Summary: The Promise and plot of Caiaphas shows his pompous character, and yet his words and actions are not outside of God's perfect providential plan of salvation.
The Plot and Prophecy of a Pompous Priest John 11:45-57
The Raising of Lazarus from the dead after he had been in the grave for days demonstrated Jesus’ power over satan and over the curse of sin, which is death. The miracle also was a prelude of Jesus’ own death and resurrection, just days away. We pick up our reading just as Lazarus receives the resurrection and life call from the Savior in John 11: 43: Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come forth!" 44 And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, "Loose him, and let him go." 45 Then many of the Jews who had come to Mary, and had seen the things Jesus did, believed in Him. 46 But some of them went away to the Pharisees and told them the things Jesus did.”
The miracles of Jesus stand to encourage and convince those whom the Father is drawing to Himself, and amazingly, they also more deeply entrench those who willfully and wholeheartedly refuse to believe. The miracles as well as Jesus’ parables have similar results.
We continue in verse 47: “Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, "What shall we do? For this Man works many signs. 48 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." (You see here that the concern of the highest Jewish leaders in the land was not for the people or the nation of Israel, but that the Romans would take away THEIR authority and rule. Jesus’ signs and wonders, as well as his profound authoritative teaching would not be matched by the religious leaders. There was no way that they could compete with the Light of the World, the One and Only from the Father, who taught with the very authority (exousia) of God. As long as Jesus would teach, the selfish ambition and influence of Israel’s leaders was at risk. Human pride was and still is the great fuel that feeds human unbelief.)
And so we read in verse 49: And one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, "You know nothing at all, 50 nor do you consider that it is expedient for us (profitable or it is to our advantage) that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish." 51 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, 52 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.”
Let’s take a few minutes to examine the Prophecy and Plot of this High Priest, Caiaphas. Caiaphas was not only the high priest “THAT YEAR”, but actually held the office from A.D. 18 until A.D. 36. It would be “THIS YEAR”, this particular year, this fateful year of which John is speaking, in which God would give Jesus as the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world, as John had mentioned in chapter 1:29 and 36, and especially the nation of His chosen people. Caiaphas, in this memorable year in all of world history, would be instrumental in endorsing the crucifixion of the Lord Jesus.
In vs. 49, the arrogant and pompous nasty nature which the Sadducees were known for comes through the comment of Caiaphas: “You know nothing at all.” The words in the Greek are contemptuous and emphatic: “You don’t know what you are talking about!” These leaders, especially the High Priest were servants of God and mediators for the people, but even as the prophets of old had repeatedly warned and taught, they did not serve the people with love and devotion, pointing them to the Lord God, but they served themselves and their own prestigious positions.
In verse 50 Caiaphas says: “Nor do you consider that it is expedient for us (profitable or it is to our advantage) that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.” There is extreme irony and double meaning in the words which come from the mouth of Caiaphas! Caiaphas thought he was showing his political prowess and pragmatism but God was using the office of Caiaphas to proclaim His own providential plan of redemption, which had been in His Providential plan before all time and eternity.
Caiaphas’ language is sacrificial in nature even though he had no Christian conception in mind. His intent was purely political and his expediency was no doubt based on self-preservation. Justice for Jesus would be sacrificed for the preservation of the religious leaders, but here too, irony finds its pinnacle: They would be accomplishing the plan of redemption for those who would believe, but in reality they would be judging themselves in trying to preserve themselves.