Better That One Man Die

We’ve already looked at the words of Caiaphas from John 11, but as we approach Good Friday, take time to dwell on them further.

Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, “You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.”

He did not say this on his own, but as high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one. So from that day on they plotted to take his life.

What we see in the giving of Christ’s life is the greatest show of God’s love for us. This song is a great meditation on the depth of such love.

Obstacles to Belief

It seems that after every amazing wonder performed by Christ before the people, the crowds fall into two groups. Jesus reveals that he is true food, the bread of life, and many believe, but many disciples turned back after hearing such a difficult statement. Jesus heals a blind man and the people cannot understand how Jesus could do such a thing. They wonder how could a man who is not from God restore sight, but would a man from God heal on the Sabbath? Divisions arise whenever Jesus speaks boldly and reveals himself to the people.

You might think that believing today is difficult. To put faith in something we cannot see is hard, and maybe if only we could see Jesus and see what he is able to do, then our doubt would be definitively cast aside. But that wasn’t the case in Jesus’ time, so why would it be so today? It is more than seeing. It is more than our experience. We must trust in Christ, and follow him even when we do not see the way.

What greater miracle could people ask for and what more would–if anything could–convince the crowds and Jewish leaders than raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11). Jesus isn’t messing around here. Lazarus was dead for days. He was wrapped in linen and buried in a tomb, trapped behind a large stone. But Jesus calls him out. He calls Lazarus out of the tomb and back to life, and Lazarus listens. Jesus had already revealed his glory and power in multiple ways, but now he reveals his power over life itself.

And you’d think, of course everyone would believe, trust, and follow Christ now. But again Jesus divides. Many believe in him, and others do not. Seeing Christ overcome death was not enough. The chief priests and Pharisees do not believe and go even further the other way. They gather and decide they must put a stop to this man. If they do not “everyone will believe in him.”

Why is belief in Jesus so bad? John 11:48 says the consequence of that is Rome will come and and take away our place and our nation. They fear that as Jesus increases, they will decrease (which is exactly the goal of John the Baptist, John 3:30). Jesus will disrupt their world, he will challenge their power. It didn’t matter what signs they witness or miracles Jesus performs. They fear Jesus will change their lives and take away what they value. This is not only the fear and weakness of the leaders, but of the people at large. As it says in chapter twelve, “they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.”

What do we value so much that we can’t risk losing it for the sake of Christ? What positions of power or items of comfort are greater than what we receive in Christ? Do we value the approval of our peers more than that of God? These are real obstacles to faith. Surely seeing Jesus stand before us and turn water to wine would impress. But miracles are not enough. We must in faith believe in him, trust him with our lives, and love him more than we love ourselves.

Fortunately for us, even though we are petty and sinful, Christ still came to save. Back in John 11, as the leaders plot to stop Jesus after they heard about Lazarus, one priest, Caiaphas says that Jesus must be killed. His words serve as an unintentional prophecy and give us the reason Christ came. Caiaphas acknowledges a truth greater than his lips realize, “It is better for one to die for the people, than for the whole nation to perish.”

Jesus came to do more than perform miracles. He was sent to this world to overcome sin and to suffer the death that we deserve. He knew that this was the only way, that the one should die so that we may live.

May this be enough for we who have not seen, but still believe.

The Forest from the Trees

We have had some great Bible study during our most recent church-wide study, most of which focused on short passages or individual verses. When you do so you can take great time to linger in that passage and pour over every detail. But that shouldn’t be the only method of study.

When we take the Bible a tiny chunk here or a verse there, we can at times miss the greater context of the passage. We need to be able to see the forest from the trees. We will better understand the flood by reading about creation. We better understand the building drama and tension of John when we read it start to finish.

Friend of our church, Dusty Ellington, posted some tips about reading the Bible that I would encourage you to take a look at, and his first step is this:

Read through the book in its entirety, seeking to understand it as a whole and trying to follow the line of thought. As you read the whole book, be aware if you see things you haven’t noticed before or if you recognize parts that may not have been emphasized in your prior exposure to the book. Also, does reading the whole give you have a sense of the basic structure of the book?

It is a good reminder to couple slow, meditative reading of small selections with the sort of reading that helps us to build up the big picture of each book and the big picture of God’s love for us.

Going Back Again

Sometimes when I would go hiking in college with friends, we’d figure out a new trail to try out. I lived in the Shenandoah Valley and regardless of which direction we set out, there were beautiful mountains and forests to welcome us and always new paths we could find. But often we would go back to the same spots and same trails. We’d been there before and knew it was a great climb or a great view. Having gone through it once never meant we were finished with it. Having the familiarity actually helped in some ways since we were less concerned about losing the trail and making the correct turns and instead focused on conversation or the beauty of creation. We knew the stunning vistas that awaited and that built up the anticipation.

When we’d return to well-worn paths the trails were not always the same as we remembered. If the path took us up to see a cascade in the fall, as the colors were changing and the air smelled like dying leaves, when we came back in winter it was new. It was the same trail, but the water had halted its violent path down the mountain, and it was frozen and smooth. The leaves were gone so the sky opened up above us. It was the same trail but it offered something entirely new for those who would journey back again. You can’t use a mountain stream as a slip n’ slide in the fall.

Even if I went with different friends the experiences would change dramatically. The perspectives were different, the conversation changed, the pace may be slower.
If we slow down our pace in all things, I think we will be open to see the subtle differences in life that bring freshness to our experience. I chose Genesis and John to begin our reading because for many these are familiar passages. They are paths which have already been walked. But let that be a joy, not a chore. We are not the same people as we were when we first read. Our circumstances are not the same. Our companions through this journey may be entirely different. What new thing is God showing you as you read? How are you experiencing the Bible as a living Word, not stale and old, but dynamic and fresh?

Feel free to share below in the comments.

In the beginning

“In the beginning…”

This is how both of our readings for this week begin. Genesis is the account of creation, John is the account of Jesus. But these accounts are not too different. In the beginning God created heaven and earth, and Jesus Christ, the Word of God, was there for that beginning. Christ is before all beginnings, he was with God, and he is God.

John is a book that presents the case that Jesus is truly divine. That he is one with the Father. John makes his reader decide on this fact. It is unavoidable in his gospel. Do I believe Jesus? Who he says he is, where he has come from? Or don’t I? To John, this is the question the must be answered.

If we believe John’s account, that Jesus was there in the beginning and that all things have been created through him, how can we read Genesis the same way? Or for that matter, how can we interpret the Old Testament in any way that ignores Jesus? Jesus Christ is the Son of God who is eternal. There was never a time he was not.

So in the beginning of Genesis, there is God creating all things. But it is God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Let that truth help inform your reading and understanding of all of God’s Word. In the beginning, as God created this world, he already had in mind that he would come and live among us. God knew, before creation, that he would come and die for us. Knowing that, knowing the pain and sacrifice that was certain, God created the heavens and the earth–and everything in it. God did so because he loves us, and he loves us at all costs.

Read John to discover that cost, the cross. Read Genesis to see the way God governs all things, even so long ago, to lead to the cross and bring humanity back to himself through that sacrifice.