As the story of Lazarus concludes, it is important to remember that John writes his gospel decades after Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Therefore, he has a better historical perspective, not to mention a later revelation.
“Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the Council and said, ‘What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation’” (Jn 11:45-48).
The Commentary Critical quotes Webster and Wilkinson, observing that every true work of God, such as raising someone from the dead produces what we see among the Jews – two classes, believing and non-believing. In each of the three occasions when Jesus raises the dead, there is a large crowd of witnesses. In the story of Lazarus we see the hand of God in more detail, in setting up every moment of the story and more of Jesus’ actions and words than in the other two. The healing of the man born blind is notable for the Jews’ open and formal investigation of its facts, none of which are disproved. Taken together, these two miracles, the most public and best attested of any in the Bible, are told only by John, who has the broader historical perspective that reveals God’s deep involvement.
The vise of Roman power is visible in the Jewish Council, who are trapped between an undeniable show of spiritual force by God and an undeniable show of physical force by the Romans. Either way, they lose.
“But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, ‘You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.’ He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. So from that day on they made plans to put him to death” (Jn 11:49-53).
The above five verses are as astonishing to me as any in the Bible, revealing something I never noticed before, until I sat down to write this blog!
Remember that Caiaphas, as high priest, as symbolized by the Urim and Thummim, has the final say in vital questions of last resort for the nation, when all other means of decision-making have been exhausted.
John reminds us, then, that Caiaphas’ words are not his own; they are the very words of God himself in the prophesying of Jesus’ death. Yes, God has given the Jews a politically expedient way to dispose of the greatest political threat, while explicitly leading them toward their ultimate doom for disbelief in Jesus as Messiah and Christ.
Yes, God let it happen!
But now take careful note of verse 52. The highest principle of God is not national power or anything close to human management. It is to “gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.”
God put these words into the mouth of an evil high priest who thinks he has absolute power, when in God’s eyes he is completely bankrupt!
Look at the quote above one more time, and then read John 17:23, which is ground zero for Streamside Unity. Focus on the words “that they may become perfectly one.”
Gathering into one the children of God who are scattered abroad includes not only the Jews of the dispersion. This is a double entendre, a literary pun, relating also to all who will come to believe in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord and King – in the perfect unity prescribed specifically by God himself, perhaps as his own ground zero for all time and all people!