Two Sets of Eyes, Two Different Views
Heavenly Father, I praise and thank You for the grace with which You loved me and the whole world, so that You sent Your Son to be our substitute and Savior. Fill my heart and the hearts of my fellow believers with humble awe for what Jesus has accomplished for us. Help each and every one of us to fully appreciate the weight of the world’s sin which was placed upon our Savior so that we might be set free. Bless us with a deepening trust in You and to that end, bless our worship and the time spent in Your Word this morning. Amen.
The sacrifices which God commanded in the Old Testament were a shadow and picture of what Jesus would do. They were spiritual reminders so they were repeated day after day and year after year. These reminders did not actually forgive sins but pointed ahead to the One who would sacrifice Himself to forgive sins. Jesus fulfilled all of the Old Testament pictures when He died once for all and redeemed us.
Jesus’ close friend, Lazarus, died and had been buried for four days when Jesus arrived. As He comforted Martha, Jesus spoke of the confidence that all sinners have through His death and resurrection. Jesus demonstrated His power over death by bringing Lazarus back to life, just as He will raise us all on Judgment Day.
Text: John 11:45-57
Then many of the Jews who had come to Mary, and had seen the things Jesus did, believed in Him. But some of them went away to the Pharisees and told them the things Jesus did. Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, “What shall we do? For this Man works many signs. If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation.” And one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all, nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.” Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad. Then, from that day on, they plotted to put Him to death. Therefore Jesus no longer walked openly among the Jews, but went from there into the country near the wilderness, to a city called Ephraim, and there remained with His disciples. And the Passover of the Jews was near, and many went from the country up to Jerusalem before the Passover, to purify themselves. Then they sought Jesus, and spoke among themselves as they stood in the temple, “What do you think—that He will not come to the feast?” Now both the chief priests and the Pharisees had given a command, that if anyone knew where He was, he should report it, that they might seize Him.
In Christ Jesus our High Priest and Redeemer, dear fellow-redeemed:
There are always two sides to every story. This familiar saying is proven true in many disagreements and many arguments. Whether it is children reporting to a parent or teacher or adults dealing with one another, whenever there is a conflict we have to be careful because what we hear from one side of the disagreement is not always what we would hear from the other. The way we view the overall situation will be quite different depending on our information source.
The “two sides to every story” principle doesn’t always have to involve conflict. Each one of us sees things differently. We have different interests. We have different experiences. We could, for example, go on the same trip to the same place and spend the same amount of time there seeing the same things and still the stories we would write about the trip could be very different because we would remember different things and would have enjoyed things differently.
There are different views as we approach events in the world and the world as a whole. This is referred to as a person’s “worldview.” One world view is predominantly directed toward oneself. That worldview will approach things in this life, for the most part, with the perspective of “what’s in it for me?” For the most part activities will be pursued and decided on the basis of “what’s best for me?” without being terribly concerned about other things or people. This world view looks at the world through human eyes of reason and logic and everything is judged by how we as human beings see what lays before us.
The second approach—the second worldview—sees these things in the light of God’s Word. No longer are we then serving ourselves, but living for Christ. No longer is what is taking place in the world a collection of random happenings, but is something that is guided by an almighty God in heaven; and no more are the things we experience simply going to be the things we think are going to be the most logical and the most consistent with human reason, but rather what God says will be the benchmark for what is true, what is right, and good.
This morning we take these differing approaches to worldview and turn them to the events leading up to Jesus’ death—specifically the transition from hatred to death schemes on the part of Jesus’ enemies following the raising of Lazarus from the dead. There are two sets of eyes, two world views that approach this. As we consider those worldviews in the context of these events so many years ago, they are really quite the same as the attitudes and events toward our Savior today. TWO SETS OF EYES, TWO DIFFERENT VIEWS I. The eyes of unbelief that see political expediency required II. The eyes of faith that see God’s eternal plan unfold.
We go to the council chambers of the chief priests and Pharisees immediately after the raising of Lazarus from the dead. After Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead, there was—as we might expect—a great flurry of activity and an exchange of news in Jerusalem and the surrounding area. Bethany—where Lazarus, Mary, and Martha lived—was only two miles away from Jerusalem so people from Jerusalem were right there to hear and experience all that was said about this miraculous raising from the dead. There were those who heard about it and believed, and there were those who heard about it and their first reaction was to run back to the Jewish leaders and tell them what this Jesus had done now.
