In today’s study we see different perspectives and reactions to Jesus who had raised Lazarus from the dead. Though many believed that Jesus was the Messiah, the religious leaders decided that he must die. Meanwhile John saw the handiwork of God as we too can catch a glimpse of the most wonderful fact, “He who was dead is alive again forevermore”. We must remember that despite our free will and even our sin, there is still the will and work of God.


Audio: Coming soon

Map: Bethany and Ephraim


Section 119 | Decision of the Sanhedrin to put Jesus to Death

John 11:45-54
45 Therefore many of the Jews who came to Mary and saw what Jesus did believed in him.1 46 But some of them went away to the Pharisees2 and told them the things which Jesus had done.3 47 The chief priests therefore and the Pharisees gathered a council,4 and said, “What are we doing?5 For this man does many signs.6 48 If we leave him alone like this, everyone will believe in him,7 and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”8  49 But a certain one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year,9 said to them, “You know nothing at all, 50 nor do you consider that it is advantageous for us that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation not perish.”10 51 Now he didn’t say this of himself,11 but being high priest that year, he prophesied12 that Jesus would die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but that he might also gather together into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.13 53 So from that day forward they took counsel14 that they might put him to death.15  54 Jesus therefore walked no more openly among the Jews, but departed from there into the country near the wilderness, to a city called Ephraim.16He stayed there with his disciples.17  


Group Dialog:

  1. Should witnessing/experiencing a miracle ‘transform your faith’ or simply ‘add to your testimony’?
  2. Can you summarize your faith in a testimony under 5 minutes?
  3. What is the meaning of life and death for those in light of the Christ? or How has Christ forever changed the purpose of our own mortality and the meaning of life?
  4. How does the will of God play a role in our own lives, and our choices? How do you seek to know the will of God in your life?
  5. How does your pride and desires feed your unbelief and undermine your readiness to be a servant of God?
  6. What major events in your own life would you consider the direct result of you choosing to obey the will and Word of God and what events and circumstances would you  say are the result of your own doing, ignorance or rebellion?  In general which turn out better for you? How have they each played a role in who you are today, your status, situation, and values?
  7. How has Christ become your light, your hope, your source of life?
  8. What lessons can we learn from Jesus’ dealings with his own popularity and his mission?
  9. How have you seen God handiwork in your own life at the hands of those who are against him?

Study Notes:

