The Fifth Sunday in Lent March 18, 2018
Text: John 11:49-53 Original ILCW Year Series A 18:2059
Theme: The Greatest Sermon Ever Preached by Jesus’ Enemy: “One for All!”
What would you think had you come to today’s service, glanced at the bulletin, and saw that the guest speaker was Louis Farrakhan? Or how would you react if you read that our midweek Lenten meditations were based on the memoirs of Charles Darwin, Adolf Hitler, and Osama Bin Laden? What! Those people are enemies of Christ! What could they possibly say to benefit Christians and our faith
Well, dear friends, it’s not going to happen! This is a house of the only true, Triune God and it is dedicated to the proclamation of His Word of Truth, the Gospel. Its message points only to Christ as the sole means of eternal life and salvation. People like those mentioned have no connection with it.
But sometimes God uses enemies of Christ to proclaim His Word to our comfort and joy. Ironic isn’t it, that God would use enemies of the Gospel to speak things for our blessing when those enemies never understood or believed what they actually said? But the dispensation of God moves men and events along to the moment and the place where His divine plan reaches its saving climax. The will of Almighty God is not bent to the will and plans of little men, but little men are subject to the will and plans of a great God.
Don’t you ever forget that when you begin to question the things that go on in our world. God is still supreme; God is ever in control; God works all things out according to His plans and purposes.
Today’s text is a great example of that. Here we have The Greatest Sermon Ever Preached by Jesus’ Enemy: “One for All!” But what Jesus’ enemy proclaimed and God carried out, though sounding similar, have very different meanings.
I. What Caiaphas meant. – the counsel of human hate.
What a striking contrast is seen in this text to that which we saw in the Gospel Lesson today when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. At Bethany we saw Jesus fully revealed in tender compassion and mercy as the Lord of life. The pity and heavenly concern for His fallen people was written all over His face when He wept at Lazarus’ tomb over the darkness of death that sin has brought upon us.
God created us to live with and in Him, not to die apart from Him. So great and overwhelming is Jesus’ love for sinners that He challenged the great monster of death with one simple, majestic, and glorious display of power, restoring Lazarus to life. Life and love and fellowship with God, it is that which God wanted His people to enjoy. Imagine the joy that those who were with Him had when Lazarus came out of death. What a scene that must have been!
But now look at this picture in our text which took place just a few miles away from Bethany. Do you see any life and love here? Compassion, mercy, care, or heavenly concern? No, just hate and death. Here, among the rulers, you see sin in all its ugly array.
A furious debate arose among these leaders about what to do with Jesus. After Lazarus was raised from the dead, many people were going after Jesus, putting their faith in Him. The leaders feared that so many would follow Jesus that an uprising against the Romans would follow. And then the Romans would come, take away the leaders’ control, and crush them all. The Jews feared to lose their power, position, and impact. So, they called this secret meeting to discuss what could be done to stop Jesus.
Isn’t that amazing? These were the religious and national leaders of the day, the God-appointed representatives installed to lead His people. As such they ought to be willing to accept and follow Christ, God’s Son. But often those who ought to be willing to accept and follow Christ are more often found to be resisting Him and His work.
Could that ever be said of us that we are resisting Him and His work, being more concerned with our own selves and preserving the way of life that we want to have? If we do not put God first in every aspect of our lives, every single aspect, if we do not bow to His direction, then we resist Him and His work. He has become expendable to us. And those who make Christ expendable in their lives, will not benefit through Him. In that, human hatred for Him is revealed. If there is one truth that should hit us in the face in this account, it is that the thoughts and ways of men are not the thoughts and ways of God. So, what ways are ours?
There’s no question about Caiaphas’ thoughts and ways. Caiaphas was not the kind to hide anything. Shaking his head in superiority to those around him, he said, “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.”
Wow! From where did such passion arise? Christ goes around doing only good, not a threat to anyone’s position, and Caiaphas responds, “Don’t you men get it? He must die!” From where does such hatred come?
There is only one answer. It comes from spiritual ignorance and indifference that refuses to accept the truth of God. God said, “It’s your souls I want.” It’s still the same. It’s your souls He wants. But many want only the trifles of life, keeping their positions, advancing their agendas, not losing any of their material comforts – just like the Jewish leaders. And so the counsel of human hate arises against Christ. “It is better that one man die, not all.”
How dark the heart; how confused the mind; how foolish the judgment of any who want Christ out of the way so that they can get on with their own lives. It may be difficult for us to comprehend, yet it serves as a warning. If we attempt to sacrifice Christ to our own wants and desires, we call down upon ourselves everlasting death.
II. What God did – the plan of divine love.
That is what Caiaphas did as he continued in his hateful ways. But God turned Caiaphas’ hateful ways into a plan of divine love by which He saves those who believe.
Caiaphas declared, “It is better that one man die and not all. The apostle explains, “Caiaphas 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.”
How about that! These words were spoken by one of the greatest scoundrels ever to disgrace the pages of history. Yet they were placed on those most unlikely lips by God Himself. Caiaphas meant to counsel an act of human hatred by which the rulers could render Christ powerless. In reality he proclaimed words outlining God’s plan of divine love that would save us. One for All!
That is the true purpose of the suffering and death of Christ, our Savior. One Man for the People! It is an excellent summary of the earthly ministry of our Lord – a clear statement of the purpose of His innocent death! Christ died for the people, in their place, as their Substitute, the Righteous for the unrighteous.
Years before the prophet Isaiah had written, “The Lord has placed on Him the iniquity of us all” (53:6). The Apostle Paul writes, “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Co.5:21). And again, “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Ro.5:8). And one of the clearest of all: “Christ died for the ungodly” (5:6).
How about that? Do you like to consider yourself as “the ungodly”? But that is what sin makes us. Sin doesn’t draw us closer to God and make us godly; it does the opposite; it drives us further away and makes us ungodly. But, lest we despair, those are the very ones for whom Christ gave up His life and for whom the Father, in His plan of divine love, sent Him. One Man for the People. Over and over the Bible assures us that Christ died for us, in our place, as our ransom, our Redeemer.
As we draw closer to Christ’s Passion over these next two weeks and watch Him silently, lovingly, willingly give up His life in our place that we might live before God forever, God help us find daily comfort in the remembrance of this amazing truth: He loved me and gave Himself for me! God grant it in our lives of faith for Jesus’ sake. Amen.