Summary: ‘Words of prophecy in the mouth are not clear evidence of a principle of grace in the heart’. Matthew Henry
“But he said to him, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded if someone rises from the dead’”. Luke 16:31
Jesus had just raised Lazarus from the dead over in Bethany, located about one mile east of Jerusalem on the Mount of Olives. Now how does one react to hearing the news that nearby a man has called another man back from the dead?
Well, putting it most simply, with belief or unbelief. All other reactions stem from one of those.
When the Jews of Jerusalem heard it from some eye witnesses who ran immediately to tell them, they convened a council.
Now, that’s never a good sign. If you’ll allow me a slight twist on Nathanael’s question, can any good thing come out of a committee?
The only two items on the agenda: the fact that Jesus was performing many miracles and the fear that His actions will draw the ire of the Romans so that they will destroy the nation and these men will lose their high position.
How many stated agendas for councils and committees through the ages have been rooted in unbelief? Rhetorical question.
Before I go any farther I just want to bring something to your attention from our passage of study and also from the passage in Luke that I quoted a minute ago.
The account in Luke is of the rich man in Hades, looking across the chasm to the poor man, Lazarus in the comfort of Abraham’s bosom. He is begging Abraham to send someone to warn his five brothers so that they do not share his own fate.
What I want you to notice is that both there in Luke and here in our text, the problem is not that they disbelieve in the raising of the dead; the problem is that even faced with the truth of a resurrection they will not exercise saving faith and put their trust in the One able to do it.
Do you see it? In Luke the rich man only wants his brothers warned and Abraham assures him that someone rising from the dead to warn them will not change them. Here, they get the news that Lazarus, four days dead, has been called back to life and instead of expressing disbelief in the fact they say things that confirm to us that they have believed the report but they respond both in fear and in further rejection of the One who did it.
Friends and family, disbelief in God and His Word is deliberate and God is just in holding every person accountable for their response to His revelation.
The resurrection of Jesus Christ was a well-known fact in the years after it occurred and it has been heralded clearly everywhere Christians have gone since then, and all the clever ways men can devise to deny it or try to explain it away will not get them off the hook for their deliberate disbelief. In the end they will stand before the Judgment seat of the One they have denied and they will not be able then to claim ignorance, nor will the deceptions of their false religions be a defense.
Ok, let’s go to our text and see what’s there for us.
There is not a lot known about the High Priest, Caiaphas. His full name was Joseph Caiaphas and he was son in law to his predecessor, Annas.
In ancient times the office of High Priest was hereditary and once in that office a man served for life. But the Romans had changed that, probably so that no one man could over time gain political power by his high position, and they deposed High Priests when it suited their purposes. So when they deposed Annas, Caiaphas then rose to the Priesthood and according to historians he served in that position from A.D. 18 to 36.
In his commentary William Barclay credits the long tenure of Caiaphas to his ability to cooperate with the Romans and keep them appeased. His conjecture is given weight by what we see here in our text.
Let’s just jump right past his basically calling the other priests a bunch of ignoramuses and go to his argument.
“…it is expedient for you that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation should not perish.”
THE MANY OVER THE ONE
Do you hear the politician in that phrase? It is expedient, not ‘for us’, but ‘for you’. What I’m saying is for your good. It’s all about you. It appeals to their selfish interests and subtly leaves him sounding like a wise father counseling his children to do what is best for them.
It is expedient, advantageous, beneficial opportune, appropriate, that one man should die…