we cannot believe. It is that we do not want to believe. It is a declaration of selfishness. I do not want to change what Jesus calls for me to change. We want to be able to sleep around. What want to have sex before marriage. We want to have affairs. We want to be able to divorce and remarry without cause. We want to worship when we feel like it. We want to worship the way we want to worship. We want to do things our way. We want to do what we want, come up with some sort of valid sounding excuse, and think that we have the faith that Jesus is looking for.
Jesus says to forsake everything to follow him. What are we to do? Jesus says to love him with all your heart, with every ounce of your strength, and with all the strength of your might. What are we to do? Too often we just want Jesus to go away. Leave us alone so that we can live our lives how we want with a false belief that we are spiritually safe. So we dabble with Jesus but we will not give our all to Jesus. So many dabble but will not give everything. I want to sound the warning to our hearts because this is exactly what these religious people are doing in John 11. Small, simple decisions that we make each day that shows we are only dabbling with Jesus. Seemingly small decisions to not read God’s word today or to not pray. Seemingly small decisions to not put our spouse ahead of ourselves or to train our children in discipline of the Lord. Seemingly small decisions to think of ourselves first and do what is comfortable and enjoyable for us. So many small decisions each day that reveal in our hearts that we have slid far away from God. Each of these choices each day are huge decisions. Satan causes us to think that it is no big deal that we miss a Bible study or time of worship. Satan wants you to think it is okay to ignore prayer today. Satan wants you to stay away from deepening your love for Jesus by not reading his word today. God gave up one so that we would not have to perish.
Jesus asks the question: What will you do?
What will your answer be? How can we reject him? How can we neglect him? How can we not care? How can we be cold toward him? How can we think of ourselves when we see God gave one to death to bring us to him? How will you respond to the resurrection of Jesus? How will you respond knowing that he has come to be your life, your everything?
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:20 ESV)