These events are very near the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry. We are very near the time when He will ride into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday and then lay down His life for our sins. So the animosity toward Jesus and the hatred toward Him among His enemies was high after building and growing for the past three years. At the same time, Jesus’ following had been growing. What began in the early part of Jesus’ ministry as discontent among the Jewish leaders had now grown into much more. The began by not liking this new teacher and wondering from where he came and what authority he had to preach this way, but now, full-fledged hatred seethed in their hearts and they wanted to kill Him.
No longer did the enemies of Jesus simply want to challenge His teachings and dissuade the people from following Him. They wanted Him completely out of the picture. So, as they met they were faced with the question. “What shall we do?” They were in a fix because “This man does many signs. If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation. And one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, ‘You know nothing at all, nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.’” [vv. 47-48] Listen again to what they said, “If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” Conspicuously absent from any consideration is any spiritual care or concern. These were the leaders of the people, but also of the temple—their spiritual leaders! Yet, they were more concerned about the politics of government than the faith of the people whom they were supposed to be serving. God’s word of rebuke through the prophet Ezekiel surely applied to them as well: “…prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God to the shepherds: “Woe to the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flocks? You eat the fat and clothe yourselves with the wool; you slaughter the fatlings, but you do not feed the flock. The weak you have not strengthened, nor have you healed those who were sick, nor bound up the broken, nor brought back what was driven away, nor sought what was lost; but with force and cruelty you have ruled them…” therefore, O shepherds, hear the word of the Lord! Thus says the Lord God: “Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require My flock at their hand; I will cause them to cease feeding the sheep, and the shepherds shall feed themselves no more; for I will deliver My flock from their mouths, that they may no longer be food for them”’” (Ezekiel 34:1ff).
If the Jewish leaders were genuinely concerned about Jesus’ teaching being contrary to God’s Word they could have tried to show false teaching by comparing God’s Word to what Jesus was preaching. But their primary focus was the expediency of doing what was necessary to avoid riot so that the Romans would not come in and take away what little power they as the Jewish leaders had. They were concerned about remaining the ones in power and leadership of the people, to have the prestige and authority and not be completely overtaken by the Romans. In the view of the chief priests and Pharisees it was a political problem. To them it was not a spiritual situation, it was not a matter of soul care, it was politics and authority in an earthly sense.
So, not surprisingly, the solution of these leaders was also political. They felt this was the required solution because in their minds and in their hearts, clouded by unbelief and a self-serving world view they simply said “this cannot go on.” It was the required course of action because they believed that if Jesus’ popularity did continue they would lose their earthly power and authority. In their minds it was required that they rid themselves and the world of this man who was disrupting all the things in Jerusalem and beyond. So, Caiphas said, “It is important, it is expedient, it is necessary, it is the best solution to get rid of one man rather than have the whole nation perish” More accurately it was: “it’s expedient lest we lose our power and authority.”
As a result of this decision, both the chief priests and the Pharisees [gave] a command, that if anyone knew where He was, he should report it, that they might seize Him.[v.57]
Viewing Jesus as a political figure has not gone away. This is still very much the case today. Sadly, there have been many people over the years and today who are in positions of authority and power in this earth and who quote the words of Jesus for their earthly political gain. These individuals are not concerned about preaching the Gospel for the benefit of souls. They are not always concerned with the true purpose of God’s Word. They just recognize the Bible as a holy book, one that is greatly revered by a goodly number of the electorate, and that you get points with people if you quote it. So many do quote it---improperly, without understanding, and with goals completely different from the reason for which God has given us His Word. That too is a worldview that sees the requirement of political expediency at the sacrifice of the truth of God’s Word and it’s purpose.
