What Jesus Did - What Caiaphas Said / Sermon / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Season of Lent / Ash Wednesday February 14th 2018 - / John 11:45-53
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Ash Wednesday February 14th 2018: Lent / John 11:45–53 "What Jesus Did - What Caiaphas Said"
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.” 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.
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. What did He do? What did they see Him do? Our text tonight starts out saying, “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.” Did they see Jesus giving out Valentine’s Day cards? Was He hand delivering chocolates? Was He rescuing kittens out of trees? Did they see Him helping old ladies cross the street? No, maybe they saw Him beating someone up? Or doing something criminal; certainly not, that wouldn’t be Jesus at all. What would cause people to tattle on Jesus, to rat Him out to the religious authorities? Maybe it was something miraculous, maybe they saw Him walking on water or changing water into wine, maybe they saw him feed 5,000 people or heal a blind man or cast out a demon? These things would certainly be amazing to see but that wasn’t it. What Jesus did, what they saw Him do was raise Mary and Martha’s brother Lazarus from the dead. And not just give him the Heimlich maneuver as Lazarus was choking to death, not just giving Lazarus’ heart and lungs Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR); No what they saw Jesus do was raise a man from the dead who was dead and buried for four days. Four long days with Lazarus’s sisters crying, with mourners’ morning, with guests come from Jerusalem to bring their condolences.
Lazarus was not mostly dead, Lazarus was certainly dead (Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return) and what they saw was Jesus stand before Lazarus’ tomb and say, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to [Jesus], “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard Me. I knew that you always hear Me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that You sent Me.” [And] when [Jesus] had said these things, He cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”
Everyone believed what they had witnessed, how could they not believe it … but they didn’t all end up believing in Him, in Jesus, many did but some went straight to the Pharisees as fast as they could, and before you knew it, the council of the Jewish Sanhedrin was called to order, complete with its chief priests, and we have that year’s chief priest, Caiaphas, who suddenly enters John’s account of the unfolding events.
Each evening in this year’s Lenten exchange of midweek services will be focused on people like Caiaphas. From unfriendly crowds seeking Jesus’ death, to the Sanhedrin, to Pilate’s Soldiers, to men like Judas Iscariot, the Centurion at the cross, the chief priests and even Pilate’s wife: They all say things that surprisingly hit the nail on the head. The often unwittingly or unintentionally tell the truth of things in a direct and revealing manner. In our Lenten and Holy Week Services we’ll dig into all of these and think about what their words mean to us, to the world, to all people.
Tonight it’s the chief priest Caiaphas’ words that prophesied and predicted the substitutionary atonement of Jesus when Caiaphas said “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 likely didn’t understand just how important or true those words were. The Gospel of John tell us that Caiaphas said these words not of his own accord, but rather because of his office as high priest: God was speaking through him. What’s the saying, “even a broken clock is right twice a day?” Just as the broken clock has no ability to move its hands so too Caiaphas would not have been able to say these words on his own. Unlike the broken clock however which is right twice a day by complete accident with no external influence Caiaphas in this case is only right because the Holy Spirit has provided these words to him. It’s interesting to think that God can use unlikely people, even antagonistic people like Caiaphas to speak His Holy Word.
What is this substitutionary atonement thing that God teaches through Caiaphas? Well I think we’re all very aware of what a substitution is. Some people will substitute margarine in place of butter in a recipe although I don’t really know why, or coffee whitener instead of cream in coffee. Then there are substitute teachers for when your teacher is sick or away. Companies might bring in scab workers when a union is on strike or in sports - let’s say you’re watching the Blue Jays - you can have a pinch hitter in baseball that will swing the bat for you in your place. So I think we all have a good grasp of what substitutionary means.
