The Dangers of Expediency

MEMORY SELECTION: (Caiaphas said,) “It is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.” —John 11:50

SELECTED SCRIPTURE: John 11:49-53; 18:12-14, 19-24

MANY among the Jews were impressed by the Master’s teachings and believed in him. When the chief priests and the Pharisees learned of the popularity and support he was gaining, they called a meeting of the council to discuss the matter. They could not deny the miracles or the wonders Jesus had recently performed. Indeed, the council meeting followed the incident at Bethany where Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead. However, they did seek counsel together to determine in what way his ministry could be curtailed. “If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation.” (John 11:48) It is evident that our Lord’s work had a tremendous impact on the religious rulers and the people of Israel.

Caiaphas was the highest religious authority in the nation 14 of Israel, and he became involved in the meeting of the council. Although many were reluctant to speak or act against Jesus, Caiaphas was insistent upon action. “And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.”—vss. 49,50

The high priest reasoned that it was better for Jesus to die than for the whole nation of Israel to perish. In reality he was seeking to justify, on political grounds, the action he wished to take against Jesus. At the same time he was considering his own advantage and the advantage of the religious element.

But from God’s standpoint the just sentence of death passed upon Adam had to be borne by Jesus in order to free the human family from the bondage of sin and death. From that point of view we understand the need of Jesus’ death for the people of Israel and the rest of the world, including those who were yet unborn and all who remain in their graves.

At times God uses the already selfish and depraved hearts of men to carry out his own purposes. This was true in the case of Pharoah. God did not actually “harden” Pharoah’s heart, but he did allow the disposition of the man to be freely exercised. Similarly, God allowed Caiaphas to carry out his biased and selfish point of view in connection with our Lord’s experiences.

In reference to Jesus’ dying for the nation of Israel, we read (vss. 51,52): “And this spake he [Caiaphas] not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; and not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad.” The Scriptures make clear the fact that the high priest spoke much more profoundly than he himself realized. In spite of his selfish motives in the matter, the meaning of our Lord’s death is seen in its broader application, although Caiaphas had not understood it. Jesus died, not only for the nation of Israel, but for the entire human family, who of themselves were powerless to stem the tide of human degradation and misery that leads to the grave.

The decision of the council reflects the unanimous approval of the religious leaders of Israel. “Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death. Jesus therefore walked no more openly among the Jews; but went thence unto a country near to the wilderness, into a city called Ephraim, and there continued with his disciples.”—vss. 53,54

The resurrection of Lazarus—an act pictorial of the raising from the grave of all who have succumbed to the ravages of sin and death—was the direct cause of the council’s meeting. In restoring life to Lazarus, Jesus began the series of events that led eventually to his own death.

In the other scriptural readings we learn that Jesus was arrested and taken before Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas. Annas questioned the Master about his disciples and his teachings. Our Lord responded openly and asked that witnesses be brought in to support the position of Annas. Jesus, in turn, was abused by one of the officers and his end drew near.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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