  1. Mary’s Jewish friends from Jerusalem (1.5 miles away) came to mourn with her, but upon arriving they learned that Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead they believed that Jesus was the true Messiah. See Notes Sections 118a,b. CR Jn 5:21, 25-26, 28-29.
  2. Some went back to Jerusalem, filled with malice not intrigue or hope, and reported the events to members of the Sanhedrin who would be the ones to cast judgement on Jesus. CR Lk 16:31, Section 117b; 2Cor 3:14, 4:3-4; 1Cor 1:18; 2Ths 2:9-11.
  3. In John’s Gospel chapter 11 marks the conclusion of Jesus’ public ministry and chapter 12 marks his anointing in Bethany and triumphal entry into Jerusalem. John’s placement of this story is not by chance – its perfectly aligned to his purpose -so that you might believe (Jn 20:30-31, Section 179). However, as you can see in the Harmony Bible Index Phase 5c There are still 12 more sections that portrait a portion of Jesus’ work and love before his passion and ascension contained in Phase 5d. As noted by Dr. J Vernon McGee, “John wrote as much about Jesus’ last few days as he did on the first 32-years, 11-months, 3-weeks and 5-days of his life”. He goes on to state that in total we have 89 chapters within the four Gospels which contain 4 chapters on the first 30-years of Jesus’ life; and 85 chapters on his last 3-years; and of those 85 chapters years 27 deal with the last 8 days of his life. Holding a copy of the Harmony of the Gospels in your hands its clear to see 1/3 of the Harmony is contained within the last week of Jesus’ life.  The significance of these statistics should not be overlooked. Like Paul, (1Cor 2:2; 2Cor 2:15-16) we must stand with the Apostles and place the emphasis of our own story, our faith, and testimony on the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ.
  4. They convened certain members of the Sanhedrin, the theocratic council made up of 70 members plus the ruling high priest. The Sanhedrin was comprised of: High priests – the current acting high priest and former high priests; members of the chief-priestly families;  Elders – heads of the 12 tribes; and the Scribes – legal professionals who interpreted the law as it should be applied to different circumstances. The first record of the Sanhedrin can be seen back in 200 B.C. In Jesus’ time The Sadducees held more seats than did the Pharisees, and Caiaphas (a Sadducee who would have denied the resurrection of the dead) was the high priest. We know from the Scriptures certain members of the Pharisees: Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, Gamaliel and his student ‘Saul of Tarsus’ who was later called the Apostle Paul.  The Sadducees (zaddikim) were the Jewish aristocracy who had negotiated with the Roman authorities to secure their positions of wealth and stature in Israel. Caiaphas was the high priest of the day (appointed in A.D. 18). His father-in-law Annas had been high priest from A.D. 6-15. The Roman governor Valerius Gratus, who preceded Pontius Pilate, had three high priests removed (Ishmael ben Fabus AD15-16; Eleazar ben Ananus AD16-17; Simon ben Camithus – the eldest son of Annas AD17-18) because of their proclivities and lack of cooperation his agenda. Because Annas was the patriarch, he was most likely present and wielded great power and influence. See this article which names 23 members who were most likely present for this gathering and the final trial of Jesus.
  5. ‘What are we accomplishing?’ That is we have not been successful in our efforts to subdue Jesus or turn the crowds against him. They saw this as a tragedy – thinking if Jesus was in fact the Messiah then he would lead a political uprising and that would result in the wrath of Rome, and then end of their reign and the benefits thereof.
  6. To say many is an understatement! The Gospels give record of 23 people who were healed, plus at least 9 accounts of multitudes being healed all at once, and another 13 miracles. – See Jesus the Healer and his Miracles. Rather than accept the evidence to be a reason to further consider the likelihood that Jesus was in fact the messiah they sought to protect their position.
  7. They recognized that ‘the movement’ of folks following Jesus was significant! Dr. Allen Ross summarized data from Jeremias and estimated the population of all of Israel in the time of Christ to be between 500,000-600,000. From the moment Jesus was baptized his popularity with the people grew and thousands came to him. Mentioning only a few instances: The sermon on the mount, when he was teaching at the seasidefeeding of 5000, feeding of 4000 we see that “crowds” gathered to hear him teach, to dine with him, and to be healed by him. For a more detailed analysis and study download Jesus and His Followers. See also: “World Christian Trends over 22 Centuries“.
  8. Our positions of authority in society, as well as occupy our and govern land.