Atonement is a less familiar word; at least we don’t use it much in average everyday conversation. In a nut shell Atonement is satisfaction or reparation for a wrong or injury; it means making amends. Theologically speaking it’s about making satisfaction or reparation for sin where we have broken God’s law and caused offence to His perfect Holiness. Saint Paul explains in his letter to the early Romans Christians that, "the wages of sin is death.” He also points out that this is a problem that everyone has "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," So essentially everyone needs help, everyone needs help with reparation and satisfaction not just some people, everyone. So what Paul says, is that while, "[on the one hand] the wages of sin is death [and we all deserve that wage; on the other hand] the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." This gift is freely given by Jesus to you but it cost Him His life. Caiaphas spoke the truth that Jesus would step into the shoes, not just of one other person in need but into bigger shoes so to speak, in order to save not just the whole nation of Israel, John says in his Gospel that it was in fact more than just a substitution sparing the lives of the people of Israel but also for the purpose of gathering into One the children of God who are scattered abroad. Jesus’ death which they were plotting would give life to countless people because of the substitution of a truly innocent man in place of a world full of people who had fallen short of the glory of God. This is why Saint Paul in 2 Corinthians says, "For our sake [God] made [Jesus] to be sin who knew no sin, so that in [Jesus] we might become the righteousness of God." Saint Peter in 1 Peter 3 puts it like this, "For Christ [Jesus] also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God," Substitution.
As we move through the season of Lent on these Wednesday nights we will think of the events and people of Holy Week and Good Friday. Of Jesus in our place, how He stood in for you and me, for all people, walking in the very shoes we were supposed to walk, receiving the punishment we were intended to receive. Caiaphas may have crassly thought, “better him than me,” “better this Jesus than me” and even put like that we could still hear such a statement and agree with thanks giving that Jesus loved us with His whole heart and was glad to be our substitute. What a wonderful gift. You might wonder, “Was this a new idea?” “Did this get made up after the fact; (I mean I talked about Paul and Peter and they were all writing about this after the events all happened) Did this idea of one man dying for the people, so that the whole nation should not perish only come after the fact?” No in fact Caiaphas would have studied the words of the Old Testament prophet Isaiah who God used to point forward to the coming messiah when Isaiah said that this coming Christ would be, "pierced for our transgressions; [that He would be] crushed for our iniquities; [that] upon Him [would be] the chastisement that brought us peace, and [that] with His wounds we [would be] healed." Ironically the straw that broke the camel’s back and set in motion Jesus’ death upon the cross was Jesus’ raising up from the dead Mary and Martha’s brother Lazarus.
This season of Lent focus in on; meditate on, Christ Jesus’ substitutionary atonement in your place. Consider the words we sang tonight when we said “Set a watch before my mouth, O Lord, and guard the door of my lips, let not my heart incline to any evil thing; let me not be occupied in wickedness with evildoers.” Caiaphas ought not to have plotted Jesus’ death with evildoers in doing so he was breaking the fifth commandment and was not working to help and support Jesus in every physical need, he was not avoiding the temptation to harm, or hurt Jesus in His body. The Lord did open the doors of Caiaphas’ lips and usher forth the truth. In your daily life you might do the reverse. You might look after the physical needs of those around you avoiding anything that would do them physical harm but then with your mouth, with your lips, you may do them harm and hurt, hurt their reputation. Seek forgiveness, ask for it and Christ Jesus will forgive you for your words and deeds and actions that have harmed and hurt your neighbour. Be instead a word of hope, of love and kindness to those around you. Seek to help where needs arise and pray for God to give you a heart of gratefulness for the substitutionary atonement of Christ Jesus in your place, His death for your Life.
Lastly the day Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead Jesus said to Martha, “I am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die.” He then capped it off by asking, “Do you believe this?” a question that rings down through time right to your ears this day. When The Last Day comes everyone will be raised up; you, me, Mary Martha, Lazarus, the high priest Caiaphas, all the Jewish Sanhedrin, Pilate’s Soldiers, Judas Iscariot, the Centurion who stood at the foot of the cross, the other chief priests and even Pilate’s wife, everyone. (Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return) On That Last Day the dust will rise up and there will be no denying who Jesus is, the very Son of God, on That Day it will be clear that His Good Friday Death was not just for the nation of Israel but for all the children of God who were scattered abroad throughout all time in every corner of the world. A vast number of people, that includes you. You need not be a broken clock who’s only right twice a day, this season of Lent you need not give up speaking God’s Word instead look for times and places to tell what Jesus has done for you and for those He gives you to speak to. You are not a hostile witness who speaks the truth in spite of yourself; you are a beloved redeemed child of the Heavenly Father, a brother of Christ Jesus, a sister of Christ Jesus. If the Holy Spirit can speak through Caiaphas He can, and has and will speak through you in your life. Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 John 11:39–44
 Romans 6:23
 Romans 3:23
 2 Corinthians 5:21
 1 Peter 3:18
 Isaiah 53:5
 John 11:25–26