Why Kill Jesus?

Our reading for this week is John chapters 11 & 12. We will focus mostly on chapter 11, as this is a huge theological turning point in John’s Gospel. The first 11 chapters of this Gospel shows Jesus revealing who his glory through performing “signs and wonders.” After this point Jesus will reveal his glory through his death on the the cross, and his resurrection. But the raising of Lazarus is the linking event, and the catalyst that will ultimately cost Jesus his earthly life. But why did the religious leaders decide to put Jesus to death? We’ll answer that question in a minute.

Jesus was very close to Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha. The text is quite clear on this point…this wasn’t some acquaintance. They were close. (11:3) Yet Jesus is painfully slow in responding to the news that Lazarus was near death. (11:6), but this was for a purpose… “that you may believe” (11:15), which is also the entire purpose of John’s Gospel (20:30-31).

Martha and Mary have huge confessions of faith in this chapter as well. It starts with verse 21 where Martha believes that if Jesus had been present, Lazarus would not have died. She has just shown her faith believed Jesus had power over death! Mary has the same statement in verse 32. But notice Jesus’ teaching surrounding this:

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”  

“Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.” – John 11:25-27

Jesus wept. That verse is so meaningful to me, not because it’s short and easy to remember, but it shows the humanity of Jesus. He wasn’t weeping for Lazarus, he knew he was going to be raised from the dead. But he weeps at the pain that this has caused Mary and Martha, and the sting of death that he himself had not yet conquered.

Jesus calls forth Lazarus from the dead, and he is miraculously raised from the dead; another example of the glory of God being revealed through signs and wonders (see 2:11). This was a deeply controversial event. Jesus was showing quite clearly that he had power over every aspect of human life and this troubled the religious leaders, some of whom didn’t believe resurrection was possible.

But back to the original question: Why did the religious leaders decide to put Jesus to death? Look at the statement by the Sanhedrin.

“What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.” – John 11:47-48

Notice how their resistance to believing in Jesus has nothing to do with what is true, but rather what it might cost them. They craved power and authority over the truth.

Questions:

How many people have this same hang-up today when confronted with the Gospel?

Have you ever had a similar reaction to God’s call on your life?

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Haters Gonna Hate

Our Gospel reading for this week is John chapters 9 & 10. John 9 is one of my favorite chapters in all the Gospels, because the story itself is a microcosm of all the Gospels are trying to teach. Let’s look at it together.

The Jewish people had assumed, aside from Scripture, that the Messiah would be known by doing certain miracles and healings that the people thought were only able to be done by God himself. One of these three miracles/signs was healing a man born blind. (For more on these extra-biblical beliefs, read Yeshua: The Life of the Messiah from a Messianic Jewish Perspective, vol. 1 by Arnold Fruchtenbaum). John’s inclusion of this story, therefore, is not accident. Notice that the question from the disciples indicates that they knew this man was born blind. (vs. 2) Jesus clearly heals the man because people take notice that the man can see, in addition to the formerly blind man’s confession. (vs. 10-11)

With the vast majority of healings Jesus did, people rejoiced, praised God and worshipped Jesus, and then the narrative shifts to the next story. Not here! Notice that the people take this man to the Pharisees! Why? They knew the significance of this healing! What’s I find really fascinating here is that the people (not God) placed “requirements” upon the future Messiah that God himself never said the Messiah would fulfill. But to further prove that Jesus is the Messiah, He heals this man, and it nearly causes all kinds of outrage! Jesus had already angered the religious leaders of the day with his actions. This puts him over the top! Notice that Jesus again heals on the Sabbath (vs. 14), something that Mosaic Law would allow. But the religious leaders had made the Sabbath so important, almost elevating it to the level of God himself, that they couldn’t believe that God would do anything on the Sabbath, and this caused division between them (vs. 16).

Notice again their investigation has virtually nothing to do with the Sabbath healing, but whether the man was born blind or not! (vs. 19, 20) The religious leaders decide that they do not believe Jesus, even when he meets one of their own qualifications for Messiah-ship (vs. 29) And notice that it is the healed man that points out Jesus has done this thing that nobody else has done, and places his faith in Jesus (vs. 32-33). This faith in Jesus caused the man to be disfellowshipped by the religious elite, even though Jesus had done exactly what they had hoped the Messiah would do (vs. 34). Notice Jesus’ words:

Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.” – John 9:41

If the Pharisees had acknowledged that they didn’t understand, Jesus would have worked with them, but because they claimed to have everything figured out, and ignored their very own qualifications for the Messiah, as well as all the Biblical qualifications being fulfilled, they are guilty.

The problem here is the same problem behind the blaspheming of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 12): When you see God working in the world and attribute it to evil, you will be condemned. May we all marvel at the greatness of God and praise him loudly for what he has done, and continues to do!