Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Nov 18 2020 - John 11:45-12:19 – The whole world has gone after him

John loves to record occasions when Jesus’ enemies spoke more profoundly than they realised. In these verses we read of a meeting of the Sanhedrin, the council of Jewish leaders. The leaders of the nation are deeply troubled at the growing influence of Jesus, particularly after the raising of Lazarus from the dead. His popularity may lead to such excitement at the coming feast in Jerusalem that the Romans might intervene by force, maybe even destroying the Temple. Caiaphas, the high priest, tells the rest of the Sanhedrin not to get so agitated. It is better for one man to die on behalf of the people than that the whole nation be destroyed.

Caiaphas meant that when the moment came, they would hand Jesus over to the Romans and so save their own skins; the one who could give life to the dead cannot be allowed to live. But John adds that Caiaphas spoke better than he knew, he spoke prophetically. Jesus’ death would be a sacrifice through which the people will be saved: “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” (John 11:51-52).

From this moment, John tells us, the Jewish leaders plotted Jesus death.

Two great dramas are being played out here. On the one hand there are the plans of human beings driven by selfish ambition and a determination to preserve their own power, position and control. On the other hand there are the eternal purposes of God – God's great plan to reconcile the world to himself through the sacrifice of his own beloved Son. And these two are not separate dramas; the purposes of God are being worked out through the evil plans and devices of human beings. As Peter was later to declare on the day of Pentecost, "This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him... God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah" (Acts 2:23-24, 36).

Those who hold positions of power in this world still believe that they can shape history to their own ends. But God has not given up his dominion to them. He is still working out his own purposes.

In 12:19, John records a similar remark, though this time without adding his own comment. As the feast arrives and Jesus rides into Jerusalem on a donkey he is surrounded by crowds proclaiming him their coming king. The Pharisees, we read, are deeply troubled and, in their frustration declare, “The whole world (the cosmos) has gone after him.” John surely intends us to read this also as an unintended word of prophecy. Jesus is the King of Israel, the promised Messiah to whom the nations must offer obedience. He is the Lord of the whole cosmos to whom every knee shall bow.

Sovereign God, I praise you that your kingdom purposes cannot fail. Lord Jesus, I gladly bow the knee to you and acknowledge that you are Christ the Lord. Thank you that you are able to work through the confused actions of my own life to bring glory to your name. Help me always to be a willing and active agent in the work of your kingdom, so that many more may come to own you as Lord and serve your purpose to bring life and healing to the world. May the whole world go after you.

Peter Misselbrook