  9. By this time the high priest was not appointed as was Aaron, the first High Priest and the beginning of the Levitical Priesthood appointed under the law (Num. 8:24-25), but by the Roman Governor who put the office up for sale. That ‘comfort’ and corruption began with the High Priest named Menelaus whose father paid Antiochus to appoint his son to the office. He was the high priest from 171-161 BC. For the most part, in the days of Jesus, whichever party or family paid the most got the job. Caiaphas continued in power as high priest for 18 years. See note in vs 47.
  10. “Nothing men can do will thwart or alter the will of God; and nothing God ever does sets aside the sovereign choice of man.”- Richard Halverson, former Chaplain to the United States Senate
  11. “Men could do their worst but they could not alter the divine plan.” – Pastor Ray Stedman. CR Jn 7:27,35.
  12. Not intentionally, but by God’s own providence. With the others, Caiaphas was intending to preserve their well-being but what they forgot, was that Israel was not being preserved by their clever political manipulations, but by the hand of God until the appointed time of the Messiah. Now that that time had come, their vain efforts only led to the very destruction they hoped to evade. By their actions they helped fulfill what Isaiah had prophesied “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all,” (Isaiah 53:6). Download: Prophesies fulfilled by Jesus
  13. Caiaphas, a Sadducee valued the law adhering to the first five books of Moses. As a Sadducee he would not have believed in anything supernatural, he would have denied the reality of so called ‘miracles’, the existence of angels, and life after death. He would not have regarded the Prophetic writings (the other books and teachings within the Old Testament) as did the Pharisees. But the Pharisees gathered there in that room knew the prophesies (such as Daniel 9:24-27; or Isa 53) that told of the Messiah who would give his life as a ransom and himself a sacrifice fulfilling the law and satisfying it, and appeasing the wrath of God on their account.
  14. This verse is referring specifically to the Sanhedrin, as if it were about the priests in general it would be more accurate to say ‘Once again…’ since the record of their first thoughts of such are recorded by John himself in Phase 4 – Section 49b (Jn 5:16). In total the Gospel writers specifically mention 6 accounts of their (both the Priests, Pharisees and the Sanhedrin) plotting against Christ: Section 51 (Mt 12:14; Mk 3:6; Lk 6:11); This account Section 119 (Jn 11:47, 53); Section 129b (Mk 11:18; Lk 19:47) Section 140 (Mt 26:4; Mk 14:1b; Lk 22:2); and also in Section 157 (Mt 27:1; Mk 15:1a; Lk 22:66). Before we think too unkindly of the Sanhedrin, historians say that there nearly a dozen false-messiahs during the first part of this century. They had been deceiving and misguiding the people. It was the responsibility of the council to identify and denounce these charlatans. But in this case, the evidence was plain and yet they rejected Jesus as the Messiah because he threatened their position, authority, and livelihood. Despite their scheming and cloaked assassination of Jesus – the Messiah stands victorious; the head of the church; the author, mediator (1 Tim. 2:5; Heb. 7:26-27; 9:24-28; Eph. 2:18) and perfecter of our salvation (1Pt 2:5; Heb. 7:23-25; 10:19-22; Col. 2:14-17).
  15. It was no longer a question of if, but how and when. “To be religious and not understand the mind of God is no advantage.” wrote Ray Stedman in his teaching on this passage. For all their learning and piety the religious leaders were not willing to honor Jesus as the Son of God.
  16. Vs 54 says that he left Bethel and traveled to the city of Ephraim in the region of Judea. Its not certain but its probably the near the town mentioned in (2 Chron 13:19; Josh 18:23; 1 Sam 13:17) or perhaps in what is presently called the town of Taiyibeh (Taibe). In Jesus’ time this region was largely uncultivated hill country north-east of Jerusalem. If Ephraim is near Taibe it is situated on a hill overlooking the Jordan valley about five miles northeast of Bethel. We don’t know how long Jesus stayed there with his disciples, but in the next section we see that Jesus is traveling “to Jerusalem” albeit in a rather circuitous route through Samaria, Galilee and also Perea.
  17. Though the Scriptures provide no details of his time there nor as to how long he stayed in Ephraim, Samuel Andrews estimated in, the Life of our Lord upon the Earth, that about six weeks passed between the resurrection of Lazarus (Section 118b) and his entry into Bethany. Most likely he stayed in the city of Ephraim (Judea) about two weeks – given the timeline necessary to accommodate his final visits through the regions of Samaria, Galilee and Perea (Sections 120a-127b). Soon after leaving Ephraim Jesus and the Apostles passed through the regions of Samaria and Galilee (Sections 120a,b-121), then over to the region of Perea (Sections 122-124b), and finally on toward Jerusalem (Sections 125-126) arriving first in Jericho (Sections 127a,b) and ultimately returning to Bethany (Section 128a) and Jerusalem (Section 128b).