JOHN 53

Losing my religion.

John 11:45-57.

John 11:45-57 TNIV – 45 Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. “What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. 48 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.” 49 Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! 50 You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” 51 He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 52 and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. 53 So from that day on they plotted to take his life. 54 Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the Jews. Instead he withdrew to a region near the wilderness, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples. 55 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, many went up from the country to Jerusalem for their ceremonial cleansing before the Passover. 56 They kept looking for Jesus, and as they stood in the temple courts they asked one another, “What do you think? Isn’t he coming to the Festival at all?” 57 But the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who found out where Jesus was should report it so that they might arrest him.

We often hear people knock religion and religious people.  There are good reasons.  But many times people refer too religious people as the people who faithfully attend church, and since they may not attend at all, or don’t attend that much, they aren’t religious.  Well, I’ve got news for everyone here tonight:  all people are religious in one way or another.  What do I mean by this?  Well, religion is a set of beliefs that govern your life…that’s it.  It doesn’t matter if you attend church faithfully or not, or even believe in God or not.  You see, even atheists are religious for they believe there isn’t a God, and that belief governs their life completely.

The problem is not so much religion, but what dictates your religion.

Our Scripture text is a very good example.  We are going to see that there are two types of people present in this narrative and both have a set of beliefs, but what dictates their religious beliefs is what is important.

In this narrative we are going to see that there are some that their beliefs are dictated in what Jesus Christ had done; others in wanting to put away Christ.  But even in this wanting to put away Christ, God’s Sovereign, ordained plan is coming to fruition.

Let’s begin.

The positive side of religious belief – Many put their faith in Christ.

John 11:45 TNIV – Therefore many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, put their faith in him.

Jesus’ words and works, throughout history has always divided people into two camps – believers and non-believers.  Here in verse 45 we see some who believe in Jesus because of the resurrection of Lazarus from the dead.  Lazarus had been dead for four days; his body was already wrapped in the burial clothe and placed in his tomb.  Jesus comes, has the stone rolled away from the tomb, and with a simple command, “Lazarus come out,” He raises Lazarus from the dead.

This was a powerful miracle in more ways than one and we already covered this.  But one thing I want us to notice, that no longer could people deny that Jesus was a miracle worker.  They could refuse to receive Him as Messiah, but they could not refuse to accept His power over nature and death anymore, as we shall see just a little further in the narrative.

Now while Jesus did not come to set up a religion, for true Christianity is a relationship and not religion, remember our definition of religion – a set of beliefs that govern your life.

Now before we go further, I want to quote from two passages of Scripture from the New Testament that shows that there should be a positive aspect to religious belief, especially if that religious belief is faith in Christ.

1 Timothy 5:4 TNIV – If a widow has children or grandchildren, these should learn first of all to put their religion into practice by caring for their own family and so repaying their parents and grandparents, for this is pleasing to God.

James 1:27 TNIV – Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

The negative side of religious belief – those refusing to accept Jesus as Lord even after all the evidence.

John 11:46-48&53 TNIV – 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. “What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. 48 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.”  53 So from that day on they plotted to take his life.

Here a plot is hatched to kill Jesus by the Pharisees, chief priests, and the Sanhedrin themselves.  The Sanhedrin was the highest legal, legislative, and judicial governing counsel among the Jews.  They interpreted the Law and governed the people.  They didn’t receive Jesus as their Messiah for one simple reason:  They refused to believe.  You see, their religious belief blinded them.  They had all the appearance of being righteous God-fearing people, yet when God appeared to them through His Son, Jesus Christ – they refused to receive Him.

Notice something here in verse 47, “Here is this man performing many signs.” They do not deny that Jesus is performing signs; they admit that the signs are true, yet because they would not bow or bend to the will of God, and their hearts and minds were blinded through their unbelief, they refuse to receive Christ.

Homer Kent in His commentary, “Light in the Darkness: studies in the Gospel of John,” had this to say: “Their response of unbelief in the face of the clearest proof is confirmation of Christ’s teaching in Luke 16:31 – If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead. The chief cause of unbelief is not inadequate information, but a heart in rebellion against the authority of God and His Word.”  (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1977, Page 152)

Now let’s look at what else we can discover as we finish this narrative.

The unknowing prophecy of Caiaphas.

John 11:49-52 TNIV – 49 Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! 50 You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” 51 He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, 52 and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one.

Here, we have another miracle.  We have an unregenerate like Caiaphas that the Lord speaks through.  I’m sure that Caiaphas thought that he was just speaking some logical thing, but in reality, the Holy Spirit was speaking through him a word of prophecy.  You see, this plot was part of God’s plan, their unbelief in Jesus was playing into Jesus becoming the sin sacrifice.

Notice what verse 52 says.  Not only just for the Jews, but all the scattered children of God that the Father would draw to Christ.  Think of this for a moment:  This plot was ordained of God so that you and I may be saved through Christ!

Not even the evil of man can stop the Sovereign will and work of God.

Jesus withdraws from public ministry.

John 11:54 TNIV – Therefore Jesus no longer moved about publicly among the Jews. Instead he withdrew to a region near the wilderness, to a village called Ephraim, where he stayed with his disciples.

I don’t believe that He did this because of fear of the plot against His life, because He will lay down His life willingly shortly.  I believe He withdrew to spend time without the crowds with His disciples.  He is fixing to give His life, He has many things to share with them concerning His sacrificial death, the coming of the Holy Spirit, and may other things.

The hunt for Jesus.

John 11:55-57 TNIV – 55 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, many went up from the country to Jerusalem for their ceremonial cleansing before the Passover. 56 They kept looking for Jesus, and as they stood in the temple courts they asked one another, “What do you think? Isn’t he coming to the Festival at all?” 57 But the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that anyone who found out where Jesus was should report it so that they might arrest him.

Jesus is a marked man, and everyone knew it.  So as the Jewish Passover was approaching, many were looking for Jesus.  Probably not to believe in Him, but to see what the Pharisees and chief priests would do if He was found by them or reported where He was.

As we close tonight, I’m not asking you to lose your religion.  I’m asking that each one of us be committed to really allowing our belief in Christ propel us on toward good works.  We will all believe in something, and that belief will be evidenced by our actions.  Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and let Him continue to change your actions as you put your faith in Him.

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