This goes beyond those in authority who may use God’s Word for political gain. Generally, many people look to Jesus as not being much more than a social leader and political figure. We know this by how they use Jesus and quote Him and speak of Him. They don’t quote the parts of God’s Word that condemn sin. Instead, they go to God’s Word as a way to pursue their goals of earthly peace at the expense of truth. They use it to pursue their goals of getting along with everybody and ignoring sin. They exalt Jesus as a political/social leader who told people to get along better. There is no mention whatsoever of the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross, no mention whatsoever of the purpose for which He came to this earth—to die for our sins. Rather, it is a view that simply looks at His outwardly, exemplary life and says “follow that example” while conveniently ignoring all the condemnation of sin, conveniently ignoring His work as a High Priest, and really, conveniently ignoring everything spiritual and anything that would be part of the worldview that uses God’s Word as a light and direction.
Things haven’t really changed. In our world we find many people pulled into that notion that Jesus and His Word are there for political or social expediency and that’s how we should use Him. This is one set of eyes and one view. A sad and empty view it is.
Thanks be to God that by His grace He has revealed to us in His Word that this is not the accurate view and that we are able to see these same events as God’s plan unfolding.
Caiphas was the high priest that year and though from his perspective it was political expedience to speak what he said, we are told by John that he spoke this “…[not] on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad.” [vv.51-52]
From Caiphas’ perspective he spoke from his motive of the political expediency. What he didn’t know was that God was using him as His High Priest to prophesy the unfolding of God’s plan of salvation. The office of High Priest was one that God had appointed, one that God had put into place to be the spiritual leader of the people. Caiaphas was an unbeliever in that role, but nonetheless God used Him in that God-appointed office to speak the truth and indeed to prophesy—to be a mouthpiece for God.
It is ironic that Caiphas, the High Priest of that day, did not understand at all the work of Jesus, the true High Priest. Like the priests of the Old Testament Jesus came to sacrifice—not a lamb, not a bull, but Himself! Like the priests of the Old Testament, Jesus lives now to intercede for us as He goes to God on our behalf (cf. 1 John 2:1). All of this completely escaped Caiaphas, but God used Him to proclaim the truth and what a gracious and remarkable truth it is! God declared through Caiphas is that it is expedient, necessary, according to God’s plan that one man—Jesus—would die so that the whole nation, the whole world of sinners need not perish!
The tremendous nature of God’s love literally shouts out from that prophesy! God said: “It is expedient for one man—my Son, Jesus—because I want to save all sinners.” God gave His Son to accomplish exactly that. “Jesus would die for the nation, and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad.” Earlier in his ministry Jesus had said, “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd” (John 10:16). Jesus spoke of the Gentiles whom He would draw to Himself and they together with the Jews who believed in Him would be in His fold under His shepherding.
As we see God’s plan of salvation unfolding and revealing Jesus as our substitute who would die for our sins, it was not the chief priests and Pharisees with all their plotting who took Jesus’ life. He laid it down of His own accord for His sheep (cf. John 10:15). Once Jesus’ enemies made their plot, Jesus no longer walked openly among the Jews because it was not yet time for Him to lay down His life. Jesus retreated so they would not seize Him right away. However, when the chosen time came, Jesus not only came out of hiding, but openly rode into Jerusalem to present Himself for sacrifice as the Lamb of God. It was not His enemies that killed Jesus. He laid down His life that He might save us, the wandering sheep.
What a remarkable unfolding of God’s plan! In eternity God made this plan and brought it to pass through earthly events—even using an unbeliever to prophesy what was taking place. Then, when the time came, Jesus laid down His life, sacrificing Himself for our sins.
The worldview that has God as it’s guide does not see politics or not social agendas in the Gospel, but the grace and mercy of God sending His Son to be the High Priest and to sacrifice Himself for our sins. That worldview—seeing the world through the eyes of faith—makes every difference in every part of our lives. We do not live in a vacuum. We do not live for political success or a particular social situation. We live for our Savior who gave up His life for our sins. No longer do we view events as random happenings guided by men. We rejoice to know that our times are in God’s hands as well as all power and authority over all things in the earth (cf. Matthew 28:18).
As we look through the eyes of faith we can rejoice to see God’s plan of salvation unfolding in history—His Story of salvation—and unfolding in our lives as well. Amen.
—Pastor Wayne C. Eichstadt